Why You Should Read A BOY CALLED BAT

When I read A Boy Called Bat, by Elana K. Arnold, I was thrilled to read something that I knew would resonate with so many people.  As a marriage and family therapist, I work with kids with challenges like BAT'S.
A Boy Called BAT masterfully shows the inner life of a quirky, lovable, yet oft misunderstood autistic boy. Well written and beautifully illustrated, this book is fun to read and will resonate with kids and adults alike. The family relationships and portrayal of autism and it's challenges are authentic and compelling.
BAT is likable and genuine. His reactions to the world and to other people show how he confuses people's social cues, yet it is obvious that his intentions are always good. Throughout the book, people misunderstand BAT'S good intentions, particularly when he speaks very literally without realizing how it will make others feel.
I especially enjoyed the sibling relationship. BAT is very particular about what he eats and how he does things and as happens in real life with siblings of autistic kids, BAT's older sister gets annoyed with him. Although BAT and Janie fight, we know how much BAT loves and admires her. In the end, the reader understands that Janie loves BAT too.
When BAT connects with a baby skunk and finally discovers a friend at school, we better understand how BAT's mind works as he navigates normal problems that any elementary school kid could have. I love how author, Elana Arnold weaves in diversity without making it the purpose of the story. BAT is an autistic, part Asian son of divorced parents, with a pet skunk. What could be more interesting than that? I can't wait to read the next book in this series!
I loved A BOY CALLED BAT so much that I made a video review where I read one of one of my favorite scenes from the book!  

To read my interview of Elana, go to Writer's Rumpus, here

Top Ten Reads in 2016

I escaped into the pages of  676 books this year. Whittling those reads down to my top ten was painful and nearly impossible, but here are the final picks. 
For YA:
the-catalystI was completely shocked to discover that the author of this book is 15. Her author bio mentions that she wrote the rough draft at age 13, so I researched her. I was completely impressed before I knew the age of the author and now I’m blown away. This story pulled me in immediately. I felt engaged with the characters who were authentic and flawed. The plot was fast paced and compelling. I loved the world building and the idea of angels and demons and hybrids and MAGIC. I was intrigued with the exploration of whether it’s possible to be innocently evil.
For Middle Grade:
I finished this on the day that Echo won a literary award.
It’s  lyrically written historical fiction with a magical element. This book is a tribute to the power of music and relationships. The complex interweaving of characters and events makes for a powerful read that will stay with you for months afterwards. My entire family still talks about this incredibly moving story of hope and healing!

full-cicada-moonThis is a refreshing historical fiction written in lyrical verse. Told from 13 year old Mimi’s point of view, this story is raw and complicated and beautiful.  Mimi’s experience with discrimination and and displacement are met with her resilience which she explains eloquently:
“Like raindrops on granite.” I say,
because we know that’s how I persist—
drip, drip, drip
until the granite cracks.”
For Chapter Books:
My six old son loved this book so much, he was a blue super happy party bear for Halloween.
super-happy-party-bearThis book is clever, cheerful and easy to read. Filled with likable animal critters who are comically flawed, and a simple, action-filled plot, this book is fun for kids and adults. I read this book in one sitting with my 6 and 8 year olds. Both of them wanted to move on to the next in the series immediately. My 8 year old took the book to bed and re-read it that night. The next day I got requests from her brother for more SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS!
His words: “These are awesome. I love them! They are super fun and funny. Everyone should read them!”
For Graphic Novels:
narwalFilled with engaging illustrations and humor, this book is pure delight. My 6 year old has decided this is the perfect book for mid morning, mid day, mid afternoon, before bed and after he should be asleep. So MUCH fun!

For Picture Books:
Wow! This book is lyrical and lovely. It touches on death in a peaceful and hopeful way. It’s a great book for evoking discussion of death and friendship. The illustrations add depth and power to the well chosen words. The bond between Ida and Gus is unmistakable and there’s an emotional resonance to this story that stays with you long after you’ve read it.

a-hungry-lionThis is a brilliantly funny book, filled with surprises. The illustrations work seamlessly with the text to create a story that you will want to read over and over again.

Written in rhyme, this rollicking book highlights a brilliant little girl who asks what, why and how? She answers her questions with creative experiments.  I love the message that girls can and should do science.

normal-normanNormal Norman celebrates being different. It’s an extraordinary book filled with quirky humor, bright and lively illustrations and a message of how powerful it is to be an individual.

To read the rest of this review, go to Writer's Rumpus, here.

What are your favorite books in 2016? 

Book Review of Once Upon a Memory

What writers and illustrators can learn from Once Upon a Memory...

How to…

  • infuse lyrical language and meter.
  • create a guessing game with compelling questions and predictable rhyme.
  • enhance the text with whimsical and vibrant illustrations.
  • provoke discussion with intriguing backmatter and related questions.
  • combine fantasy and reality in a way that resonates with children and adults.
  • Include concepts like “before” and “after” that teach and delight.

“Does a cake remember it once was...grain?  Does an ocean remember it once was...rain?”  

Once Upon a Memory, written by Nina Laden and illustrated by Renata Liwska beautifully combines lyrical language, rhyme and whimsical illustrations to create a moving book about memories.  The personification of each object helps the reader enter a magical world of “before and after”.  The structure of this story lends itself to guessing what words will come next, and even when the answers are unexpected, the predictable rhyme will make you want to read this book more than once.  We also adore the backmatter at our house!  The author and illustrator both share memories and ask:  “What are some of your favorite things to remember?”  This question inevitably leads to great discussions about memories of cookies and how we should be making more cookies and therefore more favorite memories!  This book is a luscious read and well worth studying as a mentor text for anyone who wants to write lyrical, yet sparse texts.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus--an Excellent Mentor Text

What writers and Illustrators can learn from The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus...
How to...

  • Create a biography that fully engages the reader and involves the common core.
  • Interweave illustrations, words, and personality quirks to make a person come alive for a young audience.
  • Use collage to enhance the message of the story.
  • Organize intriguing backmatter.
  • Celebrate the power of words and education with story.

Amazing, astounding, breathtaking, extraordinary, impressive, marvelous, spectacular, wonderful, captivating.  The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is all of this and more. The thesaurus has been a beloved companion of mine since childhood.  Learning about Roget and his list-making genius made me smile. This is a biography well told through the perfect interplay of words and illustrations.  We learn about the power of words and how Roget's thesaurus became what it is today.  Jennifer Bryant artfully chooses the perfect words to describe Roget and his life.  Roget's introversion, his need for the thesaurus to be accessible to all classes, and his drive to learn make him someone that I wish I could meet.  This book includes some of the best back matter I've ever seen in a picture book:  A list of principal events, author and illustrator notes, a list for further reading and an actual picture of the original word book.  This book genuinely uses just the right words to make Roget's story come alive!