Tag Archives: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Minnie & Max are OK! / Florence Frizzball

Minnie & Max are OK!
Chris Calland, Nicky Hutchinson and Emmi Smid
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Minnie has had a bad day at school having been teased and shunned by two girls, and now she wishes she looked more like them.
When her grandma meets her at the end of the day, she notices than Minnie is upset and decides that a trip to the park might help. On the way both Minnie and her dog Max peer at their reflections in a shop window and soon both of them are full of doubts about their appearance.
As they sit together in the café, Minnie tells her gran how she feels and Gran’ responds calmly, lovingly and reassuringly. “I love you just the way you are!” she says, “I think it’s wonderful that we all look so different … Just look around us.” And Minnie does …

Max sees a great variety of dogs too and before long both child and dog are playing happily with friends.

With its gentle humour, and Emmi Smid’s captivating ilustrations, this is a good book to read with any young child struggling with self-esteem be it related to body image or any other perceived ‘difference’. Equally if shared with a class or group, it should make potential negative commenters stop and think about how much better our world is for its rich diversity.
There is a final spread aimed at adults wherein the authors, both education consultants, offer ideas for discussion on the themes of teasing, self-image and diversity.
All in all, a valuable tool in the fight for embracing and celebrating difference and diversity.

Florence Frizzball
Claire Freedman and Jane Massey
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Florence the small girl narrator of this story has hair issues; her curly frizz is thick and unruly. Her little brother’s sleek, flat hair is altogether more preferable, so she thinks. It doesn’t tickle or prickle …

or obscure anyone’s view on windy days, nor when watching television; and no one else in the family is similarly troubled other than the dog, Scuff.
Can a visit to the hairdressers be the answer perhaps?

It certainly results in a transformation; but is straight hair really so desirable …
With its cute characters, this sweet rhyming tale presents themes of individuality, self-image and self-acceptance in an accessible story for the very young.

A New Day / Robin and the White Rabbit

Here are two recently published books from Jessica Kingsley Publishers that will be of particular interest to those working with children or young adults who have additional needs:

A New Day
Fiona McDonald
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Talking about losing a loved one can be difficult: this little book offers a good starting point for opening up a discussion for young children and those with PMLD.
Following the death of Grey Mouse, Brown Mouse feels so sad she stays in bed. The other mice try to help, bringing tea and cake, a story …

and a comforting blanket but Brown Mouse says no to them all: she just wants to sleep – all day. Come evening though, she wakes up and joins the other mice in the kitchen.
There they all share their memories of their beloved Grey Mouse and thereafter, things begin to look just a little brighter.
Simply told and illustrated with line drawings, this could be a useful resource for adults looking for something to use with those needing help in coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

Robin and the White Rabbit
Emma Lindström and Åse Brunnström
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Children with autism have powerful feelings but often can’t find a way to express how they feel. Now here’s a book that offers those who work with ASD youngsters a means of helping them.
Many of those who work with ASD children will be familiar with the use of pictorial symbols to facilitate communication but this picture book deals specifically with helping youngsters understand and express their feelings.
The story centres on young Robin, who acts as narrator, and a white rabbit. It’s playtime and Robin sits alone in the playground under a tree. Her head is buzzing with feelings but she has no way to express them. Her sadness is palpable.

Enter a white rabbit who sees the child, disappears and returns with a blue bag full of picture cards.
Using these, the animal offers the girl or boy (it matters not) a way to access her feelings: a means of self-discovery through visual communication via the pictures on the cards:

a way that ultimately allows the narrator to begin to feel part of the group.
Emma Lindström and Åse Brunnström offer a very useful and empowering tool that can be used in school or at home; there’s no judgement involved; and the final explanatory pages speak directly to the listener (via Robin) and the reader aloud (via the book’s creators, Emma and Åse).

Big Tree is Sick

Big Tree is Sick
Nathalie Slosse and Rocio Del Moral
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Meet close friends, Snibbles and Big Tree; they’re accustomed to spending a lot of time together and Snibbles loves Big Tree very much.
One day though, Big Tree is sick: the doctor diagnoses woodworm; and Snibbles is devastated. Feelings of frustration and anger start to overwhelm him …

and he feels very scared.

Other creatures offer support: Bessie the Sheep brings a lovely, warm woollen scarf to wrap around the sick tree which gives him some comfort; not so Snibbles though. But then, having made himself a crown from Big Tree’s fallen leaves, he starts to feel a bit more upbeat. Thereafter, the focus is on helping Big Tree get through his treatment and happily for all, he does eventually make a good recovery.
With delightful illustrations and some extremely useful suggestions for activities and strategies at the end of the story, this book portrays the powerful feelings and emotions that children are likely to exhibit when a family member or a close friend is diagnosed with a serious, debilitating illness, cancer for instance.
There is also a link to the website of a Belgian non-profit organisation that adult users of the book might find useful.

I’ve signed the charter

The Snugglewump / Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day

The Snugglewump
Lou Treleaven and Kate Chappell
Maverick Arts Publishing
Molly has a host of toys and sitting side-by side awaiting her arrival one day, each claims to have pride of place in her affections. There’s Ted, an antique doll, Alien, Robot and Action Andy …

all strutting their stuff so to speak. It’s no wonder that Snugglewump lies forgotten on the floor feeling less than confident about his lot. But then, having seen and heard the others showing off, it ups and snugglewumps away through the catflap and off down the road.
Thanks to a free ride on a postman’s shoe, it ends up spending the night, damp and virtually shapeless contemplating the possibilities offered by having limbs and a countenance, or batteries, and generally rueing its lot.
Is it Snugglewump’s fate to be cast so it thinks, into the dump or could there perhaps be an alternative ending for this brightly coloured, albeit amorphous thing which, thanks to a couple of pigeons is, as the sun rises, hanging across the branch of a tree in the park?

Told through Lou Treleaven’s jaunty rhyming text with its fun descriptive phrases, and Kate Chappell’s beautifully expressive, quirky illustrations (she even manages to imbue that Snugglewump with a personality) this is great fun to share with young listeners either at home or in an early years setting.

Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day
Rochel Lieberman and Lloyd Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Ten year old Pearla likes nothing better on Sundays than to help her father in his bakery. She’s something of an expert herself, cooking up perfect cupcakes and cookies that people come from far and wide to buy.
One Sunday however, having so she thinks whisked up the usual perfect mix for her cookies and cupcakes, and put them into the oven to bake, she realises that she’s left out a vital ingredient. Disaster for one used to a perfect baking outcome.

But then as she paces up and down, Pearla starts out on what is to be a huge learning curve: “I’m a person, People are not perfect. I did my best. I know I will be helped with the rest,” she tells herself.
Out come the far from perfect confections some time later and rather than throwing the whole lot in the bin, Pearla decides to sell them at half-price.
What happens thereafter is a big surprise for the girl and after the odd sales setback, every single item is sold. Thank goodness Pearla managed to stay calm and turn her mistake into something positive. Even more important she learned the crucial life-lesson: that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process; something all teachers worth their salt would agree with, and that all youngsters need to take on board early on in their education. That way lies success.
Full of important and empowering lessons. Written by a speech and language specialist, this is a book to share with all young learners, especially those who, for whatever reason, are averse to risk-taking. Lloyd Jones’ illustrations add gentle humour to Pearla’s plight.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rafi’s Red Racing Car

dscn9806

Rafi’s Red Racing Car
Louise Moir
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Subtitled ‘Explaining Suicide and Grief to Young Children’, the author/illustrator of this book, art psychotherapist Louise Moir, lost her own husband to suicide a few years ago.
Rafi’s daddy had been suffering from depression, so much so that he’d stopped playing Rafi’s favourite racing car game with him. Desperate to put an end to ‘all the muddle and all the worry and sadness in his head’ there seemed only one thing to do: Rafi’s daddy took his own life.

dscn9807

Inevitably this leaves young Rafi confused and scared; what if his mummy became similarly ill too? Rafi deals with his grief in his own way by showing anger towards his toys and his friends which, inevitably, make things worse.
Enter a therapist who works with Rafi, gradually helping him to start coming to terms with what has happened and slowly, slowly Rafi begins to heal. Of course, his mummy plays a very important role in his healing process too.

dscn9808

Aimed at adults, the ‘Helping Children Heal’ final pages of the book offer a supportive guide to parents and professionals.
With its expressive watercolour illustrations …,

dscn9809

this little book takes a disturbing experience and its aftermath, showing that ultimately, transcendence can happen. In addition it should help young sufferers develop the all-important emotional language to cope with their experience.
A very useful resource for families and those who work with bereaved youngsters.

bookgivingdayblogbadge-1localbookshops_nameimage-2

Thank Goodness for Bob / The Healthy Coping Colouring Book & Journal

dscn9789

Thank Goodness for Bob
Matthew Morgan and Gabriel Alborozo
Egmont Publishing
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ goes the well-known adage. The trouble is, Max an inveterate worrier doesn’t share any of his with family or friends for fear of troubling already busy people or looking foolish: he just stores them all up inside and it leaves him feeling overwhelmed …

dscn9790

Despite this, everyone knows about this and seemingly, his worries are infectious.

dscn9791

Thank goodness then for Bob. Bob the dog offers a listening ear and Max talks and talks; gradually his worries come bubbling out and drift around the room and then the two of them find the perfect way of dealing with them.

%0a

Gabriel Alborozo’s gently humorous illustrations are perfect for this sensitively told, empowering story that will help children deal with their anxieties.

Also aimed at helping children – albeit slightly older ones than the previous book – and subtitledCreative Activities to Help Manage Stress, Anxiety and Other Big Feelings’ is

dscn9803

The Healthy Coping Colouring Book and Journal
Pooky Knightsmith and Emily Hamilton
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Mental health ambassador, Pooky Knightsmith, has joined forces with illustrator, Emily Hamilton, to produce a book full of activities to help develop and enhance the well-being of children between eight and fourteen. It might well be equally used by adults. The aim is not only to help in reduction of stress but is also a tool for managing feelings and could be used at any time, whether one is feeling bad or good.
There are plenty of pages to colour, spaces for reflection and writing as well as a plethora of wise words to guide, inspire and motivate.

%0a

There are lots of diary format pages for recording ones personal experiences, preoccupations and feelings.
Buy to use or buy to give.

bookgivingdayblogbadge-1 localbookshops_nameimage-2

Scruffle Bear, Ellie, Cyril Squirrel and Love

DSCN8419

There’s Only One Scruffle
Robert Dunn
QED
Almost all children have a favourite soft toy and so it is with Ellie: she and her bear Scruffle are inseparable. Her parents cannot understand this Scruffle obsession – after all he’s patched, has an eye missing and is more than a little stinky! That reminds me of  ‘Bobby’ a bear I’ve kept ever since I was a very young child in Pakistan many, many years ago.
He must be replaced decides Ellie’s mum and presents her with this … Now you don’t need me to tell you how Ellie feels about this, nor will you be surprised at what she does next …

DSCN8421

Mum remains upbeat, trying to cajole Ellie and persuade her to give the newcomer a try. Ellie decides a walk might help her think and off she goes with new bear on her mind. He’s also on her mind as she assists Grandad with the gardening …

DSCN8423

and while she paints Scruffle a picture. By now, new bear is looking a little less like new and smelling well – disgusting! Not fit to be played with Ellie declares handing Scruffle to Mum who’s still wondering what her daughter sees in him. Could it perhaps be that two smelly bears could be accommodated in Ellie’s household? What do you think? I think a wash is definitely the order of the day …
Young children will immediately empathise with Ellie, giggle over her treatment of new bear and have plenty to say about the ending. The story’s a good one to prompt discussion about favourite toys, as well as coping with change and showing love.

DSCN8443

Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Cyril is a lively creature and also very inquisitive; the thing he spends most time pondering on is love: What is it? “Can I find it and keep it? Do I need it?” he wonders. He decides to write a list of questions on the subject to ask his friends Carrie Crow, Dan Deer, Ramon Rat and Dafiya Dormouse, but none can supply answers. Instead, Dafiya suggests Cyril goes to look for love and having left an explanatory note and taken a few supplies, off he goes next day.
On his journey he encounters a bird that is amused to hear what Cyril is searching for and offers a demonstration of its version of love – ‘being held by a warm wing’.

%0A

Other creatures provide different love suggestions: rabbit demonstrates with a warm smile, and with a “Buzzzzzzzzzz,” bee provides a ‘soft, soothing sound’. All these expand Cyril’s understanding of love and on his notepad he writes ‘Some of us have different maps to find love.’
Other animals he comes across further add to his list of ideas – that of Poppa Hedgehog demonstrating how sometimes love can be a bit puzzling …

%0A

until eventually Cyril heads home where his friends are waiting, eager to find out about his quest. It’s in their reception of him that Cyril finally comes to know a crucial fact about that all-important word: that seemingly small acts of love can have a huge impact;

%0A

and not only for those on the receiving end, I suggest.
There are many beautiful picture books on the market with love as an inherent theme. This one, with its cartoon-style illustrations and in-built questions is likely to promote lots of discussion among youngsters and will, I hope help to enlarge their understanding of such a vital concept. To that end there are some suggested activities and a guide for adults on the last two pages. Written by an expert on trauma, parenting and related topics, this is definitely one for the early years shelf in nurseries and for children’s centres.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Secret, Secret & Mouse’s Best Day Ever

%0A

Secret, Secret
Daisy Law
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
In this rhyming contemplation of secrets of all kinds, the child narrator takes readers and listeners through many different kinds of situations and secrets that children may experience. Having worked in various roles in education for over thirty years (and had children disclose to me) I know and appreciate just how difficult it may be for some children, in certain situations to have the confidence to open up and talk about certain things that are troubling them.
Subtle in its approach, this little book explores – with child and floppy bunny creature friends –

%0A

a variety of secrets be they sad, happy, crazy, new, old …

%0A

quiet, loud, the really scary, make your insides stone-cold kind, or these …

%0A

To keep or tell, that is the question when it comes to secrets.
All children need to develop emotional intelligence: this book is a very helpful tool to use to this end; it deserves a place in primary classrooms, children’s centres, in fact anywhere that children are cared for and their well-being of vital importance.
One splendid way to help a stressed child is through reflexology and here is a picture book that embodies some basic techniques in the pursuit of well-being:

DSCN8051

Mouse’s Best Day Ever
Susan Quayle and Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
The book features half a dozen characters: main protagonist Mouse (representing the solar plexus reflex point),

DSCN8052

together with Hare, (representing lungs and chest reflexes), Otter (representing the lymphatic system), Squirrel (head, sinus, teeth, eyes and ear reflexes), Mole (reflexes of the digestive system) and Snake who represents the nervous system, back and spine reflexes. Told through a gentle rhyming text, and pen and ink illustrations,

%0A

the story is designed to accompany a sequence of reflexology moves aimed at calming a child’s peevish mind and thus helping to improve general health. At the same time it facilitates the cementing of a bond between child and adult, soothing a youngster at bedtime, when stressed or unwell. Additionally it might be used to re-inforce names of parts of the feet and legs; and to help children begin to understand the interconnectedness of various parts of their bodies. (The latter is something mentioned in the foreword by Spiros Dimitrakoulas, Chair of Reflexology in Europe Network.)
Instructions are given on how to use the book at the beginning, and instructions for each reflexology move is given at the top of each verso page throughout the story.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Mr Particular & Super-Powered Ollie

%0A

Mr Particular
Jason Kirschner
Sterling
Superhero he may be, but the particular superhero of Jason Kirschner’s debut picture book hasn’t been given his name without reason. Yes, he’s able to perform all manner of amazing feats such as car lifting (toy cars that is), and outrun trains – the kind you see at the zoo – and keeps strictly to his 7.30pm bedtime every single evening. (Parents, take note). He has however, a somewhat self-limiting issue: the little guy ‘liked things the way he liked them – and only the way he liked them.’ There’s an element of that in all of us but his weakness – so we’re told – is that of specifics: ketchup with all non-dessert foods, positively no humming, shirts must always be untucked, nothing with even a slight whiff of coconut about it, no squishy mud or oatmeal and anything green is a total no-no.
All these quirks do have a tendency to hinder him and his pals in their keeping the universe safe from Bad Guys mission …

DSCN7803 (1)

Eventually those long-suffering friends, Atomic Bear, Daring Duck and co. call an emergency meeting, the outcome of which is that Mr Particular is a group member no more; instead Dr Slimyhands -recently defected to the good guys side – takes his place.
Poor Mr Particular is devastated: surely his fate isn’t to be left at home playing with nappy-filling SUPERPOOPER.

%0A

Change is needed … and boy does our hero try, but to no avail – old habits definitely die hard. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy though, he keeps on trying over and over …

%0A

Then suddenly an opportunity presents itself: – those very Super-Duper Group members who have just ousted him – seem rooted to the spot …

DSCN7807 (1)

while Atomic Bear dangles by the seat of his pants from a tree branch. He is however, suspended right above an exceedingly muddy, mega- slimy patch and there just happens to be rather a lot of small insects creating something of a buzz right alongside. Can Mr P. finally overcome those pet aversions of his and save the day, whether or not Atomic Bear is faking the whole thing?

DSCN7809

Highly entertaining, this is told in action-packed comic-book format and is a wonderful take on sensory defensiveness and aversions. And with a few pooey touches thrown in to keep young listeners super-attentive, this one is bound to appeal especially to superhero addicts – and that’s an awful lot of youngsters – who will at the same time be absorbing messages about drawing on one’s inner strength, never saying never and only holding on to what, ultimately is of use to us. Let those super-powers shine through. And for those determined to do so and one hopes that’s everyone, then the inside covers have a show of everything for the job in hand …

%0A

Ollie and his Super Powers
Alison Knowles, illustrated by Sophie Wiltshire
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Language has tremendous power in the way it affects those around us; that we all know from recent events in the UK.
In this slim, illustrated book we meet seven year old Ollie who no longer has his brand new trainers: he’s been bullied into giving them over to two much bigger boys. Ollie’s mum is furious and he’s only told her that he’s left them at school. “You did what? … They cost a fortune, Ollie. You know I can’t afford to get you another pair. Oh Ollie, how thoughtless.” is what she says and off they both go in the car to visit the old people’s home where she works.
It’s there that one of the inmates, Mr Wilcox listens to Ollie and the whole sorry tale of how not only his trainers but other things have been taken from the lad, and about the name calling too. Mr Wilcox then suggests Ollie uses his superpowers to sort out the bullies. And thus begins the unleashing of Ollie’s amazing superpowers: Courage, Bravery, Strength and Calm among others; and with Mr Wilcox as his friend and guide, it’s not too long before Ollie

%0A

(and his team of superpowers) is ready to begin Operation Positivity …
What a good example of the importance of using positive language to encourage, and/or reinforce, positive behaviours.
WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

Connor the Conker & Little Meerkat

DSCN7924

Connor the Conker and the Breezy Day
Rachel Lloyd
Singing Dragon
Connor is a conker residing with his family – mum, dad and two siblings – in Horse Chestnut Town. It’s a particularly breezy day when we meet him and he’s eager to demonstrate his balancing on one leg, (without any wibble wobbles, is the aim). The wind is very playful though and that makes Connor get the sneezes unbalancing him; but that’s no problem because Connor knows how to roll and land safely without spilling himself: in fact it’s rather fun so he does a whole lot more rolling …

%0A

right into a friend and on through the town and oops! Straight in the river so it’s fortunate that he also knows how to swim, though he’s always up for a bit more learning, so he tries backstroke too as the fish suggests.
While on his back, Connor decides it’s time he went home so off he goes; but first he has a last lovely stretch – in all directions …

DSCN7927

I’m a yoga teacher rather than a teacher of pilates about which I know comparatively little. I do know however, that story is a fantastic medium for working with young children and that the author Rachel Lloyd has a dance background and is a Pilates Master Trainer who is clearly passionate about its practice. Her positivity and what she says in the helpful notes at the back resonate with me completely. There are also photographic sequences and instructions for teaching each of Connor’s Pilates activities – equally helpful and empowering: and unsurprisingly, very similar to yoga asanas and sequences.

In similar format, and also recommended for early years and KS1 classes, as well as home use, is:

DSCN7928

Little Meerkat’s Big Panic
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This one’s subtitled ‘A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm’ and don’t we all need those right now.
When we meet Little Meerkat he’s faced with the prospect of ‘a very important job’ and today’s the day: his vital role is to act as ‘Lookout Meerkat’ and keep watch over the whole Meerkat gang. Simple eh?

DSCN7929

Well, not really because it means he has to stay wide awake and alert so that in the event of unwelcome potential harm in the form of snakes, large birds and other predators, he can sound the “Danger, danger, danger!’ alert. So how do you think he feels about that? It’s a question asked of listeners to the story.
Now most of us are familiar with that wobbly legs, heart thumping, hyper breathing that kicks in all too easily on such occasions, making it hard to focus on the task in hand and that is exactly how Little Meerkat feels on this important, right of passage day.
Off go his fellow Meerkats for some fun and games safe in the knowledge that there’s a watchful Meerkat at the ready just in case …

%0A

Soon though our little watcher begins to feel drowsy on account of the heat and he dozes off – just for a very short while – but he awakes to discover all the other Meerkats have vanished. Little Meerkat’s in such a panic he can’t get his words out properly and Small Elephant gets a very convoluted message when the two come face to face. Fortunately the elephant has a good imagination and is able to understand and empathise with how his friend might feel right then; and soon both are frantically searching high and low – to no avail.
Along swings Mini Monkey and providentially he has some breathing techniques to pass on: Just what the others need to make them feel nice and calm.

%0A

(And yes, they definitely work – I know from experience.)
And do the friends manage to discover the whereabouts of the missing Meerkats? Certainly they do; but first Little Meerkat has to tell the story from his viewpoint: then a plan is suggested, put into action and …

%0A

There are his fellow Meerkats safe and sound in the ‘safe place’ just where they should be, if only the one on lookout had been able to stay calm and remember …
The final pages of this enjoyable, but very vital book explain simply some ways of keeping calm, as well as discussing the triune brain (not using this word however, other than in the adults’ information section.) And, I’m pleased to say, the author points out that everyone is different: what one brain likes may not suit another person (or meerkat) when it comes to relaxation techniques.

Order from JKP

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers!

DSCN6881 (800x600)

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers!
Melanie Walsh
Walker Books
Isaac is one cool character – a superhero no less. However, on account of his superpowers he’s not quite like his brother or fellow pupils, some of whom call him names from time to time. Isaac has ASD sometimes called Asperger’s Syndrome. Isaac’s brain is truly awesome – it’s able to remember fascinating facts and he loves to share these with others though not everyone is eager to hear them.

DSCN6882 (800x600)

He’s full of energy but prefers solo indoor activities rather than outdoor, muddy ones. Social interaction isn’t one of Isaac’s strongest points though he loves to spend time with his pets.

DSCN6883 (800x600)

In class, Isaac has his special toy to help him stay calm and focused. He takes what people say literally; he just doesn’t get figurative language but his ears are hypersensitive and this can upset him.

DSCN6885 (800x600)

So can looking into people’s eyes but his dad has taught him a special coping strategy for face to face encounters.
Isaac’s straightforward first person narrative allows him to tell young readers just how it is for him in a way that is accessible to young children, many of whom are likely to encounter someone with an ASD in their own school. His upbeat voice keeps the tone light and the focus is on the positive aspects of his condition though it doesn’t avoid its challenges. Melanie Walsh beautifully portrays the various aspects of Asperger’s that Isaac talks about in her bold, uncluttered illustrations.
This book is a must for all early years settings and younger primary classes and all power to Walker Books for publishing it on their picture book list.

Girls with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to present the condition very differently from boys and can often slip through the net when it comes to an ASD diagnosis. However, they too have unique strengths and their differences should also be discussed and celebrated. Here’s a very useful little book that does just that:

DSCN6888 (800x600)

I am an Aspie Girl
Danuta Bulhak-Paterson and Teresa Ferguson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Here we meet Lizzie. In a first person narrative, she explains ASD from her own perspective and talks about how Aspie girls are different from boys with AS and are good at blending in with other girls though this is tiring to keep up all day at school. “It’s like being an actress, I guess where school is the stage,” she says.
Lizzie also discusses her special creative interests, her worries about making mistakes, her acute sensitivity to her own feelings. Sensory sensitivities are another challenge be they to tastes, sounds, things that touch such as particular scratchy clothes or as in Lizzie’s case, smells.

DSCN6887 (800x600)

Lizzie has a special animal friend, her dog, with whom she finds sharing her feelings easy. (This is something she has in common with many boy Aspies, as are reading people’s facial expressions and playing in a group and encountering changes.)
In addition to Lizzie’s straightforward account, sympathetically illustrated by Teresa Ferguson,  there are several very helpful pages aimed at adults who might be sharing the book with an Aspie girl. Let’s end with Lizzie’s own very positive parting words though: ‘My teacher tells me that I have a great future ahead of me, with many wonderful talents to show the world!’

Use your local bookshop      localbookshops_NameImage-2

Alex and the Scary Things

DSCN6662 (800x600)

Alex and the Scary Things
Melissa Moses and Alison MacEachern
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Young Alex has experienced traumatic times in his life but he does his best not to think about them. Sometimes however, he feels overwhelmed by memories and this has an effect on his emotions. He might feel frightened but then he becomes ‘Spacey’ and, protected by his space suit, Alex mind travels far into the sky leaving his fears behind. He has another strategy too, which he calls the 5-4-3-2-1 game. This involves naming five things he can see in his classroom, four things he can feel, three he can hear, two he can smell and finally, one good thing about himself.
At other times Alex might feel anger and it’s fortunate that he’s learned a breathing technique that restores him to his more relaxed self again …

DSCN6663 (800x600)

and his teacher has also taught his class some calming yoga poses.

DSCN6664 (800x600)

When sadness overwhelms him, Alex cannot help but cry; he calls himself Puddles on such occasions and takes himself off to sit in his super-secret safe place surrounded by soft snuggly blankets.

DSCN6665 (800x600)

There are even times at school when our narrator says that for him it feels as though scary things are happening even when they aren’t: his tummy feels ‘a little tumbly’ and his brain ‘a little bumbly’. That’s the time when his Jumbles persona takes over Alex and he needs to use his wiggly dance to untumble and unbumble himself.
Scribbles – another part of Alex – takes over when he doesn’t want to talk. Instead he uses art activities to help him cope on such occasions. Most of the time though, Alex is calm, capable, curious, creative and kind; that’s when he feels truly himself, in control of all his parts but safe in the knowledge that all his different parts are there to be called upon whenever he needs them.
Alison MacEachern’s offbeat illustrations orchestrate Melissa Moses’ first person narrative keeping the overall mood light despite the serious nature of the topic.
This little book is, the publishers tell us’ ‘A Story to Help Children Who Have Experienced Something Scary’ and most of us who work with children will have dealings with some of those, sometimes perhaps unknowingly in the first instance. Indeed several of the techniques such as the breathing and yoga are appropriate for all youngsters and in fact, all children are likely to need coping strategies to draw on at one time or another; so I’d suggest all schools and children’s centres would do well to invest in a copy.

Order from JKP

Use your local bookshop      localbookshops_NameImage-2

Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap/Artistic Autistic Colouring Book

DSCN6324 (800x600)

Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap
Clay Morton, Gail Morton and Alex Merry
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
A young male narrator with autism discusses the behaviour of his friend Johnny who can at times act strangely and unpredictably. “Mom says it is because he is NT, or neurotypical. He doesn’t have autism, so his brain works differently from mine.” he explains.
Johnny also looks his pal straight in the eye, which our narrator finds unsettling, he’s not really interested in knowing everything about WW2, dinosaurs or forklift trucks. Johnny understands   the school rules, never has a meltdown and, in the school playground he’s keen to play with the other children. And all of that’s OK. His use of language is sometimes way off –

DSCN6326 (800x600)

he never seems to understand that he should say what he means; describing a maths test as “a piece of cake” well really. Despite all this our young narrator ends positively with these affirming words: “I like Johnny. I think being NT is OK.“
This cleverly constructed role reversing text is effective and it’s always good to try to see things from another person’s viewpoint. The watercolour illustrations are I suspect kept dispassionate for the benefit of those readers who have autism

DSCN6325 (800x600)

(even in the meltdown scene there doesn’t really look to be much emotion on the narrator’s face, nor in his stance) .
The final ‘Note for Parents’ endorses the call for understanding and acceptance whether their own child/children be on the autism spectrum or NT …… ‘ if your child does not have an NT kid in their life, they almost certainly will at some point. … Children with autism often find it very difficult to interact with NTs … But it is important for autistic people to understand that NTs are people too, and the fact they are different doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with them.’

One characteristic of many people on the autism spectrum is an obsessive interest in a particular topic or activity; here – created by someone who himself has Asperger’s syndrome – is just the thing for those with a creative obsession.

DSCN6321 (800x600)

Artistic Autistic Colouring Book
Peter Myers
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Amazingly these finely detailed illustrations are hand drawn in pen and ink.

DSCN6323 (800x600)

In many instances their complexity is astounding: some of that minute detail is truly awesome in its precision and beauty.

DSCN6322 (800x600)

Buy from JKP

Use your local bookshop       localbookshops_NameImage-2

Seahorse’s Magical Sun Sequences

DSCN6249 (800x600)

Seahorse’s Magical Sun Sequences
Michael Chissick and Sarah Peacock
Singing Dragon (JKP)
Using a variety of sea creature characters, yoga teacher Michael Chissick weaves a narrative through which the ‘Sun Salutation’ sequence is introduced, thus making it highly accessible to all primary aged children.
The Sun Salutation is a sequence of linked postures that should help children to feel confident and positive about themselves. To this end he offers four sequences, three of which have been specially modified to suit the particular needs of wheelchair users; those with autism or sensory problems; those who for one reason or anther – cerebral palsy or a temporary problem that makes it hard for them to stand up and the first, for children whose bodies are not yet sufficiently supple for the full sequence (here called the Challenging Sun Sequence).
Chissick has carefully selected sea animals to represent the various challenges children may be faced with: Toddler and Junior the Starfish Brothers, have very stiff backs so Seahorse teaches them the first “Sun Sequence” breaking it down into a cyclical sequence and reassuringly telling the brothers to go only as far as they can with the bending and stretching. This one involves some twisting the author calls “curly whirly 1’ and ‘curly whirly 2’.
Eel is a wheelchair user …

DSCN6251 (800x600)

and Starfish has a specially adapted sequence for her, which helps to make her feel included.

DSCN6250 (800x600)

Then comes Crab; he likes things to be done in a strict order but doesn’t like being with others. Seahorse knows just how to help him and allows Crab to do a version of the sequence sitting in a chair; and soon Crab too feels much happier.
Octopus, a highly competitive creature, has been badly injured (six broken legs) in a pole vaulting competition so Seahorse teaches him a Sitting Sun Salutation

DSCN6252 (800x600)

that allows even a creature in such a bad physical state to do a sequence of postures: a liberating experience for the injured character.
Finally, after several months, Seahorse encounters the Starfish Brothers again and decides they are ready for another challenge and proceeds to teach them the ‘Challenging Sun Sequence”,

DSCN6254 (800x600)

the one most adult yogis are likely to be familiar with.
Throughout the story, Seahorse is gently encouraging, explaining the benefits of what he’s teaching and in true yoga teacher fashion, never making any of the learners feel inadequate: “Do you bestYou’ll soon get the hand of it,” he tells each one in turn.
There is a straightforward ‘Guidance for teachers, Professionals and Parents’ introduction to the book. This explains Surya Namaskar simply and clearly, as well as explaining how the book can be used and the final pages give more details about the various sequences and offers a case study. And, from my viewpoint as an experienced teacher of yoga and early years teacher it’s good to see this message stated loudly and clearly: ‘children’s yoga is not about perfection in the posture’. Amen to that!
From personal experience I know that using stories when teaching yoga to young children is very effective and this beautifully illustrated book is likely to be welcomed by all of us who work to bring yoga and children together no matter what the setting.
Buy from JKP
Use your local bookshop        localbookshops_NameImage-2

A Sky of Diamonds

DSCN4985 (800x600)

A Sky of Diamonds
Camille Gibbs
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
When Mia hears that her mother has died (in an accident at work), the colour drains right out of her world. She tells readers just how it was for her: some days she was unable to get out of bed, on others she couldn’t sleep. “There were days when my heart hurt so much it was hard to eat, hard to breathe and sometimes it felt hard even to be me anymore.” she says. Her dad explains that Mia is grieving and there will be up days and very down days, rather like being on a roller-coaster. She feels a volcanic kind of anger deep inside ready to explode at any time; perhaps she’d done something to cause the death; what if her dad died too?
After the anger comes sadness and it’s then that Mia’s dad suggests a memory box …

DSCN4984 (800x600)

wherein they can both put things connected with special memories and at the same time, have a time together when they could talk about Mia’s mum and she could ask questions.
Slowly there come times – her birthday is coming up – when Mia is able to feel a little more positive about life  That’s what her mum would want, Dad tells her. Eventually Mia finds her own way of coping: she looks at the stars and talks to the brightest one.
Written by a social worker who has much experience with children who have suffered the loss of family members, this is an extremely helpful resource for children having to cope with the loss of a loved one and those adults having to support them through their grieving; it’s strength is most definitely the first person narrative and the activities embedded within the text.

DSCN4983 (800x600)

 

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2

Buy from JKP

Tomas Loves …

DSCN4892 (800x600)

Tomas Loves …
Jude Welton and Jane Telford
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Herein we meet Tomas and his canine companion Flynn (ever present to provide support and comfort). Tomas lives with his loving parents who understand his likes and disilikes and help him cope with his autism. Mum provides him with a daily visual diary

DSCN4895 (800x600)

and ensures that as far as possible, he is forewarned of any changes in routine early in the day;  and Dad is always there to read him a goodnight story. Thus they create a calm environment wherein Tomas is able to enjoy books with repeating words …

DSCN4894 (800x600)

He loves strange-sounding names like ‘thingamybob’ or ‘flipertyjane’ and will repeat them over and over, he also loves to play with his toy trains on the track and also with tiny toys, bouncing on a trampoline, riding a horse and feeding it; and he has a special diet ‘that won’t hurt his tummy’. Sudden loud noises are one thing Tomas hates …

DSCN4893 (800x600)

and sometimes if he is feeling very stressed he might start flapping his hands
Although we are told of all the things about Tomas in particular, things that are fairly common in children who have autism, the overall impression is that he is not so different for:
Tomas loves Flynn, and his Flynn loves him too.
Tomas loves fun and friendship – just like you.
Warmly illustrated and affirming with a gentle rhyming text, this is a book for all early years and primary settings and one that offers a good way to introduce the idea of autism to young readers who haven’t come across the behaviours Tomas exhibits.
Buy from JKP

For a slightly older audience is

DSCN5009 (800x600)

Can I Tell You about Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome?
Ruth Fidler and Phil Christie, illustrated by Jonathon Powell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This informative little handbook is narrated by Issy, an 11 year old girl with PDA (an autism spectrum condition). She shares with readers what it is like to have this condition – one that relatively little is written about in comparison with other ASDs. (Although I have taught a fair few children on the spectrum I’ve never known one with a PDA diagnosis although retrospectively I can think of at least one child who perhaps should have had one.)
We learn from Issy what makes her feel particularly anxious – “loud noises, new shoes and sitting on the smelly floor at school” and being asked to do something someone else wants them to. The latter can make her come up with rather outlandish excuses and if pushed, a long-lasting tantrum or meltdown can result. On particularly sensitive days, Issy and those like her need special consideration and help.
The last part of the book is written from an adult perspective and takes up this topic in the section ‘How other people can help’. Careful prioritisation of the issues to address, making requests in an oblique manner (‘I’d like someone to help me with this task’, rather than ‘do this’, flexibility of approach, anxiety reduction and support with friendship making/maintaining are some of the topics discussed.
For me, what is particularly good about this useful resource is its positive approach to the topic.

Use your local bookshop  localbookshops_NameImage-2

Asanas for Autism and Special Needs

DSCN4877 (800x600)

Asanas for Autism and Special Needs
Shawnee Thornton Hardy
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This excellent handbook, subtitled ‘Yoga to help Children with their Emotions, Self-Regulation and Body Awareness’ is written by a teacher in special education who is also a yoga practitioner and teacher.
The author states clearly the case for, and benefits of, using yoga with children who have special/additional needs. However what she says in her clear, accessible manner and with helpful photographs, could equally be of great benefit to all children. As a primary school teacher and yoga teacher myself, I know how beneficial yoga and pranayama are for the young. Indeed I include it in my day-to-day activities and believe all schools should include yoga as part of the curriculum.
Pranayama (breathing and breath awareness) supports children by releasing both their frustrations and difficult emotions, as well as their bodily stress and nervous tension. The author includes a number of breathing strategies including balloon (or belly) breathing, wave breath (Ujjayi), alternate nostril breathing, bee breath, lion’s breath (young children particularly enjoy these two) and many others, giving clear instructions for each.
This is followed by a longer section on the asanas or physical poses. Step-by-step instructions are given for at least 30 poses and a modified sun salutation sequence, along with the benefits of each, the type of breathing to use, the parts of the body to be aware of, what to visualize and possible modifications.
There are also some games, a chapter on chair yoga (this can be used for children in wheelchairs, as well as others in a confined space or those with poor muscle tone).
All in all, any child who learns what the author offers herein will develop greater concentration and focus, increased strength and flexibility of body and mind and become a calmer, happier person: life-long benefits any adult would wish to bestow on those in their care, whether or not they have special needs.
Highly recommended for use at home or school and in particular, for those with special needs.

Use your local bookshop   localbookshops_NameImage-2
Buy from JKP

Tackling Selective Mutism

DSCN4287 (800x600)

Tackling Selective Mutism
edited by Benita Rae Smith and Alice Sluckin
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Subtitled A Guide for Professionals and Parents this book is edited by two experts who have brought together research and practice in a manner that can be useful to anyone who has dealings with a child who in certain situations (often at school) is persistently mute but uses spoken language in other situations – at home or with friends in the playground or perhaps when that individual thinks they’re not being watched by say, their teacher. Such children are said to be selectively mute (SM).
My very first teaching job was with a vertically-grouped class of 5 to 7 year olds. There was one little girl I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday. C. joined the class aged 5 and for over two years spoke to nobody in school – child or adult. Then one day in her 3rd year in the class we were having a storytime session and she suddenly burst into tears. Instinctively I asked ‘What’s wrong, C?’ “I’ve wet myself,” she said, sobbing: her first words to me. ”C. can talk,” said one of her classmates. And, from then on she began talking, not confidently always, but gradually over the rest of that year she became, not just a silent participant but, a talker in almost all classroom activities. If only I’d had the knowledge and understanding this book contains, I might have been able to support her better than I did at that time. She’s not the only girl with SM I’ve taught; there have been several, but that case was the most severe and protracted. Fortunately, since then things have moved forward:help and advice have become more readily available over the last twenty years.
Even so, there seems to have been relatively little attention paid to SM in comparison with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorders. This is certainly the most approachable and useful I have come across in that it speaks both to parents and professionals and covers a great deal that is both informative and helpful.
Many voices – those of children and young people, their families and professionals (speech and language therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, music therapists)– are included and offer a variety of perspectives. There are also, in the concluding part of the book, some powerful, touching stories from ‘Families no longer affected by SM’.
The first section deals with Current Understandings of SM; the second with related and co-morbid conditions. Herein a speech and language therapist looks at the relationship between SM and ASD; and another speech and language therapist discusses the similarities between SM and stammering.
In the third section we learn of some of the successful strategies and treatments that have been used (I particularly enjoyed the account of music therapy intervention with a 4 year old who was also learning English as an additional language in his nursery school). And there are some detailed case studies that are absorbing and particularly helpful.
The book also includes an extensive list of references and a useful resource list.
All in all, this is an important book that brings together much that is of interest to anyone who works with children and young people with SM.
Order from JKP
Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Can I Tell about Eczema/Peanut Allergy?

Can I Tell You About Eczema?
Julie Collier, illustrated by Apsley
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Can I Tell You About Peanut Allergy?
Sharon Dempsey, illustrated by Alice Blackstock
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
These two paperbacks, both told from the viewpoint of children who live with the conditions, will be a boon to anyone working with, or caring for such children and are very good staring points for discussion at home or school.
In the first, Helen (like many children I’ve taught, some of whom have really suffered badly) has Eczema. I’m alarmed to discover from the book’s foreword, that one in five children in the UK now develop the condition and this little boon of a book is written by a girl and her mother, both of whom are challenged by living with Eczema.
Helen tells readers how her skin often feels to her, red hot and terribly itchy, and how scratching temporarily relieves the itching but only causes her skin to get sorer and bleed.

DSCN4257 (600x800)

We hear of the sleepless nights, sometimes relieved by the application of cream or cool, wet bandages and how eventually, she’s learned to deal with encompassing Eczema easing routines in her daily life and even at times, how ‘life has had to be put on hold for a while whilst the severe flare-ups have been brought under control.’ Such flare-ups, we are told can cause the skin to become infected by bacteria and might need special treatment. As well as more about what can make things worse or better in the main narrative, there are additional pages about special treatments towards the end of the book.; and also information about related conditions, suggestions for further reading and some supportive organisations.
What comes across loud and clear from this excellent little book is that resilience and determination are key. Not only that of Helen herself, but also of her entire family, particularly her parents who have even made it possible for their daughter to have a dog as part of the home environment.

DSCN4256 (800x600)

The second title has Danny as narrator. He has an allergy to peanuts – another, now common condition that many of us in schools have to know about, make provision for, and deal with on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, it is one that sometimes occurs in children with Eczema. Most schools now routinely have a total ban on any products that might possibly contain peanuts (or any nuts), certainly those with known sufferers on role and would also insist on staff training on what to do in an emergency.
The foreword, written by a father of a peanut allergy sufferer, says the essence of living well with the condition is ‘awareness and understanding, vigilance about what a child eats and total avoidance of nuts.’ The latter as Danny explains, is easy enough at home (although it necessitates careful reading of food labels), but eating out and going on holiday can be more tricky: He always carries his Epipen – or adrenaline pen – with him in case of anaphylaxis (information about this is given in the narrative).

DSCN4258 (600x800)

Emergencies are rare but preparation is key.
Again, this book contains a wealth of helpful information – for parents, friends, those in schools; and like the companion title, should be read and discussed in all primary schools and nurseries.
Use your local bookshop localbookshops_NameImage-2

Shiny Things with Jasper, Smiling Hearts with Lisa & Ted

magpie 1

Jasper and the Magpie
Dan Mayfield, illustrated by Alex Merry
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Like many on the autism spectrum, young Jasper has a special passion, a passion for shiny metals in his case. He reads up about them and collects all manner of shiny things, sometimes going to great lengths to get his hands on something that’s caught his eye. His parents worry about the safety of their son but even more about the fact that his passion stops him making friends and even try to curb his collecting ‘obsession’. Jasper’s response causes them to have a rethink

magpie 2

and so when his birthday arrives, Jasper is in for a surprise; maybe more than one surprise. First he learns from his grans that everyone, parents included, want him to be happy. Second, he receives a wonderful present wrapped in shiny paper containing all manner of shiny items and other interesting objects, showing that his mum and dad have come to accept his unconventional collecting habit and offering a novel way to share his souvenirs – a shiny magpie collage.

magpie 3

Smiles all round, the biggest belonging to Jasper, collector and collage creator extraordinaire.
Essentially, this story about accepting and celebrating all individuals for their unique qualities is aimed at primary age children. Despite its, in places rather creaky, rhyming text, it’s a book that should be shared in all schools whether or not there are pupils with autism. Alex Merry’s slightly offbeat watercolour illustrations reflect Jasper’s feeling sensitively and with gentle humour.
Buy from the publisher: https://www.jkp.com/‎

smile 2

Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa & Ted (and Bingo)
Lisa Spillane
Singing Dragon
Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates breathing techniques, physical postures and focused intention. The practice of Qigong typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and a meditative state of mind. The aim is to restore calm to both the body and the mind.
In her first book Six Healing Sounds with Lisa and Ted, the author who practices Qigong herself, showed young children how simple breathing exercises combined with sounds can help them to turn their negative feelings into positive ones.
Also with that aim, in this amusingly illustrated follow-up book, the same child characters and their canine pal, Bingo head off for a day on the beach. The children find that even there they can feel annoyed, upset or impatient.

smile 1

Narrator, Bingo steps in explaining simply to readers how both brother and sister use meditation techniques to help restore their equilibrium. He also has a special trick of his own to demonstrate.
Story is an effective and enjoyable means of introducing the techniques to young children and although not familiar with the practices herein, I use a similar narrative method when teaching yoga to young children and know it works very well.
There is a helpful introductory spread aimed at adults in which Lisa Spillane provides a succinct explanation of Smiling Heart Meditations and why they work.
Use your local bookshop:

localbookshops_NameImage-2

Sensory Stories

sensory rtories 001 (600x800)

Sensory Stories
Joanna Grace
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
That the author, Joanna Grace is passionate about sensory stories and their life enhancing power comes through loud and clear in her book aimed at those who work with children, young people  and adults who have special educational needs. Subtitled a practical guide, it is exactly that and more.
Beginning with a brief, straightforward explanation of what sensory stories actually are, she goes on to provide a five part book, the contents of which, I suggest, could become the heart of a curriculum for those with a wide range of special needs including individuals with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), those with SPD (sensory processing disorder) those who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication difficulties, memory difficulties and individuals with mental health challenges and the physically challenged.
The first section gives an overview of the two key elements in the enterprise – the importance of sensory stimulation, which is central to cognitive development and the power of narrative and the storytelling space it can create for those who share a story.
The second section gives a straightforward account of how to share a sensory story and embraces practicalities and the importance of being consistent when sharing a particular story.
As well as using sensory stories with individuals, they can also be shared in a group context and the third section centres on using one context rich story with a range of learners with differing abilities. Herein Joanna looks at ways to do this effectively.
Assessment and most importantly, its use to celebrate achievement is the focus of part four –some whys and some how tos, the latter offered as suggestions, starting with questions based on the P(erformance) level descriptors.
The last part of the book presents five sensory stories and associated cross-curricular activities created with the classroom in mind; but they can equally be used at home or in other settings. The range of stories is wide: there is a traditional tale, The Selkie Wife, a cooking story Seasoned with Spice, Two People Made Me a story told in the first person from conception to birth, a science fiction adventure, To the Centre of the Earth! and finally, a wonderful reworking of the Sleeping Beauty tale entitled The Forest of Thorns which has a splendidly realistic ending: ‘He wasn’t sure he could give the sleeping princess happily ever after, but he could start by giving her a rose.’
Of course, the telling of sensory stories is not for the faint hearted; it needs a certain amount of imagination and creativity on the part of the teller; a teller who is, ideally, convinced about the power and centrality of story in human experience. With those elements in place, (if they aren’t already, this book must surely go a long way in fostering their development), and this excellent ‘resource-guide’ to hand, what further is needed? Only the story stimuli of course – the ‘props’ that evoke the essence of the story – but as readers are told, these are not difficult to obtain. Practitioners/carers and parents aware of the particular needs of their group/individuals would be able to choose other stories appropriate to those needs and the sensory stimuli to go with them.
Just do it!

Buy from the publisher: http://jkp.com/
Use your local bookshop:localbookshops_NameImage-2

Exploring Feelings

DSCN2515

Made by Raffi
Craig Pomranz and Margaret Chamberlain
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Raffi feels different from the other children at school and asks himself why. He knows he shies away from rough and noisy play, preferring instead to spent time in quiet, peaceful places. One day he notices a teacher sitting knitting and she offers to teach him how to do it.

DSCN2516

Soon Raffi is knitting and loving it, so much so that when he gets home he persuades his parents to let him buy some wool.
Having done so, he decides to knit a multi-coloured scarf for his dad’s birthday. However, so enthusiastic is Raffi, knitting at every opportunity, that he is laughed at by schoolmates on the bus, as the rainbow scarf trails everywhere.
That evening at home, Raffi talks to his mother about feeling different. “Do you think I’m … girly?” he asks. His mother’s sensible words reassure Raffi and then the following day at school, an announcement about the school play inspires him to use his creative talents to design and make a wonderful cloak for Barry, the lead actor in the school play, to wear for his performance.

DSCN2517

Raffi gains the respect of all his classmates and self esteem boosted, thinks about becoming a designer in the future. In the meantime, there’s that scarf to finish and all manner of other projects to work on –
Best of all perhaps though is Barry’s comment on seeing Raffi knitting some weeks later … “Cool,” he said.
This story is a great advocate for creativity, demonstrating that differences should be celebrated as well as promoting the idea that everyone should have the confidence to be true to him or herself without fear of being made to feel inferior or being laughed at.
There is at least one Raffi in every class so I truly hope this book goes some way to deterring potential bullies: there must be no room for bullying in any shape or form.
Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations too celebrate diversity and sympathetically portray Raffi’s changing emotions as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery.
Definitely a book to share and discuss with children in primary classes everywhere.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2506

My Big Brother Boris
Liz Pichon
Scholastic pbk
Boris has a birthday party but it seems to Little Croc that his big brother has started acting in a very odd manner telling the small narrator that he’s grown out of childish games, and wanting to spend all his time with his friends or sleeping. Mum is understanding and reminds Little Croc that there are preparations to finish before the party can start, even though the chief guest has yet to get up. When he does finally make an appearance, horror of horrors: Boris is sporting a shiny snout ring.

DSCN2508

Parental ranting follows and Boris storms off to his room. His guests arrive and then it’s down to Granny and Grandpa Croc and their younger grandson to save the day with a special party game of ‘guess who’s in the photos’.

 

DSCN2510

Harmony restored, Boris has, so he announces to all, “the best party EVER.” and reassumes his place as best big brother.
Young children with teenage siblings will recognize Boris and his behaviour; this funny story (a reissue) offers the opportunity to explore the feelings around the topic through a reassuring and amusing scenario. Liz Pichon’s pictures are a hoot and crammed with delicious details both visual and verbal.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2492

How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?
Jane Evans and Laurence Jackson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The author, Jane Evans has worked with families and children affected by domestic violence for many years and as a result of numerous requests from parents, carers and support workers she created this book to help adults trying to enable young children to make sense of the feelings they experienced when they were frightened and confused.
The story revolves around Baby Bear and his feelings

DSCN2493

(sensitively portrayed in the illustrations) as the Big Bears shout and rant at each other
until one leaves the family home.

DSCN2494

Using a family of bears rather than human characters perhaps helps create some distance -a space within which children feel safe to discuss and explore those feelings and emotions.
On some pages there are prompts for adults that can be used to start conversations with young children and at the back of the book are some activities and games to facilitate the understanding and expression of difficult emotions. Wearing my children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher’s hat, I particularly like the ‘tummy sunshine’ and the ‘grey rainy’ sad feelings. (Incidentally these can be useful with all young children).
I recommend this little book to all working with children affected by domestic violence whatever the setting.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2518

Worries Go Away!
Kes Gray and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
The little girl narrator of this rhyming story shares with readers what happens when she is feeling sad: she goes off to her own world inside her head.

DSCN2519

There she feels free and at first everything is perfect but then once again, those worries begin to take hold, growing monstrous. Under a now blackened sky,

DSCN2520

the monsters give chase as, tripping and stumbling, the little girl makes for safety. She discovers a door in the darkness but where is the key? Through the keyhole, on the other side she discovers people waiting, waiting for her to open the door –

DSCN2521

the door of her heart and let them in. That’s when all those worries dissipate as she feels engulfed by love and not only that, she knows that next time there will be somebody waiting to share her troubles with.
The tension is palpable as the tentacles of the blotchy orange amorphous monsters seek to entangle the narrator’s thoughts in Lee Wildish’s powerful pictures: it’s almost as if the swirls are transformed into her curly tresses as she breaks free through the door.
Children do become engulfed by worries, letting those, to adults seemingly small troubles, become enormous and overwhelming. Kes Gray’s pacing of the rhyming text somehow helps to keep under control, the rising panic of the little girl and gives space for her to realize the way through.
Not a story for an everyday story session, rather it’s one to share and discuss as part of a PSE (personal, social and emotional development) programme for young children.
Buy from Amazon
Find and buy from your local bookshop:
http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Talk to Me, Play with Me

DSCN2400

Talk to Me
Heather Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Talking to a person or people rather than at them is something that comes naturally to the majority of us. Not so, those who have Asperger syndrome. They need help to learn the art of conversation and how this might be done is what the author of this book demonstrates. Jessica Jones writes from a wealth of practical experience: she has a son, now a young adult, who has Asperger syndrome and language impairment. Her outline of what she calls ‘conversational therapy’, the approach she has used as described here, to enable her son to learn the give and take of talk, is both inspirational and uplifting.
Essentially, the book is divided into two sections. The first entitled ‘Working on Conversation’ states that it is never too late to start the process and that once a child is aware of his/her condition it should be talked about in a straightforward manner. We learn about the point system she used, the effectiveness of a diary as conversation catalyst and the importance of using ‘why, who, what, when, where and how questions to keep conversations going.
She stresses the importance of asking open questions to develop meaningful conversations and reminds readers that the skill of conversational turn taking has to be taught to aspies, again providing personal examples. Here she suggests something that is now commonplace in most primary schools during circle times, the use of a particular object, referred to here as a ‘talking bauble’, that signifies the speaker.
A variety of conversation starters are suggested as well as the use of games and puzzles and the importance of allowing silence during a conversation. Using mind maps as conversation enhancers is also discussed and I’m pleased to see the importance of stories as another focus for talk.
The second part of the book deals with the development of social and life skills and becoming independent. There are useful chapters on making friends, coping with social situations such as parties and youth groups and how to cope with authority figures. The use of mind maps is revisited,

DSCN2401

this time as facilitators when embracing practical life skills such as shopping, feeding yourself etc., as well as a means for the development of abstract skills – maturity, independence, sociability and resilience.
Learning through pet care, cooking, taking on responsibility, organizing ones life, money management, preparing for job interviews, learning to drive and starting work are all discussed in succinct chapters and as with all the other themes, the author gives a set of very helpful tips in conclusion.
Heather Jones includes in an appendix, a chart through which those who want to document the change in their own child/ren can do so, thus maintaining a record of growth and a mark of the achievement of milestones. Jamie, the author’s son clearly made tremendous progress and she feels it is important that others have a way to see progression too.
All in all, a very helpful, empowering and affirming book for parents and others working with children who need help in communicating.
Buy from Amazon
You can also order this book direct form the publishers at http://jkp.com/search/index.php?s=talk+to+Me 

DSCN2552

The Asperkid’s Game Plan
Jennifer Cook O’Toole
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This is a companion volume to the author’s excellent The Asperkid’s Launch Plan and is another veritable treasure trove of ideas, this time over one hundred engaging, purposeful play activities to use with young aspies, all of them designed to make learning fun.
There are activities for team building – something aspies have to work hard at, activities to develop listening skills, activities to help in the development of relationships and emotional awareness, others to encourage flexible thinking and problem solving. All are written by a mother and educationalist who herself has aspergers; they are so enjoyable they can also be used with neuro-typical children.
Understanding the minds of young aspie learners and knowing what motivates them is what we need to try to do. This insightful book goes a considerable way into facilitating this.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop:

http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

 

 

Dyspraxia and Autism

DSCN2403

Can I tell you about Dyspraxia?
Maureen Boon
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Marco talks frankly about what it’s like to have dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), a condition more common in boys. He has difficulty with handwriting, preferring to write on a computer where he is able to express his ideas confidently. Marco also finds a number of things from sitting still to tying knots challenging, his clothes tend to get untidy and he uses a checklist to help him remember things. Tactile sensitivity is another issue Marco has to deal with – wool makes him itch for instance. Navigating new places is another challenge, so when Marco moved to secondary school he needed special help.
In contrast, Clara his friend has verbal dyspraxia; she has trouble finding the right word, reading is tricky and people need to speak slowly or she may not understand.
We are told about the early signs of dyspraxia: sound sensitivity, lateness in getting to one’s feet and restless nights are possible indicators, as is difficulty sitting in one place.

DSCN2405

At his first school Marco found many things more challenging than his peers; things like painting, model making, sporting activities requiring balance or coordination, the physical act of writing and using cutlery. (He got round the latter by having a packed lunch.)
Of particular help to Marco are his physiotherapist and occupational therapist. They encouraged him to join a group at a special centre where he worked with other children on activities requiring fine motor skills such as cutting and writing. He also took part in games and balancing skills that helped him at school; Marco was surprised to be encouraged to do more sport and developed a particular liking for swimming.
In addition to Marco’s narrative there are several lists outlining how parents, teachers, and other children can help those like him, as well as a bibliography and list of supportive organisations.
Written by an ex headteacher of a school for physically challenged children, this little book provides a straightforward, reassuring outline of DCD and ways in which others can be supportive.
Buy from Amazon

In the same series is:

DSCN2404

Can I tell you about Autism?
Jude Welton illustrated by Jane Telford
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Young Tom has autism; in this book we discover what this means for him. – how it makes him feel and what helps him. Tom, like every other child is unique although there are things that he has in common with other children with autism. He has difficulties making sense of the world around him and how others behave, so communication and play with others are very challenging and he may invade other people’s personal space. Change too is hard to cope with and can cause major upsets.
For Tom, social awareness is problematic: He is unable to tune in with how others are feeling, what they are thinking or what their tone of voice or facial expressions indicate and he understands what people say in a literal way causing him all kinds of worries. Echolalia is another factor in autism and Tom has been taught to point to indicate things he wants.
Rather than playing with other children, Tom tends to play with things, though he does sometimes engage in parallel play. Ordering objects is a favourite activity and he likes to repeat things over and over.
Routines are greatly reassuring and Tom needs to know what is coming next; changes have to be prepared for, otherwise he finds coping almost impossible. This is where visual timetables are a big help; so too are social stories.
Tom is over-sensitive to smells, sounds and lights although, he explains, others with autism may be tactile defensive. He has issues with some particular motor skills such as cutting; other children find different tasks problematic. There are also issues around food

DSCN2402

and sleeping that Tom has to cope with although in both instances, his differences are accommodated as far as possible.
Those of us who have taught or worked with children like Tom will already know about what is discussed here; however, the author has, in this little book, presented autism concisely so it is understandable for everyone be they parent, teacher, support worker, other children or merely interested adult. With its additional how to help sections, ‘jargon busting’ explanations, and resource listings, this is an excellent introductory book recommended for use at home or school; indeed older primary pupils can usefully read it for themselves. (There is an illustration by Jane Telford at every turn of the page in the main text.)
Buy from Amazon

Buy from your local bookshop: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

For an ‘inside the head’ account of one boy’s autism, those interested should try the beautifully written
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida written when he was thirteen years old.

Can I Tell You … ?

A pair of insightful new additions to the Can I Tell You About series are:

Can I Tell You About Diabetes (Type 1)?
Julie Edge
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Debbie has had type 1 diabetes since she was six years old and is the only member of her family with the condition. She is able to do everything others can including sports but in addition has to devote time to extra things.
However, despite leading a pretty active life, Debbie’s diabetes is always with her; she cannot forget it – the testing, monitoring of blood sugar, injecting,

DSCN2170

Debbie uses an insulin ‘pen’ for injecting herself

eating, the results of changes such as a cold or dose of flu can bring to her body and what this means for her. Despite her general up-beat tone, Debbie can at times feel a bit fed up, she says. Occasionally this is because of lack of understanding on behalf of other people, sometimes, it is because of her general mood or because her blood sugar levels are too high or too low.
We are also told about the benefits of activity weekends when the young narrator meets up with other children with diabetes. In addition, there is biological information about the role of the pancreas and how its malfunctioning causes diabetes type 1.

DSCN2169

The final part contains information on how to help, aimed at friends, teachers, parents. There is also a list of recommended reading, websites and organisations.
The author, a doctor has been a consultant in Paediatric Diabetes for nearly twenty years and there are numerous drawings by Julia MacConville, further illuminating the written information.
This is an extremely informative, concise explanation and a testament to all those children who like Debbie, manage the complexities of life with type 1 diabetes each and every day of their lives.
I would want to see a copy in every primary school and, at least one copy in any classroom where there is a child with this form of diabetes.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN2173

Can I Tell You About Cerebral Palsy?
Marion Stanton
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Herein we meet bright, thirteen year old Sophie, who uses a wheelchair, and a talking computer or VOCA for short that she operates with the aid of her personal assistant, to communicate with friends and teachers.
Sophie talks in a matter of fact voice about the reason for her own cerebral palsy and how this affects her; she stresses that her mind is not slow, rather it takes a longer time for her to say something that her friends can say in seconds.
We learn how different parts of the body can be affected by cerebral palsy

DSCN2172

and what this means for people differently affected, sometimes behaviourally or emotionally and sometimes there are hearing or visual challenges.
It’s good to be treated less ‘like a little girl’ by her PA who assists with choice of clothes on shopping expeditions and also to be taken to sporting events by her parents.
Sophie’s physio. is a great help to her as are the occupational therapist and her speech and language therapist; and she has her own communication passport, which acts as a quick, handy way for people to get to know basic things about her.

DSCN2171

At the end is a section with suggestions for how teachers, teaching assistants, family members, PAs, community members and other professionals can be supportive. There is also a list of recommended organisations and websites.
All this and much more is packed into this short book written by a special needs teacher and mother of a child with cerebral palsy and illustrated with line drawings by Katie Stanton. I came away from it feeling I had learned a great deal, not only about CP but also about how young people such as Sophie have an amazing power to transcend their particular experiencing of cerebral palsy, no matter what.
Highly recommended for teachers, and for students in the fields of social care, health and education as well as young readers in primary schools. In fact it is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to know more about working with individuals living with cerebral palsy.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop:http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Talking about Tourettes

DSCN1734

Can I tell you about Tourette Syndrome?
Mal Leicester
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pkb
In this straightforward account from the perspective of Max who has Tourette syndrome, we are made aware of what the syndrome is and how it impacts on his life and those around him. Max explains that he has involuntary tics and talks about how these tics affect his learning (things he likes to do such as drumming and karting concentrate his brain and it forgets to make him tic, whereas his TS makes it much more difficult to concentrate on those things he is not particularly interested in.)
Max also talks about how his energy levels fluctuate: his energy and concentration wane when he is jerking and his voice making noises sometimes causing a build up of frustration and ultimately anger in him.
We learn how teachers and others in the education system help Max, things his parents do, and he provides a self-help list for others with the syndrome and a dos and don’ts  list for those who wish to help.
The last part of the book switches from Max’s voice to more general information.
There is a ‘Facts about Tourette Syndrome’ section, a list of dos and don’ts for teachers, a list of ways schools can be supportive, information for parents and professionals and finally, a list of recommended reading, organisations and resources.
As an adult who knows comparatively little about Tourette syndrome and has never taught a child with a diagnosis of TS, I found this book extremely useful and informative. I have no hesitation in recommending it. A copy should be in every staffroom library and another in every primary school library for children to read.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Special Books for Special Children

Can I Tell You About Stammering?
Sue Cottrell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk
Eleven-year-old Harry has a stammer. He tells us in a straightforward, matter of fact manner how this makes him feel, how his stammer manifests itself and in what situations, and talks about ways that people can be helpful and supportive when he starts to stammer. We hear about his visits to a speech therapist and also about his older brother, who also stammers and how his case differs from Harry’s. The author of this helpful little book is an education consultant and mother of a son with a stammer. She has researched the subject in depth and offers her expert advice via her character, Harry. In her advocate’s words, “Living with a stammer takes bravery and courage.” Sue Cottrell provides all of us, be we teachers, parents, friends or other professionals, with a sensitive and insightful introductory read. The book’s layout and the numerous line drawings by Sophie Khan make it suitable for young readers from around seven or eight; adults could learn from it too.
Buy from Amazon DSCN1566 From the same excellent series is:

Can I Tell You About Adoption?
Anne Braff Brodzinsky
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk
Herein Chelsea, a young girl who has been adopted as a baby, gives readers a frank account of the process of her own adoption as well as introducing two of her friends, Adilu from Ethopia and Kira from China who were also adopted. In contrast to Chelsea, they spent time in orphanages and their adoptions were transracial. There is a short section wherein the three children talk of the unanswered questions in all of their lives, there is information about foster homes and discussions on how teachers and parents can help adopted children or those undergoing the process of being adopted. The overall tenor of this book is upbeat and I can envisage it being a great help both to adopted children and those with whom they have regular contact – teachers and children – at school.
Buy from Amazon

DSCN1567 Babies Are Noisy
Anne-Marie Harrison
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The time around the arrival of a new baby in the family can be one of anxiety and uncertainty for any young child; for children on the autism spectrum that time with all the changes a new baby entails, is likely to be particularly challenging. Subtitled ‘A book for big brothers and sisters including those on the autism spectrum’ this has a boy narrator, Andre who relates his story about having a noisy new baby. “My Baby” he calls the developing infant and we hear how he watched his mother’s stomach growing larger, about visits to the clinic, see a scan and learn how Andre was able to feel the baby kicking when he sat on his mum’s lap.

RSCN1569

Then after the birth come more challenges – presents for the baby, nappy smells, noise – lots of it – and general busyness at home. Being a big brother though can also be rewarding and Andre starts to help with the caring and he anticipates being able to play with his little brother one day. Such is the sensitivity with which the book is written, there is a real sense of it being a child with autism’s voice in this account. The illustrations too have a child-like style. All in all, this unassuming book will be of great benefit to families and professionals working with children particularly those on the spectrum, as part of the preparation for the arrival of a new baby.
Buy from Amazon

Find and buy from your local bookshop: http://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

Great book for parents of Aspies

DSCN3803The Asperkid’s Launch Pad
Jennifer Cook O’Toole
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
‘Home’ as the author of this excellent book tells us, is not really about bricks and mortar. Rather it is the space – a safe haven – that you create wherein your child or children (whether or not they are Asperkids) can grow and develop as self-confident and independent individuals. A place where things can be tried out, where children feel secure enough to take risks, make mistakes and have another go – over and over – as many times as it takes.
For children with Asperger’s however, the challenges are much greater – tasks that we take for granted can easily be overwhelming – and however bright they may be, such children need ‘white space’ at home. That is, an uncluttered environment and spaces in which to move freely without multiple distractions while this learning takes place.
With an abundance of helpful photographs, Jennifer O’Toole takes readers, room by room, as well as outside, through the hows and wherefores of those things everyone can do to create such a home with minimum outlay and maximum impact.
Not only parents with Apkerkids, but also the staff working in mainstream nurseries and schools where many high functioning Asperkids spend much of their time, would do well to read and implement the suggestions herein.
Buy from Amazon