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Monday, September 22, 2008

Read Me: Children's Book Edition

I'm kicking off my Read Me reviews with three children's books--all picture books. They are books that you can use to kick off a discussion with your child or give your child a story where the character's situation mirrors his/her own life (in other words, it's a story where the character is adopted, though it's not a book about adoption).

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

I have to admit that I was reluctant to read this book at first because there's always the fear that the book was published simply because the author had great connections rather than a great story. But I'm glad I finally got a copy out of the library and I plan on purchasing a copy soon.

Is the book perfect--no. The birth family is sort of swept under the rug with a single page. But, to be fair, the story is the child asking about what her parents experienced during the night she was born. When I tell my own children about their birth story, it is always from my perspective and frankly, I didn't have a problem with a book that showed that regardless of how a family is formed, we have more similarities than differences. But it's worth giving you a heads up; I know there are people who don't like this book because it relegates birth families to a single page.

The story is narrated by a little girl (maybe five-ish?) who asks her parents to tell her about the night she was born. I get choked up on the page where she says, "tell me again about the first time you held me in your arms and called me your baby sweet." The twins love this book and think the illustrations are hysterical. And as picky readers who tend to like the same books over and over again, I think that speaks volumes. Age range: you could definitely hold a young child's interest, though I can't see a child beyond four getting into this book unless it was already a favourite. Not a lot of text--though perhaps it would make a good book to teach reading (more information or to purchase).

Something Happened by Cathy Blanford

I hope you never need this book, though I'm glad it exists if you ever do. Cathy Blanford, a counselor for grieving children, has written a picture book explaining pregnancy loss or stillbirth to children (and it can be tweaked to explain neonatal death and infant death).

The book doesn't sugar-coat loss or present the concept of pregnancy loss in confusing analogies. Blanford writes in the foreword: "Many years of experience with grieving children have convinced me that this direct approach to the issues is what children, even very young children, need to help them understand and cope with death."

I was drawn into the story by the first line: "On the day it happened, everyone woke up happy." You learn about the pregnancy and subsequent loss from the son who was anticipating his sibling's birth. I think the strength of this book is that it doesn't make pregnancy loss a small blip on the screen of life and end with a new pregnancy. It ends with a confirmation that even though a loss has happened, the family continues even with this new missing piece.

On most pages, Blanford also includes a box of text for the parent to use to kick off a conversation with their child about the page or to understand how their child may process the book. All in all, a very helpful book for explaining loss to children especially because it is straightforward and secular and accessible to all. Age range: Most pages have a small amount of text BUT since the subject matter is advanced, I think it would be best for three and above. I could even see an older child wanting answers and sitting down with this picture book with a parent (more information or to purchase).

The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan

This is just one of those great books that reflect families beyond the one mother, one father, 2.4 children construction. In addition to giving children a storybook family that may reflect their own, it's an imaginative story about a dragon who just doesn't want to gnash his teeth and breathe fire anymore.

The book is told as a bedtime story by one of Noah's two mothers. She weaves a tale where Noah and his cat, Diva, go on an adventure and run into a dragon who is tired of being one-dimensional. The dragon admits that it's exhausting being mean, but no one wants a dragon to be nice or fun. Noah, of course, informs him that it really is within the dragon's power to decide how he wants to be.

We constantly tell the ChickieNob and Wolvog that we want them "to be nice because they can be and not mean because they can be" and we often talk about how you behave with other people is completely within your control (barring, of course, people who grate on your last nerve and you absolutely cannot stand them...but that's more an adult thing, nu?). So we loved this book. And if you have a two-mother household, this book additionally allows your child to see his/her family life mirrored in the storybook. A good book for every bookshelf. Age range: more text on each page making it a better book for three and up (more information or to purchase).


HereWeGoAJen said...

Those sound like great books! Again, you come up with brilliant ideas.

luna said...

you must be in my head, because I was JUST about to put out a call for people's favorite children's books and why. (given my recent post on building our collection, I thought I'd seek the expert opinion of others.)

plus, I was reading about the jamie lee curtis book just the other day and wondering whether I should get it... thanks mel.

Delenn said...

Sounds like great books. I have already wishlisted the Different Dragon. I love books and especially books that make one think. Thank you.

Kate said...

I love the Different Dragon!

Aunt Becky said...

I love these book suggestions. I always end up going to Borders and leaving empty handed because so many kids books are just junk. Thank you so much for the input.

Jamie said...

What a great post! I had the same fears regarding the Jamie Lee Curtis book.

Thanks for the reviews!

Shanny said...

Thank you for your suggestions, they sound like really good books!

Ginny said...

Great book reviews!

Tash said...

Hey thanks, I may check out "Something Happened." We did "When Dinosaurs Die" which is sort of a nice child's primer on all things death, which has worked rather well all things considered. But maybe something a bit more connected to our personal story would be helpful? I tried one at the time that didn't have angels in the title, but it was so euphemistic and ephemeral as to be really vague and unhelpful.