It is easy to go along in life thinking that everyone else has the prefect life and that you are the only one dealing with differences and or challenges. But if we observe other people and listen to what they have to say or do, we find we’re all filled with difficulties.
As I’ve said before, I grew up in a household with no adult male supervision and the sadness of having lost my father and one grandfather because of a war.
On the other hand, we did have a loving family and my mother and her mother’s struggles to make our lives as normal as possible was good. At least we weren’t given up for adoption or ignored or abused. And my mother did her level best to make sure we didn’t grow up prejudiced against the culture that produced the soldiers who starved, abused and ultimately killed Daddy and Granddaddy.
In the three books I’ve picked for this blog I hope to continue the theme of being comfortable in one’s own skin.
The first book is non-fiction and deals with how many families are made up in different ways. How many of the families you know are made up of people who have been married a long time? Who are the same race or ethnic group? Or a heterosexual couple? Or don’t have at least adopted child? Or have other differences? Probably not many.
Families Like Mine
The concept of a family being a group of people who look alike and are related by blood is no longer the norm. Lots of families are either mixed race or ethnicity. Maybe the family is made up of two moms or two dads. Or it may be split up so the child lives with one parent part of the time and then stays with the other parent the rest of time. Another alternative is that one parent may not be biologically kin to the child and may bring children into the marriage. This book quite nicely depicts the various ways families are now formed and confirms that any way one has a family is acceptable. The photos in the book are delightful and explain the various ways family form with clarity and love. Children will easily find themselves in the pictures. The book also has a nice glossary at the end.
BIBLIO: 2021, Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Ages 5 to 9, $??
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
Still on the theme of differences and challenges, sometimes the challenges are of children having to assume roles they shouldn’t have to deal with. This book is an outstanding example of what some children find themselves struggling to overcome. It reminded me of Cynthia Lord’s book Rules.
Illustrations by Berat Pekmezci
This is an excellent story about dealing with an autistic older sibling and believing in one’s self and the sibling. It’s a perfect book for the child and parents to read and discuss together because unwittingly parents may add too much burden to the non-autistic child or children’s already overloaded psyche. Zach is twelve and just starting middle school. Unfortunately, his older brother, Braden, will be in the same school. Now, most younger siblings would be thrilled to have an older brother to show them how to navigate the school. Instead, Zach knows he’s going to have to show Braden the ropes and answer for all the embarrassing moments that will come up. Braden is autistic. In earlier years, Zach relied on his imaginary friend, Sam. But now that he’s in middle school, he thinks he too old for an imaginary friend. He thinks he should be able to navigate on his own. In addition to all this, Zach is starting to deal with all the usual preadolescent feelings. Being the resilient young lad that he is, Zach struggles along keeping his pain and anxiety to himself, though he does let his BFF Phinney in to help him navigate. In addition to all his other problems, Zach’s parents expect him to also take care of his younger sisters. Things come to a head when Zach leaves Braden in charge of the girls while their parents are out for the evening and he has been invited to a party. He comes home to see his house engulfed in flames. There is so much material for teachers and counselors and parents to absorb, along with the children, it should become mandatory reading.
BIBLIO: 2021, One Elm Books/Red Chair Press, LLC, Ages 12 +, $18.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle Grade fiction
The final book I’m mentioning is about being thankful for what one has, even if that reality is not close to one’s desire. It reminds me of the adage: Be careful what you wish for. Do we know what others have had to suffer through to make a better life for us.
The Most Beautiful Thing
Kao Kalia Yang
Illustrated by Khoa Le
Life does not always give us what we want, but we find we can make do with less. As long as we have love given to us and given by us to others, life is good. Ms. Yang, the author, was born in the Hmong region of Laos, and she came with her family to the United States as refugees. As the youngest grandchild, the narrator’s job was to clip her grandmother’s finger and toe nails. She was proud to do it. And as she cleaned Grandma’s feet, she noticed the cracks on the bottoms still ingrained with dirt from the old country. Like any child will do, the narrator wants things that she cannot have. When she wants ice cream, she makes do with ice cubes. When she wants a new school dress, she eats the candy her mother gives her money for. And always she shares with Grandma who shares the stories of her youth about tigers and goblins and other scary things. Through it all the narrator understands how full her own life is because of love. This is story that all young children should read so they grow up understanding what the real meaning of life is. To make it even more special, the book is full of quietly lyrical illustrations evoking an Asian culture.
BIBLIO: 2020, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Ages 5 to 8, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
Let’s all count our blessings and try to make life better for those around us. Let us accept other people’s differences and learn to appreciate them for who they are. At the moment people in the U.S. are blaming Asian populations for the pandemic we are still fighting. Again, even if the virus started in China that doesn’t mean that all Chinese people willed it to happen. It also doesn’t mean that all Asian people, with their myriad of differences, are to blame. Tolerance is a good thing.
Have a good life and enjoy the people around you.