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.

Off We Go! Series


It is a treat for me to launch my book reviews during Autism Awareness Month with not just one book, but a very special series of books entitled Off We Go!  Written by Irish author and mother,  Avril Webster, the books began as “hand books” she wrote at home to help her son Stephen navigate everyday life activities.  Stephen has a developmental brain disorder, and new experiences that include loud noises, bright lights and new smells, were upsetting.

What I appreciate most about Webster’s books is the simplicity.  Each book is the same size, limited to 12 pages, and is beautifully illustrated with bright photographs by David Ryley.  Each page has a picture with one sentence.  For instance, in Off We Go for a Haircut, the child says, “I’m going to get my hair cut.”  The book prepares the child for what to expect and what comes next, thus reducing the anxiety and stress in a first time situation.  And, Webster uses the same cast of multi-ethnic characters in each book so that the child is familiar with them.

Webster’s books are designed for children with special needs and disabilities that include Autism, Down Syndrome, intellectual disabilities, brain injuries, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorders.   However, they have much a broader appeal, because they can be read to very young children, ages 2-5, to help them understand a visit to the dentist or getting a hair cut.   Some children are more anxiety prone than others.  I remember my first ride on a big bus with my mother at age three, and I sobbed because everything was so big and loud.  They also can be used with children for whom English is a second language.

Some of the Off  We Go! book titles include:   Going to the Dentist, Going to the Restaurant, Going to the Grocery Store, Going Swimming, Going on a Plane, Going to Buy Clothes, Going to Buy Shoes, and Going to a Birthday Party.   You can visit their website at:  http://offwego.ie/.

Fortunately, Off We Go! was launched in the United States and Canada in March 2011 through Woodbine House  Publishing.  An interesting side bar is that Woodbine is a leading publisher of books for children with special needs.  Many of their employees have a personal connection to someone with special needs — a winning combination for all involved.  Books can be purchased at their website: www.woodbinehouse.com  and at www.amazon.com.