The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon

The Way I Say It

Nancy Tandon, Author

Charlesbridge, Fiction, Jan. 18, 2022

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 10-12

Themes: Speech impediment, Brain Injury, Best friends, Bullying, Emotions, Courage 

Opening: “I can’t say my name. Not because it’s a secret or anything. Honestly I’d shout it into a microphone right now if I could. I’d give up anything to be able to do that.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Sixth-grader Rory still can’t his r’s. He’s always gone to speech therapy at his elementary school, and now he has to continue in middle school. But that’s just the beginning of his troubles.

Rory’s former best friend, Brent, now hangs out with the mean wrestling-team kids, who make fun of Rory. And Rory’s mom doesn’t understand why he and Brent aren’t friends anymore.

Still, Rory and his other friends are finding their way in middle school, and Rory and his new speech teacher, Mr. Simms, discover that they share a love of hard rock and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Things are looking up.

But then Brent is in a terrible accident and suffers a brain injury. After winter break, Brent returns. He’s not the same and everything is difficult for him.  Rory is challenged to stand up for his old friend — even though Brent never did that for him.

Why I like The Way I Say It:

I am thrilled that Nancy Tandon has written an inspiring book for children who deal with a variety of speech impediments. It’s a real life issue and they need to see themselves in uplifting and hopeful stories. Books on speech impediments and stuttering are the most searched topic on my website. There are many children who have difficulty with speech. Yet, there are so few books for kids dealing with such a big issue in their young lives. Our daughter was hearing impaired and required speech therapy into middle school. 

The narrative is written in first person and gives the reader deep insight into Rory and his coping strategies, including how he chooses words without the letter “r” when he speaks. Readers will learn some interesting things about how important the positioning of tongue is in speech. Tandon gives the right amount of information about speech and exercises. I enjoyed Rory’s relationship with his quirky and unconventional speech therapist, Mr. Simms. They bond over their love of heavy metal music, guitars and a famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, who becomes a motivator for Rory as he moves forward in his growth. Every kid needs a Mr. Simms in their academic life.

A significant theme in the story is how relationships begin to change from elementary school to middle school, which many times results in betrayal and hurt. Rory is baffled when his best friend Brent turns on him in middle school, calls him a looser and hangs out with the mean kids. Their relationship becomes even more complicated when Brent suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) — another topic rarely addressed and something I can relate to — at the beginning of the school year. Rory’s lack of empathy may seem a bit troubling, but he is working through a lot of anger and hurt. Brent returns to school in the New Year and they end up together in speech therapy with Mr. Simms and as partners on a class project. Rory really faces some personal challenges which require a lot of courage and patience. Tandon did her homework on brain injuries and nailed the unpredictable side effects, which I think are important for readers to understand.

The plot is interesting and has its moments of humor, with Rory’s friends sweet Jenna, Tyson and Jetta. There is plenty of tension to keep readers turning pages. Make sure you check out the interesting note about speech development at the end of the book. Thank you Nancy Tandon for writing this book!

Nancy Tandon is a former teacher, speech-language pathologist (SLP), and adjunct professor of phonetics and child language development. As an SLP, she worked with many clients who had difficulty pronouncing sounds specific to their names, as well as people recovering from brain injury. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. The Way I Say It is her first novel. Visit Nancy at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Out of My Heart by Sharon Draper

Out of My Heart

Sharon M. Draper, Author

Atheneum/A Caitlyn Diouhy Book, Fiction, Nov. 9, 2021

Pages: 352

Suitable for ages: 10 and up

Themes: Cerebral palsy, Summer camp, Differently abled kids, Self-confidence, Emotions, Social themes, Friendships

Book Jacket Synopsis

Melody, the huge-hearted heroine of Out of My Mind, is a year older, and a year braver. And now with her Medi-talker, she feels nothing’s out of her reach, not even summer camp. There have to be camps for differently-abled kids like her, and she’s going to sleuth one out. A place where she can trek through a forest, fly on a zip line, and even ride on a horse! A place where she can make her own decisions, do things herself, and maybe maybe maybe, finally make a true friend. 

By the light of flickering campfires and the power of thunderstorms, through the terror of unexpected creatures in cabins and the first sparkle of a crush, Melody’s about to discover how brave and strong she really is. 

What I love about Out of My Heart:

Sharon Draper has hit a sweet spot in her sequel, Out of My Heart.  Melody Brooks has found her voice, expresses her feelings, shows her humorous side and has outwitted some serious bullies in the past year. Now she wants some independence to see what she can do. Topping her list — she wants to be with others who understand her, feel like she’s part of a group and develop some friendships.  

When Melody decides she wants to go to a summer camp for girls and boys who are differently abled, she is catapulted into some exciting new adventures that challenge her to find out more of who she is and what she can do. She has set on the sidelines of life watching others, now it’s time for Melody to fly. She courageously learns to fly on a zip line, swim, ride in a boat, paint a mural, participate in races, break some camp rules (her best day ever), and attends the best campfires every night. She sees some really cool wheelchairs and devices. And has a first crush.   

Another bonus to camp, there are no helicopter parents hovering over her every move. Just one young counselor assigned to each camper to help ease her needs. Melody likes her counselor, Trinity, and the three other memorable girls: Karyn (spina bifida), Athena (Down syndrome), and Jocelyn (maybe autism spectrum). Towards the end of the week the four girls ask for their own space — without counselors — where they can chat, giggle and really become friends. Melody gives them each a friendship bracelet.    

Melody can’t walk, talk, and use her hands and fingers like most people. Yet she is smart, strong-willed, and determined. I was surprised to read a few disappointed reviewers, who wanted to connect with her hurt and pain, as they did in Out of My Mind. As someone who suffered a brain injury years ago and had to learn to walk, talk and use my hands again, I wanted to see Melody move forward and find out what was possible for her without anyone adding limitations. That’s why I am so thrilled with Melody’s real spunk to learn about herself and take some risks that will lead her to a healthier and happier future.  

And there are some important things I believe Melody would want you to remember from Out of My Mind when meeting or working with a child who is differently abled. Don’t talk about them as if they are invisible. Don’t assume that they are brain-damaged and aren’t intelligent. Always assume they can hear or understand you even if they can’t communicate. Look directly into their eyes and talk to them as if they understand you. Treat them with respect and dignity. Don’ talk in a loud voice, talk normally. Don’t look away if you feel awkward. Smile and say hello. Be friendly.

There is no feeling sorry for Melody Brooks in Out of My Heart. Hooray for Melody! Let’s hope Sharon Draper has it in her heart to carry Melody’s journey forward in a future sequel. Melody is not finished, she’s just begun!  Melody’s story belongs in every middle school classroom as a new generation of kids will want to read and discuss her story.

Sharon M. Draper has written more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestsellers Out of My Mind, Blended, and Stella by Starlight and Coretta Scott King Award winners Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. When she’s not busy creating, she’s walking on the beach with her children and grandchildren, playing the piano, and ballroom dancing. She lives in Florida. Visit this award-winning author, educator, speaker, poet and National Teacher of the Year at her online wbsite.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Lobe Your Brain by Leanne Boucher Gill

Lobe Your Brain: What Matters About Your Grey Matter

Leanne Boucher Gill Ph.D., author

Illustrations by Magination Press 

Magination Press, Nonfiction, Jun. 21, 2021

Suitable for ages: 6-8

Themes: Brain, Neurons, Nerves, Neurophysiology, Neuropsychology, Movement, Emotions, Senses

Opening: “Hi! Welcome to your brain! Your brain helps you move, laugh, dance, think, and do just about everything that makes you, you!”

Synopsis:

The brain does a lot — makes you dance, smile, remember, think, feel and so much more. But do you know how it really works? Take a fascinating tour of the nervous system and lobes of the human brain to discover all the cool things that it can do.

This book is full of fun examples, simple explanations, and basic anatomy illustrations that shows how everything flows.

Why I like Lobe Your Brain:

Lobe Your Brain is an informative, child-friendly introduction to the workings of the amazing human brain. Clever title for kids and adults. I like how the two main characters are doctors/scientists who speak directly to kids in first person (in bubbles) as they lead kids on a tour of the brain and how its impact on their every day lives.  They talk about neurons and explain the various lobes and how they help you play soccer, ride a bike, tie your shoes, spin and dance, see color, learn new things and remember what you already know, and make decisions. 

Kids brains are like sponges, so I believe they will enjoy being introduced to many big words and be fascinated at how really amazing the brain is to their every action, thought, feeling, heartbeat and breath.  The illustrations are very colorful and engaging. Not only do they include artwork about the brain, they also include a diverse group of children engaged in activities.

I also want to share that the author also has published a book for older readers 10-14 years. It’s called The Big Brain Book: How it Work and All It’s Quirks. It is very age appropriate and divided into three  sections. The last section is particularly interesting, because it helps kids understand what happens to the brain when things go wrong — like a a brain injury, stroke, a concussion, forgetfulness and memory loss.

Books about the brain are so scarce in children’s nonfiction. These two gems belong in every school library. I gifted a copy of Lobe Your Brain to a friend whose seven-year-old son had a head concussion. He was very interested in learning about his brain and his mom was able to talk about how important it is for him to protect his unique brain. 

Resources: This is such a fun discussion book for children at home or at school. Focus on a specific lobe in the brain and engage kids in a discussion about all the cool things it does for them.  

Leanne Boucher Gill, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University, where she received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award and was named the NSU STUEY Professor of the Year. She maintains an active research program studying how exercise affects the way we think. She lives in South Florida. Visit her on Twitter. And check out an interview with her on Magination Press.

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.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day by Dylan Dreyer with Alan Katz

Misty the Cloud : A Very Stormy Day

Dylan Dreyer with Alan Katz, Authors

Rosie Butcher, Illustrator

Random House, Fiction, Oct. 12, 2021

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Clouds, Storms, Weather, Emotions

Opening: Clare stepped into the batter’s box. She looked up and smiled. “Perfect weather for our game! Not a single cloud in the sky”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

When Misty the Cloud wakes up feeling stormy, nothing seems to make her day better! And Misty’s grumbly mood affects everyone when her big emotions cause a thunderstorm to rumble across the sky.

But with help from friends and family, Misty accepts that sometimes she’s just going to be a little stormy—and it will always pass.

Read the first book in a sky-high series about how to deal with good days, bad days, and everything in between!

TODAY Show co-host and meteorologist Dylan Dreyer launches a new picture book series featuring Misty—a little cloud with big feelings! The author combines her extensive weather knowledge with her experience as a mom in this very special social-emotional learning franchise.

Why I like this book:

An adorable book for children about  a little cloud named Misty, who doesn’t quite know how to handle her big emotions when things don’t go her way.  Misty wakes up grumpy, but when her friends Scud, Kelvin and Wispy are too busy to play sky tag, Misty’s mood becomes stormy. Very stormy! She yells and lightening and thunder boom. Her mood ruins Clare’s baseball game. 

A perfect story to encourage kids to talk about and learn better ways to control their emotions when they are unhappy and angry. Through Misty,  they see how emotions can impact other people. And they learn a little bit about the weather. Rosie Butcher’s beautiful illustrations enhance the storyline.  Just look at that cover! Young children will love looking at each illustration.  

Resources: Dylan Dreyer includes Some Weather Facts and Fun at the end. She also includes weather activities at the end. It is also a great way for parents and teachers to talk about dealing with big emotions. Encourage kids to draw a picture of a cloud that depicts their mood and put their name on it.

Dylan Dreyer is a meteorologist for NBC News, a co-host of the 3rd Hour of Today, and the host of Earth Odyssey with Dylan Dreyer. She’s covered hurricanes with 130 mph winds, but she loves a nice breeze when she walks her dog, Bosco. She’s stood out in six-foot snowstorms (which is taller than her!), but she loves to go sledding with her sons, Calvin and Oliver. She’s watched roads turn into rivers during strong thunderstorms, but she loves to splash in puddles. She’s traveled the country (and has been to 49 states!) and the world…she’s even been to the North Pole! She loves the weather and thinks the world is a fascinating place. She lives in New York City with her husband, Brian; their sons, Calvin and Oliver; and their dog, Bosco. Find her on Instagram and Twitter at @DylanDreyerNBC.

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.

*Reviewed from a library copy. 

They Only See the Outside by Kalli Dakos

They Only See the Outside

Kalli Dakos, Author

Jimothy Oliver, Illustrator

Magination Press, Poetry, Mar. 23, 2021

Suitable for ages:  7- 10

Themes: Poetry, Emotions, Bullying, Name calling, Illness, Death, War, Immigration, Separation 

Kalli Dakos has written a beautiful collection of poetry that explores what kids feel on the inside that can’t be seen from the outside. The poems focus on everyday experiences that range from body image, the death of a pet or friend, and homework, to friends moving away, living in a wheelchair and the difficulties of being a refugee.

Kids will relate to each poem in some manner. They are written in free verse, which makes them fun and contemporary. The poems nudge kids to explore their own feelings about each subject. Oliver’s sensitive and expressive illustrations complement the poems and make them relatable. 

I Will Never Crumble

I’m in a wheelchair.

My dad is too.

I want to ride a bike.

I want to hike.

I want to run in the wind. 

I want to play soccer.

But I can’t.

I ask my dad, 
“why me?  Why us?

My dad says,

“Why NOT Us?

Life is unfair,

but we must go on anyway…

They Only See the Outside is a perfect tool for teachers, parents and counselors. The poems can be read aloud and discussed. The poems will introduce kids to writing free verse. Encourage kids to write their own poems about something they are feeling inside. And they can be humorous. Writing can help draw out feelings and make them easier to talk about. I highly recommend this book!

Kalli Dakos is a children’s poet and educator. She visits schools across the United States and Canada to encourage children and teacher to write about their own lives. She has written many collections of school poems that include six ILA/CBC Children’s Choice Selections, such as If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand. She lives in Ottawa, Canada, and has an office in Ogdensburg, NY. Visit here at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.  

Baby Blue by Judi Abbot

Baby Blue

Judi Abbot, author/illustrator

Magination Press, Feb. 9, 2021

Suitable for ages: 3-6

Themes: Children, Color, Curiosity, Diversity, Emotions, Friendship

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Baby Blue lives in a blue world— everything is blue, from the trees, to the flowers, to the animals. When he accidentally tears a hole and a strange light pours in, he can see someone that isn’t blue—another little person like him, only they are yellow. Scared but curious, he overcomes his fear and introduces himself to Baby Yellow. With his new friend, he realizes that the world is full of new and wonderful things to discover. This sweet story encourages children to conquer their fear of the unknown and take a chance on new and different things.

Why I like this book:

Judi Abbot has written and illustrated a beautiful book for young children about being curious and brave as they explore their surroundings. Her use of color has many meanings in the book. First of all it is a way to teach little one colors. It also shows how curious little kids are and how scary it can be to meet someone new —  especially if they look different. Baby Blue doesn’t know what to do when he meets Baby Yellow, Baby Green and so on. I love how Abbot tackles diversity through her colorful artwork.  Abbot’s text is spare for young children and her illustrations are filled with colorful shapes that are simply gorgeous and will keep kids turning the pages!  

This book is the perfect gift book for new parents and toddler birthdays! It is a welcome addition to any home or school library because it introduces children to the many new and beautiful people they will meet as they begin preschool and school.

Resources: Encourage kids to name the colors.  Give them crayons and ask them to draw a picture of themselves, a friend or a favorite pet in any color they wish.

Judi (Giuditta) Abbot went to art school in Italy. She is the author/illustrator of I Am, We Are Family, Snow Kissess, I Love you, Baby, Hugs and Kisses, and My Grandparents Love Me.  She has illustrated many more and many of her  published books have been translated around the world. Judi’s highly recognizable style features simple shapes and bright colors rendered in acrylics, colored pencils, and digitally. She lives in London, UK. Visit Abbot’s website and visit her on Facebook @judiabbotbooks and on Instagram @judiabbot.

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 The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Shareauthor Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

Home for A While by Lauren H. Kerstein

Home for A While

Lauren H. Kerstein, Author

Natalia Moore, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Feb. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Foster children, Belonging, Home, Emotions, Behavior, Trust

Opening: “Calvin clunked his suitcase up the steps of another house. THIS isn’t your home, his thoughts shouted. Nobody wants you, his feelings rumbled.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Calvin has lived in a lot of places, but he still hasn’t found his home. He’s afraid to offer his heart if he’s just going to move again anyway.

When he moves in with Maggie, she shows him respect, offers him kindness, helps him manage his emotions, and makes him see things in himself that he’s never noticed before. Maybe this isn’t just another house. Maybe this is a place Calvin can call home, for a while.

Why I like this book:

Home for a While is a sensitive book for foster parents to add to their book shelves. Foster kids need to see themselves in stories that may help them transition into a new home. It is scary time for children and they deal with BIG emotions. It’s not unusual for kids to want to protect themselves from disappointment, hurt and feeling let down. And like any child they act out and test their new foster parents.

Lauren Kerstein presents these challenges in a open and honest manner. Her story is full of heart and compassion. She alternates the dialogue between Calvin (red ink) and Maggie (purple ink), his new foster mom. When Maggie asks Calvin if she can give him a goodnight hug, he responds with a “NAH.” But follows with “Why do you want to hug me, anyway?”  This banter is repeated throughout the book. Maggie is a calm and stable foster mom and her responses and strategies open the door for Calvin to trust her. Actually this book is a moving read for any family and offers all parents some tips.

Natalia  Moore’s illustrations are colorful and lively.  She beautifully captures the interactions between Calvin and Maggie. Just look at that cover! And she incorporates loud, noisy words into her artwork, which children will enjoy.

Note: This book spoke to me because I have friends who had a daughter, but wanted more children. They decided to  become foster parents.  Their first foster child was a little girl.  Just as they were proceeding to adopt her, they were surprised to learn the birth mother had twin boys. Not wanting to break up the siblings, they said “yes.”  A few years later another sibling joined the family. They adopted all four siblings and their dream family is growing and thriving.

Resources: Make sure you read The Author’s Note, which provides important information about children in foster care or in temporary care with other family members.  There is valuable information on helping children deal with emotions.

Lauren Kerstein, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. She is the author of Rosie the Dragon and Charlie picture book series and writes books for young adults. She has authored a textbook about Autism Spectrum Disorders. She lives in Englewood, CO. Visit Kerstein at her website, and on Facebook @Laurenkersteinauthor and Twitter @LaurenKerstein.

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.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

That Missing Feeling by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

That Missing Feeling

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Author

Morena Forza, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Jan. 12, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Divorce, Change, Emotions, Diary, Grandfather, Intergenerational relationships

Opening: “Who wants to sprinkle cheese?” Mia’s dad called. Mia reached to sprinkle cheddar into a puffy omelet. The kitchen felt warm and smelled delicious. Luna and Toby snuggled.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Mia’s life feels split in two after her parents get divorced—even her cat and dog now live in two separate places. When she’s at her dad’s house, Mia misses her mom’s jokes and singing. And when she’s at her mom’s house, she misses her dad’s laugh and cooking.

Mia just can’t quite shake that missing feeling. Sometimes that missing feeling makes her angry. And sometimes it makes her sad.

One day when Mia visits her Grandpa, he gives her a little blue notebook saying, “When I write about Grandma, I am sad but I am happy too. She is gone, but you are here. Life changes, and writing helps me think about these changes. My notebook is a home for my heart.”

Mia keeps her notebook wherever she goes, writing about happy and sad memories. And soon her notebook becomes a way to balance that missing feeling. And also a home for her heart.

Why I like this book:

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s That Missing Feeling is a heartwarming story about a child dealing with change after her parents divorce. But Mia misses so many things and her parents divorce stirs up big emotions like anger and sadness. This book will facilitate avenues of honest conversation about separation and divorce.

This is also about intergenerational relationships, where Mia and her grandfather bond over loss. For me, the most touching moment is when Mia’s grandfather realizes how much Mia misses her parents and hands her an empty journal to record all of her happy moments, draw pictures and write down her feelings.  It is refreshing and hopeful when Mia’s grandfather pulls out his journals to show Mia how he copes with the loss of her grandmother. The connection between Mia and her grandfather is simply beautiful!

Morena Forza’s beautiful illustrations reflect the mood of the story, showing sadness and many uplifting moments. What a great cover! Great collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: Make sure you check out the back of the book for a double-page spread about “Keeping Your Own Notebook” and ways to get started.  Journals help both children and adults sort out feelings through writing poetry, drawing pictures and jotting down feelings.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has taught writing for over twenty years,, and her children’s books have received accolades from the Junior Library Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Amy blogs for students and teachers at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks. Visit VanDerwater at her website. Follow her on Twitter @amylvpoemfarm.

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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

I Want Everything! – Big Little Talks series – by Alberto Pellai and Barbara Tamborini

Perfect Picture Book Friday

I Want Everything!, Oh Brother! and I Don’t Want to Go to School! are three new books in the Big Little Talks series published by Magination Press Oct, 13, 2020, for children 4 to 8 years old. The empowering series is written by Alberto Pellai, MD, PhD, and Barbara Tamborini  and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli.

I Want Everything! 

Opening: “I want the moon as my kickball, snow in the summer, and the sound of the ocean as my lullaby!  You think that tricycle is yours? It’s not, it’s mine. I’m the king of everything, not you.”

Publisher’s Synopsis: A boy wants everything in the world, but his parent tries to help him realize that maybe he’s okay with what he already has and that he cannot have everything that he wants. As the boy’s tantrum persists and he wants to be and roar like a lion, he is gently brought back down to earth by a parent who says, “But, you are acting rude when you roar like a lion and frighten everyone with your angry voice.”

Oh Brother!

Opening“Your baby brother is finally here.” / “Big deal. He doesn’t talk. He makes funny faces, sleeps a lot, and he only cries like a big baby! And you have to carry him all the time.”

Publisher’s Synopsis: This charming story about a new addition to the family will help older siblings appreciate their expanded family. The little brother has arrived, and all he does is sleep and cry! He doesn’t play ball or swim or do anything a little brother is supposed to do. And he takes up all the parents’ time. But the little brother smiles when his big brother makes faces and claps when he plays the drums. Maybe being a big brother will be great?

I Don’t Want to Go to School

Opening: “Everyone says kids need to go to school. But it’s better to stay home. I don’t want to go! Everyone says that teachers don’t let you talk or play. They are mean. They are loud. And the let bats fly around the classroom!”

Publisher’s Synopsis: Going to school can be a really big deal to a little kid. New routine, new friends, new places, and new faces can be a lot to handle at first! It’s hard for kids to handle that transition and see that school might be fun and that their parent will always come back.

This sensitive book will help kid and parents talk about this big step and transition to being apart during the day—and maybe even have fun at school!

Why I like these books:

Big emotions can be overwhelming for children facing life-changing moments! This fun, engaging and interactive series shows children voicing their thoughts, fears and frustrations (in orange ink) while an empathetic parent listens in the background and offers the child a reassuring message (black ink) to help them feel calm, validate an achievement, adapt to change, and set necessary limits with inappropriate behavior.

The narrative will engage children from the first page to the last. And they will be captivated by Elisa Paganelli’s colorful, lively and expressive illustrations.

Resources: The Big Little Talk series is a wonderful tool for parents, counselors and teachers. Make sure you check out the Reader’s Note at the end of each book, which further explains the common behavioral and emotional stages of childhood.

Alberto Pellai, MD, PhD, is a child psychotherapist and a researcher at the Department of Bio-medical Sciences of the University of Milan. In 2004 the Ministry of Health awarded him the silver medal of merit for public health. He is the author of numerous books for parents, teachers, teenagers, and children. He lives in Italy. Visit him at albertopellailibri.it and on Instagram @alberto_pellai.

Barbara Tamborini, is a psycho-pedagogist and writer. She leads workshops in schools for teachers and parents. She is the author with Alberto Pellai of several books aimed at parents. She lives in Somma, Italy. Visit her on Facebook @Barbara Tamborini.

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.

*Review copies provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

War is Over by David Almond

War is Over

David Almond, Author

David Litchfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, May 12, 2020

Pages: 128

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Themes: Children, Effects of War, Women, WW I effort, Homefront, Community

Synopsis:

It’s 1918, and war is everywhere. John’s father is fighting in the trenches far away in France, while his mother works in a menacing munitions factory just along the road. His teacher says that John is fighting, too, that he is at war with enemy children in Germany. But John struggles. “I am a child. How can I be at war?”

One day, in the wild woods outside town, John has an impossible moment: a dreamlike meeting with a German boy named Jan. John catches a glimpse of a better world, in which children like Jan and himself can one day scatter the seeds of peace.

David Almond brings his ineffable sensibility to a poignant tale of the effects of war on children, interwoven with David Litchfield’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations.

What I like about this book:

David Almond’s short novel, War is Over, is a both a poignant and sensitive novel. It explores the emotions of a boy and the attitudes of his community about war and peace. This novel raises many questions for readers and is a timely discussion topic in classrooms.

John is conflicted about the war. His father has been gone so long that he can’t remember what he looks like. He just wants the war over. So he writes letters to the King of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury and asks them when the war will end — no answers.

The book addresses the impact of the war on the homefront. There is fear and hatred for the Germans that carries over into the classroom. Especially when the teacher tells his students “they are children at war” and makes John and his classmates march like soldiers as they go on an outing to visit the munitions factory, where most of their mothers work making bombs. Some of the boys play war after school, but not John.

John and his classmates encounter a friend’s Uncle Gordon, who is ridiculed because he’s a conscientious objector. Uncle Gordon traveled to Germany before the war, and has a fist full of drawings of young German children. He impresses upon the students that “children aren’t monsters and are children like you.” John manages to snatch a picture of a boy named “Jan from Düsseldorf.” He writes Jan a friendly letter. He dreams of Jan and a better world. He imagines seeing Jan in the forest, which becomes a coping mechanism for John until the war ends.

Almond’s lyrical text meanders around the beautiful pen and ink drawings by David Litchfield, which fill  every page. Doves fly above and turn into falling bombs and tears turn into shrapnel. His artwork shows the starkness of the factory as shifts begin and end and women make their way home. A somber topic, but presented so sympathetically and poetically.

David Almond is the acclaimed author of many award-winning novels for children, including Skellig, Kit’s Wilderness, and My Name is Mina. David Almond’s books are beloved all over the world, and in 2010 he was the recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. He lives in England.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.