July 2, 2013
In this monthly column, Etta Kaner shares some of her favourite children’s books written for a variety of ages.
As an adult, you no doubt know that life’s challenges come in many different forms. Some challenges are intentionally undertaken, such as participating in a marathon, while others appear uninvited, like an illness or genetic disability. The incredible ways some people meet their personal challenges is the theme of these fiction and non-fiction books, which I encourage you to read and discuss with your children.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is the biography of Temple Grandin, a brilliant and autistic woman, now in her 60s, who has used her visual thinking mind to make conditions for animals on farms and in meat-packing plants more humane. Details about her challenging childhood with extreme sensory sensitivity issues, her difficulties in school and her eventual impressive accomplishments will appeal to 10-year olds and up. Integrated into the biography are explanations of the nature of autism as well as blueprints of Temple’s designs and many photos and illustrations. In addition to an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, Temple Grandin offers practical advice to children with autism as to how they can develop their strengths.
The Colour of Silence by Liane Shaw (published by Second Story Press) is a superb novel that focuses on 17-year-old Alex who in her struggle to deal with the death of her best friend in a car accident retreats into a world of silence. Ordered by a judge to do community work in a hospital, Alex meets Joanie, a girl of the same age, who has little control over her body and no speech. As they slowly develop a relationship, they help each other to communicate in unique ways. Sensitively written with amazing insight into the mind of a person with multiple challenges, as well as a teen who is suffering from trauma and guilt, this book will keep the reader enthralled until the very end.
To the Top of Everest by Laurie Skreslet with Elizabeth MacLeod (published by Kids Can Press) recounts the true account of Skreslet’s ascent of Mt. Everest. Skreslet describes his harrowing experiences in climbing Mt. Everest in such detail that readers almost feel as if they’re with him. Readers learn about the huge amount of preparation needed(five years), how thin air affects the body, the frequency of avalanches and falls into crevasses, and many other dangers involved in such a climb. Throughout the book, there is an emphasis on the importance of teamwork. This is just one of the important lessons that Skreslet shares with his audience towards the end of the book: Never say “I can’t.” Be brave. Use your uniqueness to help others. Try more than your best. Keep your dreams alive. Good advice for us all!
The Way Home by Becky Citra (published by Second Story Press) is a sensitively written book that will appeal to 7- to 10-year-old readers, especially those who love horses. After being moved around to numerous foster homes, the main character, 9-year-old Tory, spends the summer on a horse ranch where she falls in love with a pony named Lucky. When a forest fire forces the family to evacuate their home, Lucky is left behind to fend for himself. Tension and suspense build as we witness the ways in which Tory and Lucky deal with the effects of the fire in their own ways through alternating chapters. After a number of bumps in the road, Tory is reunited with Lucky in an unexpected way and finally finds some stability in her life.