School–in the Classroom and Beyond

Thank you, Mr. Falker.51NsaAZq0AL._SX388_BO1,204,203,200_Over the next few weeks, children across America will return to school. Though many will complain loudly, by summer’s end, most children look forward to the return of a steady routine, being with friends and learning new things.

But. Not. All.

For some children school is a trial. Learning to read challenges and overwhelms them. While the rest of their class breezes through books, these unlucky kiddos face discouragement, teasing and major bruises to their self-image. No one wants to feel stupid. Click To Tweet For kids suffering from dyslexia, their difficulty in mastering this fundamental skill convinces them their learning difficulty means exactly this: in their own minds, they are stupid. Everyone else seems to master reading easily.

This is why I love Thank you, Mr. Falker, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. (Yes, that Patricia Polacco, the one who grew up to write & illustrated dozens of children’s books which have won many awards.) It is the true story of Polacco’s childhood struggle to learn to read. Dogged by bullies and plagued by her own self-doubts, Patricia grew to hate school. Every time I read this book, it makes me cry. The story conveys the girl’s emotional pain with authenticity and empathy. The reader aches on behalf of Patricia as she strives to overcome dyslexia and rejoices with her when Mr. Falker identifies her “disability” and provides her with the tools she needs to learn.

He also helps her to recognize her exceptional talent as an artist. To a child feeling defeated and stupid, having a way to shine makes a huge  difference. We need someone to believe in us; often it's the key that enables us to believe in ourselves. Click To Tweet

Readers will enjoy the author’s epilogue commentary describing her encounter with Mr. Falker thirty years later. He asked her what her occupation was. She replied, “I make books for children.” They both appreciated the irony. This book is a glorious Thank You to the teachers who make a difference in children’s lives and the kids who muster the courage to keep trying even when a challenge is truly daunting.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Children who were adopted face the challenge of integrating their dual heritage (birth and adoptive) into a cohesive, healthy identity. They are familiar with the kind of determination and courage that it takes to keep trying even when a task is hard. they can easily identify with Patricia’s yearning to be like her peers and to not be burdened with being different.   Thank you Mr. Falker provides hope because Patricia's story is fact not fiction. Click To Tweet

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled.614a5DH2tZL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, written and illustrated by Lyn Rae Perkins shares the story of a boy and his dog–two lost souls in search of answers. They find those answers in each other. Along the way they discover lots of things about the world around them as well as about themselves.

Readers can race through this book or, read only a few pages at a time because the soft watercolor illustrations paired with word balloon comments invite conversations to digress along suggested story threads. No matter how experiments turn out, you always learn something.--Patricia Polacco Click To Tweet

Teachers will appreciate the many opportunities this book offers to show how school “subjects” exist beyond the confines of the classroom. For example, one illustration pictures Frank and Lucky in bed at various stages throughout the night with a line indicating how much of the bed Frank occupies and how much Lucky claims. Kids kids will never realize that’s fractions in action. They will delight in the fascinating ways the lives of a dog and boy mirror one another. Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, injects a bit of  “education” in a novel way, one that demonstrates that the world is our classroom and life is the curriculum.

Another fun example asks, “If a chair is accidentally left pulled out from the table at 8:30 in the morning, how much cake will be left at 4:00 in the afternoon? … We won’t know the answer until someone comes home. And then it will be a history question.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Each of the activities shared by Frank and Lucky can be mimicked to reflect a reader’s personal world. For example, they can create maps of their room, house, or neighborhood. For that AQ* flair, they could  choose a location from either their birth or adoptive home.

Or, they may tackle some “history” questions about their own lives. These can be serious or lighthearted; be sure to let the child decide which it will be.

Ready for School?

Hand to hold.51dShZYSNeL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_A Hand to Hold by Zetta Elliott and illustrated by Purple Wong. I find many things to recommend about this book. The little girl enjoys both her parents but the story focuses on the loving father-daughter relationship. The girl sees her father as strong, loving, encouraging and compassionate. Though she’s “not a baby anymore,” she still reaches for his steady hand when he “blinks his hand…open, closed, open, closed.” His hand provides her comfort.

It is Daddy that accompanies her on her momentous first day of school. With her “heart going BOOM BA-BOOM BA-BOOM,” He leads her into the classroom. He encourages her to confront her fear, to be brave and join the world of the classroom.

When Daddy heads for the door, she’s left with only her own hand to hold, her own courage to trust. The teacher introduces the girl to Ginny, a girl with tear-streaked face. Our heroine recognizes that Ginny looks “sad and a little bit scared.” She knows how steadying holding hands can be so she offers her hand to Ginny in a gesture of friendship. Together, they both feel steadier, stronger and ready to play. The story reminds me of the adage that you have to leave the shore to reach the opposite bank.

This is a wonderful getting-ready-to-go-to-school-for-the-first-time book. Still, I do have two criticisms. First, I wish that the author had provided a name for our heroine because I think it would make her feel more real. Second, in the scene where they enter the classroom when Daddy tells her “Don’t be afraid.” Adults often advise kids that they shouldn’t feel cry (feel sad, lonely, etc.) While well-intentioned, this invalidates the child’s emotions, judges them as wrong or inappropriate. Children are better served by acknowledging their emotion (in this story, her fear.) Parents can then help kids cope with and move forward to a steadier emotional state. Perhaps this sounds like hair-splitting. In fact it teaches kids to recognize, own and then shift their emotions. This kind of emotional literacy is a vital social skill.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: All kids must face their first day of school; kids adopted at an older age also have to face the first day in a new family. Many similar emotions are reflected in this story. So conversations can easily diverge to talking about those memories as well as the ongoing challenges of growing into a new family.

School Days around the World.51+4W8FAp8L._SX376_BO1,204,203,200_ School Days around the World by Margaret Ruurs and illustrated by Alice Feagan shows readers that school means much more than a building or a classroom or a specific curriculum or course of study. The world serves as a school. And “classrooms” around the world may look different from the ones with which they are familiar.

At their core, however, schools have much in common. They teach the fundamentals of language, reading, mathematics, physical education and cultural traditions like music and arts. Human beings share the same basic needs, so the specifics may differ from country to country, but the purpose of education remains the same: to open minds and touch hearts and provide for the common good.

Simple illustrations depict kids being kids and reinforce the point that we have more in common with one another than may first appear to be the case. Readers will enjoy learning about the variety of games, musical instruments and “classrooms” in which children around the world attend school. A fun and informative read.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: This book provides an easy way to discuss transcultural and transracial differences. The story also mentions orphanages in Kenya. (Although it does not mention the AIDS crisis it does say that the children are there because their parents died.) For adoptees who spent time in orphanages, this might be a valuable part of the story to explore.


So Big, So Soon.51K1MQSSSDL._SX493_BO1,204,203,200_As a little boy prepares for bed the night before his first day of school Mama comments  How Did You Grow So Big, So Soon? Thus begins a story that reminisces about the  ways in which the boy has grown and catalogs the variety of skills he’s accomplished. The recounting of this history reassures both of them. Anne Bowen’s text unfolds in a question and answer format. The boy poses them and Mama replies. She reminds her son that his successes resulted from persistence and learning through many failures: “You stood up and tried again.”

This message that success results only through persistence is crucial for kids to understand. School won’t be easy but it will be worth it. And they are capable of achieving success.

Mama and the boy talk about how the day will unfold, what he can expect and how he will cope. He asserts, “I’m not little anymore, Mama” as a refrain which both comforts and encourages him. Mama also reassures him that though she’ll miss him while he’s gone, she’ll be comforted by his presence in her heart. He need not worry about her. She will be fine and so will he.


Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Transitions can be challenging for  adopted children. Leaving the security of home and entering the unknown world of school can be more intimidating for our kids. This book specifically refers to being pregnant with the boy: “I knew your heart first, beating beneath mine, a tiny fist curled inside me.” This may prove to be uncomfortable to an adoptee or it might provide s chance to talk about  a child’s birth mother, birth family, etc..

Al Pha's Bet.51nCt7EfVmL._SX413_BO1,204,203,200_ Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Delphine Durand delivers a silly, engaging explanation for how the alphabet came to be arranged in the familiar order. We all know how kids like to reread their favorite books often until they can “read” it from memory and we parents are just barely hanging on to our sanity.

Kids love zany, hyperbolic explanations like the one this story delivers. They might actually find the story line useful to help them remember the alphabetical sequence. At the very least, they’ll laugh at the silly story which will help lighten their hearts as they contemplate the beginning of the school year.

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Diverse Books for Back to School. Please consider writing and sharing your favorite books either about school / back to school or that might make a great read aloud during those first few weeks of school. (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are still always welcome.)

What’s 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.


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.

Upcoming Themes

Our theme for the current linkup (beginning Aug. 6th) is Diverse Books for Back to School. Themes are a suggestion only, all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • August 20th linkup: Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Share your favorite book or books that take place in a different country!
  • September 3rd linkup: Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.)

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #DiverseKidLit linkup comes from author Gayle H. Swift: The Essential Life Lessons We Must Teach Children. Gayle shares her thoughts about some of the most important lessons we teach children, as well as a detailed review of two great books to use with kids. This is a useful resource for teachers and parents alike!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestBeth @ Pages and Margins
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestCarolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+Jane @ Rain City Librarian
Blog / Twitter / InstagramMarjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestMia @ Pragmatic Mom
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / InstagramMyra @ Gathering Books
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Host for August

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 at

(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!

Why Choose Kindness?

the kindness quilt.51Wk4YgNtlL._SX455_BO1,204,203,200_

Our daily lives consists of interactions with others plus conversations within ourselves about who we are, what we value and how that governs the actions  we choose. Emotions influence us and shape what we think and how we act. The way we engage with others affects how they respond and listen to us. Kindness is the WD40© of human relationships. Click To Tweet

Nancy Elizabeth Wallace wrote and illustrated The Kindness Quilt  it uses our love for quilts to help readers see how individual acts of kindness can blanket a classroom, school and community to yield increased acceptance, tolerance and happiness. When kindness becomes a group endeavor, the benefits multiply.

In the story, the teacher proposes that students commit to performing acts of kindness. When they complete the project they share their experiences in a “do-and-draw-and-share Kindness Project.” The children do a variety of deeds and when they gather their reports one child exclaims that it looks like a quilt block. As the kindnesses increase their “quilt” grows larger. It outgrows the classroom bulletin board and expands to the hall. Soon other classes join and ” the kindness kept growing and growing and growing.”

Readers will certainly get the point that kindness begets kindness. Click To Tweet


Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: 
Most of us learned that the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. The Kindness Quilt shows readers how “being” a friend can look as well as how it can multiply. Adopted children benefit from the guidance of family, teachers, etc on how to resist any adoption-connected negativity which they experience. Kindness is certainly an important habit for them to include in their “tool box” of social skills.

The quilt also serves as a multi-layered metaphor for creating beauty from diverse pieces. Variations in color, size, texture, etc., ENHANCES the design. This is a healthy and reassuring message for our kids.

Each Kindness.9780399246524Each Kindness a Jane Addams Award Book by Jacqueline Woodson, also was named a 2013 Coretta Scott King Honor Book. This is truly an exceptional book. As I read it goose bumps shivered my arms. E.B. Lewis captured the deep emotion of the story in dreamy water color. The illustrations juxtapose both beauty and heartache because they reveal the children’s lack of kindness, their unwelcoming cold shoulder and judgmental rejection of the new girl.

One might think this replays the classic story line of the challenge that every “new” kid faces. But it is exceeds that think-how-the-shunned-kid-feels meme as the children rebuff her repeated efforts to break into their circle. Instead, it asks the reader to imagine being the child who chose unkindness, who joined the taunting, who derided and jeered.

After the teacher uses a pebble-dropped-in-water to demonstrate how one act ripples in an ever-widening circle, Chloe undergoes a change of heart. She wants to include the outcast girl. She anticipates making amends, only to discover, it is too late. 

The book ends with the words, Chloe “watched the water ripple as the sun set through the maples and the chance of a kindness with Maya became more and more forever gone.” The final illustration shows Chloe in a lush, lovely pond side spot. The beauty contrasts with Chloe’s uncomfortable realization that it is too late to make amends for her ugly treatment of Maya. The reader feels the weight of that understanding. There is no and-she became-Maya’s-best-friend easy answer.

The message is clear. Sometimes, do overs are not possible. Some mistakes and lost opportunities cannot be corrected. Our choices matter. Click To TweetPowerful. True. Important. This book merits every award it won.

Hundred Dresses.517PH8RNkIL._SX401_BO1,204,203,200_(Memories of the classic story The Hundred Dresses  by Eleanor Estes illustrated by Louis Slobodkin popped to mind, because it deals with a similar story line. Each Kindness makes its point with eloquent brevity and contemporary, visually appealing illustrations.)


magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Our kids certainly understand, in a very personal way that choices have permanent consequences. This book can easily open conversations about the decisions made by their birth parents. (Not in terms of a cruelty done to them but with an intent to help kids understand that adoption was in no way their fault but rather is a decision made by adults for very adult reasons.)

Here I Am.51vpzgChkNL._SX410_BO1,204,203,200_

Here I Am by Patti Kim and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez is a wordless book yet it tells a complex story of one boy’s immigration, and struggle to make America his home. Because it relies on the reader’s imagination to supply the text, it becomes uniquely personal while remaining a universal story as well.

As a wordless book, the success of the story relies on the quality of the artwork. Sánchez’s complex illustrations succeed. They capture the many emotions and struggles which the boy faces. The story begins with the boy peering  out an airplane window. This is not the face of an excited child thrilled to be flying the skies to an anticipated destination. Sadness paints his face.

Subsequent illustrations depict signs with random letters. Their message remains gibberish to eyes unfamiliar with English. We follow the boy through his days as he confronts, confusion, loneliness, fear, sadness and isolation. Until he finds a seed which becomes a talisman for possibility, for hope and positivity.Eventually, the sed brings him friendship and a feeling of belonging. In the final illustration, the boy imagines that he sees the words “Here I am.” Now he not only can recognize and read the English words, he realizes that he belongs.

As part of the backmatter of the book, the author includes comments that explain the back story which motivated her to write “Here I Am.” With her family, she immigrated to the U.S. from Korea. with her family. This is her personal narrative but it is also more global than that. She writes, “If you are an immigrant or maybe just facing something new and different in your life, I hope my story helps you see that you’re not alone.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Although this story originates from the author’s personal experience immigrating to this country with her family, it still has the potential to click with kids who were adopted transculturally or transracially. The emotions and the child’s journey learning to cope with being moved to an entirely new life, culture, country and language will resonate with many adoptees. Most adoptees can identify with the struggle to “fit” in a new space–family, school, community or, country.
The Peace Book.0e9574103de7110a0e0a72fcbe23bcb1

The Peace Book by Todd Parr illustrated in his signature cartoon style that features a diverse characters showcases the many faces of peace in action. It opens with “Peace is making new friends.” This highlights one of the most fundamental ways children can be peacemakers: by reaching out and befriending others. When kids stretch to include not only those similar to them but also those who are different, they build relationship bridges and we all benefit from this attitude.

Todd defines peace in many ways, e.g., as environmental respect, as musical, linguistic, and artistic diversity, as sharing of resources so that everyone has a home and cares for their community. Peace is the ability to dream and the freedom to pursue those dreams. This message supports us all. As we teach children to appreciate everyone’s talents and, to validate the needs of all, we all rise to a higher standard of thoughtfulness, kindness, and consideration. This benefits all of us.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Peace is a fruit of kindness. Click To Tweet
 Parr includes many aspects of peace. Some focus on externals and others on internal experience.  Both of these angles can lead to conversations about how adoption influences, enriches, and challenges adoptees’ lives. Discussions can then digress to ways in which our children can help themselves nurture inner peace as well as peace in their outer world.

In an earlier post on this blog, I focused on the importance of empathy which goes hand in hand with kindness. (For some practical strategies for nurturing empathy in children, read my review  for GIFT Family Services: “Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World )