Archive for the ‘Children’s Books that Celebrate Diversity’ Category

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

Posted on May 21st, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie WalshIsaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh
Picture book about a child with Asperger’s Syndrome published by Candlewick Press

Written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! is a cheerful, positive and reassuring picture book that explains how Isaac’s thoughts and behavior sometimes differ from those of his friends. Well-suited to preschool-age children or early primary classroom use, bright, bold illustrations are visually appealing and will be easily seen and interpreted in a group or classroom setting.

Friends, family members and classmates will discover that children with Asperger’s Syndrome may have different interests, energy levels and ways of interacting than others do. For example, they may like to bounce rather than play team sports or they may fidget with a toy in order to relax and listen in class. They may have difficulty understanding jokes or some in social situations. Insights are shared matter-of-factly, with respect for both the Asperger’s child and a child who does not have Asperger’s.

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! spreadUsing meaningful examples and fun illustrations, Walsh helps young readers to understand that children with Asperger’s Syndrome have strengths including a great memory for facts, curiosity and a heightened awareness of sounds. She also shows the special relationship an Asperger’s child can have with pets and family members.

A great addition to a personal or professional library, end papers include a list of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome links.

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.com

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.ca

Read our reviews of other picture books about Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

Storytime Standouts Shares Asperger Syndrome and Autism Picture Books












Embracing Differences: Little Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame”

Posted on September 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts looks at antibullying picture book Little Jimmy Says,  Same is LameLittle Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame” written by Jimmy Vee and illustrated by Mike Motz
Antibullying picture book about embracing differences published by Atlas Press





“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.”
― J. Sidlow Baxter

in this semi-autobiographical new picture book, marketing expert, magician, author and ventriloquist Jimmy Vee explains why being different is much more interesting than living an ordinary existence.

Because I am different, it makes me feel proud. I’d rather stand out than blend in with the crowd.

Citing many examples of physical features, Vee encourages young readers to celebrate their appearance and abilities while acknowledging the fact that they are not like everybody else.

Upbeat, rhyming text and bright, colorful cartoonish illustrations depict wearing glasses, baldness, wearing braces, having a large nose, freckles, an unusual voice, being a different height than your peers and having a facial scar. Young readers, especially with encouragement from adults, are invited to think about ways differences can be exploited and can ultimately be perceived as assets.

Little Jimmy Says, “Same Is Lame” at Amazon.com

Learning About Chinese New Year – Highlighting Picture Books

Posted on January 21st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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My First Chinese New YearMy First Chinese New Year written and illustrated by Karen Katz
Chinese New Year Picture Book published by Henry Holt and Company




An excellent introduction to the traditions associated with the holiday, My First Chinese New Year will be enjoyed by children aged three years and up. Highlighting traditional decorations, clothing, food, a large family dinner and a boisterous parade, colorful illustrations and text depict a family’s preparations for the special day and their joy in celebrating with family and friends.

We appreciate the ease with which Ms. Katz conveys information to young readers,

My sister and I sweep away the bad luck from last year. Now we are ready to welcome in good luck for the new year.

Recommended for preschool age children, the size and format is well suited to a group storytime.

My First Chinese New Year at Amazon.com

My First Chinese New Year at Amazon.ca

Happy Happy Chinese New YearHappy, Happy Chinese New Year written and illustrated by Demi
(Non Fiction) Chinese New Year Picture Book published by Crown Publishing, an imprint of Random House



Unlike Ms. Katz’s picture book, Happy, Happy Chinese New Year will be best appreciated when read by one or two children. It could be used by a child doing research into the traditions associated with Chinese New Year. Detailed illustrations include numerous small, labelled figures preparing for a community celebration. A tremendous banquet is shown and is enhanced by a key that provides the name of each food item, in English and Chinese, as well as the significance of each of the dishes.

Part of getting ready for the Chinese New Year is making sure your home is neat and clean before the new year arrives. Tidy up your house and your room. Sweep out the old and bring in the New Year!

A good non fiction resource for primary grade children, this picture book offers considerable insight into the traditions associated with this holiday.

Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! at Amazon.com

Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! at Amazon.ca

Demi was a nominee for the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize

Exclamation Mark an Outstanding 2013 Picture Book

Posted on December 31st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Exclamation Mark outstanding 2013 picture bookExclamation Mark written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Outstanding 2013 Picture Book published by Scholastic Press


Exclamation Mark is just not like anyone else. As much as he’d like to look the same, he’s always a standout in a crowd.

He was confused, flummoxed, and deflated.
He even thought about running away.
.

Clever wordplay and fun, expressive illustrations will captivate children old enough to understand punctuation and the important role it plays in our language. Older readers will enjoy the double entendre and will celebrate Exclamation Mark’s voyage of self discovery.Storytime Standouts looks at Exclamation Mark written by Amy Krouse and illustrated by Ton Lichtenheld

Why oh why is he different? He wants nothing more than to look just like the periods around him. It is only when Question Mark arrives on the scene that Exclamation Mark discovers something deep within – he discovers why and how he has an important role to play – despite his rather unique upright appearance.

An outstanding 2013 picture book, Exclamation Mark is highly recommended for readers aged five years and up.

Exclamation Mark at Amazon.com

Exclamation Mark at Amazon.ca

Link to Make Your [Book]mark on Tom Lichtenheld’s website

Parent’s Choice Silver Honor Spring 2013
Kirkus Starred Review
Booklist Starred Review

Exclamation Mark has been nominated for a 2013 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award.

How To by Julie Morstad Celebrates Play and Self Discovery

Posted on December 20th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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How To by Julie MorstadHow To written and illustrated by Julie Morstad
Picture book published by Simply Read Books


“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori

There are shelves filled with how to books at my local library. How to change the oil in a car, how to sew a quilt, how to apply make up… These are all jobs for adults. When writing and illustrating a how to book for children, what should be the topic? What is there that children ought to do?

Julie Morstad’s How To is a celebration of play and self discovery. When a child wants to go fast, he might choose a scooter or a pair of stilts. When another child decides to go slow she may quietly lie in a grassy spot and enjoy the flowers and butterflies.page from how to by Julie Morstad

Beautifully drawn illustrations celebrate a diverse group of children at play – flying kites, drawing with sidewalk chalk, hiding, riding a bicycle, drumming on pots and pans and contemplating a steep, high slide. Minimal text and mostly white pages ‘leave space’ for thinking, appreciating the illustrations and imagining ways to enjoy more play.

Winner of the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize

How To has been nominated for a 2013 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award.

How To at Amazon.com

How To at Amazon.ca

Picture Book About Divali – Lights for Gita

Posted on October 31st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts looks at Lights for Gita, a picture book about Divali and  adjusting to life as a new immigrant.Lights for Gita written by Rachna Gilmore and illustrated by Alice Priestley
Picture book about Divali and a child’s experience as a new immigrant published by Second Story Press



When Gita arrives home from school, she is excited to celebrate Divali. She fondly remembers how Divali was celebrated in New Delhi. She recalls large family celebrations that included glowing diyas, delicious sweets (perras and jallebies) and brilliant fireworks.

Gita has invited five friends from her class to celebrate Divali with her family but a sudden ice storm means that most of her friends are not able to come. Gita and her mother light the diyas just before the electricity in the apartment fails. Darkness envelopes the street and the apartment building except for the shining diyas. When Gita sees one of her friends arriving at the apartment building, she rushes outside to meet her. She is overjoyed to step outside into an icy wonderland.

Lights for Gita provides an explanation of many of the traditions associated with Divali. As well, it is a thoughtful look at the adjustments faced by new immigrants when living in a new country.

Rachna Gilmore’s Teacher’s Guide for Lights for Gita

Lights for Gita at Amazon.com

Lights for Gita at Amazon.ca

Lights for Gita by Michel Vo, National Film Board of Canada

Note – in Lights for Gita, the author refers to ‘Divali.’ The Festival of Lights is also called ‘Diwali.’

For additional information about Diwali…

Celebrations in my World Diwali picture book about DiwaliCelebrations in My World – Diwali written by Kate Torpie
Children’s book about Diwali published by Crabtree Publishing Company

Generously illustrated with photographs, Celebrations in my World – Diwali explores the Hindu holiday, also known as the ‘festival of lights.’ Photographs and text explain Diwali decorations (including rangoli), dancing (Garba), desserts (includes a recipe for Chocolate Barfi), symbols and clothing (dhoti kurta, henna tattoos). One two-page spread provides information about Hinduism and another explains Rama’s victory. Celebrations in my World – Diwali includes a table of contents and a glossary.

Diwali (Celebrations in My World) at Amazon.com

Diwali (Celebrations in My World) at Amazon.ca

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Diwali for Kids on Pinterest.

Discovering Diversity – Princesses in Picture Books

Posted on October 21st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Discovering Diversity and Examining Stereotypes - a Look at Princesses in Picture BooksIf you asked children in a preschool or kindergarten, ‘How does a princess behave?’ or ‘What does a princess look like?’ what sort of answers would you get? Would perceptions extend beyond Disney’s version of Cinderella, Ariel and Rapunzel?


How might children describe or draw a princess?

Is she helpless or is she capable?
Is she in danger and waiting for a brave prince to rescue her or is she resourceful and able to take care of herself?
Is she always physically beautiful? What is her hair color?
What sort of clothing does she wear?
Is she intelligent, quick-witted, wise, bold, courageous?
Is she kind to others?

Thoughts of a grade five student ~

A princess is a girl who has a dress and she’s very pretty. She’s the king’s daughter and he can choose someone to be the prince to marry her. Some books have princesses and some don’t have princesses. You might have seen movies about one or maybe you haven’t. Princesses often appear in fairy tales.

Here are some terrific picture books that depict princesses in unconventional ways

Discovering Diversity through Picture Books An African Princess An African Princess written by Lyra Edmonds and illustrated by Anne Wilson
Picture book about heritage and identity published by Random House Children’s House

Lyra’s mama tells her that she is an African Princess but she is not convinced. She and her family in a big city and she has freckles. Her schoolmates tease her and prompt her to question the story she has been told by her mama. One wintry day she learns that she and her family are going to travel to meet Taunte May, an African Princess. Lyra counts the days until the family boards a plane to the Caribbean. Once there, Lyra discovers and embraces her very rich heritage.

An African Princess at Amazon.com

An African Princess at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity Picture Books Not All Princesses Dress in PinkNot All Princesses Dress in Pink written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin
Rhyming picture book about individuality, stereotyping, gender roles published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Vivid illustrations and cheerful text highlight Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, a look at the many ways young princesses express themselves. Perhaps they play baseball or soccer or they roll on the ground. Whether working on a construction site, riding a bike or planting a large garden, these princesses challenge stereotypes and wear sparkly crowns.

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink at Amazon.com

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity through Picture Books The Paper Bag PrincessThe Paper Bag Princess written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Picture book about problem solving, courage, self esteem, and gratitude published by Annick Press

When a nasty dragon smashes her castle, burns her clothes and carries away her betrothed, Princess Elizabeth decides she must rescue him. Elizabeth’s wardrobe is in ruins so wears a paper bag as she follows the path of destruction to the dragon’s cave. Once there, Elizabeth uses a series of clever tricks to rescue Ronald. He is not at all grateful for her efforts on his behalf and gets exactly what he deserves.

- Read America! Classic
- NEA’s Cat-a-List for Reading
- Greatest Canadian Books of the Century List, Vancouver Public Library
- 100 Best Books List, Toronto Public Library

The Paper Bag Princess at Amazon.com

The Paper Bag Princess at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity through Picture Books The Princess and the Pea The Princess and the Pea written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Traditional story set in Africa published by Puffin Books

The Princess and the Pea was originally published by Hans Christian Andersen in the nineteenth century. Rachel Isadora sets this version of the traditional story in Africa. A prince wants to meet and marry a ‘real’ princess. His travels take him all over the world but he fails to meet ‘the one.’

One evening there was a terrible storm. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the gate, and the old king went to open it. Sure enough, there is a sodden young woman outside the gate. She claims to be a princess but her appearance suggests otherwise. The queen decides to test her by putting a pea into her bed.

Beautiful collage illustrations nicely match the exotic African setting and costumes.

The Princess and the Pea at Amazon.com

The Princess and the Pea at Amazon.ca

Discovering Diversity The Silk PrincessThe Silk Princess written and illustrated by Charles Santore
The legend of the discovery of silk in ancient China published by Random House

Emperor Huang-Ti is very fond of his two sons but never speaks with his daughter, Princess Hsi-Ling Chi. One afternoon, she and her mother visit the royal gardens. When a cocoon falls from a tree and lands in her mother’s teacup, Hsi-Ling Chi notices the cocoon unraveling in the hot liquid and soon sees a long strand of thread. Not realizing the length of the thread, her mother agrees to let her attach one end of the thread to her waist and walk away. Hsi-Ling Chi is astonished as the long, silky thread permits her to travel through the royal gardens, leave the grounds of the royal palace and explore the world beyond its gates. She travels into the mountains, knowing that she must be cautious because there is a dangerous dragon lurking nearby. Despite being careful to cross a bridge quietly, the dragon awakens and frightens Hsi-Ling Chi. The thread is broken and Hsi-Ling Chi is lost. While searching for the thread, she meets an old man. He is weaving thread from silkworm cocoons into beautiful, shimmering fabric. Hsi-Ling Chi learns from him and eventually returns home to share her discovery with her mother. Her mother instructs the royal weavers to create a new robe using the new material. The Emperor is captivated by Hsi-Ling Chi’s discovery and she becomes known as the Silk Princess.

Painterly illustrations are a wonderful match for this story of adventure and discovery. Best suited to kindergarten age (and older) children, there is considerable text – some in white and some in black. The font choice may make this a difficult read-aloud in a large group setting.

The Silk Princess at Amazon.com

The Silk Princess at Amazon.ca

Free Printables – Crown Writing Paper and Royalty Picture Dictionary

image of PDF icon  Royalty / Fairy Tale Picture Dictionary

Free printable fairy tale picture dictionary for readers and writers in kindergarten and grade one.

image of PDF icon  Crown interlined paper

picture books about grandparents and family diversityYou will also be interested in our post about grandparents and family diversity.




Discover Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Picture Books

Posted on September 10th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Thanking the Moon a picture book about the Mid-Autumn Moon FestivalThanking the Moon – Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival written and illustrated by Grace Lin
Picture book about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival published by Albert A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House

Beautiful, detailed illustrations highlight Thanking the Moon. We join a family of five as they enjoy a nighttime picnic and honor the moon. While the youngest girl plays, the older daughters help to set up a moon-honoring table, pretty lanterns and an enticing spread of traditional food: hot tea, moon cakes, steamed cakes, grapes and pomelo.image of spread Thanking the Moon a Mid-Autmn Moon Festival Picture Book

Extensive afternotes explain the significance of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and the traditions associated with it. Young readers will certainly want to enjoy the story a second time, once they understand the significance of the fruit, the tea cups and the delicious moon cakes.

Well suited to children aged three and up.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival at Amazon.com

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival at Amazon.ca

A lovely complement to Thanking the Moon…

Mooncakes written by Loretta Seto and illustrated by Renne Benoit
Picture book about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival published by Orca Book Publishers

Narrated by a young girl, Mooncakes echos Thanking the Moon. We observe a family’s preparations for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival – the excitement about staying up late, anticipation of special treats to eat, glowing paper lanterns and a beautiful full moon.

Once the family is comfortably settled in a moonlit chair, we hear three stories. The stories are about Chang-E, the woman who lives on the moon in the Jade Palace, Wu-Gang, a woodcutter and Jade Rabbit who also reside on the moon.

The watercolour illustrations nicely portray the special celebration, bathing the landscape in silvery moonlight. When the traditional tales are shared, the colours are more vivid.

Afternotes are less detailed than those in Thanking the Moon but they do include a reminder, ‘Even relatives who are unable to be with their families can look up at the dark sky and know that their loved ones are watching the same moon.

Best suited to children aged four and up.

Mooncakes at Amazon.com

Mooncakes at Amazon.ca

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Mid-Autumn Moon Festival for Preschool and Kindergarten on Pinterest.

Allergies in Picture Books

Posted on May 26th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for Aaron's Awful Allergies Aaron’s Awful Allergies written by Troon Harrison and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Picture book about allergies published by Kids Can Press


Aaron is an animal lover, through and through. He loves to sleep with Clancy curled up next to him on the bed. He loves Calico and her six kittens. He loves looking after the guinea pigs from his classroom and celebrates when four babies are born. Unfortunately, over the summer, Aaron starts to feel miserable. His head aches and his eyes are itchy. Sometimes he sneezes and he has trouble breathing.

Aaron is diagnosed with allergies and his doctor says that he should not play with cats, dogs or guinea pigs. Aaron is devastated to know that they will have to find new homes for his pets. He is very reluctant to show any enthusiasm for his new fish until…

One morning Aaron noticed how the fish’s scales flashed in the sunlight and how its tail fluttered through the water.

Aaron’s Awful Allergies deals sensitively with a difficult subject. Aaron’s parents make the tough decision to disperse the various pets and Aaron is lonely and sad as a result of their decision. It is difficult to know if the arrival of a fish could really help to resolve Aaron’s heartache but Aaron’s Awful Allergies will certainly prompt discussion and encourage problem solving.

Aaron’s Awful Allergies at Amazon.com

Aaron’s Awful Allergies at Amazon.ca

image of cover art for Horace and Morris Say Cheese a picture book about allergies
Horace and Morris Say Cheese (which makes Dolores sneeze!) written by James Howe and illustrated by Amy Walrod
Picture book about allergies published by Simon and Schuster Kids

Horace, Morris and Dolores love to eat cheese. Hardly a day goes by without them emjoying one cheese or another. One day, after trying a new recipe, Dolores develops itchy spots and she starts to sneeze. Dr. Ricotta does a thorough examination before she declares that Dolores is allergic to cheese. The very idea of giving up her favourite food is almost impossible to imagine especially because The 1st Annual Everything Cheese Festival is just around the corner. Suddenly Dolores is craving cheese more than ever. She dreams of cheese and finally decides that nothing else will do. She gives into temptation and shortly thereafter regrets her decision…

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (which makes Dolores sneeze!) is a fun look at cravings and food allergies. Young readers will share Dolores’ horror when she learns that cheese is the source of her problems and will cheer when she discovers life after cheese.

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (Which Makes Dolores Sneeze!) at Amazon.com

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (Which Makes Dolores Sneeze!) at Amazon.ca

Emma’s Story – a picture book about families, international adoption

Posted on April 4th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for Emma's Story a picture book about families and international adoptionEmma’s Story written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Song Nan Zhang
Picture book about families and international adoption published by Tundra Books

Emma and her brother are baking cookies at Grandma’s house. They use cookie cutters to make a sweet cookie family and then decorate the tasty treats with candies and dried fruit. When Grandma lifts the cookie tray out of the oven, she admires the cookie family but Emma is surprised to see the cookie that Sam has decorated.

Sam had used raisins and strings of licorice to decorate the Emma cookie. Big tears rolled down Emma’s cheeks. “I want to look like everyone else,” she said.

Emma’s sadness prompts Grandma to cuddle with her in a comfortable chair. She opens a photo album and tells her granddaughter’s story.

This is a story that Emma has heard before. In fact, she helps Grandma to tell the story properly. It seems that Mommy, Daddy, Sam and their dog Marley were very happy but they longed for a baby girl. They waited and waited for a little girl to arrive. Finally, they heard about a baby girl in China who needed a family.

Emma’s Story tells of the family’s excited preparations folowed by Mommy and Daddy’s long trip to meet Emma. We witness the new family’s first night and day together and their trip home to Canada. A large crowd meets the threesome at the airport and joyfully celebrate’s Emma’s arrival.

Emma has heard her story “a million times” and she is reassured by Grandma’s words,

It’s not how we look that makes us a family, Emma. It’s how we love each other,” said Grandma.
“And we love each other a lot!” said Emma.

While perhaps not meant for every bookshelf, Emma’s Story offers a very reassuring message and one that bears repeating. Just as Emma likes to hear her story and be comforted by it, children who share the international adoption experience will be similarly reassured by this book.

Detailed illustrations enhance Emma’s Story, especially when showing facial expressions.

Emma’s Story at Amazon.com

Emma’s Story at Amazon.ca

Picture book about Acceptance: My Princess Boy

Posted on April 3rd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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A picture book about acceptance My Princess BoyMy Princess boy written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
Picture book about acceptance, tolerance, bullying and gender identity published by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

Please have a look at our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

My Princess Boy is a non fiction picture book about acceptance, written by Dyson Kildavis’ mom, Cheryl. Dyson is a young boy who likes to wear pink, sparkly clothing including dresses. He also likes to dance like a ballerina. Dyson’s mom worried that her four year old son would be teased and bullied by classmates and that he would encounter intolerant people who would not respect his preferences, so she wrote this book in an effort to encourage acceptance and compassion.
spread from My Princess Boy, a picture book about acceptance
After introducing us to “My Princess Boy” and his preference for pretty pink clothing, we meet his brother and his father. Both are very accepting of Princess Boy. We also learn that Princess Boy has playdates with both boys and girls. We discover that he especially enjoys playing dress up and he wears a tiera when he climbs a tree.

Not everything is rosy for Princess Boy, however. When he shops with his mom, if he buys something that would typically be worn by a girl, people around them notice and laugh. When Princess Boy dresses up for Halloween, a lady reacts badly to the princess dress he is wearing.

My Princess Boy shares a message of acceptance and encourages tolerance. The reader is reassured that if Princess Boy wears a dress to school, his classmates won’t laugh. Friends will play with him even when he wears “girl clothes.”

The book then encourages readers to consider their own behaviour -

If you see a Princess Boy…
Will you laugh at him?
Will you call him a name?
Will you play with him?
Will you like him for who he is?
Our Princess Boy is happy because we love him for who he is.

I must admit to having somewhat mixed emotions about My Princess Boy. At one time, my nephew wanted to dress up at preschool. He preferred the “feminine” costumes. He wanted to wear high heels. My sister was quite disappointed that the preschool teachers did not want him to put on the “feminine” clothes. They wanted him to choose “male” costumes – fire fighter jackets and police officer helmets. My nephew is now eighteen and, as far as I know, has outgrown his desire to wear “feminine” clothes. I don’t think it was just societal pressure that did this, my sense is that some things that are very appealing at age four, lose their luster as a child grows older. I can’t help but wonder, what might have happened if my sister had written a book about my nephew’s fondness for “feminine” clothing. How would he feel about it ten or fifteen years later? Might it seem to be an invasion of privacy? I support Cheryl Kilodavis’ unconditional love for her son but I wonder how he will feel about being a poster child for gender identity (possibly for the rest of his life) based on his preferences at age four.

As a picture book about acceptance, My Princess Boy “works” to some extent. It most certainly will encourage discussion about individuality and respecting differences. Having said that, when Princess Boy is laughed at, there is no attempt to problem solve or deal with the issue head on. Princess Boy is not provided any means of coping when people laugh at him other than asking, “Why did she laugh at me?My Princess Boy will only work as an antibullying resource if readers are encouraged to problem solve ways he might cope with the bullying that he is sure to encounter.

Finally, as evidenced by both the cover art and the spread from My Princess Boy, the illustrations for this book are somewhat unusual in that they are devoid of facial features. There are no eyes, noses, mouths or ears on any of the faces in the book. Some readers find this problematic, even creepy. It seems to me that seeing Princess Boy’s happiness ought to be a goal of the illustrator. Body language is one thing but, My Princess Boy is a book about emotions (happiness, contentedness, disappointment, hurt, joy and love), one would think that showing us those emotions would serve to enhance the message conveyed by the text.

My Princess Boy at Amazon.com

My Princess Boy at Amazon.ca

You may also be interested in our post about (chapter book) The Boy in the Dress.


Out of my Mind – Sharon Draper’ Compelling Young Adult Fiction

Posted on February 3rd, 2013 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Writes About Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperOut of my Mind written by Sharon M. Draper
Young Adult Fiction published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Sharon Draper’s Out of my Mind is one of the best young adult fiction books I have read. For weeks, I have been reading blogs, websites, and articles about young adult fiction. The key words that keep popping up are ‘high stakes.’ In today’s fast-paced, socia media driven society, it is hard to capture attention. Your book has to be different; it has to stand out, or reach out and grab you. I thought I understood what was meant by the term ‘high stakes’ because I’ve read many YA novels and countless adult novels. It means you care about what happens next and you are connected to the characters.

When I got to the third to last chapter of this novel, that my class and I were already hooked on, I truly understood what high stakes means. It meant that, even though the bell had rang, even though they wanted lunch and so did I, even though everyone looks forward to the break in the school day, not one of us wanted to stop. We were frozen by the words on the page; we were so actively involved that no one wanted to move. But we had to. Kids had committments to help in classes, I had a meeting, and other kids were helping in the library. High stakes means that I was late for my meeting, because even though I couldn’t keep reading to them, neither could I walk away. I had to finish it. So I did.

This book already had the readers’ attention at page one. A young girl, Melody, talks about how she’s got all these words floating in her head and they’re this beautiful, abstract thing, that anchor her. She describes them as snowflakes, each one different and delicate. What a beautiful description. But the kicker, is when she says that, at 11 years old, she’s never said even one of those words. Melody has cerebral palsy. She cannot talk, walk, feed herself, or take herself to the bathroom. Sharon truly gets inside, not only the mind of this extremely, physically challenged girl, but the average grade five mind as well. Melody has all of the same challenges that regular grade fives have; what to wear, do I have friends? did I get the answer right? why don’t my parents understand? my little sister bugs me. What we see, in Out of my Mind, is how she connects with that world with extreme limitations. Her ability to do this connects us to her, it invests us in the story, and it makes us part of Melody’s world.

We spend a lot of time discussing bullying and how to treat others in elementary school. More and more, it has become a focus. We try to teach kids the different types of bullying, how to stop it, and how to recognize it. We try to make them empathetic by imagining how the victim feels, how the bystander feels, and even what the bully feels. This book gives us such a unique view of bullying. What if you could never respond to the bully? Never stand up for yourself? Never defend your friends? What if you were bullied and people didn’t even realize that you fully understood their cruelty? It’s one thing for a child to ‘not be seen’ but Melody’s circumstances take this to an entirely different level. It made my students more aware of the fact that how a person looks does not define who they are inside. The book stopped being about a girl in the same grade as they are with physical challenges; it became about Melody, this kid like them who was fighting not to get left out and fighting to be heard. She just had to fight harder than any of them have ever had to.

For me, it showed me what high stakes really mean. It means when you’re so invested in the character that you forget they’re not real. You see those characters in the people around you and the lessons you learn from them make you better. My students loved this book. I loved this book. What amazed me most was how, I started reading it to them, thinking it would never be okay for Melody because she was so physically and verbally limited. But in the end, that was not what mattered at all. I stopped seeing her limitations and was amazed by the strenth and courage and sense of character that she possessed. Sharon Draper was able to do all the things an author should do: she drew me in, she made me feel both Melody’s triumphs and heartaches. She made me part of Melody’s world and in turn, that beautiful strength of character, will hopefully, be part of my world and my students the next time any of us begin to judge a book by its cover.

Out of my Mind at Amazon.com

Out of my Mind at Amazon.ca

Sharon M. Draper’s website answers thirteen questions about Out of my Mind.

Out of my Mind was awared the Josette Frank Award by the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education and was chosen as a 2011 IRA Teachers’ Choice Book and a 2011 IRA Young Adult’s Choice. It was the Best Book of the Year from KIRKUS and an Outstanding Children’s book of 2011 by Bank Street College. It won the Buckeye Children’s Book Award from Ohio, the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award in both the middle school and elementary categories, the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award from Maryland, the Beehive Book Award from Utah, and the Virginia Reader’s Choice Award. It received the SAKURA Medal - English Chapter Book category .

Crouching Tiger highlights Tai Chi, Chinese New Year and Family

Posted on January 22nd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for Crouching TigerCrouching Tiger written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
Picture book about Tai Chi, Chinese New Year and a child’s relationship with his grandfather published by Candlewick Press

Link to Chinese New Year writing paper for kids

When Vinson’s grandfather leaves China and arrives in America for a visit, Vinson is excited. But, from the moment his grandfather arrives, Vinson is surprised and confused. His grandfather persists in calling him “Ming Da” and he dances in the garden slowly and quietly. Vinson is familiar with kung fu and, curious about the new moves, he asks his grandfather to teach him tai chi.

Vinson and his grandfather meet in the yard after school and Grandpa teaches Vinson. The young boy is impatient, he prefers kung fu’s kicks and punches. Tai chi leaves his knees tired and his arms heavy. Vinson wonders why his grandfather insists on speaking Chinese with him despite the fact that he knows how to speak English well.

When Vinson’s mom says that Grandpa is going to accompany Vinson to school, he is embarrassed. He chooses to read while on the bus. He and his grandfather sit together, each stealing glances at the other. Similarly, Vinson chooses to wear his headphones rather than talk with his grandpa. It is only when Grandpa’s surprising and athletic intervention prevents a serious accident that Vinson pauses to reevaluate his perceptions.

As time passes, Vinson becomes more adept at tai chi and soon Grandpa adds a new twist to their work. Vinson carries a long bamboo pole and learns the cat walk.

On Chinese New Year’s Eve, Vinson’s hair is cut, the family cleans the house and enjoys a traditional meal. When Grandpa gives Vinson an embroidered red silk jacket, he asks him to wear it for the upcoming parade. Vinson is embarrassed. He worries that his friends will see him and he feels self conscious about the new jacket.

As Vinson and his grandfather approach the parade route, Vinson gains appreciation for how his grandfather is regarded in the community and the tremendous pride he has for his grandson. When the two of them arrive at the start of the parade, Vinson discovers that he will be responsible for carrying a long bamboo pole, teasing the parade lions by waving a dangling cabbage.

An Author’s Note at the conclusion of Crouching Tiger includes notes about tai chi and Chinese New Year as well as a small glossary.

Beautifully illustrated with pen and ink as well as watercolors, readers will notice small details such as Vinson’s untied shoelace and his body language when his father cuts his hair.

Crouching Tiger invites discussion about family relationships and respect for one’s heritage. In a classroom, it could be used as a Chinese New Year resource and will be particularly interesting to children who are learning about martial arts. On each two page spread there is a small illustration of a tai chi stance.

Best suited to children aged five years and up.

The Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book of 2011 and Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List for 2012

Crouching Tiger at Amazon.com

Crouching Tiger at Amazon.ca


A New Year’s Reunion, An Award Winning Chinese New Year Picture Book

Posted on January 18th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for A New Year's ReunionA New Year’s Reunion written by Yu Li-Qion and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
Chinese New Year picture book published by Candlewick Press

Link to Chinese New Year writing paper for kids

Maoman’s papa is a housebuilder. He works far from home and only returns to his family once each year. On the day he arrives home, Maoman is hesitant at first. He looks different to her. Once Papa gets his hair cut, the family makes sticky rice balls and it is time for Maoman to snuggle into bed with her parents.

As firecrackers explode nearby, Maoman drifts off to sleep, The following day, the family enjoys eating their rice balls together. They leave their home and go to visit friends. Maoman discovers that her friends are also outside and visiting.image from A New Year's Reunion

As Chinese New Year unfolds, Maoman sees a dragon dance and she plays outside in the snow with her friends. When she discovers her fortune coin is missing, she is devastated. Fortunately, the coin is not lost in the snow. Maoman finds it in her jacket and uses it to establish a lovely, heartwarming family tradition.

Beautiful illustrations lovingly depict Maoman’s family, her home and community. References to sticky rice balls, hair cuts, new clothes, firecrackers, a fortune coin, house repairs, a red envelope and a dragon dance provide all sorts of information about traditions associated with Chinese New Year.

A New Year’s Reunion was awarded a Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award by The New York Times Book Review in 2011 and it won the Feng ZiKai Chinese Children’s Picture Book Award.

A New Year’s Reunion at Amazon.com

New Year’s Reunion at Amazon.ca

This year (2013) New Year’s Day falls on Sunday, February 10

My Brother is Autistic, A Picture book about Autism

Posted on December 13th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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image of  a picture book about autismMy Brother is Autistic written by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos and illustrated by Marta Fabrega

Picture book about autism

part of the Let’s Talk About It! series published by Barron’s

You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Written from the perspective of an older sibling, My Brother is Autistic looks at the realities and challenges of being the brother or sister of a child with autism. Usually Billy and his brother get along reasonably well but, when a classmate frustrates Billy and makes him angry, his older brother is embarrassed by Billy’s reaction. He runs away from the scene in the school cafeteria. Help is not far away as he encounters his teacher in a hallway. She listens to him explain what happened and she has empathy for the frustration he feels.

I told my teacher that I wished more kids understood autism, because if they did, then maybe they’d give kids like Billy a chance!

With a consderable amount of text, this picture book is best suited to children kindergarten age and up. A Note to Parents provides general information about autism, characteristics typical of people who are autistic and suggestions for helping siblings of children with autism.

My Brother is Autistic at Amazon.com

My Brother is Autistic at Amazon.ca


Looking after Louis, An Autism Picture Book Highlighting Inclusion

Posted on December 3rd, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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Cover Art for Looking After LouisLooking After Louis written by Lesley Ely and illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Autism picture book highlighting inclusion published by Albert Whitman & Company

You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

When a new boy arrives at school, he is partnered with a girl who notices that he is not like the other children in the class. He often just sits and stares at the wall. If I ask him what he’s looking at, he says, “Looking at,” and keeps on looking.

Louis tries using his new friend’s crayons but she can’t decide what he is drawing and he can’t say. When they go outside for recess, Louis runs around with outstretched arms. He runs through the boys’ soccer game and annoys the players. When invited to join the children who are climbing on a tire, Louis does not move. He just stands and watches.

In the classroom, Louis sometimes echoes his Miss Owlie’s instructions. His classmates laugh when he sounds like her. His partner notes that he is granted more leeway to speak out than others would be given.

When one of the children arrives at school with a new soccer ball, Louis shows interest. His classmates join in the game and, each time Louis touches the ball, he is encouraged. Later in the day, Louis and the boy with the soccer ball are allowed to escape the classroom and enjoy an impromptu game.

When Louis’ partner talks with Miss Owlie about Louis, she asserts,

“I think we’re allowed to break rules for special people.”
Miss Owlie put her finger to her lips and nodded a tiny little nod that nobody saw but me.
We peeped through the classroom window at Sam and Louis’s Great Game… and I felt special, too.

An afterword, written by Kori Levos Skidmore, Ph.D. provides information about the advantages of inclusion for all children.

Readers will be interested to consider Inclusion vs Seclusion: A Review of Looking After Louis published in Disability Studies Quarterly. While Ms. Hirad’s comments are interesting, I am not sure that I agree with them. When Louis repeats his teacher’s instructions to, “Sit up straight, everybody.” The children laugh because he sounded just like Miss Owlie. The text does not imply that the children are laughing at Louis, they are laughing because he sounded like his teacher. In a happy, relaxed and tolerant classroom, this would seem to be a natural reaction. When Louis runs through the boys’ soccer game, one of the boys yells at him. Again, while not an ideal reaction, this is likely a typical response to the interruption of a recess soccer game. Finally, Ms. Hirad seems concerned that the classroom teacher has not labelled Louis as autistic. Surely, we do not require labels or even explanations in order to show understanding and tolerance.

Looking After Louis is written from the perspective of a classmate.

Looking after Louis at Amazon.com

Looking After Louis at Amazon.ca


Picture Book Challenges Attaching Labels to Children with Autism

Posted on December 2nd, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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cover art for Autistic How Silly is ThatA-U-T-I-S-T-I-C? How Silly Is That! I Don’t Need Any Labels at All written and illustrated by Lynda Farrington Wilson
Picture book about labelling children with autism published by Future Horizons Inc.

You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Author-illustrator Lynda Farrington Wilson is a mother of a funny, brilliant, and talented sensory seeker who has autism. In A-U-T-I-S-T-I-C? How Silly Is That! I Don’t Need Any Labels at All she challenges readers to examine the labels we often attach to people on the autism spectrum.

Asking, I have brown hair, I wonder if that makes me… brown-hair-tistic? she asserts that there are many ways we might choose to label individuals but, in fact, labels are unnecessary. A child with autism is not unlike everyone else, he simply has a different approach to the world.

A-U-T-I-S-T-I-C? How Silly Is That! I Don’t Need Any Labels at All includes seventeen pages of exhuberantly illustrated text. It also includes an author’s note which explains that Ms. Farrington Wilson’s goal of encouraging the world to see past the labels and understand the importance of “people-first” language.

Autistic? How Silly is That!: I Don’t Need Any Labels at All at Amazon.com

Autistic? How Silly is That!: I Don’t Need Any Labels at All at Amazon.ca


Ian’s Walk, Autism Picture Book by Laurie Lears and Karen Ritz

Posted on November 27th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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cover art for Autism picture book Ian's WalkIan’s Walk: A Story About Autism Written by Laurie Lears and illustrated by Karen Ritz
Autism picture book published by Albert Whitman & Company

You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Ian’s mom is reluctant to have him go to the park with his sisters. She warns the two girls to keep a close eye on him. Enroute to the park, the children pass a diner. Ian is fascinated by the circling ceiling fan. He hardly notices the siren of a passing fire truck but seems to hear something else. Not interested in fragrant lilacs, Ian would rather put his face up to a brick wall.

Ian feels things differently … while Tara and I toss cereal to the ducks, Ian lies on the ground with his cheeks pressed against the hard stones.

Ian is non verbal and sometimes waves his hands. Aware of how Ian is different and conscious that other people watch him, his sister acknowledges that she sometimes feels angry.

When Ian wanders away while they are all at the park, his frantic sisters race to find him. Finally, Julie tries to think like her brother does. She remembers he likes a bell and, sure enough, finds him underneath it.

As the three siblings return home, they pause to enjoy the walk and especially the sights, sounds and smells that matter to Ian.

Ian’s Walk acknowledges the frustrations of loving a sibling who is autistic and encourages young readers to consider a different perspective.

Beautiful watercolour illustrations enhance the narrative and lovingly depict the children’s facial expressions.

Ian’s Walk is written from the perspective of a sibling.

Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism at Amazon.com

Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism at Amazon.ca


Autism Picture Book – Waiting for Benjamin A Story About Autism

Posted on November 6th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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Waiting for Benjamin A Story about Autism written by Alexandra Jessup Altman and illustrated by Susan Keeter
Autism picture book published by Albert Whitman & Company

You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

Written from the perspective of a sibling, Waiting for Benjamin A Story about Autism deals with several issues that are important to brothers and sisters of children who are diagnosed with Autism. Alexander is frustrated. His younger brother doesn’t play with him. Instead, Benjamin wiggles his fingers and stares at the wall. Alexander can’t wait for Benjamin to grow up and take an interest in the same things he likes. Benjamin’s older brother has other worries, too. He worries that his friends will tease him about his brother’s unusual behaviour and he feels jealous. He doesn’t understand why Benjamin is rewarded for seemingly easy behaviours like saying, ‘ball.’ Alexander would love to be praised and to share in the special treats.

I wanted it to be my turn. Then I would say everything perfectly, and Julie would smile and give me a special reward.

Waiting for Benjamin follows Benjamin from before his diagnosis until he learns a few words and begins to respond to his older brother. Best suited as a family resource, this Autism picture book focusses on the relationship between the two brothers and ends on a somewhat positive note with Alexander gaining understanding about his brother’s challenges and Benjamin showing some interest in playing with his brother and attempting some words.

Waiting For Benjamin: A Story about Autism at Amazon.com

Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism at Amazon.ca

Note: Author Alexandra Jessup Altma was a Senior Interventionist, Autism Spectrum Program, Howard Center for Human Services


My Brother Charlie, an Autism Picture Book, informs and Inspires

Posted on October 29th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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My Brother Charlie written by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete with Denene Millner, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Autism picture book published by Scholastic Press



You will also be interested in our page featuring picture books about Autism and Asperger Syndrome

“Charlie has autism. But autism doesn’t have Charlie.”

My Brother Charlie is written from the perspective of Charlie’s twin sister. She explains that she and her brother share many things. She also explains that there are some ways they are different.

“Charlie is skinnier and goofier than me.
He hates math.
When he looks at the sky, he finds jets and helicopters.
And sometimes my brother gets very quiet.”

Charlie’s sister explains how he was different as a baby and that the differences between the two twins caused his parents to be concerned. She explains, “It’s harder for Charlie to make friends. Or show his feelings. Or stay safe. One doctor even told Mommy that Charlie would never say I love you.” We learn that it can be difficult to be Charlie’s sister and that she would love to be able to change him.

The story of My Brother Charlie is told candidly, respectfully and lovingly. It is an excellent book to share with children aged four and up. My Brother Charlie could be used to introduce a discussion about Autism or to encourage tolerance for those who may appear or behave differently.

My Brother Charlie at Amazon.com

My Brother Charlie at Amazon.ca


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