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.

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.

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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.

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.

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 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!

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.)

 

Thinking, Feeling & Persisting

The Thinking Book.41xZ9SWJpoL._SY375_BO1,204,203,200_The Thinking Book  by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, connected with me in a visceral way I had not anticipated. The story unfolds through two voices–parent and child. The adult’s words, in bold font, are straight forward, brief, e.g.,  “Good Morning,” and, “Time-to-get-upright-now.” The tone is no-nonsense and a response is clearly expected from the child.

The novelty of this book is that it immerses the reader in the child’s thoughts. As events are happening. His lack of response is not defiance or rudeness; it results from his being completely engaged in his own inner world.

The reader sees how the boy’s thoughts leap-frog from one idea to another. The outer world cannot intrude because  he’s so totally engaged by his own thoughts. (At least for the moment!)

Those of us who spend time on the internet have experienced a similar journey from one attention-grabbing link to another.

This book cast me back to times when I sat through Individual Education Plan meetings to help tailor school expectations to an ADHD student’s learning style. In my opinion, it captured the thought processes of attention-challenged kiddos. My daughter who teaches second grade made the identical observation, “I wish I could share this with every teacher instructing kids with an ADHD or ADD diagnosis or parents  who are raising them. It could help everyone.”

This gem of a book has the potential to build bridges of understanding and empathy. More importantly, it might help people appreciate the potential gift of this child’s ability to think deeply and uniquely. We need thinkers that can leapfrog beyond rote channels of accepted thinking to create new approaches and solutions! (Think Steve Jobs, for example.)

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: This book offers a fun way to discuss “trigger,” how conversations, events and actions can activate thoughts, memories, and behaviors. For children touched by trauma, this can be a way to explore a sensitive issue without actually discussing specific associations or memories. The discussion can focus on generalizations about triggers instead of specific ones. (Although, if a child wants to talk about specifics, follow their lead and talk about them. Be particularly sensitive to any overt or non-verbal cues to end the conversation.

 

Stickley Sticks to It.51h8bZUFQXL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Brenda S. Miles and illustrated by Steve Mack. Hilarious illustrations depict a charming bow-tie wearing frog of infectious optimism. Like other frogs, Stickley’s sticky feet allow him to hang on–often in the most unusual places.

A delightful two-page spread shows Stickley proudly dangling from the underside of a bowl of soup–much to the shock of a hungry lion and elephant. Another picture shows how being sticky has some challenges too, like when a soccer ball won’t launch to other players.

Stickley learns to manage his stickiness and to be “sticky” in other non-physical ways that require a stick-to-it-attitude. He develops ways to nurture and use this kind of persistence. The story outlines the exact steps he has to take to be sticky in attitude and accomplishes this in a way that engages and entertains. This itemized strategy demonstrates that the process is simple yet not easy. It takes practice, patience and stick-to-it-iveness!

The book also includes a useful “Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.” This helps parents to identify the specific steps to teach kids that, like Stickley, they too, can have sticky-ness and become masters of persistence. These include:

  • Make a plan and gather supplies
  • Take a break
  • Go back to work after a break
  • Stop and think about the problem in a different way
  • Make a new plan
  • Ask for help

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done is a fun, useful book.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The strategies outlined in this book can also serve purposes other than stick-to-it-iveness. For example, for kids who have difficult histories, some suggestions like taking a break or looking at it from another angle, and/or asking for help–are all excellent.

As crucial as taking a break is, it is equally important to go back and handle things and not be tempted to “stuff” it out of consciousness. Denial tends to create an environment where things can fester and cause more damage. This book can help kids develop both the skill and the mindset that encourages them to speak up, speak out, and hang on.

The Feelings Book.51bzLk0dG9L._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr features his signature boldly colorful, zany artwork and effectively captures an array of emotions. Books like this help provide kids with a broad vocabulary for the multitude of feelings that people experience. This helps them convey, share, and deal with their emotions and is an essential part of emotional literacy.

This book concludes with a reminder to share feelings and not keep them bottled up inside, something which is important for to remember whether one is a child or an adult.

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: Emotional literacy is a vital skill for all of us. It is especially important that adoptive families become well-practiced in exploring, sharing and talking about feelings, especially those connected to adoption. These emotions are complex and intense and enmeshed in the experience and feelings of other family members. This can make it difficult to discuss because one might fear upsetting other family members. Kids sometimes choose to protect others at the expense of their own emotional and mental health.

Adoptive families must encourage conversations about emotions and ensure that all feelings are valid. Specifically discuss how something that makes one family member happy can make another sad or angry. For example, parents can be overjoyed that they were able to adopt a child while the child may have a range of feelings about it. These feelings most certainly will include loss, grief and probably some anger as well. Accept that these feelings can coexist; they do not void each other.

Wisdom for Life’s Journey: Be Brave. Be You.

June is the month of graduations and weddings. It conjures thoughts of celebrations, of beginnings, of setting a course for the future and, of pursuing dreams. This post will review three utterly charming picture books that are suitable for any age! They celebrate possibility, success and unconditional love. Enjoy!

 Wonderful things you will be.51q3+u5cenL._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_The Wonderful Things You Will Be, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin delivers a message every one of us needs to hear: “I wonder what wonderful things you will be…and I’ll love you, whoever you’ve grown up to be.” Martin’s delicate, multicultural illustrations convey an air of  fantasy and dreaminess that suits the inspirational thematic message well.

Regardless of age, we all benefit from regular infusions of this idea: that each of us is unique, has purpose and deserves love. I assert that both reader and listener will enjoy reading and rereading this book, time after time. With each reading they will experience a thrum of warmth. Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This book is a wonderful stepping stone to conversations. It can both explore the child’s dreams and discuss the historical patterns in the family–adoptive as well as biological. This affirms the child’s fundamental right to bloom into the person potentiated by both nature and nurture. Such a conversation reassures children that they have “permission” to follow their North Star and relieves them of the notion that they must become their parents’ fantasy child. This is an essential message which adoptive families must deliver convincingly and repeat over time.

I Wish You More.51mmWnyOKEL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_In  I Wish You More the partnership of Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Todd Lichtenheld has generated another gem. This talented duo shapes 120 words into a powerful message of hope, resilience and joy  worthy of all readers, child and or adult.

For example “I wish you more give than take… more we than me.” This telegraphs such a timely message of tolerance, partnership, and, universal hope. The story concludes with an affirmation of acceptance and love: “You are everything I could wish for…”

Isn’t that the reassurance that we all crave throughout our lives? Five Stars! One of the things

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens  One of the things I like about this charming book is how it mentions challenges and obstacles. Adopted children have real life experience with loss and grief. Yet the overarching message which the narrator (parent) conveys is that it is possible to have “more ups than downs…more tippy-toes than deep.” The message validates reality for our kids: they have had “downs” and they have struggled in “the deep.”

So Many Days. 51c5cqnd7DL._SY468_BO1,204,203,200_ Allison McGhee collaborated on So Many Days with illustrator Taeen Yoo to create a lovely tale of encouragement, possibility, and affirmation. A refrain that repeats throughout text asks, “Who will you be and where will you go? And how will you know?”

This invitation to consider one’s life dream is then followed by important advice, “Words will open your heart and kindness will open your soul.”

Yoo’s detailed illustrations embody these wise words. They depict the child’s diminutive size in a way that suggests his bravery while confronting difficult odds instead succumbing to helplessness and fear. In one two-page spread we see the boy in his tiny rowboat as he navigates a storm-tossed sea and encounters a gigantic whale. His bravery vanquishes his fears!

Like the other titles reviewed in this post, So Many Days  concludes with an affirmation: “You are loved more than you know.” Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens In the illustrations mentioned above–the boy with the whale–the moment captures the feeling of immense odds and the boy’s formidable ability to survive. This page can lead to an important discussion about the storm-tossed moments of the child’s life–if they feel up to and open to that discussion. If that is too strong, the conversation can take a more removed tack and discuss how “some kids” face difficulties and how they survive them.

Begin and end. wisdom.PicMonkey Collage

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.

 

My Heart Is Like A Zoo? — Talk About Love

My Heart Is Like A Zoo How would you reply if you asked yourself, “What is your heart like?” What would you predict your child might reply? My Heart Is Like A Zoo written and illustrated by Michael Hall offers a delightful variety of answers to this question. In an additional and entertaining surprise, the illustrations are made of different configurations of hearts– large and small, complete and incomplete. What a wonderful demonstration of creativity!

Kids will giggle and smile their way through this sweet, silly book. Ear-catching rhyme and unexpected descriptions add dimensions of fun. For example, “Silly as a seal/ rugged as a moose/ happy as a herd of hippos drinking apple juice.” Who knew hippos love apple juice? Or how quiet a caterpillar can be when “wearing knitted socks”?  Casey read this book with her second grade class; they enjoyed it tremendously, then created their own zoo-heart animals as metaphors for their own emotions. Five Stars

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AQ Lens:  A fun book like this one makes it easy to talk about upbeat feelings and lays important groundwork for more difficult conversations. Because of the complexities of adoption, adopted children benefit from having a broad vocabulary for describing and identifying their feelings. This helps them discuss their emotions as well as to understand these emotions.  The uniqueness of the illustrations also encourage creativity and showcases the benefit of not thinking/being exactly like everyone else.

One Love.MarleyValentine’s day brings thoughts of love. Add a sprinkle of multiculturalism to your celebrations with the charming One Love by Cedella Marley, daughter of the Reggae artist, Bob Marley. Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton enliven the text, based on his song, “One Love.” Beautiful multi-media pictures will brighten the reader’s day.  The mood of the story is upbeat and positive and reinforces the idea that we are all part of the community of earth, that we all can choose to work, laugh and love together. Five stars

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 This is not an “issues” book, rather it shows people engaging in ordinary tasks, living their normal daily activities. This sweet book easily introduces the idea that we need not look the same in order to be friends, neighbors or family. It depicts people of different races happily playing and working together. People of many shades of color appear throughout the story. Several images of Bob Marley are tucked into the illustrations. Hunting for them  would be fun. Plus, it would be an easy segue to a conversation about birth parents–how they are “present” in a child in ways both subtle and obvious.

 

plant a kiss.517n7oFF8oL._SY351_BO1,204,203,200_

Valentine’s Day brings kisses to mind.  A wonderful book that looks at kisses in a unique way is Amy Krouse  Rosenthal’s gem, Plant A Kiss.  Illustrated brilliantly by Peter H. Reynolds, the very spare text literally sparkles and matches the mood of the story perfectly. Have you ever wondered what might happen if you planted a kiss? No? Well, you are in for a delight when you share this book with your special child. Before you begin, ask your little one to predict what might happen if he or she planted a kiss. The question is sure to fire up their imaginations. It will also open a window into the way they think and feel which helps parents know and understand their children better.  Five stars

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magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens:
 This story line can serve as a wonderful conversation starter. Ask kids what else they might “plant.” Then, have them predict what might happen. Compare the “harvest” of each emotion. Conversations like these can be a wonderful gateway to important conversations about deeply held adoption-related thoughts and feelings. You might be surprised by what your child reveals. This creates a great chance to validate their feelings, clarify confusion and address their worries and concerns.

All Kinds of Children.61bmJzGzaVL._SY406_BO1,204,203,200_A title like All Kinds of Children sets our expectations of inclusivity and multicultural characters and  content. This book delivers on all accounts as it explores “fascinating differences” as well as “all they have in common with other boys and girls.” Written by Norma Simon and deftly illustrated by Diane Paterson, the duo presents similarities and differences in foods, housing, families, playtime activities and work. Many ethnicities and races are depicted although no interracial families are shown which is unfortunate. Still this book deserves a spot on the family library shelf. Five stars.

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magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The biggest plus of this book is the way that it depicts the myriad ways in which everyone is both alike and dissimilar. Since many adoptees have a wrestle with the process of blending their identities from a mixture of both nature and nurture, this book opens an easy entry into talking about the many ways in which they are similar to each family as well as the multiple ways in which they differ. A book like All Kinds of Children accomplishes this task without judgment and thus normalizes the conversation.

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

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, February 18th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current month is Love. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • February 18th linkups: Love. Let’s continue to spread our love of diverse books by sharing diverse books about love, families, and relationships.
  • March 4th and 18th: Changing Seasons. As we eagerly await the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern, let’s share favorite books and resources on the seasons.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most-clicked post from last time was Marjorie’s review of IBBY Review: Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy and Gabriel Evans on Mirrors Windows Doors. This novel in verse shares the struggles of a young girl trying to process her new life after her mother is severely injured in a car accident.

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

Now more than ever, we need to share and promote books by and about Muslims, and a great place to start is Kitaab World‘s new series on Countering Islamophobia through Stories. The first entry is a book list featuring Muslim Kids as Heroes. I am also delighted to welcome Gauri, CEO and co-founder of Kitaab World, as a co-host!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts   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 / Instagram

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

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

Myra @ Gathering Books   Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Hosts for February

Gauri @ Kitaab World   an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

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 thelogonauts.com.

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

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

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.

Love Is Always in Season

Love.Eric Carle.51cnuPybmDL._SX406_BO1,204,203,200_

 

In the vein of Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle’s new book  Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar,  is a treasure for all ages not only for children. Pictured in his signature style of  artwork, the sweet message of love is expressed in simple metaphor, brilliant color and spare graphics.

Snuggle close to your special sweetie and share this little gem. The human heart craves affirmation; sometimes a book is the perfect way to do it. Read it often. It’s a great way to get used to expressing the love in your hearts.

 

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)#AQ Lens Too often we forget how important it is to express our love to our family. In this season of gift-giving it is easy to think that the stuff we buy conveys our emotion. Things are appreciated, expected and enjoyed but the thrill of stuff quickly fades. What persists in memory is the way we make our loved ones feel.

It is especially important for our kids not only to hear but also feel our love. Our best gift to them is our undivided attention, attentive listening and willingness to express in words and actions the love we have for them. Often, children who were adopted struggle with doubt, rejection and feeling inadequate. Be intentional about the many ways in which you live the love you feel for them. Help them experience it in words as well as actions. Give them more time than stuff. Connection with you is what they really crave.

When parents freely express their emotions, it provides both a model as well as “permission” for kids to do the same. What a blessing to teach kids that it is not only okay, it is actually encouraged to open up and share their feelings.