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Recommended for ages 8-12. Award-winning author Kimberly Newton Fusco really knows how to create strong female characters that stay with you long after you've finished her book. In her most recent book, Beholding Bee, she weaves an especially magical and moving story that's perfect for middle-grade readers.
As the novel opens, we meet 11-year old Bee, who lives with a traveling carnival. It's 1942, and Bee's parents, carnival workers, were killed when she was four and she's been raised by a kindly young woman, Pauline. Bee fills her days chopping onions and helping at the carnival's hot dog cart. She has to deal with teasing about a prominent birthmark on her face, although her guardian Pauline suggests it's a precious diamond. In fact, the carnival owner only seems to be keeping Bee so that he can use her in his "freak show" when she's a little older. But when Bee's two best friends leave the carnival, Bee decides it's time to find a real home, and takes to the road with a stray dog as unwanted as she is and a small piglet.
Bee is taken in by two mysterious but kindly old women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter, who live in an old home that seems straight out of a fairy tale. Their clothes seem to come from another era, and curiously only Bee is able to see these women she calls her "aunts." For the first time, Bee goes to school, where she must cope with cruel bullying. Although she's put in a special education class where she clearly does not belong, at school she makes her first friend her own age. Gradually, Bee learns that there are people who care about her, and she learns to accept herself for who she is.
This is a lovely, lyrical, story filled with what Bookpage called "real magic"--"created by love and conjured up by need." Kimberly Newton Fusco manages to fuse magic and realism, love and cruelty, loneliness and hope into another novel that's a treasure for middle-grade readers (and adults who love to share books with children!) Display CommentsAdd a Comment
As 2012 is quickly coming to a close, I'll use today's Nonfiction Monday event to feature my two favorite nonfiction books of the year - one for young listeners and one for older readers. Without a doubt, my favorite nonfiction book for older readers was
Goldish, Meish. 2013. Surf Dog Miracles. New York: Bearport. Advance Review Copy (This is my first review with a 2013 copyright date. And just like that, another year has passed.)
Part of the Dog Heroes series, Surf Dog Miracles is more than just a book about surfing dogs, though they are some fine looking surfers! These dogs surf for fun with their owners, but they also assist people with disabilities and raise money for charities. Ricochet, a Golden Retriever, surfs in tandem with people having special needs, riding the back of the board to stabilize it in the waves. She has raised a whopping $150,000 for charities that benefit both people and dogs. Surfing dogs also compete against each other is contests like Del Mar, California's Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon. In 2011,
The money raised at the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon went to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California. This organization provides many services, including taking care of homeless animals, running a hospital for horses, and delivering pet food to animal owners who are too old or weak to leave their homes.
Surf Dog Miracles contains twelve short chapters which offer the history and particulars of the sport (dogs have been surfing since the 1920s, but the first known solo surfer did not appear until the 1980s) and an overview of what surfing dogs are accomplishing today. As would be expected, photos are plentiful; they are accompanied by text box insets and captions. Fun and informative, this slim, 32-page volume also contains a list of surf dog facts, a photo page of common surfing breeds, a glossary, bibliography, and sources for more information.
Like a viral YouTube video, kids will want to see this one again and again.
Yesterday was a heavenly day! Hub and I got our granddaughter to ourselves for almost four hours. Such a pretty, smart, funny and just perfect little girl!! How very, very lucky we - her parents and grandparents - are.
So, when I saw this video posted over on GottaBook, I had to share it. Every child is beautiful. Every parent feels challenged. But some of us have been "blessed" with more challenges than others. My heart goes out to parents with differently-abled children and I doff my virtual hat to them in respect.
Cherish each joyful moment no matter how fleeting. Fill your memories with those patches of brightness to carry you through any long dark days. Love, peace and courage to parents everywhere.
While standing at the local superstore watching my children choose their colorful binders and pencils for the upcoming school year, I saw another family at the end of the aisle. Their two sons had great difficulty accessing the space because of the crowd and they were clearly over-stimulated by the sights and sounds of this tax-free weekend shopping day. One boy began crying and the other soon curled into a ball next to the packets of college-lined paper. My daughter, empathic to a fault, leaned down and offered her Blues Clues notebook in an effort to make the boy happier. When we finally walked away, I saw the same pain and embarrassment in the eyes of the parents that I have often seen at parent-teacher conferences and IEP meetings.
For many families, the start of a new school year is exciting and refreshing. The opportunity to see old friends, meet new ones, and the ease of settling into a fall routine can be comforting. For families of students with special needs, however, the start of a school year can be anxious, frustrating, and filled with reminders of the deficits (social and academic) of their children. This dichotomy is clear and present as some children bound off the school bus with their shiny new backpacks hanging from their shoulders, while others are assisted off different buses as their eyes and bodies prepare for what sometimes feels like an assault on their very personhood.
These differences are apparent to parents as well as teachers and administrators at schools. Professionals often ask: “What can we do to be the best teachers for these students?”
Consider what school can mean for students who are different and how to create ways to welcome everyone, according to their needs. Before the school year begins, these longstanding suggestions still resonate as best practices for parents and students:
(1) Contact the student before the school year begins to be sure the student and family are aware that you are genuinely looking forward to working with them and have exciting plans for the school year! Everyone learns differently and wants to be honored for their ability to contribute. In the Eye Illusion not everyone is able to see the changes in the dots as they move around the circle. What you see isn’t better or worse — just different. When we think of students and children in the same way, by removing the stigma of labels and considering the needs of all, we become more of a community and less of a hierarchy.
(2) Be aware of all students in the classes you teach. Know their areas of strength and challenge, and be prepared to adapt teaching strategies to include them. We cannot expect students and children all to be the same. Use a fable to illustrate that everyone has strengths and can become an integral part of the learning experience.
(3) Review teaching practices: modalities, colors, sizes, and pacing. All students enjoy learning through various modalities (visual, aural, kinesthetic), love colors in their classroom, appreciate sizing differences to assist with visual concepts, and can benefit from pacing that is more applicable to them. Find ways to include these practices in an overall approach. Universal design (applied to the classroom) means that all students receive adaptations to enhance their learning experience, and no one is singled out as being different because of the adaptations applied.
(4) Create partnerships with all professionals who work with special needs students. A team approach is a powerful way to include everyone effectively. When we work as a team, everyone benefits and the workload is shared by all. This community of professionals creates a culture of shared responsibility and joy.
(5) Provide a clear line of communication with parents of students with disabilities. Often children cannot come home and tell their parents about events, assignments, announcements, and other important parts of their school day. Parents may not be able to gauge whether their child had a good day or if there are concerns. A journal between teacher and parent(s) can be a comforting and useful tool. This communication may also be done electronically through a secure Google or Yahoo group. Reading Rockets provides other useful tips in this area.
(6) Leave labels out of the conversation when communicating with parents. Parents can be sensitive to their child being known only by their diagnosis. In addition, some parents may be still processing the life change that comes with raising a child with special needs. When entering into a conversation with a parent, focus on your classroom and the needs of the student. If there is a concern, try to put the concern in the most positive light as possible. The Parent-Provider network at Purdue University offers some great tips as well for communicating with parents.
(7) Let parents know of student accomplishments even if they are small. Students with special needs often encounter failure. Parents attend countless meetings that remind them of all the challenges their children face. A note home when something goes well can make all the difference.
(8) Allow the parent and the child to visit prior to the start of school if the child is new. Students who are enrolling in a new program or a new school may have difficulty with this transition. Often this transition can cause anxiety that will hinder a child from seeing school as a comfortable, safe place. Walk them through the routines: where they sit, where materials are, etc. Social stories (short stories written in third person to illustrate an everyday situation) can also be useful in this circumstance. When read prior to beginning school, these stories help them move through their transition.
A culture of acceptance and compassion must permeate our educational institutions. By categorizing, labeling, and noting differences, we are often putting children in boxes that can then, unfortunately, define them for the rest of their lives. Every child wants to be part of the school experience and seeks to participate to the best of his ability. When the class and school culture are created to honor the personhood of every child, and each child is considered valuable to the success of every school experience, all children begin to enjoy the same childhood experiences.
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Wise, Bill. 2012. Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer Willliam Hoy. Ill. by Adam Gustavson. New York: Lee & Low.
No one today would call a deaf person "dummy," but from 1888-1902, Major League Baseball player, William Ellsworth Hoy, wore that nickname with pride.
Deaf from the age of three, his chances of becoming a major league baseball star were slim to none. At the turn of the century, deafness itself was a great hurdle to overcome. Attitudes were different, and his early years were difficult until his parents sent him to the Ohio School for the Deaf, where,
Nobody stared or pointed him. Nobody felt sorry for him.
Presumably, this is where he learned the confidence and persistence (he already had a love for baseball), that helped propel him to the top of his game as a major league outfielder. Bill Wise chronicles his early life, his rise to stardom, and the unique challenges he faced in the game of baseball. His baseball challenges were not necessarily due to his disability, but rather, just the way the game is played. If the opposing team has a weakness, exploit it.
Because he could not hear the home plate umpire shouting balls and strikes when he was at bat, Hoy had to turn around to look at the ump after each pitch. The umpire would repeat the call, and as Hoy read the ump's lips, opposing pitchers often quick pitched Hoy, throwing the next ball before he was ready to bat.
This didn't stop Hoy for long, though. There's a "workaround" for nearly everything. Some historians argue that Hoy's deafness may have been the impetus for the umpire's use of hand signals. In any case, the fans loved him - knowing that he could not hear their cheers, fans waved their arms and hats and threw confetti to show their approval.
Gustavson's mostly double-spread illustrations depict Hoy as a determined and confident young man.
Much of the text is presented in text boxes which appear as aged scrapbook or autograph pages outlined in faded fountain pen. The subdued tones of the illustrations, along with the many undefined faces, help give Silent Star the appropriate "old time" feel.
The Afterword offers additional information and photos of Hoy's baseball card and a Hoy-autographed baseball. Biographical sources are included on the dedication page. As for baseball sources, they're unnecessary, for that is one of the many beauties of baseball. There are official statistics for everything! (read or watch Moneyball, anyone?)
Since the company was founded in 1991, diversity at LEE & LOW has been defined by ethnicity. Our focus has always been on multicultural stories that explore racial and cultural diversity, from remembering the experiences of past generations to reflecting on the world in which we live today.
For the first time in twenty-five years, our mission is expanding to include themes outside the conversation of race. Here are three new books that charted new territory for us:
Irena’s Jars of Secrets (Fall 2011)
The riveting, true story of Polish social worker Irena Sendler, who lived during World War II. Using creative means, and at great personal risk, she saved thousands of Jewish children from Hitler’s Nazis by smuggling the children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Why we published this story: In 1997, we published a book called Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story, about a Japanese diplomat who defied his government during World War II to help thousands of Jewish refugees elude the Germans. While the themes of Irena’s Jars of Secrets and Passage to Freedom are similar, acts of extreme heroism for the sake of others are rare, timeless, and worth celebrating. Another reason Irena Sendler’s story spoke to us was the chilling fact that although nearly seventy years have passed since World War II ended, crimes of genocide continue into the twenty-first century. We felt that young readers should know about Irena Sendler as someone who stood for justice and compassion in times like these, and we discovered there were no other picture books that told her story. (Note: One season before our book was published, another book on Irena was released, so now there are two picture books about her.)
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy (April 2012) A tribute to one of the most inspirational figures in baseball history. A talented player with a standout record, Hoy is a shining example that success in life should not be measured by differences but by drive and determination.
Why we published this story: Silent Star is a unique story because it shows that a person can overcome a disability AND be one of the greatest ball players to play the game. Why William Hoy has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is a mystery! Personally, what grabbed me about this story was how the fans embraced Hoy on the field—instead of clapping for him, which they knew he couldn’t hear, they threw confetti in the air so he could see their support. Very touching. Yet growing up, Hoy faced the kinds of discrimination people of color are often subjected t
I have spent the day devouring this book. There is so much I could say, but I will keep it to this:
So often we hear we need more books where children can see characters like themselves. I wholeheartedly agree, though things shouldn’t end there. Kids need books where they meet children completely unlike themselves. They need to be able -- through the window of literature -- to examine the worlds of those who are different so they may in doing so embrace the common threads running through all lives.
Bravo to R. J. Palacio. WONDER is next year’s Schneider Family Award winner.
Auxier, Jonathan. 2011. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. New York: Amulet.
(Advance Reader Copy provided by the publisher and signed in New Orleans by the young, very friendly, and tall Jonathan Auxier. Some lucky young reader will be the recipient of this great new book!) A sightless, orphan boy under the control of a heartless man, the Dickensian Peter Nimble uses his remarkable senses to survive, becoming as unseen as he is sightless - a master of thievery, lock picking, diversion, filching, clipping and pilfering. It is a mean and demeaning life until the day he steals an elaborately guarded, locked and fortified box containing three sets of eyes - eyes which catapult him into a strange and fantastic journey to the spaces that have heretofore been left blank upon the maps of the world. His destiny is a quest for the Vanished Kingdom. To accomplish his mission, he has only his new companion, the part feline/part equine/part human Sir Tode (a most miserably enchanted knight), an unfinished riddle, his burgle-sack, and of course, the Fantastic Eyes.
The language of Peter Nimble is the straightforward language of action and adventure, which is not to say that this book is simple or unsophisticated. In fact, the plot has many twists with depth equal to the cruel mines of the Vanished Kingdom. There is some obvious foreshadowing, but this may be a planned device, offering the reader a sense of accomplishment while following this exciting adventure as it changes perspective when new characters enter and expand the story.
As Peter Nimble is blind, the reader depends upon the narrator and good Sir Tode to set the visual scene. Peter's view of the world is colored, so to speak, by his other senses. He tells the time of day by the "feel" of the sun or moon. He can "smell the dew percolating up from the ground." He can judge the size of a chamber or hall by the echo of voices or machinery. But he cannot do it all alone, and enlists the help of the loyal Sir Tode, a fish, thieves, a raven, and "the Princess," in a fierce battle to aid the author of the riddle,
Kings aplenty, princes few, The ravens scattered and seas withdrew. Only a stranger may bring relief, But darkness will reign, unless he's --
For ages 10 and up, readers of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes can expect some violence and even death (no quest is without danger!), but Peter and his allies are up to the challenge, and when they falter, they are reminded,
There are times when Justice demands from us more than we would give.
(I love the cover art!) True story: I have never encountered the word sternutation before reading Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. After looking it up, I shared my discovery with my family that evening only to have my son tell me that he, too, had learned the word sternutation that day - from a Snapple cap! A strange coincidence to be sure!
Like waiting for a holiday, a vacation, or a very special event, anticipation is a big part of the pleasure and following along with Rachel Simon, via her blog and Facebook page, as she did a pre-release tour for her newest book, The Story of Beautiful Girl, helped get me through winter doldrums and kept the May release date firmly in my mind. I had read the online excerpt and was sure ...Beautiful Girl would become one of my favorite books. Titles that are on a special shelf in our home. Books that transport my mind, suspend time, wrap themselves around me like a beautiful quilt of memories. The Story of Beautiful Girl did just that.
First, as a book designer, let me take a moment to comment on the packaging of this title. The cover art was featured on a CBS Sunday Morning episode (click the link to see the episode) months before the release. When I saw it, held up proudly in Central Publishing's New York office, I called to my husband, "They're showing Rachel Simon's book!" It was exciting, because I was already familiar with the distinctive silhouette of a woman, her hair bound up in a loose bun, her face slightly downcast.
The white background of the jacket has a pearl effect; I'm not sure how that was achieved, but it is understated elegance at its finest. The font used in the title is a work of graphic art and the orange-red letters are raised off the jacket. But wait, that's not all! When you open the book you are greeted with matching colored end sheets splashed with the silhouettes of feathers. A feather is also shown on the back jacket, with a baby's hand reaching toward it. I love the simple beauty of this jacket. It fits perfectly with the story and the sophisticated design continues on each page. And now, to the story...
The Story of Beautiful Girl is dedicated to "those who were put away." Even the front matter supports the design and tone of the story, with a beautiful verse by the Reverend Nancy Lane. I'm not giving it away, because you need to get this book and find these lovely touches yourself.
Simon begins her tale in 1968, with Part I: Hiding. We meet Martha, the widow, Lynnie, a young woman who is mute and mentally disabled, and Homan, an African-American deaf man on the run. The story continues in Part II: Going (1969, 1970) and we become closer to the characters and also learn the significance of the "red feather" as well as more details of past events pertinent to the story.
I don't want to reveal much about the plot, so I'll just say that Part III: Seeking scoots us to 1980, 1988, 1993, 1995, 2001, and 2011. I like the way each chapter has a title, along with the name of the character who is the focus of the chapter and the year. We meet additional supporting characters like Kate who worked at the at the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded where Lynnie and Homan start their story, and other folks whose paths cross with Homan, Lynnie, and Martha. The child hinted at on the back jacket is Julia, Lynnie's baby, who grows to adulthood by the last chapter in a heart-stopping scene that will make you feel as if you hear the music and see the images, like a movie, like a wonderful conclusion of a meaningful film that weaves a story around your heart and enlightens your mind.
In a companion to his acclaimed novel, The Wednesday Wars, award-winning writer Gary D. Schmidt revisits the Vietnam era in Okay for Now. Doug Swietech, a secondary character in the Wednesday Wars, becomes the focus of this story; it's close to the end of the summer, and Doug and his very dysfunctional family have just moved to a "dump" of a town in upstate New York when the book opens. Doug idolizes Joe Pepitone of the Yankees, and his most treasured possession is a jacket signed given by his idol. His home life is dominated by his abusive father and his bullying older brother, while another brother is off fighting in Vietnam.
The library and the town's kind librarian, Mr. Powell, play a key role in the story, as Doug discovers that although "maybe stupid Marysville was a dump,...this place wasn't." At the second floor of the library, he finds a special room, with a huge book--a book displayed under glass, with only one picture showing. It's a gigantic picture of a bird, and Doug can't take his eyes off it. "It was the most terrifying picture I had ever seen. The most beautiful." It's an original Audubon, and it haunts Doug's imagination. Although Doug doesn't draw (since, as he quips in the book, only girls with pink bicycle chains draw), the kind librarian is soon leaving drawing supplies near the Audubon display that Doug is drawn to by some powerful magnetic force. When he finally picks up a pencil to copy Audubon's drawing, it felt "spectacular, " and Mr. Powell is soon giving him drawing lessons (was that in Mr. Powell's librarian job description?)
As much as Doug hates "stupid Marysville", he is quickly befriended not only by Mr. Powell, but also by Lil, a girl whose family owns the town's deli, and gets Doug a job delivering groceries on Saturdays for some of the more eccentric citizens of Marysville. Things aren't going too bad for Doug, until his older brother is suspected of some local robberies, his father's physical abuse is revealed to all his classmates, his brother comes back from Vietnam maimed physically and emotionally, and to top it off, pages of the precious Audubon manuscript are being sold off to pay the town's bills. Can Doug stop the cycle of abuse in his family and perhaps even put the town's Audubon book back together?
Schmidt is a masterful writer, managing to incorporate pathos, humor, loss, the power of art, friendship and more into this memorable novel. Doug's voice and his journey is one that the reader will not soon forget. The novel is pulled together by the Audubon prints, which serve as titles for each chapter and are pictured in the novel as well, and often seem to mirror what is happening in Doug's own life. As Doug comes up with ways to reconstruct the precious book, he is also making sense of his own life and future.
Okay for Now is already getting some pre-Newbery buzz, and perhaps Schmidt will be adding a Newbery to his two Newbery honor awards (for The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. Schmidt, who is a professor of English at Calvin College with six children of his own, is working on the third volume of The Wednesday Wars trilogy. That's a book that will definitely be on my "to read" pile.
I don’t have a Kindle. That said, I accept the inevitability of the idea that more and more of our reading content is going to be delivered digitally. That’s why I think it’s important to understand these tools even if they offer limited utility for us or our patrons at the time. The Kindle has “accessibility” features built into it that allow a book to be read out loud via the Kindle. This is great news — and probably also legally necessary — for people with various reading disabilities ranging from visual disabilities to text-based learning disabilities. However, the Kindle also allows publishers to remotely disable text-to-speech (TTS) options in books that you may already have on your Kindle. And publishers are doing this, a little, at the urging of the Authors Guild.
The Authors Guild, for their part, has issued this statement about the situation which, on first reading, does make a certain amount of sense. As a librarian I’m more concerned about the overarching issues of digital rights management and the notion that even though you’ve nominally purchased a book (perhaps at a loss for Amazon) you still have an item that is, in part, controlled by its creator who can alter the item according to the license terms you agreed to. A little more about this on Slashdot.
Professor Poindexter P. Poppycock has done the impossible. He has created 4 dinosaurs from DNA and 30 million dollars in backing funds via the Brotherhood of Universal Revolution for Political Subterfuge (or B.U.R.P.S. for short). The plan is to use the dinos for some serious hostage action. What the Professor doesn't count on, however, is dissention in the ranks. The dinos have been granted brain power and free will, and they tell the professor that they will not do evil!
Meanwhile, Cameron and his classmates are going to an archaeological dig at Pinkerton Park. Cameron has been asked by his teacher to go around and take pictures, and guess who is hiding behind a bunch of bushes at the dig? You guessed it!
After the humans get over the fact that the dinosaurs talk and have names (Lizzy, DeeDee, Charlie, and Vinnie), things settle down surprisingly quickly. Television crews catch the action, and the Professor is not too pleased. His financial backers aren't so happy either. So PPP gets right on building some robotic replacements so that the political hostage taking can get back on track.
There is an inevitable clash of the titans with Cameron being an unlikely young hero.
Scott Christian Sava has penned an action packed graphic novel that is perfect for your boy readers. It has dinosaurs, robots, battles, tanks, and flying wheelchairs! The fact that Cameron is in a chair is never discussed, simply presented, which works beautifully. There is a manga-ness to Andres Silva Blanco's illustrations which provides for lots of movement, including "RUMBLE"s, "BOOM"s, "SLOOSH"es, and "ZZZRT"s!
A fast, fun read.
I wonder if Cameron and his Dinosaurs will have some more adventures!
The Seeing Stick was originally written by Jane Yolen in 1977, and was a recipient of the Christopher Medal in 1978. The book tells the tale of young princess Hwei Ming, whose name, when translated to English, means “the lightless moon on the last day of the month...becoming luminous.” This is a fitting name, for the princess is blind, and enjoys none of what she is given due to the darkness of her world.
Hwei Ming’s father, the emperor of Peking, announces that if anyone can help his only daughter to see, that person will be rewarded with fortune in jewels. In rhythmic prose begging to be replicated the author writes:
"Monks came, of course, with their prayers and prayer wheels, for they thought in this way to help Hwei Ming to see. Magician-priests came, of course, with their incantations and spells, for they thought in this way to help Hwei Ming to see" and Physicians came, of course, with their potions and pins, for they thought in this way to help Hwei Ming to see..."
but none can find a cure.
A solitary old man hears the emperor’s request, so he travels a great distance to Peking. “The sun rose hot on his right side, and the sun set cool on his left” provides the reader with the idea that the journey is long and not undertaken lightly.
When the old man finally arrives, clothes tattered and dirty from his travels, he is turned away by the city guards. But through cleverness and creativity the old man is
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Melody is eleven years old and has never said a single word. She also has a photographic memory so she remembers being a baby, remembers every show she has ever seen on TV, remembers the commercials too, remembers songs, factoids, everything. All those words are trapped in her head, unable to be released. Her parents know she is bright, but how could anyone know just how smart Melody actually is with her cerebral palsy being all that they can see? At school she is in the classroom for those with special needs where the quality of instruction varies from year to year. One year she was subjected to the alphabet over and over again along with a CD of nursery rhymes. Pure torture! So when Melody realizes that she needs a computer to help her talk, everyone had better be ready to hear what she has to say!
This in-depth character study is beautifully done. Melody is a character with charisma, brilliance and a sassy attitude that is integral to her personality. Despite being unable to speak, Melody will speak deeply to any reader who takes the time to meet her. Draper does not sugarcoat Melody’s disability. She does not make the people around Melody too perfect and good. Instead everyone is human, especially Melody.
Draper brought me to tears several times in the novel. From spectacular moments of Melody speaking to the cruelty of other children, this book offers such highs and lows. And through it all, living it all, we have Melody, a true heroine, an amazing person, and someone we all should get to know.
The cover is wonderful with its fish out of water theme and a direct tie to the storyline. I love the contrast of the pale blue and bright orange, because Melody is such a flash of bright color in the novel.
This will make a brilliant read aloud for a classroom of 5th or 6th graders. It will also be adored by single readers who will find Melody a person worth spending time with. Appropriate for ages 9-13, this book is a real winner.
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2010. Peace, Locomotion. Read by Dion Graham. Brilliance Audio. (about 2 hours on CD, mp3 download, or Playaway)
Peace, Locomotion continues the story of Lonnie Collins Motion (or Locomotion) first begun in Locomotion. After their parents perished in a fire, Lonnie and his sister, Lili were sent to separate foster homes. Years have passed. Lonnie is now twelve and although they miss each other, both have settled in to their new homes.
Locomotion was a novel written in verse, as Lonnie learned the forms of poetry from a caring teacher. Peace, Locomotion is an epistolary novel, consisting of letters from Lonnie to Lili as he endeavors to chronicle his feelings, his memories of their earlier life together, and the daily occurrences of his new life. He saves the letters in the hope that when he is someday reunited with Lili, he can relive and share with her each day that they were apart. He struggles with the fact that his younger sister begins to call her foster mother, Momma, and can barely remember their parents. One of his friends is moving away, his teacher is mean, and he does poorly on tests and homework. At home, he has another problem. One of his foster mother's sons is serving in the war (the listener does not know if it is the war in Afghanistan or Iraq) and things are not going well. Lonnie is tempted to pray for Jenkins' safe return but his foster brother Rodney suggests that he pray for peace instead - explaining, if peace comes, all things will follow. In spite of the many obstacles that life has placed in Lonnie's path, he remains positive and thoughtful, never quick to draw conclusions or pass judgment. He finds joy in a church choir, a snowball fight, a good friend. He is kind and wise beyond his years. Although this is a story about African American families, it could be about any family in similar circumstances. It is a story about hope and family and finding peace wherever one may.
The challenge of narrating a novel consisting of letters from only one person is a great one, and Dion Graham's reading rises to the test. He is superb. Graham perfectly captures the many moods of Lonnie Collins Motion with precision, never exaggeration. The listener can hear a smile begin to spread across Lonnie's lips, tears well up in his eyes, a sparkle light up his face. Lonnie recounts conversations within his letters, allowing Graham to create character voices of Lili, Lonnie's friends, and his foster family; but Locomotion is the star of this novel and all ears are upon him. Highly recommended for middle grades.
Natalie has been losing her sight since she was eight. She is still able to see in a tunneled form, but then receives the news that she will lose her sight completely in a short period of time. Natalie is sent to a school for the blind to learn the skills she will need to have when she is blind. She is taught Braille and how to walk with a cane. But she doesn’t consider herself in the same situation as the other teens at the school. They are blind and she is not. She does learn the skills, but inwardly refuses to accept the situation, hoping for a miracle to happen. Eventually her sight does leave completely and now Natalie has to choose between using the skills she learned and becoming independent or remaining scared and protected at home.
This book is a mix of positive and negative for me. Natalie was a fine character with intelligence, lots of doubts, and complex reactions to her situation. She was well drawn and interesting. The information on the school for the blind and her skills were also interesting, though they could have been woven more into the story itself so that they read more effortlessly.
Unfortunately, the book suffered from heavy-handed writing that was often didactic in tone. There was a sense that the author had a lot to say about overcoming obstacles and disabilities. Her need to inform others intruded on the story itself, which would have been much stronger without the tone. Additionally, there were often moments when Natalie grew to new understanding which the author underlined and pointed out, lessening their impact instead of strengthening it as intended.
I must also quibble with the foreshadowing of the action-filled ending, which would have been surprising except that it was built into the story too clearly with events leading directly to it. Again, a more even-handed writing style would have raised it to another level.
I just today read this post on disabled people (or, if you prefer, people who happen to be disabled)—particularly regarding creation of characters—over at the Rejectionist, so being a little late and interested in continuing the discussion focusing on a specific character, I am turning my potential comment into a blog post instead.
Rachel notes that the “Supercrip” character stereotype is “the most pervasive and most cherished in the Able-bodied Narrative.” What was that relatively recent book made into a movie in which a kid with spina bifida (or was it cerebral palsy?) joins up with his able-bodied friend/nemesis with a mental disability to imagine that they’re both superheroes, but ends up with at least one if not both dead because they get beat up? (Forgive me if I mangled that plot—I got so annoyed by the emotional manipulation that I stopped paying attention; I must have been watching it in a location where I couldn’t just turn it off, like at a relative’s house or something.) Then there’s A Beautiful Mind, which I can’t judge well because I refused to see it because it appeared to portray a schizophrenic curing himself—another trope Rachel discusses, looking for the cure. (My mother is schizophrenic. Sorry, it’s not curable.) It isn’t enough that the guy is a mathematician who happens to have schizophrenia. No, it makes him one of the best mathematicians in the world! It’s all so inspiring! (gag) Tell me if I’m wrong, because like I said, I avoided it it due to perceived possible emotional manipulation.
As Rachel says,
Supercrip is the “inspiring” and “amazing” disabled person who has “suffered” and “overcome” the “terrible limitations” of disability. Bitch magazine explains it thus:
Supercrip provides a way for non-disabled folks to be “inspired” by persons with disabilities without actually questioning—or making changes to—how persons with disabilities are treated in society…. Supercrip cannot just be human; she or he must be superhuman and surpass not only her/his disability, but the realms of “normal” human achievement. Supercrip allows some non-disabled folks to feel better about themselves; this is quite evident when it comes to statements like, “What an inspiration!”
In fiction, particularly fantasy, the Supercrip trope is interpreted in its literal sense—the disabled superhero, a la Daredevil, a blind man with super-sensitive hearing and touch that completely negated the effects his blindness and therefore of his experience as a blind man. It is a form of fixing and normalizes disability by rendering actual conflicts and difficulties of being disabled as irrelevant.
Which makes me wonder where Toph in Avatar: The Last Airbender fits in to this paradigm. I don’t see Toph in the same way that I see those emotionally manipulative stories. Toph may be “making up” for her blindness via Earthbending, yet it’s not really the same thing … is it? Sure, she can “see” with her feet, but it’s a much different kind of seeing. She still can’t do some things her companions can, like read. (Because, duh, she’s blind, as she so matter-of-factly reminds them.) Being blind is simply a part of who she is as a well-rounded character. She’s not *more* awesome than everyone else (though she’s still VERY awesome)—she’s just who she is, a smart, capable girl who happens to be one of the best Earthbenders in the world (hence, my wondering: stereotype?), who discovers metalbending, who grows emotion
The YA Literature Symposium is quickly approaching! Have you registered yet? The list of programs with times is now available.
The featured program this week/today is:
Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: Young Adult Literature and Disability Diversity: How Far Have We Come?
Today’s teens are likely to have friends and classmates with disabilities. Young adult literature increasingly reflects the diverse identities found among today’s teens, and scaffolds the social beliefs they hold about people with disabilities, by including positive portrayals of characters with disabilities. Session participants will critically examine how changing social beliefs about disability are reflected in historical through contemporary fiction and nonfiction YA lit and explore methods to promote acceptance of diversity through the genre. Participants will be able to apply this knowledge when selecting and teaching YA lit. Speakers are Dr. Heather Garrison, Dr. Katherine Schneider, and author Terry Trueman.
The YA Literature Symposium is November 5-7 in Albuquerque, NM. To give everyone a sneak peek into the presentations I be posting portions of interviews with program presenters weekly until the symposium. Full interviews will be available at the YA Lit Symposium Online Community.
“The Pirate of Kindergarten,” written by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Lynne Avril and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, wins the award for children ages 0 to 10.
“After Ever After,” written by Jordan Sonnenblick and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., is the winner of the middle-school.
The teen award winner is “Five Flavors of Dumb,” written by Antony John and published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
On Saturday, June 25, I will be hosting a YALSA-sponsored program during the ALA Annual Conference about serving teens with disabilities. I am looking for a few good presenters who are interested in joining me and sharing their stories with the greater, teen-serving library community about how they are currently serving young people with disabilities in their public or school libraries with special programs, adapted services, or initiatives developed specifically to help foster a community of inclusion. If you are already planning to attend ALA Annual in New Orleans and are interested in possibly being a part of this workshop (see description below), please email me as soon as possible. In addition to including your name, title, and contact information in the email, please send me a brief description about how you are working with teens with disabilities.
Serving Teens with Disabilities
Saturday, June 25, 1:30 to 3:00 pm
Not everyone is prepared to work with teens with disabilities. If you’re like us, your heart is in the right place but you don’t have the knowledge to best serve this group. Learn how libraries have been developing best practices for staff development and service to teens with disabilities, including how to adapt programs, build relationships, and work with caregivers, teachers, and parents. Join us for an overview of what we’ve learned and how we’re adapting in order to best meet the needs of all teens that use our libraries.
Teen Services Coordinator
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
300 East 7th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
This is the wrenching tale of Zulaikah, an Afghani girl who lives with a cleft palate that has earned her the nickname of Donkeyface from the bullies in her neighborhood. It is a modern story, set after the defeat of the Taliban. Zulaikah lives with a harsh taskmaster of a stepmother, her beloved older sister, and two younger brothers. Despite her face, she is the one her stepmother sends to the market for supplies, giving the other children a chance to mock her. With the Americans in town, Zulaikah is offered the chance to have her face repaired. She also meets Meena, an old friend of her late mother who offers to teach her to read. These are immense opportunities for her, but will she be allowed to take advantage of them?
Reedy is a debut author who served in Afghanistan with the National Guard. Zulaikah’s story is based on a girl he met in Afghanistan. Reedy has created a marvelous lens for readers to better understand Afghanistan, its culture and its people. The day-to-day life shown here is so very different from our own, that one never forgets that this is a different country. Yet Zulaikah’s hopes and dreams are universal. So this book manages to offer a view of a foreign country at the same time it is showing our united humanity.
Zulaikah is a heroine who has seen unthinkable things, lives with a very visible disability, and yet remains hopeful about the future. She is a girl living in a culture that devalues women and girls, and while she searches for someone to teach her to read, she is not straining against the culture she is a part of. That is a large part of what makes this book so successful. This is a girl who is a product of her family and culture, yet radiant with inner beauty and always hope.
This is a particularly timely book that offers a perspective of modern Afghanistan. It also offers a very human character who will have you viewing news of Afghanistan differently, now with a spirited girl to inspire understanding. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Originally published in Belgium and Holland, this tremendously sweet book takes a straight-forward approach to the story of Laurie, a girl with hearing loss. Laurie has trouble hearing other children, so she usually plays alone. The others tease her about being deaf and refuse to play with a girl who can’t understand them. Laurie’s dog doesn’t mind that she’s different from the others. Finally one day, Laurie and her mother go to the ear doctor. He discovers she needs hearing aids, or “hearing computers” as Laurie calls them. Now Laurie can hear cars coming, plays happily with others, and pays better attention in class. Sometimes though, she still likes the quiet and turns her hearing aids off just to return to the silence.
Nijssen’s writes as an author who has experienced hearing loss herself. This makes the emotions and struggle of Laurie very real. The book doesn’t shy away from conflicted feelings and one of the nicest parts is when Laurie decides to turn her hearing aids off or down once in a while. It makes for a lovely moment that shows that being different was not the problem, being misunderstood was.
Lindenhuizen’s art is simple and friendly, depicting Laurie separated from the other children at first and later connected with others. She uses space on the pages very successfully, emphasizing the spirit of the text visually.
A great pick for units on differences and diversity, this book is friendly and straight forward. Appropriate for ages 4-6.