Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

Stolen Words

Melanie Florence, Author

Gabrielle Grimard, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Sep. 5, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Intergenerational relationship, Grandfather, Indigenous history, Cree language, Residential schools, Healing

Opening: She came home from school today. Skipping and dancing. Humming a song under her breath. Clutching a dream catcher she had made from odds and ends. 

Synopsis: As a young girl skips down the street clutching her grandfather’s hand, she asks him, “How do you say grandfather in Cree?” He is sad that he can not remember. He tells her he lost his words a long time ago. He shares with her how he was taken from his family to a residential school for Indigenous children where they were not permitted to speak their native language. The girl sets out to help him find his native language again.

Why I like this book:

This is a warm and touching intergenerational story about a devoted granddaughter who is determined to help her grandfather remember his lost Cree language. Melanie Florence’s story will make you teary as the girl lovingly discovers a way to help him remember and begin to heal.

Florence’s language is simple and has a beautiful rhythm to it. But it delivers an emotional punch as readers learn about how the girl’s Cree grandfather was taken from the loving arms of his family and put into a Canadian residential school. He was forced to forget his language and culture.

Readers will be moved by Gabrielle Grimard’s tender and emotive watercolor illustrations. She captures the sadness in the grandfather’s face and the love and joy of the granddaughter as she springs into action to help him remember.  The illustrations of the words being stolen from the children are very symbolic and powerful.

Florence wrote Stolen Words in honor of her grandfather. She never had the opportunity to talk with him about his Cree background. The story she wrote is about the healing relationship she wishes she had been able to have with her grandfather.

Resources: This is an excellent book to talk with children about the history of residential schools in the 1920s. A powerful look at Canadian history and First Nation children, this book would work well paired with I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, and When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton.

*The publisher provided me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing9780763639037_p0_v1_s260x420How to Heal a Broken Wing

Bob Graham, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2008

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Birds, Compassion, Healing

Opening: “High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.  No one saw the bird fall.  No one looked down…except Will.”

Synopsis:  When Will finds a bird with a broken wing lying on the pavement, he gently picks it up and takes it home to care for it.  His  parents help bandage the wing and Will  lovingly feeds and nurtures the bird back to health.  With rest and a little hope, the bird may fly again.

Why I like this book:  Bob Graham’s lyrical tory celebrates the compassion of a small boy for an injured bird.  Graham writes with such simplicity (text is under 75 words) and with double page spreads that show the story with contrasts and beautiful detail.  Many spreads have no words just rich illustrations done in pen, watercolor and chalk.   Children are loving by nature and like caring for injured animals.  They will enjoy pouring over the detail on each page to see if Will is able to save the bird. This is such a touching and uplifting story for children.  Bob Graham is a leading Australian author and illustrator recognized internationally for his work.

Resources:  Visit the Audubon website for activities and resources about birth watching, bird counting at home and at school.  You can even adopt a bird. They have a range of activities for all ages groups that fit the core curriculum.   Visit a pond to teach kids about water birds.  Observe migratory birds in the spring and autumn. Make bird houses, set up bird baths and make winter bird treats.

Every Friday authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  Although PPBF is on a summer break until September, you can still view a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic FLying Books174515865The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

William Joyce, author

Joe Bluhm, illustrator

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4-8

Themes:  Books, Love, Loss, Healing, Aging

Opening and brief synopsis“Morris Lessmore loved words.  He loved stories.  He loved books.  His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another.  He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.”  One day there was a very bad storm that blew so hard that he lost his home and all the books he loved so much.  Not knowing what to do he started walking.  A lady drifted through the sky pulled by a bouquet of books.  The lady tossed down her favorite book and beckoned him to follow her to a strange building that housed books.  But the books in the building weren’t ordinary — they were extraordinary.   Many books required repair.  Morris started to restore and care for the books.  Some times he got lost in the books.  Morris shared the books with people.  And, once again he began to write in his own book.

Why I love this book:  The book is about life experiences — love, loss and healing.  Adults will enjoy this book.  It is a brilliant book that took William Joyce 13 years to write.  The book began as a tribute to a friend, but after Hurricane Katrina devastated  Joyce’s home state, his book was put on hold.  Joyce visited children in shelters and saw firsthand the healing power of books.  So the storm in the book is a combination of Katrina and the cyclone in the Wizard of Oz.   Joe Bluhm’s illustrations are stunning.  Bluhm uses brown hues similar to the opening of Oz, to give the stark effect of the storm in the book.  As Morris wanders, the book is full of colorful and expressive  illustrations.

Resources:  There are many themes that parents  and teachers can explore when reading this book with a children.   Since the idea grew out of Hurricane Katrina and the tragic losses, it would be a good time to discuss with kids what it means to lose everything and how you rebuild lives with the love and help of family and community.   Donated books were an escape for the kids of Katrina.  We’ve once again experienced devastation with Hurricane Isaac.  As a family you may want to donate to a reputable charity.   Another way to help displaced children in your community is to have your kids donate used books to local organizations.  The book also is about imagination and reading.  Be creative and encourage your kids to make a mobile of their favorite book cover titles to hang in their room, similar to the flying woman and the books.

Visit William Joyce at his website.  Joyce first won an Academy Award for his short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, then turned the film into this imaginative book.  I’ve include a short clip of the video, but the entire film is available on YouTube.   The book also is available as an iPad app.

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To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Soldier’s Dog – Perfect Picture Book

The Soldier’s Dog

Doreen Norberg,  Author and Illustrator

Xlibris Corporation, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes: Therapy Dogs, Friendship, Healing

Opening/Synopsis“Otis was a little Pug puppy who lived in a place called the Puppy Patch.  On day, the lady who took care of Otis had a long talk with him.  She told him, “Otis, I have an important mission for you.  There is a young soldier a long way from here who is in need of a friend.  This soldier’s mother has chosen you to help her son.”  This is a story about a young soldier who returns from war and has difficulty adjusting to everyday life.  Otis travels on a plane almost 2,000 miles away from home.  The soldier and Otis develop a warm and strong bond.  The soldier needs Otis as much as Otis needs the love and friendship of the soldier.  He bought Otis a camouflage collar, to match his own uniform.  One day the soldier begins to smile again.

Why I like this story:  Animals have a healing impact on individuals.  They provide emotional support and healing when other approaches don’t work.    It is a reminder to us how important and beneficial an animal relationship can be to a person who has been damaged, particularly by war.  The author has done a lovely job of telling this story.  Her  illustrations a colorful and bold.  She has donated a part of the proceeds of this book to The Good Dog Foundation, where dogs are trained to help humans heal.

Resources:  The Good Dog Foundation suggests that you have your child read to dogs.  It’s a popular activity in the organization.  It helps children with their reading skills, boosts their self-esteem and teaches them how to interact in a calm way with dogs.

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To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Support for the Veterans – PTSD

Many soldiers returning from war have survived one, two, three or more deployments.  They may have returned with serious  physical injuries, traumatic brain injuries, loss of limbs, visual impairments and hearing loss.   Those are the identifiable physical wounds.

Then there are the invisible wounds that surface after soldiers return home.  Loved ones notice changes in their behavior, paranoia, anger, guilt, depression,  and flashbacks during sleep.  Many struggle with survivor’s guilt.  Others can’t find peace within because of the horrors they’ve seen and experienced.  Some are homeless.  I am talking about the veterans who return from war and struggle to adapt to everyday life.

Since 2003, more than 40,000 cases of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) have been diagnosed among veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  PTSD has existed since the beginning of modern civilization.  It was first identified during the Civil War.  It has been called many names, soldier’s heart, combat stress, battle fatigue, and shell-shock.

The U.S. Army has launched a campaign to reach soldiers at risk.   If you click on the link, you will see on Suicide Prevention and another video, “Shoulder to Shoulder: Finding Strength and Hope Together,” designed to promote health, risk reduction, and suicide prevention.   There also is a book available to soldiers, The Home Front, available through the Army Suicide Prevention Office.

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The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center (NVWHC), nestled in the beautiful alpine setting of Angel Fire, NM, is a program that offered eight week-long intensive therapeutic programs in 2011 for both veterans suffering with PTSD and their spouses. There was no charge for the 298 people who participated.  For some of the veterans attending (representing various wars), it was the first time they’ve spoken about what happened to them.  And, it was first time spouses spoke.  The retreats are built around traditional, alternative and Native American healing practices.  Those who attended have kept in touch through NVWHC reunions.  The program is accepting applications.   In 2011, news journalist Lisa Ling featured the camp on her program, “Our America,” on the OWN network.  Although the site has a wonderful video, I wanted you to catch a closer glimpse of what Lisa filmed during that week.