Books Help Kids Handle Grief and Loss

Books helps kids handle grief and loss which are inevitable parts of loving others. Books that both validate the depth of a child’s feelings and ease them over life’s rough patches can help children process their powerful emotions. Their world is small, their life experiences limited, and their life skills are just beginning. They experience emotions on a grand scale: elation, terror, delight, disgust, etc. When they perceive an imminent loss, fear crushes logic. By nurturing emotional literacy in our children, we strengthen them for the journey of life.

Cope love loss grief.wherever you are.51rmSaLK1rL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Before tackling the difficult stuff, read books which reassure children and build a firm foundation of security. Nancy Tillman, author of the  NY Times Bestselling On the Night You Were Born, created a wonderful book that would be a great choices: Wherever you Are My Love Will Find You

This sweet book reassures children that the love which connects family bridges time and distance. The delicate illustrations suit the gentle, dreamy tone well. Although it never mentions loss or death, it’s  message would indirectly reassure kids who have faced the loss of a relationship, whether through divorce, death, or adoption.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees have intimate knowledge of deep loss and benefit from frequent affirmations of love. This book can be interpreted as both a reinforcement of the love of their adoptive family and can lead to conversations about their birth parents as well. Adopted children have a permanent connection to and interest in their birth parents.  They may find comfort in imagining their birth parents thinking about them with a love that can bridge difficult circumstances, distance and time.

Even if they came to adoption because of abuse and neglect, they may find solace in imagining some measure of positive connection with their birth parents. As always, validate the children’s feelings; if they can only conjure heart-broken, hurt or angry feelings. Empathize with how sad that must be for them. Eventually, they may be able reach resolution or forgiveness. Allow them to determine if and when that will happen.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss.the way i feel.51YcXIprCeL._SX453_BO1,204,203,200_

Exuberant illustrations dance across the pages of  The Way I Feel  written and illustrated by Janan Cain. It walks young readers through several moods and captures the intensity of their wildest feelings. Text spirals, bends and wriggles across the page. Color reinforces the feelings being described., for example, brilliant reds and oranges for anger, blues and turquoise for sad,

The story describes kid-familiar emotions : an older sib’s jealousy, frustration, disappointment, etc. With respect and validation, it describes these feelings in ways that help kids discern the difference between one feeling and another. This helps kids develop emotional literacy– the ability to accurately recognize, clearly express how they feel and then decide how to handle them. This is a vital life skill.

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Adoption-attuned Lens I began this review by stating: the proverbial Circle of Life inevitably links love, loss and grief. This is particularly true for adoptees whose lives have been uprooted from one family and grafted into another. Adoption requires kids to wrestle with very complex emotions. Having a broad vocabulary of emotions assists them in parsing out this patchwork quilt of feelings, relationships, losses and gains.

Reading a book about feelings helps convince kids that it is a permitted and welcome topic. Conversations can natural evolve from more general things to adoption-specific thoughts and experiences.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss. Ida Always. 51Aufwhsr8L._SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Ida, Always by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a sweet, two-hankie picture book that depicts how loved one’s imprint in our world and on our hearts remains after they die. It deals with death that acknowledges the sadness and grief and celebrates life and relationships.

A pleasure for eye, ear and heart, Ida, Always  focuses on sound to capture the loving relationship of two polar bears, the bustling zoo where they live and the vibrant city which surrounds them. (“Keys clicked and shoes clacked … buses groan,; trucks rumble …children laugh.” This encapsulates the theme: even when the people and places we love are out of sight, the sounds that surround us hold the audio track of precious memories.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees may find solace in a book like this because it invites them to intentionally search for and preserve good memories about relationships they have lost. Even when they lack actual memories, parents can help them imagine moments that his birth parents “might” have shared with them. Even kids with trauma histories are viscerally connected to their birth parents. They might benefit from finding some positive recollections, (Not to cancel out or invalidate any trauma or the reality of hurtful histories but as the first step to finding a way to heal any damage.)


books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss.Pancakes with Papa.61StzMzilAL._SY352_BO1,204,203,200_
The multi-award-winning book Pancakes with Papa by Dena Albergo Jason and illustrated by Rainer M. Osinger directly addresses a child’s loss of a grandparent. Johnny’s grandparents live with his family. They spend time together and have shared many memory-making moments. So, when his beloved Papa dies, his death leaves a large hole in Johnny’s life. His Nana brings Johnny around the house. She helps Johnny identify smells, sounds and memories of their time together. He learns to use these memories to trigger warm feelings that help ease his grief.

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Adoption-attuned Lens While everyone needs help coping with loss and grief, adoptees have a heavier load to shoulder than most kids their age. Whether they were adopted as infants or older, children may benefit from finding ways to see, hear, and smell the connection of lost relationships. Especially for adoptees with little information in their files, the exercise may rely more on supposition than fact. nonetheless, kids may find comfort in remembering or imagining magical, loving moments with people from their pre-adoptive lives.

The Essential Life Lessons We Must Teach Children

Kindergarten.51CieYvtuXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Some essential life lessons we must teach kids:

  • Treat others with respect, compassion,  empathy.
  • Disagree without hate
  • Advocate without demonizing other points of view.

As adults, we must work to ensure our country lives up to its promise to provide “liberty and justice for all.” We must ensure our kids understand they are part of the solution and then we show them how to stand up for themselves without stepping on others. We must encourage them to be a force for good and to speak up for others instead of sitting in silence,or even worse–bullying or intimidating others.

Over twenty-five years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a best seller that sold millions of copies world-wide. Today’s social climate demonstrates that we need to relearn these basic lessons of fair play and responsibility. Here are two books that will help us to teach them to our children and will serve as a worthwhile reminder to ourselves.

Ouch Moments.51oze-lcWOL._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_Ouch Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli tackles the topic of meanness in thought, word, action and inaction. Through very simple text, the author shows readers how to identify ouch  moments and how to respond whether one is the target or a bystander. Key points include:

  • Silence equals approval of the meanness
  • Responding in anger makes things worse
  • Seek out helping adults
  • Avoid replaying mean self-talk in your mind
  • Work together to be kind and resist ouch moments
  • Justifying meanness as funny does NOT erase the hurt

Ouch Moments is published by Magination Press, an arm of the American Psychological Association. Their books stand on firm ground. The multicultural illustrations are engaging and feature diverse circumstances. This would be an excellent read for the entire family; sometimes even adults need to be reminded of the important lessons Ouch Moments  strives to teach. This book includes an informative and practical Note to Parents and Caregivers.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: This book offers a fun way to talk about a very serious and painful issue. For adoptees, Ouch Moments can very easily lead to conversations about the adoption-related ouch moments a child has faced. Many children find it difficult to introduce this topic because they want to protect their adoptive parents from this ugliness and hurt. Other kids stuff these experiences but never learn how to handle them and never get the support which parents would willingly offer. Parents must consistently convey a willingness to discuss any difficult topic–whether adoption-related or not. We must reassure our kids that we are strong enough to hear the tough things and eager to be the safe harbor they need.

What were you thinking.51ISMHxAlNL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_What Were You Thinking? by Bryan Smith and illustrated by Lisa M. Griffin addresses common moments from a child’s life. As many parents and teachers can vouch, the answer to the title question is frequently that the child wasn’t thinking at all; they operated on impulse. Or, they were thinking but their behavior was highly unlikely to produce their expected result.

This book helps kids see that doing the first thing that comes to mind may not be their best choice. It might even accomplish the opposite of their intended goal. It also shows how kids sometimes expect something to be funny when it can actually cause others–classmates, teachers, coaches and parents– to be annoyed instead of entertained. Sometimes the “cost” of the laughter they seek, far exceeds the momentary rush of any attention.

The illustrations invite exploration of the book’s theme and make obvious that Braden’s idea of funny does not necessarily match his classmates” feelings. This can lead to conversations about the range of responses one can see within an entire classroom of kids.

What Were You Thinking? outlines a simple four step strategy which kids can practice to help them smooth out their responses and ensure that the result they get is the one which they want. A brief Tips for Parents and Educators is included which offers further information on how to guide children to develop better impulse control. Can also open conversation about intentions & how humor doesn’t lessen the pain of hurtful remarks/behavior.

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AQ Lens:
 
Kids who have experienced trauma, grief and or loss may have weak impulse control, high distractibility. Or they may have been taught negative and/or inadequate behavior strategies. In addition to learning better strategies, these kids may also have to unlearn negative strategies.

This book offers another tool for helping kids fine-tune their emotional literacy and expand their menu of choices. By exploring the gap between intended goal and actual results, families can teach kids to recognize and choose strategies that serves them better.
Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, August 6th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Theme Idea for August

We thought it might be fun to try having a suggested theme for the next linkup. Those who are interested in participating in the theme would have from now until the next linkup (August 6th) to write a post based around the theme and then share it with the rest of us. You do not have to focus on a given theme to participate in the linkup, but we thought it might encourage folks to explore and share new diverse books.

The theme for the August 6th linkup is … Diverse Books for Back to School. Please consider sharing a favorite book (or books) either about school / back to school or that might make a great read aloud during those first few weeks of school. We look forward to seeing your choices!

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #DiverseKidLit linkup comes from Acorn BooksChicken Man by Michelle Edwards. This book is the winner of a National Jewish Book Award and tells the story of a character named Rody, nicknamed Chicken Man, and how his joy in his work makes everyone on the kibbutz want to try his job next. Make sure you read to the end of the post for an incredibly-tasty looking recipe for Teigelach cookies.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

 

Billy Bramble Thumps Funny Bones and Pulls Heartstrings


Billy Bramble.515-+CZmAhL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Author, adoptive mom (via foster care,) columnist and award-winning activist, Sally Donovan understands adoption, adoptive families and the challenges faced by families raising–and loving–children whose lives began in trauma. Humor, candor and vulnerability infuse her writing. Until now, Sally has written for  adults and her books offer a refreshing resource. Reading them feels like having an honest chat with a friend who really understands the heart-palpitating roller-coaster journey that adoptive family life  can be.

For many reasons, I am a fan of Sally’s writings. She shuns candy-coating, admits that adoptive parenting can be gun-shot-to-the-chest frightening, and still so, so worth while. Platitudes and rose-colored glasses take a back seat when Sally writes. As a consequence, her books ring with authenticity, encouragement and community.

Sally’s newest undertaking is a wonderful book for middle grade readers that thumps funny bones and pulls heartstrings. Written in the first person, the Billy Bramble, loser, croppedtale provides a peek into the inner world of one Billy Bramble. Not identified as an adoptee, Billy definitely serves as the poster child for kids wrestling with the demons of trauma. (The origins of his trauma are not revealed. This helps to make the story connect with a wide audience)

On the surface, Billy is a character that the world finds difficult to love and accept. He’s disruptive, mouthy, uncooperative, provocative, and disorganized. As the saying goes, if it weren’t for bad luck, Billy would have no luck at all. The world views Billy as “trouble”, an inconvenient and annoying thorn that pricks and frustrates others. He has few friends.

What he does have is a constant companion: Gobber–an imaginary but very powerful companion embodied as a wild dog. Tyrannized by Gobber, Billy “wonders why no one else can see him, or hear him, or feel him.” The malevolent Gobber “scares [Billy] half to death” actually. With heart-breaking honesty, Billy asserts, “I think that Gobber is my life sentence.”

Loser trophyPoor Billy suffers as much from Gobber’s destructive behaviors as his family, classmates, and teachers. Gobber’s presence is so formidable, so consuming and so committed to Billy’s failure, that the reader empathizes with Billy’s struggles and cheers for his success. The brilliance of Sally’s writing allows the reader to feel Billy’s anguish and frustration as he struggles to rein in his self-saboteur.

 

Billy longs to relax his vigilance, walk through his days without Gobber nipping at his heels, terrifying and Facebook the chickendistracting him. He yearns to have the privileges and self-control of other kids and like them, to have his own Facebook account. The closest he can come is to name his pet chicken Facebook. I know, right. Talk about a stacked deck! Fortunately, Donovan counterbalances the stresses of Billy’s challenges with a healthy dose of humor and irony. She succeeds in making Billy a character that readers root for instead of dismissing him as “other” or someone whom they can pigeonhole as odd or weird.

 

Black and white illustrations provide a welcome break from the text and expand it well. One features a teacher's admonishmentslitany of teacher-corrections and directives familiar to all kids, but especially the Billies of the world. Readers will identify when Billy receives a letter from the teacher that reports on his latest transgression. We all know what it is like to have to face the aftermath of a poor choice.

For most of us, this is a relatively rare occasion. But, for Billy, it is the constant refrain of his day life. As much as his parents and teachers wish Billy could pull himself together, Billy wants it even more earnestly. But not Gobber; he wants to keep Billy trapped in a Mixmaster of fear, worry and anger.

cook offThe one spark of hope for release from Gobber’s reign of terror is cooking. It provides Billy an exit ramp from the super highway of chaos and creates a place of refuge and redemption for Billy. Gobber makes a formidable enemy; he does not  surrender easily.

Several recipes are included, Kids will especially enjoy “Angry Pizza” which involves pounding dough which is a great way to channel frustrations. Plus, once complete, it tastes delish!

Parents can enjoy this book for the valuable insights it offers into the struggles of kids like Billy. Billy’s folks are well-intentioned, committed to supporting their child. And they are quite human. They get frustrated, angry and don’t always give the perfect response. Yet it is clear that they love Billy and intend to stay in the trenches with him.

Will Billy finally meet success, defeat Gobber, and win the Great Cook Off? Read this delightful book to discover the answer. While you’re at it, check out Sally’s other books!

Watch this video to hear children speak of their struggles.

No Matter What.51Sjnv4NxAL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Unofficial guide to Adoptive Parenting.41Ntr10lrNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ I originally posted my reviews of  The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting and No Matter What  on the blog I write for GIFT Family Services: (Growing Intentional Families Together.) They are exceptional books that merit a place on every adoptive family’s bookshelf. For adoptive families it is a drink of water that helps slake a desperate thirst for resources that are both honest and practical.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: Kids who are dealing with the aftermath of trauma–especially trauma associated with family disruption, loss and adoption–will recognize a kindred spirit in Billy without his being specifically identified as an adoptee. I think this will reassure young readers to learn that trauma originates from many sources, not only from adoption. This expands his community of potential peers.

Readers will connect with the empathetic tone of the book which clearly depicts both Billy’s heartfelt desire to succeed, behave and control his life. This lack of judgment and blame will be welcome.

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.) (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?


Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit is ADA’S VIOLIN: THE STORY OF THE RECYCLED ORCHESTRA OF PARAGUAY from Linda at The Reader and the Book. This story is based on the true origins of the Cateura orchestra in Paraguay, and Linda’s post contains a great summary of the book as well as additional information about the author, illustrator, and real-life orchestra!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me  Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Jane @ Rain City Librarian  Blog / Twitter / InstagramMarjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors  Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom  Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books  Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Host for September: Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries  Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie@thelogonauts.com

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

 

 

 

Happiness Is…

happy. Pharrell.510abOYfFcL._SX407_BO1,204,203,200_It feels appropriate to conclude the month of February with a final nod to affairs of the heart. Beyond romance, each of us yearns to love and be loved. We wish to be seen and accepted as our authentic selves. We need to be appreciated for our differences as much as for what we have in common with family and friends. It is our differences that make us unique. This acceptance is difficult to achieve.

Ironically, it is often our own selves who are the most challenging to convince. That’s why a book like Happy by Pharrell Williams is an excellent choice to read as a family. The lyrics of Pharrell William’s song form the text of the book. Before reading this book, play the song. Can you feel your body itching to jump up and move? Go for it! Encourage your child to do the same.

The photo illustrations are wonderfully diverse and capture the energy of the song well. The notes included as back matter are n added bonus. Pharrell invites readers to become a Happy Helper, sprinkling seeds of happiness and contributing to the creation of a better world. This book is a delightful five star read!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: It is easy to get lost in the habit of waiting to be happy. We clutch the negative aspects to our hearts and minds to focus on what is missing; on some event/result that awaits us in the future; on the the conclusion of some restriction; on the accomplishment of some goal, etc..

We must teach our children to take the time to enjoy the blessings of what and who are in their lives in the present moment. This is not to invalidate their losses, yearnings and unfulfilled needs. Rather it is to teach them to hold a both/and mentality. (Although in adoption circles we usually think  about this concept in relation to valuing and respecting both birth family and adoptive family, this mindset is beneficial for all aspects of their lives.)

We truly bless our children when we succeed in teaching them how to hold and enjoy their life in spite of their trials, disappointments and losses–those rooted in adoption as well as those losses and frustrations originating elsewhere. To some extent, happiness is a practice we must learn to cultivate. It is an important skill we can teach our kids. Along the way we can carve out time to connect through having fun together which is a proven way to strengthen the ties that bind families together across time and distance.

Remember to look for reasons to be joyful; our personal example is our most effective teaching tool.

 

Happy in our skin.61UbYd7biJL._SX458_BO1,204,203,200_

The title Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia pretty much captures the message of this book. Richly diverse illustrations capture children and their families in various activities. Readers will notice that regardless of ethnicity, culture or physical ability, families interact and love the same. Children will also learn that skin has important function: “It keep the outsides out and the insides in.” All people have this in common. Skin presents obvious differences as well: color, texture, freckles, dimples, even goose pimples.

Happy in Our Skin can create an easy opportunity to have some important conversations about race. This can help parents lay the groundwork for tolerance, acceptance and for the end of racism.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens:Race matters. “Color blindness” is a misguided strategy for nurturing racial harmony and racial identity. It is essential for transracial adoptive families to have consistent conversation on the topic. Parents must ensure that they are encouraging a reality-based discourse not one that is sanitized because it is easier to pretend race is less of an issue than it is.

Adult adoptees who were adopted into transracial and/or trans-cultural families have raised their voices to proclaim the absolute necessity to tackle issues of race with courage and openness. Happy in Our Skin offers an easy conversation starter. Like many difficult adoption-connected conversations, it is best to begin discussions at a young age.

This accomplishes two things. First, it affirms that parents want to talk about it and are capable of hearing the real story. The good. The bad. And the ugly. This allows parents to provide loving support for children facing tough experiences themselves. It also educates children who are not transracial adoptees to have empathy, understanding and a willingness to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Second, it prepares children with information, strategies and validates their true experiences.

 

Being Rich

Studio shot of gift wrapping items.During the holiday season it was easy for both children and parents to focus on the buying and giving of presents and to lose sight of the real blessings in our families. Now in mid-January Christmas lingers only in our memories. The thrill of gift-giving has faded but the joy of friends and family gathered in celebration remains a treasured memory. As adults, we understand that the truly valuable things in life bear no pr$ce tag. Their valuable is intangible and immeasurable.

How do we help our kids balance the present moment reality and attraction of material things and help them learn to appreciate the intangible blessings of their lives?

Table where Rich people sit The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Peter Parnall offers a gentle and appealing reminder that real wealth lies not in our possessions but in the relationships and experiences that fill our world. Like beauty, being rich, is in the eye of the beholder.

Written from the child’s point of view, the story focuses on her frustration with her parents. (This feeling is one with which most kids can identify at one point or another.) To her, they seem oblivious to their obvious poverty and disinterested in pursuing better-paying jobs. As the family gathers around an obviously homemade table, she recalls, “They even had a celebration when they finished it.” She is both puzzled and annoyed by their resistance to improving their financial situation, so she calls a family meeting to discuss her parents’ lack of ambition and their disinterest in the trappings of material wealth.

Her parents willingly engage in the discussion and appoint the girl the family bookkeeper.

The first thing she wants to know is how much money they earn in a year. Father advises, “We have a lot of things to think about before we add them up.” Mother says, “We don’t just take our pay in cash…”

The story continues with the parents mentioning all the intangible treasure that enriches their lives. It concludes in the girl’s words, “To tell the truth, the cash part doesn’t seem to matter anymore.” Seated at their hand-made table she decides to write her family’s story. The title comes to her easily: The Table Where Rich People Sit.

magnifying lens AQ.2#AQ Lens This book does a great job of demonstrating the value of a family and proving that true wealth lies not in material possessions but rather in healthy, reciprocal and loving relationships. Most importantly, it  accomplishes this without preaching that kids should be grateful for their families. Instead, it concentrates on helping them see the intrinsic value of a value.

Too often adopted children are told that they should feel “lucky” they were adopted or people suggest that they should be grateful for being adopted. Such advice is misguided–even if well intentioned because it trivializes the significant losses inherent in adoption. People would not think of posing such a question to a child who was not adopted and remained with his biological parents.

Rollercoaster! Fear and Adoption

Roller Coaster.61wIPs5uftL._SY497_BO1,204,203,200_I really enjoyed reading Roller Coaster, a delightful book written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. What a treat! The story begins with the crowd waiting in line for their turn to ride the coaster. Young and old they stand, radiating enthusiasm, reluctance and many moods in between as they face the prospect of their impending roller coaster ride.

Fear pulses through the crowd; some shiver with anticipation. While others quake as they wait. “At least one of them has never ridden on a roller coaster before,…ever.” As a person terrified by roller coasters, I could easily identify with the few reluctant riders depicted among the large group of enthusiastic passengers.

Readers–child and parent both–will delight in scrutinizing the detailed illustrations for hints about how the characters are feeling about their roller coaster journey. I particularly enjoyed the two burly men who struggled to restrain their fear and stay in line. Once the ride starts, they strain to hold onto the contents of their tummies! The characters include a diverse range of ages and races.

Young readers will readily identify with the story line because all kids regularly must confront their fears. (Sometimes the object of their fears my seem small and innocuous to adults, but to the children, they are vivid, frightening and powerful.) Kids must muster courage to overcome these fears. Each time they do so, they increase their confidence and sense of competence. The book concludes with a comment: “Most of these people are dizzy. Some of them have wobbly knees. But at least one of them is planning to ride the roller coaster again … right now!” You will have to read it to find out who it is.

magnifying lens AQ.2IQ lens: Parents often wonder how to help teach their children emotional literacy –an important life skill. Roller Coaster offers many excellent opportunities to discuss feelings, especially fear. Since many adopted children wrestle with fear of rejection and of not being good enough as well as a reluctance to risk failure, this book offers a fun opportunity to talk about feeling scared, of confronting anxiety. It may even open a conversation about some of the things they worry about or fear in regards to their adoption.

Roller Coaster also points out that some prospective riders change their mind and decide not to ride. “Sometimes even those who are tall enough [to ride it] decide they don’t want to.” This too is a good example of how one must listen to one’s “gut”. Perhaps it will require several attempts to overcome a specific fear. There’s no shame in that.

Simply stepping into the line and staying there for a while is a productive step. In fact it takes the same kind of courage to leave the queue as it does to stand up to peer pressure. This  is another discussion thread that could logically evolve from reading this book. 

Roller Coaster also brings a vigorous dose of fun to the shared reading experience. High AQ* parents know that this is a valuable and indispensable ingredient in attachment building. I highly recommend and rate it five stars.

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AQ*: Adoption-attunement

Boxing Kids In

christina katerinaNobody likes to be boxed in. But in Christina Katerina & The Box by Patricia Lee Gauch, a box becomes an invitation to rocket into the stratosphere of a child’s imagination. Although originally published in 1971, the story is fresh and timely. Christina Katerina, the heroine of the story is no shrinking violet awaiting a Prince Charming to save her. She’s a spunky and imaginative character who turns a lonely summer day into the beginning of a marvelous adventure.

Christina Katerina salvages an immense refrigerator box. Much to her mother’s chagrin, Christina parks it under the apple tree on her front lawn. Of course, this is no ordinary box. Through Christina’s eyes it transforms from one marvelous interpretation to another. With initial help from her dad and lots of her own effort she keeps reinventing the deteriorating box. She’s an optimistic, self-determined child who presents a marvelous model of resilience and for making one’s own fun.

Casey uses this book in her second grade classroom. It is so popular, she has to replace it periodically! Christina captivates her students and supercharges their own creative juices.  Christina Katerina & The Box    starstarstarstarstar

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AQ lens: Adopted children benefit from opportunities to reassemble disappointment and hard facts into a whole which they not only understand and accept, but also allows them to flourish.

This charming story depicts a light-hearted model for that kind of resilience and optimism. Christina Katerina is a girl that likes to make her own choices, create her own solutions and use her abilities to problem solve.

Since control tends to be a guiding issue for many adoptees, they will find Christina to be a character with whom they like to identify. Christina is the driving force behind the story. Without the intervention or prompting of adults, she reinvents the box each time and does it with verve, confidence and spunk!

 

 

Not A BoxA similar story, Not A Box written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis  won a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award. This time, the main character is a rabbit who carries a box with him everywhere. When asked why he is toting, squirting, standing atop, wearing, etc the box, he insists that, “It’s not a box!” The simple illustrations answer the question and reveal the rabbit’s vivid imagination. The spare prose allows the wonderful illustrations to carry much of the story.

Like Christina Katerina & The BoxNot A Box fuels the reader’s creativity. The simple illustration style of both books will encourage children in their own artistic endeavors because the message of the story is clear: sometimes only the mind’s eye can truly appreciate the hidden beauty and value of things.     Not A Box      starstarstarstarstar

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AQ Lens: The appeal to adopted children is similar between  Not A Box and Christina Katerina & The BoxSince Not A Box features a rabbit as the main character, this story may have greater appeal to children of of color or other cultures. It is also much shorter so it offers a good choice for those with more limited attentioin. 

 

 

 

 

boxes for KatjeBoxes for Katje by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen offers a more serious view of “the power of the box.” Based on the post World War II childhood experience of  Fleming’s mother, the story tells of the terrible hardships faced by the Dutch. They lacked the basics: food, clothing, shelter, blankets, etc. Americans organized a relief effort which delivered small boxes filled with some of the items which the Dutch people needed so badly.

The father of the family who receives  the relief box writes back to Rosie. In his thank you note, he describes how grateful they were to receive it. Plus, he mentions that they shared the contents of her box with others in his village. Despite their own desperation, Katje’s family still found it in their hearts to share their windfall with others.  What an awesome example of generosity, of giving from one’s basics and not waiting for one’s surplus.The father also begs for some food for their baby.

His letter begins an exchange between the young American girl and the desperate Dutch family. Rosie is moved by the Dutch father’s plea. She sends another box to Holland. Again, Katje’s family acknowledges the packages and tells how  they shared it with their neighbors. Rosie continues to send packages. She also shares Katje’s letters with her own friends and family. Now many people contribute to the boxes which become larger and larger. More Dutch people receive help. The story concludes with the Dutch people expressing their gratitude with the one thing available to them: tulip bulbs.

These lessons in sharing will not be lost on young readers. The story offers a clear example of how a child can make a significant difference in other people’s lives. Boxes for Katje  provides a lovely chance to entice children into empathy and action.     Boxes for Katje     starstarstarstarstar

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AQ Lens: Adopted children must balance additional challenges in their journey through life. Grief loss and anger are familiar emotions. A story like Boxes for Katje offers a powerful peek into the difficult lives of other children. It makes a great chance to learn how these families faced and overcome their own challenges.

Empathy is an emotion which must be cultivated. This story can be a useful tool in a family’s overall strategy for nurturing emotional literacy in children. It also depicts children being empowered to act, create solutions and make a difference–another very important skill for kids to master.

“You’re Lovable to Me” Forever

In the vein of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch You’re Lovable to Me by Kat Yeh and illustrated by Sue Anderson sends a reassuring message to children that their parents will love them unconditionally. Mama’s love is steady whether bunny is “sad…or he’s frightened…or she’s lonely…or he’s worried…or she’s mad….” In other words, Mama loves her little ones when it is easy and when it is challenging. Children need  that reassuring message repeated regularly.

As in Munsch’s book, the story extends the thread of unconditional love back to the grandfather as he tucks a blanket around his now-adult daughter. What a lovely way to model the permanent need we have for nurturing, kindness and caring-in-action.

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AQ Lens: Adopted children benefit from frequent reassurance that they are fully accepted into the family, that their belonging exists independent of their measuring up or behaving in a certain way. The story does this well. It’s gentle illustrations exude a sweet nurturing feel. Moreover, the behaviors and emotions that the story mentions cover a broad spectrum.

This creates an easy teaching moment for exploring the complexity of emotions which children experience and can help them develop a broad vocabulary of emotions. This helps children identify and manage their feelings.     starstarstarstarstar

 

My Family Is ForeverMy Family Is Forever by Nancy Carlson features an Asian-American child–with Caucasian parents–and follows common themes in children’s books about adoption. First, loving relationships define families; they need not look similar in order to be a family. Second, it describes the parent’s yearning for a child, their working with an adoption counselor, their  struggle to wait until receiving a referral, the parents’ plane flight to meet their child and, finally the child’s thoughts about her birth parents.

The story concludes with the familiar refrain, Families are forever.”

 

 

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AQ Lens: Adopted children enjoy hearing their adoption stories and they take delight in knowing how happy their parents were to have them join the family. This story does a good job on that count.

I wish it included more direct reassurance that the adoptive parents welcome the girl’s questions and mixed feelings about the more difficult/painful parts of adoption. (When reading My Family Is Forever, parents can take the opportunity to hold that exact conversation!)

Adoptees know through direct experience that families can be broken apart. It’s already happened to them at least once (when they were separated from their birth families.) Thus, in an attempt to reassure children, adoptive families are frequently described as forever families.  It is important that adoptive families also convey that their birth families are also forever a part of the adoptee.

(I wish we could coin a new phrase that reassures children without subtly implying that their birth family is somehow no longer a part of them. Suggestions and discussion are welcome!)                  starstarstarstar

Ribbit: An invitation to Friendship

 

ribbitIn Ribbit by Rodrigo Folgueira and illustrated by Poly Bernatene, readers meet a pig with personality and an interest in making friends in unusual places. At dawn one morning Pig announces her presence to a community of startled frogs. Suspicious and unwelcoming, the frogs demand that pig explain herself.

She booms her reply, “Ribbit.” Instead of being impressed by Pig’s language abilities, the frogs fear her. When the other woodland creatures question the frogs about their new member, the frogs quickly disown her, “She’s no relative of ours.” The brouhaha intensifies until  the chief frog suggests they consult the “wise old beetle.” Even this suggestion is met with conflict and debate. Finally they visit Beetle and he agrees to return to the pond and unravel the pig’s intentions.

When they all return to the pond, they find Pig has departed, leaving behind more questions than ever. The reader, however, knows the answer: Pig has set out to find another group, one that will welcome a pig for a friend.

 

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AQ Lens: Adopted children frequently report feeling like an outsider. This book offers a wonderful metaphor for exploring those feelings of “other-ness” in a non-threatening way. There are many things to appreciate in this story. First, it easily lends itself to discussions that invite children to wonder about Pig’s motives, to consider why the frogs are so overly cautious and inhospitable. Second, parallels between a child’s own experience either as  the “new ” arrival or as being on the flip side of the equation as “gatekeepers” of an established group.  

Explore feelings, discuss strategies, and suggest ways to smooth  social transactions to help children be more empathetic and welcoming. Mention different ways a child can be a friend, as well as the ways in which a child can “turn off” other kids. Ask kids what they seek in a friend and how they try to be a likable person. Many kids remain oblivious to social cues unless they are specifically taught and regularly reinforced.

It is worth highlighting that Pig does not allow herself to be “victimized” by the group’s unwelcoming reception. Instead, she seeks out an alternate group and once again, dares to request entry into the group. (That kind of resiliency is a valuable life skill!)

 

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One Family

one familyOne Family by George Shannon and Blanca Gomez presents a fascinating introduction into counting with a twist. The reader meets many types of family; each is one example of one kind of family.

We discover that a family can include a range of individuals, colors, ethnicities, and even species and still be one family! This offers a delightful riff on inclusion when it comes to recognizing the many types of families that are common today–and a few more unusual ones. The concept is clear: each is one  example of a family. The story concludes,

 

“One is one and everyone.

One earth. One world.

One Family.”

As adoptive families, we have a vested interest in this kind of acceptance and inclusion. The detailed and upbeat illustrations invite exploration–and counting–as well as identifying other “collective” nouns. Blanca Gomez, an internationally recognized illustrator, lives in Madrid, Spain.

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AQ Lens: The obvious message that families need not look similar, is one that adoptive families are wise to reiterate on a regular basis. This story has a wonderful sense of joy and humor in addition to its message of tolerance and acceptance. Parents might want to highlight the Hispanic heritage of the illustrator as a way of raising awareness and overtly supporting diversity in our families, books, communities through in our purchases.

we need diverse booksFor more information on the We Need Diverse Books  movement, visit their official website.