Saturday, February 11, 2017

Three Picture Books for Children

In this post I'm featuring three children's books from Loving Healing Press. The first book, My Brother Is Special: A Cerebral Palsy Story, written and illustrated by Murray Stenton, is a brightly colored picture book narrated by Carter, the younger brother of 10-year-old Ethan, who has cerebral palsy.  Published in 2017, this book is dedicated to the late Jewel Kats, an author and disability advocate. My Brother is Special defines and presents cerebral palsy in a manner that children will understand. Told from the perspective of a child, in rhyming couplets, Carter describes Ethan in terms of the differences between them, and the things his brother can't do:

"I know my ABCs, numbers, and how to take a turn. Not Ethan, words, numbers and directions are hard for him to learn."
~ My Brother is Special, Murray Stenton

Fantastic pictures and words show that Carter is messy, whereas Ethan is neat.  Carter is a picky eater, but Ethan likes broccoli, etc.  Carter also mentions some of Ethan's strengths, such as his ability to listen to a song and quickly figure out the beat, and that Ethan is super friendly at school.  Most importantly, Carter says that he loves his brother, and would not "trade him for another".  I enjoyed reading this book, and know that My Brother is Special would be a terrific choice of book for children (5 - 8 years) who have a sibling with cerebral palsy, or a different disability.  The author's hope is that siblings of children with disabilities will know that they are not alone. The book is based on the author's young family; they are pictured in the back of the book, and are captured well in the illustrations.  I learned a few things about cerebral palsy, and am determined to learn more.  At the back of the book there's additional information about cerebral palsy, and some helpful websites are listed.

Published in 2016, Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring by author Jewel Kats, illustrated with beautiful 3-D wool paintings by Claudia Marie Lenart, is a picture book about a young girl, Jenny, who is being treated for stomach cancer, who learns that her dog, Dolly, has lung cancer.  Jenny "cannot believe her ears", and becomes angry and upset when she learns that Dolly, too, has cancer.  This book depicts the feelings of a child undergoing chemotherapy who then learns that her dog will also need chemotherapy.  In this book, Jenny feels her feelings, expresses (most) of them, and then decides that she will help Dolly by attending her dog's weekly chemotherapy sessions, and by spending a lot of time with Dolly, who's always been a loyal and devoted dog.

Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer is a sensitive and touching book that will help children who are dealing with cancer in some way.  Both the author and the illustrator lost dogs to cancer, so the book seems true to life and has the right amount of detail for young readers.  In the story, Jenny notices the changes in her dog, such as Dolly's loss of energy and appetite, and her desire for more sleep, and so she's extra loving to her dog.  The illustrations are soft sculptures made from wool and other natural fibers which are soothing to look at.  Children and adults alike will greatly enjoy these gentle, "soft focus" illustrations.  This  picture book is an excellent choice for children (6 - 9 years), and I highly recommend it for young readers and their families.

Prince Preemie A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Early

Prince Preemie: A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Earlyis another picture book for children (ages 4 - 7) by Jewel Kats (published posthumously in 2017), with 3-D wool paintings by Claudia Marie LenartIt is simply adorable.  This sweet picture book tells the story of the King and Queen, who are expecting their first baby, Prince Puppy.  But the pup arrives early, before his crown is built.  Oh, oh--tongues begin to wag!

Prince Preemie features magical illustrations which give this book a wonderful, fairy tale like appearance. The dog characters throughout the book are fun and child-friendly, and add to the unique appeal of this story.  Reading this book together would be a super way for parents to discuss their own feelings and experiences with a preemie child.  

Both of these books by Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart are cute, but they also deal with serious issues, in a child-appropriate manner.


Each Saturday, Booking Mama hosts Kid Konnection, a fun feature that highlights notable books for children.  Many thanks to Victor from Loving Healing Press for sending me these outstanding books for children. Thank you for reading! I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Twenty-Four Shadows

When Tanya J. Peterson contacted me about reading her new novel, published in 2016, Twenty-Four Shadows, I suspected that I'd become absorbed in another intense story.  I've read other books by this very gifted author and educator, namely, Losing Elizabeth (2012) Leave of Absence (2013), and My Life in a Nutshell (2014), and each has kept me riveted.

Set in Portland, Oregon, Twenty-Four Shadows is written in the third person but focuses on the life of Isaac Bittman, his wife, Reese, and their 5-year-old son, Dominic.  Max, the Bittman family's good friend, and his 10-month-old daughter, Elise, are also important characters in the story.  A young and devoted husband and father, Isaac suffers from recurring, debilitating headaches, and his memory lapses and bizarre behavior are getting harder to conceal from others.  Early in the book, he exhibits out-of-control, out-of-character, angry behavior toward Max's wife, Gretchen. A bit later, Reese catches him puffing on cigarettes in the garage (even though he's a non-smoker).  Shortly after this, Isaac loses his job--because he's missed too many days of work--and then goes missing for a while.  This marks a turning point in the story: Isaac's mental illness has begun to affect the entire family.

"Isaac felt sick. What had he done?  What stupid thing did he do to get himself into this mess and hurt everyone so much?"
Twenty-Four Shadows, Tanya J. Peterson
Twenty-Four Shadows realistically depicts the thoughts of a caring but confused man who suffers from a mysterious, difficult, and daunting mental illness.  Gradually in this book, readers meet some of Isaac's "shadows" or alters.  He has twenty-four of them, male and female, young and old, with distinct personalities.  Isaac learns that he has a specific mental illness called dissociative identity disorder (DID). I found this book to be exceptional because it depicts the life of a man afflicted by DID, and features his alters--June, Isaiah, Ishmael, Alton, Archer, Jake, and others--as characters with unique voices, traits, and coping skills (some are protective, like June, while others are destructive and cause self-harm, which is rather frightening).  I've never read a book like this before!  It gave me a better understanding of how mental illness could affect a person and his or her family.  The characters are wonderfully drawn and complex; I rooted for Isaac (and his alters), Reese, Max, Dominic, and Elise.  I felt a great deal of empathy for these characters, who were going through difficult times, each in their own way.  Reese is a helpful, supportive, and loving wife, and Isaac loves Reese and Dominic deeply, but finds it harder to love himself (in fact, he's filled with self-loathing).

Twenty-Four Shadows is genuinely fascinating; it's emotional and impactful as well. It  makes you think about how difficult this mental illness would be to live with.  Fortunately, though, there is treatment available. In the book, Isaac goes to a DID specialty program at the Columbia Health and Healing Center, where he gets help from Dr. Charlie and Susanna Horton, a psychologist.  Previously, Isaac had always blamed and berated himself for his bad feelings; now he will learn how to deal with his illness (which was caused by a childhood trauma), including the voices he hears in his head, and his alters. There is hope for Isaac and his family, and for others afflicted by this disorder.

Twenty-Four Shadows held my attention from start to finish.  Peterson is a wonderful, skillful writer who brings her characters to life in a seemingly effortless manner.   I highly recommend this well-written and hopeful novel.  Twenty-Four Shadows is completely compelling.

Special thanks to the author for graciously sending me a copy of her new novel.
Thanks for reading!  Comments are welcomed, as always.

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