Monday, August 9, 2010

Rules - Inclusive Literature

Bibliography
Lord, Cynthia. 2006. Rules. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN0-439-44382-2

Plot Summary
Twelve year old Catherine is destined to spend another lonely summer without her best friend but has high hopes that the girl moving in next door might fill the void – if Catherine can keep her little brother David from ruining things. David has autism and Catherine is often too preoccupied with what people are thinking about him to give much effort towards making friends. Fortunately, Catherine is able to become friends with her neighbor and also with a boy from David’s occupational therapy clinic. These new friendships end up teaching Catherine valuable lessons in true friendship and acceptance.

Critical Analysis
This touching story provides insight into the world of physical and mental challenges. First, we learn from David who has autism. His autism causes him to have extra sensitive hearing and David seems to relate to the world best through a system of rules. While he does not necessarily live by the rules, they do help him communicate with the world around him (David drops toys in the fish tank then goes to his sister and quotes the “no toys in the fish tank” rule so she’ll get the toy back out). He also quotes passages from his favorite story of Frog and Toad to help him relate to and communicate within the current situation.

We also learn from Jason, a young man in a wheelchair who communicates by pointing to simple words and phrases. From Jason we learn that while dreaming he can walk is normal, it is important to be realistic when awake. The disability or challenge can’t be ignored. It is a part of who he is and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Finally, we learn from Catherine, David’s older sister, Jason’s new friend, and the main character of the book. From Catherine, we learn that being related to someone with challenges does not always make you an expert on how to relate to them. We also learn that this relation can mean that your needs will be neglected at times and is often hard to deal with. Ultimately, this is a wonderful book exploring this sensitive topic with respect and authenticity.

Professional Reviews
From Deborah Stevenson, Associate Editor (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2006 (Vol. 59, No. 9))
Catherine loves her little brother, David, who’s autistic, but his presence and his burden on the family can become exhausting. She’s hoping to be friends with Kristi, the sleek new girl next door, but she’s afraid David’s weirdness will spoil the girls’ nascent relationship. She’s also falling into a friendship with a boy her age who attends occupational therapy at the same place David does; Jason lacks the motor control to walk or to speak intelligibly, so he communicates through a word board, and Catherine has been illustrating his word cards and adding entries. It soon becomes clear that Jason wants to be more than just ‘clinic friends’ with Catherine, but Catherine, with her hypersensitivity to public scorn from her experiences with David, isn’t sure she can face Kristi with Jason as her date. The book deftly manages to interweave its elements without heavy-handed contrivance; it’s perfectly believable that Catherine would get familiar with other OT clients and that she’d get interested in the notion of a word board, so her relationship with Jason seems like something that would actually happen rather than a contrived opportunity for her education. Readers will sympathize with Catherine’s struggle to explain the world to David through his beloved rules and her frustration at his demanding, embarrassing behaviors and his garnering the majority of parental attention. Jason’s expressive limitations will provide considerable food for thought (and maybe even some language arts assignments), with readers considering what words they would require and what words they’d be likely to get if adults were their sole source (Catherine steps up Jason’s expressive attitude, albeit in a very G-rated way, with more rebellious and sarcastic utterances such as ‘Why not?’ ‘Whatever!’, and ‘Yeah, right’). This is an absorbing tale about valuing people even when it’s difficult, and it may encourage readers to consider the benefits and challenges of their own families and friends. (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2006, Scholastic, 208p, $15.99. Grades 5-8.

From Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children's Literature)
Growing up with an autistic younger brother is not easy and it seems far harder when the pre-teen years hit. Catherine feels as though David’s needs far overshadow her own in the family but the embarrassment his behavior causes her is the worst of it. Nevertheless, Catherine understands what David’s world is like and when she snaps at him, she is beset by guilt. It is this sensitivity that allows her to befriend a boy her age with severe communication problems who is wheelchair-bound. Gaining a stronger sense of herself and demanding what she needs as a member of the family allows her to move beyond embarrassment into acceptance. This is a story that depicts the impact of a needy child on an entire family very realistically. One of the treats in this book is that David echoes words rather than generating his own and he frequently speaks in lines he remembers from Arnold Lobel’s Frog & Toad. 2006, Scholastic, $15.99. Ages 9 to 12.

From Cindy Dobrez (Booklist, Feb. 15, 2006 (Vol. 102, No. 12))
No toys in the fish tank" is one of many rules that 12-year-old Catherine shares with her autistic younger brother, David, to help him understand his world. Lots of the rules are practical. Others are more subtle and shed light on issues in Catherine's own life. Torn between love for her brother and impatience with the responsibilities and embarrassment he brings, she strives to be on her parents' radar and to establish an identity of her own. At her brother's clinic, Catherine befriends a wheelchair-bound boy, Jason, who talks by pointing at word cards in a communication notebook. Her drawing skills and additional vocabulary cards--including "whatever" (which prompts Jason to roll his eyes at his mother)--enliven his speech. The details of autistic behavior are handled well, as are depictions of relationships: Catherine experiences some of the same unease with Jason that others do in the presence of her brother. In the end, Jason helps Catherine see that her rules may really be excuses, opening the way for her to look at things differently. A heartwarming first novel. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Fiction. 2006, Scholastic, $15.99. Gr. 4-7.

Connections
In addition to helping readers better relate to people with certain challenges, this book can also be used in art as the main character discusses color, perspective, and other artistic elements. The rules Catherine gives to David could also be used as a prompt in a readers response journal – how the rule can apply to situations other than it’s original intent and/or writing other rules for life not listed in the book. Finally, the book could be used to point out the importance and impact words can have. Since Jason had to communicate using one or a few word phrases, word choice became quite important.

In Our Mothers' House - Inclusive Literature

Bibliography
Polacco, Patricia. 2009. In our mothers’ house. New York, NY: Philomel Books. ISBN 978-0-399-25076-7

Plot Summary
The narrator of this story tells about life in her childhood home. Her home consisted of herself, a brother, a sister, and two mothers. As to be expected, there were people the family encountered who did not appreciate the different make up of this family. However, despite the disdain the family occasionally had to endure, the family was quite happy. The narrator tells of Halloween costumes, Christmas dinners, neighborhood block parties and a mother-daughter tea. The narrator and her siblings grow up and have families of their own but always look back on their lives in their mothers’ house with love and joy.

Critical Analysis
This is a beautiful book. The illustrations add color and details to the story. The story is about family and acceptance. Put it all together and you get exactly what we’d expect from Patricia Polacco. The characters of the book are quite diverse. The narrator lives in a neighborhood with families named McGuire, Goldstein, Brooks, Yamagaki and Abdulla. At the block party, these families bring foods like grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb, sushi, fried clams, spanakopita and Greek salad. However, as diverse as the neighborhood seems to be, the family of the narrator seems to receive the most trouble because one family in the neighborhood refuses to associate with them in any way because there’s is a family with two mothers and no father.

The narrator describes her home as one where parents work, kids get sick, and grandparents come to visit. They listen to all different kinds of music and “speak their hearts” at dinner. The kids grow up happy and well-adjusted. Whether one agrees with the lifestyle portrayed or not, one can not deny that the desires and activities of this family aren’t that much different from the desires and activities of most of us.

Professional Reviews
From Linda Perkins (Booklist, May 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 17))
The oldest of three adopted children recalls her childhood with mothers Marmee and Meema, as they raised their African American daughter, Asian American son, and Caucasian daughter in a lively, supportive neighborhood. Filled with recollections of family holidays, rituals, and special moments, each memory reveals loving insight. At a school mother-daughter tea, for instance, the mothers make their first ever appearance in dresses. The narrator recalls, “My heart still skips a beat when I think of the two of them trying so hard to please us.” Only a crabby neighbor keeps her children away from their family. Meema explains, “She’s afraid of what she cannot understand: she doesn’t understand us.” The energetic illustrations in pencil and marker, though perhaps not as well-rendered as in some previous works, teem with family activities and neighborhood festivity. Quieter moments radiate the love the mothers feel for their children and for each other. Similar in spirit to the author’s Chicken Sunday, this portrait of a loving family celebrates differences, too. Pair this with Arnold Adoff’s Black Is Brown Is Tan (2002), Toyomi Igus’ Two Mrs. Gibsons (1996), or Natasha Wing’s Jalapeno Bagels (1996) for portraits of family diversity. Grades 1-4

From Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature)
The family ‘in our mothers’ house’ is like many others, filled with love and fun, clearly seen in the smiling characters on the jacket. It is unusual only in that there are two mothers. The narrator is the eldest of three adopted children. She tells the story of her adoption and that of her brother Will and sister Millie. The children play, sing, and dance together, catch the flu, and celebrate holidays with the extended family. Only one neighbor seems to disapprove of the family at a big block party where all others are accepting. The children grow up, marry, have babies; their mothers die, but their hearts remain at the house where they found love. Polacco’s standard pencils and markers fill each double-page scene with active, naturalistic children and adults amid details of clothing, suburban environment, and household chaos. The illustrations make it apparent that the children are genetically different, ranging from African American and Asian American to Millie’s glowing red hair and pale skin. The genuine humane good feeling is only made richer by the contrasting nastiness of the neighbor. The lengthy text is a plea for the acceptance of one kind of the changing American family. 2009, Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, $17.99. Ages 6 to 9.

Connections
This book could be used for lessons in punctuating dialogue. It is also an example of using verbs other than “said” when writing dialogue. It could also be used in a unit studying various occupations as well as an example of “how-to” writing.

Ask Me No Questions - Inclusive Literature

Bibliography
Budhos, Marina. 2006. Ask me no questions. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-1-4169-0351-2

Plot Summary
This book offers the unique perspective of people who are living in America illegally. The story begins with the Hossain family driving to Canada to seek asylum. Unfortunately, the Canadian border is flooded with immigrants seeking asylum and the Hossain family is sent back to America. Since their visas have expired, Mr. Hossain is detained at the border to be investigated and possibly deported. For the next several months, the family is separated and must live not really knowing what will happen next. The uncertainty causes a shift in the family hierarchy and shows the main character just how important she is to the family.

Critical Analysis
While this story can be a little confusing at first and can move slowly in some sections, it is still a good resource for learning about different cultures. The main characters are from Bangladesh so the reader is given some background into the political strife found there that sent it’s people to the United States. We learn Bangali words such as doodh-cha (milky tea), shada-chele (white guy), and a few others. We also learn that the traditional dress for women from Bangladesh is shalwar karmeez or saris, bangles, and their hair in a long braid. Men wear long Kurtas and have a beard. Of course, the less traditional wear t-shirts and jeans and wear their hair in whatever style happens to be in fashion. The men often shed their traditional clothes for the uniform of their jobs. The Bangali are typically hard working and the characters in this story were of the Muslim faith though some were more devout than others. The women stayed at home but the more “enlightened” families allowed the females of the family to work part time and further their education. As one character put it, not all families paid close attention to the “gender crap.”

The book offers insight into the culture of an illegal alien living in America as well. These people work many different jobs, often two or three at a time, and are often separated because of work or legal troubles. The main character describes it as a feeling of floating from place to place, always being ready to move again. Sometimes, families are able to settle down for a little while but the threat of being found and the fear of deportation is always present. This book also shows how since an unregistered person is not a U.S. citizen, he/she is not entitled to the same rights. This novel definitely gives readers a sense of the uncertainty an immigrant, especially an illegal one, feels every day.

Professional Reviews
From Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, November 2007 (Vol. 41, No. 6))
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2006: There are thousands of illegal residents in the US, and those from Muslim countries have been targeted since 9/11. Budhos, who has written before about immigrant teenagers, here creates fully realized characters to help us understand the complexities of the immigration system. Nadira and Aisha are teenage sisters whose parents came from Bangladesh and stayed on in NYC with expired visas. The girls are successful high school students who know little of Bangladesh. After 9/11 the authorities are circling in to deport those who are in the US illegally, especially those from Muslim countries. In a panic, the girls’ father decides to drive the family across the border to Canada, where they will seek asylum. But when they get there, Canada refuses to accept them because so many others are swamping the Canadian refugee system, and when the family turns around at the US border, the father is arrested and taken into custody. The girls leave their parents in New England, where the father is incarcerated, and return to NYC to relatives to try to continue their schooling and hope for the best. Aisha is the older sister, the academic success, the one most assimilated--yet as the pressures mount, she is the one who falls into a depression and is lost in hopelessness. Nadira rises to the occasion, pushing forward with the immigration lawyer, discovering discrepancies in the government’s case against her father, pleading with the judge, never giving up. This is a powerful story, especially for those YAs who know something themselves about the immigration situation. Budhos doesn’t make heroes of the illegal immigrants, but she illuminates the reasons why families stay here, and she focuses on the children who have grown up in America but who are threatened with deportation because of the mistakes of their parents. She certainly is critical of the Patriot Act and its repercussions for immigrant families and especially Muslim families. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Category: Paperback Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students.

Connections
This book could be connected to geography lessons of New England and Bangladesh. It could also be used to discuss the immigration process as well as the college application process.