Saturday, June 30, 2012

Whispering Wally

I just read a cute picture book by Kevin Scott Collier about a whale who is afraid to use his loud voice. I've seen other books by Collier and, like the others, Whispering Wally one has bright and cheerful illustrations and a plot with a positive message for young kids.

But what I like best about Whispering Wally is his own blog where you can watch him in a video of another story and download learning activities for kids. The URL is

Kevin Collier and his wife Kristen have a webpage where they show the many books and products they've created to encourage family values.  They're currently offering some free giveaways on the site,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The London Eye Mystery

It happened again! I chose a middle grade novel to read without realizing it featured someone with a special need. In this case Ted, the narrator and protagonist of The London Eye Mystery is on the autism spectrum. Will his unusual way of thinking help or hinder him in figuring out why and how his cousin disappeared from the sealed capsule on the huge ferris wheel?

It was interesting to learn about that gigantic modern landmark, the London Eye, and the exciting story kept me guessing.  Ted's point of view seemed realistic, as were his relationships with the other characters.

This book, published in 2007,  is definitely a page turner and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes mysteries. I'll look forward to reading future books by the author, Siobhan Dowd.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dovey Coe

When I checked out this book at the library I didn't realize one of the characters was deaf. In Dovey Coe the protagonist, whose name is the title, has a deaf brother.

While I found it difficult to believe that Dovey had taught him to read and read lips he was not born deaf and lost his hearing when he was about ten months old, so I suppose it was possible. Otherwise everything in the story was believable.

It's a mystery that involves Dovey being accused of murdering the town bully because she was found in the room with his dead body. The plot development of the exciting story is excellent. The small, rural community in North Carolina is realistic and Dovey, a feisty girl, tells the story in first person with the appropriate dialect.

Frances O'Roark Dowell did a great job writing this book and it's no wonder it won the Edgar Allan Poe Award. It was published in 2000 but the story is timeless and kids will enjoy it whenever they read it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Anyone who knows me is aware of my interest in helping kids with special needs so it's not surprising that I chose to read Wonder by R. J. Palacio. This book is about a boy named Auggie who has always been home schooled because of his severe medical problems resulting from the birth defect that left him with facial deformities. But now he's about to enter fifth grade in a middle school and wonders if he'll survive.

It's difficult enough for anyone to cope with the social pressures of being a new kid in school, but people have always reacted uncomfortably when they see Auggie's unusual appearance, so dealing with that is far more difficult for him.

This book portrays Auggie and his classmates in realistic ways and the author obviously understands them. I found it a bit disconcerting that the book suddenly switched points of view every few chapters, but I got used to that after a while.

This book kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next and I enjoyed reading it. Many kids who read it will probably be inspired to accept people who are different from themselves, and to be kind to others.

Wonder really is a wonder.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blogging About Blogging

I can't believe I did it!

When I started blogging I was afraid I'd never be able to think of enough topics to post something twice a week for more than a month, but this is my 400th post. Since I blog about three topics I enjoy -- words, books, and kids -- there has never been a problem finding material to use.

Often I review books for or, rarely, about kids and there are plenty of those to choose from. Other times I've posted thoughts on writing or linguistics or information that might be helpful to parents or teachers. Once in a while I mention my own books, but my blog posts are not intended to be advertisements. I hope the things I've written about here have been helpful to the people who read them.

And, you know what? I've already got ideas for many more posts to come.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hurt Go Happy

You might think Hurt Go Happy is an odd title for a book, but if you're familiar with American Sign Language it might not seem so strange.

I saw this book, by Ginny Rorby, in a catalog. It's about a Deaf girl who meets an old man raising a baby chimpanzee and teaching it Sign Language. Since I've had lots of experience with Deaf people and once met Koko, the famous gorilla who learned how to sign, I couldn't resist buying the book.

The girl in the story has been forbidden to learn Sign Language by her mother, but starts learning it from the old man and becomes friends with Sukari, the Chimpanzee. But when the old man dies, Sukari is shipped off to a horrible research facility where she and many other animals are treated cruelly.

Is there any way a young girl who can't hear can find a way to save the animal she loves?

Some of the realistic descriptions of the research facility are disturbing but I recommend this book anyway because it's exciting, well written, and should motivate lots of readers to care about animals and understand that people who can't hear are not very different from themselves.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What If....?

Okay, here goes my writerly imagination again.

Today plastic and synthetics are everywhere.  What would happen if they were all to suddenly disappear? Insulation on wires would be gone so fires would start, cars would fall apart on the roads, and many people would find themselves naked as their clothing evaporated.

If you're a writer, or would like to be one, think of a story involving that horrific event. What could have caused it? How would people react? And what could be done about the resulting problems?

I'd love to hear your ideas.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chip's Sharing Day

Why do parents think it's okay to invite kids into their homes and expect their own children to share their private possessions and get along with them?

In Chip's Sharing Day by Linda Derkez a boy's home is invaded by relatives, his mother insists that he share his toys with a cousin - and the cousin is a girl!

Shouldn't he have something to say about all that?

Well, he does take her to his room, but keeps stopping her from playing with his things. Chip acts like a bully and teases the girl by calling her Dorkie instead of Dorcas, but in the end she turns the tables and they become friends.

Although the cute illustrations by Phoebe Doehring show the characters in this book to be bears, most human kids will be able to identify with them. And maybe some parents who read the story to their kids will realize it takes more than a command to teach children to share and be polite.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Buster Bear and Uncle B

J. Aday Kennedy, who uses a wheelchair herself, has written a cute picture book about a boy and his uncle who was injured in a war.

Ham, the boy, is disturbed when his beloved uncle arrives in a wheelchair, but soon realizes that Uncle B is still the person he has always loved and is able to do lots of fun things even though he's a paraplegic. After all, Ham still loves his teddy bear even though Buster Bear is now worn and torn.

The feisty little boy playing cowboy at the beginning of the book took me back to  my own childhood and the art by Marina Movshina is as lively and bright as Ham himself.

Kennedy has written a Teacher Guide to go with the book and, speaking from experience, I can say the  questions and activities will certainly help kids understand people with disabilities. For more information please go to the author's website

This book will be helpful, not only to kids who know injured war veterans, but to any who might encounter people with special needs. And that includes just about every child.