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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: EL DEAFO and ONE CRAZY SUMMER for raising compassionate kids

BooksKristina PinoComment

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo is a somewhat autobiographical graphic memoir starring a cast of bunnies telling the story of a childhood dealing with deafness. Some of the events of the story come from Bell's own memories, others are more of a generalization of the sort of experiences children with hearing difficulties might have. It has its funny and sad parts, but most importantly, it tells a story at a young reader's level without talking down to them. Bell's character's thoughts: her frustrations communicating with people as well as her own delightful imagination of having super powers, are generally expressed through thought balloons. I'm including this in my...collection? Of books for raising kind and compassionate kids because it shows readers what sort of struggles come with some kinds of disabilities. Folks who read Wonder might find some similarities between Cece's equipment and experiences and Auggie's.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Delphine serves as the sensible, big sisterly voice to the story of her and her siblings' journey to California to meet their mother and spend a summer with her. Vonetta and Fern have big, vividly expressed and unforgettable personalities, just as any mischievous pair of little sisters do off the page. The three girls travel to Oakland and are not greeted with hugs and kisses, but with stern warnings to stay out of her mother's way. With nowhere to go but the neighborhood's community center, the girls join the local Black Panthers, who teach them about activism and advocacy. I found myself wanting for more by the end of the story, which is the kind of joyful ending readers cheer for (and perhaps shed a little tear, for us sensitive types). Great for mid-4th grade and above, this novel brings an important point in history to life through three sassy, funny, happy girls. 

 

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: WONDER and FORGET ME NOT for raising compassionate kids

BooksKristina PinoComment

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I had the pleasure of actually reading this as a read-along with my students. It's an excellent book about kindness and compassion and empathy, all great qualities we should instill in young people. In Wonder, we follow the life of August, or Auggie, who has a rare facial deformity and, up until the point the story begins had been homeschooled. He decides to start going to school and try being part of a general education classroom. There, he meets a few friends and learns a lot about both himself and about other people in general, and the way people treat those with apparent/physical differences. This heartfelt story is told in multiple perspectives and really drives home the point that everyone has their own struggles, even those who seem to have all the right things going for them, or whose broken parts are invisible. I'm also pleased to note that this is being adapted to film and will be released sometime this year. 

 

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

This story explores the experiences of a girl who lives with Tourette syndrome and her classmate and neighbor who also happens to be the most popular boy in school. She just wants to hide her quirks from people and not be labeled a freak or ostracized. He's clinging to his social status in school and is afraid that befriending her publicly would jeopardize that, even though he really, really wants to. There are two things I love about this book. First, it's told in multiple perspectives and styles. Calliope's chapters, where she expresses her thoughts and fears and talks about her day, are told in beautiful poetry. Jinsong's are told in prose and get deep into his moral struggle throughout the story. And second, the author herself lives with Tourette syndrome, and it shows in the thoughtful way she writes about it. The main characters are in middle school, but it's an appropriate read for upper elementary (about 4th or 5th grade and up) and another great read for raising compassionate and empathetic kids.