Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Funny Little Woman

The Funny Little Woman won the Caldecott some years ago.
It's a retelling of a Japanese folk tale that reminded my nine
year old of Strega Nona with its theme of a magical cookery
implement (A rice paddle rather than the Strega Nona pasta pot).
The battered little paperback has been sitting unloved and unread
in my house for years, and I decided it was time for it to seek 
a new home. But first I coralled the boys on the couch for
a read aloud. As usual, both protested. I threatened my neurotypical
child with an electronic device ban and told my son with autism
that even though he hadn't "planned to read" we were reading. 
It's a good read aloud. 
You may know some of my touchstones by now.
The Funny Little Woman includes:
1) illustrations that are clear and relate to the story
(they're also next to the words they illustrate)
2) minimal subtext
(adults may find some here, kids are unlikely to and the
story doesn't need it)
3) humor (giggling woman, dumpling chase, rescue by prat fall)
4) repetition (my dumpling)
 Here's another description of this book 
from a blogger who read Caldecott winners with her
girls and had them journal afterwards. She provides
a list of Caldecott winners through 2010. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I saw a Peacock

"I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy circled round
I saw a sturdy oak creep on the ground
.  .  . "
Ramsingh Urvel chose to illustrate this lovely and puzzling 
poem written in 17th century England to create a book
that may have special appeal for children with autism.
First of all, it rhymes.
Next, the illustrations combine simple and complex
elements in an interesting way that intrigues those
who like to study lines and repetitive patterns. 
Lastly, the whole poem is a play on words. 
The illustrations include strategically placed holes, 
which are both fun and a bit problematic for some
readers. Don't get this one if ripping a page bothers
you or your child.
The illustrations present puzzles of their own. 
Despite their simple black/white contrast and
simple outlines, they contain complicated 
repeating patterns. The shaped holes reveal
portions of both text and pictures.
From the description inside:
"Even the youngest of readers will delight in
The overturning of logic, and the 'trick' with
which meaning can be made to return . . .
Is the difference between fantasy and reality
largely grammatical?"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Award Winners

This year I've never heard of the Newbery 
and Caldecott winners.
This is usual. 
And as usual, the winners look well worth a look.
The picture book seems a bit over the top illustratively 
for kids who relate better to clear, realistic pictures. 
But the message of someone searching to belong and
succeeding is great. 
And my boy loves poems. 
I'm hoping he'll give The Crossover a try.


D.C.-area poet and author Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Medal 
on Monday for “The Crossover,” his book written in verse about 12-year-old basketball-playing twin boys.
KidsPost reviewer Abby McGanney Nolan wrote that the poems are “sometimes fresh and funny, sometimes sad and painful, but always move the story along in a compelling way.”
Alexander said the book was partly inspired by basketball legends such as Michael Jordan and the way their playing is described as “poetry in motion.”
Two books, “El Deafo” by Cece Bell and “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson, were awarded Newbery Honors.
“The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend” by Dan Santat was awarded the Caldecott Medal for the year’s best picture book. Six books were named Caldecott honor books.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types


For the start of the year, the start of reading:
Alphabet animals of a different type.
Each traditional animal (alligator to zebra)
is made out of its starting letter.
Each is a different typeface.
From Giddyup to Extended Egyptian,
the writers explain and exploit the merits
of each, "A typeface is like a family."
The typeface idea makes for an oddly
sophisticated alphabet focusing on something 
readers usually overlook-the wonderfully
differing shapes of types 
"An E can be easygoing." 
"The uppercase Q is quietly sticking 
out its tongue."
While the pages have more words
and ideas than I usually think works
for most kids with autism, the pictures
are large and clear, the fish clearly a fish, 
the jumping kangaroo absolutely a kangaroo.
The additional pictures of additional alphabet
words are also clear and often funny.
The book promotes interactivity with large 
light liftable flaps much easier to use than 
the usual little sticky cardboard flaps. 
Kid reviews "I just like looking at the animals."
"I mean how the animals are created. Do they look funny?
I remember alligator, bat, camel, I think there was a dog . . .
maybe there was a lion in it. I remember an Xenops. I 
lifted the grass flap and I lifted the water flap and I don't 
know what else."
An Alphabeastie board book is also available if your kid
is still tearing things, and even Alphabeastie flash cards. 
Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner and Sharon Forss

Monday, January 26, 2015

All Grown Up Monday - I Know What Causes Autism by Carrie Cariello

Several of my friends have posted this recently.
I nearly didn't read it because I thought I knew what it would say.
And, indeed, the first part, though beautifully written, is what I expected. But the middle part takes me right to the heart of my feelings, and the last part is downright poetic. There's a link here so you can go to her blog for the rest and order her book if you like.
I Know What Causes Autism



Last week I was surfing the Internet and came across a headline proclaiming autism and circumcision are linked. I couldn’t help myself. I laughed out loud.
In no certain order, I have read the following explanations for autism over the years:
Autism is caused by mercury.
Autism is caused by lead.
Autism begins with poor maternal bonding.
Certain pesticides may trigger autism.
Plastics.
Gluten aggravates autism spectrum disorder.
People with autism should eat more strawberries.
Too much automotive exhaust is a leading cause of autism.
Chemicals found on non-stick cookware may trigger autism.
The one about maternal bonding is sort of painful for me. The truth is, I did have a hard time bonding with infant Jack. The little guy shrieked and whined and cried for a solid year. He started sleeping through the night at six weeks, and stopped at three months.
I was exhausted, and Joe and I were fighting constantly; bickering and arguing and long screaming matches. For the first time, I could feel my marriage slipping away from me like sand through my fingers.
And my first child, Joey—sweet, uncomplicated, good-natured Joey—was a year old at the time. His easy nature only highlighted his new brother’s fussiness.
But I am certain there is no one on earth more bonded to this boy now, and guess what? He still has autism.
I am happy to announce that I do know what caused Jack’s autism, and without further ado, I’d like to tell you.
Wait for it.
It’s kind of a big deal.
Jack has autism because, as his 5-year old brother Henry says, he was bornd-ed with it.
Drum roll, please.

Read the rest of Carrie Cariello's post and find out more about her book, What Color is Monday?
 here


Friday, January 23, 2015

Education Friday - Quick Reads


I just discovered Quick Reads, a series of books 
designed for adults who don’t usually read for pleasure.
A British publisher approached good authors to write
shorter, more approachable books with adult themes
and ideas.
The website offers lesson plans and other resources.
These books may be a good fit for young adults with
autism who find reading a challenge.
I am eager to read Lindsey Davis’ Quick Read, 
A Cruel Fate. Set during the English Civil War,
its highly relevant theme is the treatment of prisoners.
For animal lovers, there’s Street Cat Bob, about a
street musician who rescues an injured Tom Cat.
Other titles cover the suspense, mystery, and 
chick-lit genres.
While not necessarily offering something for
everyone, there is a wide variety of books. 
If you or your young reader are looking to move on
to adult fare, but want a shorter, more simply written read, 
give these a try. Then comment here.
Confusingly, Educational Company Pearson 
offers a program called QuickReads 
for 2nd through 6th graders 
that I also never heard of before.
Anyone out there with a child who has used it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Try, Try Again - Romeo and Juliet and Big Nate

This morning my youngest asked me to turn off the radio news so he could read.
     He's a factual, fact-checking boy and for years has brought home books about sharks, dinosaurs, and people doing terrifying things to get into books about people doing terrifying things.
This morning he was reading Big Nate. A book with a
story. Well, a story and lots of cartoons.
     This isn't his first time with Big Nate. I introduced those
books to him back in first grade. And we listened
to a Big Nate audiobook, and read some of a Big Nate
cartoon book together.
Now, in third grade, he's reading this on his own.
     This pattern of introduction/reintroduction/acceptance 
holds true for a lot of kids. Partly it's because parents and schools 
increasingly push kids a bit too fast - they have to pass that
standardized test right now! In Kindergarten! (I wish I were
kidding). 
     Part of it is oh so usual. Just as pediatricians
advise exposing kids to a wide variety of foods so that eventually
they start eating something other than PB&J, so exposing them
to a wide variety of written materials gives them the chance
to sample, reject, and eventually read new texts.
     As with foods, the process may take longer with kids on the
spectrum, and some may not proceed visibly for years. Currently
a friend's boy wants PB&J every day, which actually seems 
easy and usual in comparison to some food routines, but which
can still wear on a parent trying to help their kid experience the
whole world of food.
     My fourteen year old boy still wants verse and picture books 
every day, and Romeo and Juliet is not what he has in mind. 
     We used the winter break to go through the play, 
read R and J picture books (there are a lot), watch two movie versions, and answer questions on it - but back at school it's as
if he never read a line.
     Enter the graphic novel. I wish I could say it's made a huge
difference, but there's no discernible difference when I ask him 
questions. 
     Still, I think he's reading it. I've found it on the floor (when permitted, he reads with his whole body).
     And, like the little miracle in the back seat of the car, that
will do for today.