One by Sarah Crossan

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Sarah Crossan, Author

Green Willow Books, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2015

Pages: 388

Suitable for Ages: 14 -18

Themes: Conjoined twins, Sisters, High School, Family relationships, Love, Novel in free verse

Opening: “Here we are. And we are living. Isn’t that amazing? How we manage to be at all.”

Synopsis: Grace and Tippi are 16-year-old conjoined twins, connected at their hip. They have two heads, four arms, two hearts and two pairs of lungs and kidneys, and share two legs. They have been conjoined since birth and have beat the odds for survival. The twins love each other and are happy to be together. They can’t imagine risking a dangerous operation to be separated.

For Grace and Tippi, wearing the same skirt is normal. Linking their arms around each other helps them keep their balance as they each walk with one crutch. Listening to the other breath at night is comforting. Sharing the flu is worrisome.

Their parents shield Grace and Tippi as much as possible from the public and homeschool them. With donations running out and medical bills mounting, there is a strain on the family and the girls will have to attend high school in the fall. The best part of school is Gracie and Tippi’s friendship with Yaseem and Jon. They add some joy, support, adventure, and a lot of comic relief to the story.

Gracie is the first to notice something is happening to them and doesn’t want to admit it to Tippi. As the truth emerges, they are about to face a choice that could change their lives forever.

Why I like this book:

  • Sarah Crossan writes her compelling novel in free verse, which makes her story a more authentic, sensitive and beautiful read. The first-person narration by Gracie, the more introspective twin, is intimate and humorous, painful and breathtaking. The story is realistic and the characters believable.
  • The plot is a raw, gripping and engaging journey for Gracie and Tippi — and for readers. The twins’ health is fragile and doctors don’t know what to expect medically. However they embrace life with enthusiasm. Their friendship with school friends allow them to feel some normalcy and freedom to act like teens. Family life is challenging when both parents lose their jobs and they have to move. Gracie and Tippi know there is one big way to help their family with expenses — selling their story.
  • Crossan has done a remarkable amount of research, both medically and historically. The physiology of Grace and Tippi is “loosely based on the bodies of Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova” from Russia. Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end.
  • Although the target audience for One is teenagers, it is also a powerful novel for adults. It speaks to themes of love, family relationships, inner strength, resilience, tolerance and diversity.

Sarah Crossan is the author of the duology Breathe and Resist, as well as the acclaimed novel-in-verse The Weight of Water, which was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal. Visit Sarah Crossan at her website.

Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Hansel & Gretel9781615992508_p0_v2_s260x420Hansel 0& Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Jewel Kats, Author

Claudia Marie Lenart, Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Oct. 10, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Down syndrome, Fairy tale, Special needs

Opening: “One fateful night, a storm ripped through Cottage Country…The rain finally stopped pouring days and days later. Cottage Country was deserted. The only people left were the fisherman and his family.”

Synopsis: A storm sweeps through a village and a fisherman and his two children, Hansel and Gretel, are the only survivors. Their food runs out and Hansel and Gretel are sent to search for food in the forest. Their mother protests that Hansel is sick and too young for such an adventure. But, Hansel’s father disagrees and says he has Down syndrome and that they can’t always protect him forever.  Hansel takes the lead and bravely runs into the forest and stumbles upon the witch’s candy house.  Will Hansel be able to outwit and negotiate with the witch?

Why I like about this book:

  • Jewel Kats retells this magical story with the main character, Hansel, who has Down syndrome — a different ability.
  • It is the perfect read for World Down Syndrome Day, March 21.
  • This book will help readers look beyond disabilities and see Hansel as a clever, capable, determined and successful hero, who faces the witch with wit and kindness.
  • The story breaks stereotypes and touches on prejudices about what a child with a disability can achieve. And there is an unexpected twist with the witch, who also shouldn’t be judged by her appearance.
  • Claudia Lenart’s illustrations are breathtaking, whimsical, and contribute to the book’s appeal. Lenart is a fiber artist who pokes wool and other natural fibers, like alpaca, with a barbed needle to sculpt her soft characters and scenes.  This is the perfect medium for a fairy tale.

Resources: Check out the website for World Down Syndrome Day, where you can find information, personal stories, worldwide events and how to participate. And visit Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart at their websites.

Leah’s Voice

Leah's Voice9781612442402_p0_v1_s260x420Leah’s Voice

Lori DeMonia, Author

Monique Turchan, Illustrator

Halo Publishing International, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 5-8 years

Themes: Autism Spectrum, Siblings, Differences, Compassion, Kindness, Special Needs

Opening: Logan stood at the window waiting with excitement. Her friend Abby was coming over for her very first play date. As soon as a car pulled in the drive, Logan yelled out, “She’s here!” 

Synopsis: Logan looks forward to a play date with her friend Abby. She introduces Abby to her older sister Leah. They play a board game and invite Leah to play. But Leah leaves the room after her turn. Abby is upset that Leah won’t stay and play. Logan explains that her sister is uncomfortable around new people. Abby tells Logan that “next time we’ll play at my house.” Logan is sad about how her friend treats Leah and wonders why she doesn’t like her. Logan thinks about the similarities and differences between her and Leah. Her mother takes them to a movie and Leah has a melt down and ruins the day. Logan is angry and confused. Her parents explain that Leah has autism and that’s why she doesn’t talk much and gets upset easily. Logan tries to be patient and focuses on what Leah loves best, drawing pictures.

Why I like this book: Lori DeMonia knows first hand the confusion and challenge for a sibling who has an autistic sister or brother.  It is a fictional story inspired by her daughters. The story is told with such simplicity that young children will be able to read and understand. Siblings don’t know how to explain it to their friends. They are embarrassed by their behavior and angry when they have meltdowns and ruin family outings. Leah’s Voice is an important story about accepting differences and treating others with respect and kindness. It is perfect for the classroom. Monique Turchan’s illustrations are colorful and lively. They beautifully capture the emotion of the story.

Awards:  2014 Temple Grandin Outstanding Literary Work of the Year award from the Autism Society of America, the Mom’s Choice Award, the New York Book Festival 2013 Honorable Mention Award,  and the London Book Festival 2013 Honorable Mention Award.

Resources: Visit the website for Leah’s Voice to  see Leah’s artwork and find printable pages. For information about autism visit the Austism Society website.

Russell’s World

Russell's World9781433809767_p0_v1_s260x420Russell’s World:  A Story for Kids About Autism

Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.,  Author

Monika Pollak, Illustrator

Magination Press:  Non-fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  5 – 10

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Support, Differences

Opening“Russell is a kid with special differences.  He has autism.  This means his behaviors can be surprising in three big ways.  He likes to be alone…He can’t talk…He doesn’t play the way other kids do.”

Synopsis:  Russell is nine years old and has a form of autism which makes it hard for him to talk and learn.  He hums, babbles, giggles and screams.  He has two younger brothers, Benjamin and Gregory, who love Russell and play with him when he’s willing.  They also know when they need to leave Russell alone.  When his brothers have friends over, Russell leaves the room.  Benjamin and Gregory are important in helping Russell copy things they do through repetition.    Russell attends school where he learns sign language, manners and playing with other children.  But, there are times that Russell puts his relationship with his brothers to the test when he breaks their toys or throws tantrums during the night.  Unlike many children with autism, Russell, loves hugs and tickles.   He is happy boy with brothers who support him.

Why I like this book:  This story is a heart warming look into a family living with a child with autism.  It is written by Russell’s father, a doctor, who uses very simple language to help children understand autism.  The story is told through a collage of photographs of Russell and his brothers accompanied by colorful illustrations that create a background.  Very clever.   Throughout the story Dr. Amenta shares a situation, and then helps kids understand Russell’s response.  He’s also quick to point out that even though Russell may be nonverbal, other kids with autism do talk, have an easier time learning and have special talents.   He explains to kids that autism affects each child differently.  I feel that parents of an autistic child would find this book  useful in helping siblings understand the differences.

Since the book was first published in 1992, Russell and his brothers are now adults.  Russell runs a small envelope stuffing business and has a deep love of music.  Benjamin is a pianist and Gregory is a mathematician/physicist and percussionist.  Music is a very strong bond for this family.

Resources:  There is extensive back matter in the book for parents.  In using the book with children, ask them what is alike and what is different in Russell’s world compared to their own.  Siblings of kids with autism may see both similarities and differences between Russell and their brother/sister.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

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

Emily Included – Cerebral Palsy

Emily Included9781926920337_p0_v1_s260x420Emily Included:  A True Story

Kathleen McDonnell, Author

Second Story Press, Biography, Mar. 1, 2012

Suitable for Ages:  8-12

Themes:  Cerebral Palsy, Disabilities, Special Needs, Inclusive Education, Supreme Court

Synopsis:  Emily Eaton was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy (CP) and had many physical challenges.   As a young child, her body was “floppy,” but she eventually defied doctors predictions and learned to sit, feed herself and walk with a special walker and leg braces.  She uses a wheel chair.  Verbal communication was difficult, although she learned to communicate with facial expressions and body language. Emily also had visual difficulties.  Because of her special need for therapy and teachers, Emily had attended a school for children with disabilities.  But at age five, her parents decided to enroll her in a public school so that she could interact with other children and become part of the community in which she lived.  Emily was nervous at first, but grew to love her school and new friends.  She attended school two years before the board of education intervened.

Little did Emily know she was about to face a great challenge in her life  — a school system that only saw her disabilities and not her abilities.  She was denied access to her second grade class.    This very strong girl only wanted the right to attend school like a regular kid.  With the support of her family, Emily  confronted the local board of education first.  This courageous girl ended up taking her case to the Canadian Supreme Court in the late 1990s.  Her fight became a battle for all children with physical and mental disabilities to have the right to be included in public schools.

What I like about this book:  Kathleen McDonnell has written an inspirational narrative about Emily’s remarkable journey to attend school with non-disabled children.  What I found fascinating was that Emily’s teachers and students found how much they benefited from her participation in school.  They all worked together as a team and enjoyed her presence in the classroom.  Teachers reported here were so many valuable lessons for everyone involved.  Her inclusion in school was groundbreaking for a child with severe CP in the nineties.   According to the author, there is still a lot of work to be done because “resources and funding remain major roadblocks to facilitating these rights in classrooms today.”   Emily however, graduated from high school.  You may visit Kathleen McDonnell at her website.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Ellie Bean the Drama Queen!

Ellie Bean the Drama Queen!

Jennie Harding, Author

David Padgett, Illustrator

Sensory World, Imprint of Future Horizons, 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Theme:  Processing sensory messages, neurological disability, teamwork with the family, therapist and school

Opening/Synopsis“With her unevenly cut brown hair, bare feet, and loud, munchkin-like singing voice, Ellie Bean spun wildly in circles in her backyard.  As the wind blew harder against her face, Elli Bean laughed and sang longer…and louder…and louder.  Her spinning became faster…and faster!”  Ellie’s mother yells for her to slow down.  When she suddenly stops  spinning very fast, she doesn’t  seem wobbly.  She takes off running after a butterfly.  She spots a bee and runs screaming into the house sobbing.  Her mother quietly asks her what is wrong.  But, Ellie is not able “to put her fear into words.”   Many things upset Ellie like the smell and taste of toothpaste,  the flushing the toilet, getting a hair cut.  For Ellie, everything is “too loud,  too scratchy, too painful, too tight, too smelly, too ouchy and too squishy,”  all of which send her into a meltdown.  Some people think she’s drama queen.

Ellie and her parents visit a specialist and learn that she has a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  An occupational therapist works with Ellie and her parents to discover what things make her feel better and calm her down, like swinging, spinning, jumping on a trampoline, brushing her arms and legs with a soft brush and wrapping her tightly in a blanket.  After her parents start using these exercises with her, Ellie  begins to use words to tell her mom what is bothering her.

Why I like this book:  Jennie Harding uses drama and a lot of action to show how SPD affects the quality of life for children.  She is the parent of a child with sensory-processing difficulties and a special educator.  SPD is a term used to cover a variety  of neurological disabilities, not just one.  Some children with autism have SPD.  David Padgett has created a very colorful and lively illustrations that beautifully compliment the story.  Harding says it is important the parents educate themselves and seek help.  An Occupational Therapist will know what tools can be used to ease the discomfort for a child, who has difficulty processing information that is received in the brain.   It is also important to train the child to listen to his/her own body.  Please read the Author Information about SPD at the back of the book.  She gives an overview and provides important resources and web sites for parents.

Resources:  Visit the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation , which is establishing an on-line SPD University, The Sensory and Motor Integration Website of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Sensory Integration Global Network for more information.  This is a book that could be used in the classroom to discuss sensory issues with students.  A lot of kids find things that are too ouchy, too itchy, too noisy, and too smelly.  This would help children better understand kids with SPD.  You could also have children draw pictures about what bothers them most.  This could lead to a lively discussion about similarities.

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.

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP, Authors

Clarabelle van Niekerk, Illustrator

Skeezel Press, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for:  Preschool to Grade 2

Awards:  2010 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award, and the 2009 Mom’ Choice Award.

Themes:  Understanding a child with Asperger Syndrome, Helping the child succeed at home and at school, Teamwork

Opening“Sam loved to giggle.  He would close his eyes, throw back his head, and just giggle.  This would make everyone else giggle.  Sam was a happy boy but he was a little different.  He did not like loud noises.  He did not like to rough and tumble with other boys.  Making friends was hard for Sam.”  This is an endearing story about Sam, who  acts differently.  He lives with his parents, his sister and his dog.  Sam doesn’t like his pancakes to touch each other on the plate.  He doesn’t like to wear new clothes because they feel funny.  He builds puzzles by himself at school and the kids tease him.   A fair comes to town and Sam’s father takes him to ride on the Ferris wheel.   Sam loves the feeling of going round and round so much that he slips out of the house later that night and returns to the Ferris wheel.  That’s when his parents realize it’s time to see a doctor.

Why I like this book:  The authors give a realistic portrayal of child with Asperger Syndrome in an upbeat and happy way.   The illustrations are colorful and beautifully support the positive mood of the story.  They show how important it is for the doctors, therapists,  family, teacher and students to work together as a team to understand and help Sam.  Over the months Sam learns to interact with the other students and they include him in their activities.  And, Sam is given his moment to shine at a school event where he shares a very special gift.

Activities:  At the end of the book, the authors have a special discussion guide for students, family and friends.  They offer 10 very helpful tips for kids who have friends who may seem a little different.   These tips will promote a thoughtful and lively classroom or family conversation.

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.