Tag Archives: people with disabilities

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Far From the Tree: Young Adult Edition: How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another . . . Our Differences Unite Us by Andrew Solomon. July 25, 2017. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481440905.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

From New York Times bestselling author Andrew Solomon comes a stunning, poignant, and affecting young adult edition of his award-winning masterpiece, Far From the Tree, which explores the impact of extreme differences between parents and children.

The old adage says that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, meaning that children usually resemble their parents. But what happens when the apples fall somewhere else—sometimes a couple of orchards away, sometimes on the other side of the world?

In this young adult edition, Andrew Solomon profiles how families accommodate children who have a variety of differences: families of people who are deaf, who are dwarfs, who have Down syndrome, who have autism, who have schizophrenia, who have multiple severe disabilities, who are prodigies, who commit crimes, and more.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original and compassionate thinker, Far From the Tree explores how people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life. The New York Times calls the adult edition a “wise and beautiful” volume, that “will shake up your preconceptions and leave you in a better place.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism, Homophobia, Psychological trauma, Physical abuse, Sexual assault and abuse, Clinical discussion of sexual abuse, Self-harming

 

Book Trailers

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
How do parents react when a child is far different from themselves—and how do those children cope with difference?This young-readers’ edition of the original 2012 tome is far shorter but follows an identical format. In the first and last chapters, the author speaks of his own life journey as a gay Jew; in between he tells of families encountering the following differences: deaf, dwarfs, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, rape, crime, and transgender. He speaks with sensitivity about children who find community—or not—with others like themselves. He discusses such deeply philosophical and ethical questions as whether cochlear implants at birth are leading to the genocide of the Deaf community and whether parents of “pillow angels”—severely disabled children—should agree to medically stunt their children’s growth so the children can always be moved by loving arms instead of cranelike equipment. He argues that many children born “far from the tree” eventually find acceptance and even celebration among their families—but also despairs for those who deal with schizophrenia and those conceived by rape. Readers are not spared distressing details: a severely autistic child smears himself with excrement, then flings it at his parents; a family pet is killed gruesomely as a warning to a lesbian couple and their transgender child; there’s a substantial list of parents convicted of killing their children—and who are given light or even nonexistent jail sentences. Less mature teens—or those with low self-esteem—may well profit from confining their reading to the eloquent, encouraging first and last chapters. Virtually every teenager struggles with difference and identity; at its best, this book will help its readers understand and embrace intersectionality. (notes, further reading) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Andrew Solomon writes about politics, culture, and health. He lives in New York and London. He has written for many publications–such as the New York TimesThe New Yorker and Artforum–on topics including depression, Soviet artists, the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan, Libyan politics, and deaf culture. He is also a Contributing Writer for Travel and Leisure. In 2008, he was awarded the Humanitarian Award of the Society of Biological Psychiatry for his contributions to the field of mental health. He has a staff appointment as a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell Medical School (Weill-Cornell Medical College).

His website is andrewsolomon.com

Teacher Resources

Far From the Tree Reading Guide

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Far From the Tree on Amazon

Far From the Tree on Goodreads

Far From the Tree on JLG

Far From the Tree Publisher Page

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Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber. March 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 281 p. ISBN: 9780545902144.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 4-7. Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s 12 and totally crushing it on the soccer field (which means more time with her best-friend teammates), and everyone agrees that the ridiculously cute Tate is within days of asking her to be official BF/GF. All of that comes to a crashing halt when her Boston specialist reveals she has scoliosis. In fact, the curvature of her spine is so extreme that she’ll have to wear a back brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23 hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets, and it seems like everyone—even her friends and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How can everything turn upside down so quickly? And where can she possibly find the strength to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate, beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and wearing a fitted brace in her formative years. Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the details about the process of wearing a brace in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a natural and enlightening thread through the story. A masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Both the literal and figurative senses of the word “spine” form the backbone of Gerber’s debut. The same day white seventh-grader Rachel Brooks starts in an important soccer game, she learns that her scoliosis has worsened, and she now needs to wear a brace for 23 hours a day. The author, who wore a brace herself, vividly conveys its constricting bulk. But her spine isn’t the only curve Rachel has to brace herself for. Her mother, whose own scoliosis required a spinal fusion, is rigid and unsympathetic as the brace affects Rachel’s soccer technique and jeopardizes her place on the team. Her classmates gossip, and though her friends and crush are generally supportive, the author nails their realistic discomfort at being bullied by association. Ultimately, her friends help her to adjust, and Rachel learns to assert herself. As Rachel grows a spine, her mother learns to bend, sympathetically revealing the fears she never addressed during her own treatment. Their disparate experiences give scoliosis—and their relationship—nuance as well as tension. The author doesn’t diminish Rachel’s difficulties, but at heart her story is uplifting; a brace can be a “built-in drum” to dance to. An author’s note provides a short list of scoliosis resources. Comparisons to Judy Blume’s Deenie (1973) might be inevitable, but Rachel stands admirably on her own. (Fiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Alyson Gerber wore a back brace for scoliosis from the age of eleven to thirteen, an experience that led directly to Braced. She received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and before that she taught elementary and middle school students in a supplementary education program. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.

Her website is www.alysongerber.com

Around the Web

Braced on Amazon

Braced  on Goodreads

Braced  on JLG

Braced  Publisher Page

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780544829695.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen.

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. LaZebnik hits it out of the park with her story about pretty, popular Chloe and her loving relationship with her older, autistic sister, Ivy. On the surface, Chloe has it together—handsome boyfriend James; best friend Sarah; and an effortless, sunny disposition. At home, however, there’s her stepfather, Ron, whose first experience at parenting is marked by micromanagement. When Chloe goes out without her sister, Ivy lets her know that she’s lonely, which gives Chloe an idea: she’s going to find Ivy a boyfriend. There’s a young man in Ivy’s class, named Ethan, whom she seems to like, so Chloe starts working on getting them on a date. Then she finds out that Ethan’s brother, David, someone she knows and despises, will be coming along, too. They start to get along as they get to know each other and realize that they have more in common than they knew. With perceptiveness and ample skill, LaZebnik paints a vivid picture of what the sibling of a person with high-functioning autism might go through. Never resorting to stereotype, she depicts appealing, three-­dimensional characters who flesh out a narrative that is compassionate, tender, funny, and wise all at once. This insightful, well-­written story will entertain readers while inspiring meaningful empathy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
The complexities of Chloe’s love life intertwine with her autistic sister’s. White high schooler Chloe has never had trouble fitting in socially. With her father dead of cancer, her mother recently remarried to a know-it-all, and her older sister, Ivy, on the spectrum, Chloe doesn’t have the time or energy to worry about her peers’ perceptions. And she certainly doesn’t care if she’s the object of snarky white classmate David’s insults. But when Ivy begins to question Chloe’s dating rituals, Chloe decides that perhaps Ivy needs a boyfriend of her own. After some investigation, Chloe convinces Ivy to try a date with Ethan from her specialty school. Ever the protective sister, Chloe accompanies Ivy only to discover that Ethan’s assisted by his brother—who is none other than David. As the dates continue, the real sparks form between Chloe and her former nemesis as they both understand the responsibilities of having an autistic family member. Chloe’s realistic narrative never sugarcoats both the challenges and gifts of living with someone with autism. In a twist that provokes more thought, Ivy may be more attracted to classmate Diana than Ethan. While the author expertly handles myriad issues regarding sexuality for those with autism and their families, the pacing does lose speed. An eye-opening look at autism and those it touches. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Claire grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA. She’s written five novels for adults and four YA novels.

She lives in the Pacific Palisades with my husband Rob (who writes for “The Simpsons”), her four kids and too many pets to keep track of.

Her website is www.clairelazebnik.com.

Around the Web

Things I Should Have Known on Amazon

Things I Should Have Known  on Goodreads

Things I Should Have Known  on JLG

Things I Should Have Known  Publisher Page

A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

A Blind Guide to Normal  by Beth Vrabel. October 11, 2016. Sky Pony Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9781510702288.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 670.

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

Sequel to: A Blind Guide to Stinkville

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Death of a child

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (October 1, 2016)
Gr 4-6-Richie Ryder Randolf is used to being a big fish in a small pond. At the Addison School for the Blind, he’s hilarious, he’s smooth, and he’s popular enough to serve as a social mentor for others. Relocated to a middle school in suburban Washington, DC, for eighth grade while his scientist parents go on assignment, he’s flopping on the shore and gasping for air. Between navigating the challenges of his limited vision (he wears an artificial eye owing to complications from cancer) and being a social disaster, Ryder is seriously struggling-and he’s not the only one. His grandfather, who’s supposed to be taking care of Ryder while the boy’s parents are away, talks to his decades-dead wife, lives as if he’s still in the 1970s, and insists on calling the protagonist by his full name, Richie Ryder. Ryder’s parents are immersed in work to the point of benign neglect. In this sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville, Vrabel injects just the right goofy mix of hormones and pain into Ryder’s mounting rages, fervent emotional deflection techniques, and confusing romantic ups and downs and gives equal weight to the foibles and dramas of those around him. As any reader of middle grade fiction might expect, the title is a red herring-nobody’s normal, and everybody’s just trying their best. VERDICT A sweet, thoughtful, and funny read. Hand this to fans of Vrabel’s previous novels and those who enjoy a heartfelt tale without the typical saccharine coating.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
When Ryder graduates from the Addison School for the Blind, he and Artie—his artificial eye, courtesy of cancer—look forward to being normal, whatever that is. Wisecracking, white Ryder is forced to stay with his eccentric, equally sarcastic grandfather when his parents, both avid research biologists, accept new assignments. His arrival at Papuaville Middle School is a shock—to the teacher he causes to faint and the semibully he inadvertently provokes. Fortunately, crushing on white, tough-but-wounded Jocelyn and wielding his increasingly desperate sense of humor help him to withstand bullies, distant parents, and cringeworthy good intentions. Karate classes provide an outlet, humor, and further character development, and a surprise quilting class provides surprising insight. Readers may groan at Ryder’s jokes, but the pranks he pulls with his narration are great fun, calling out “very special episode” clichés and blindness stereotypes. But the “relentless positivity” trope is dismantled with care as Ryder interacts with equally vulnerable characters and sees his clowning for the defense mechanism it often is—and acknowledges the anger it’s masking. Like Alice of the preceding A Blind Guide to Stinkville (2015), Ryder and his family and friends all experience disorientation—this time from the shock of moving forward as well as away—and learn how to grieve in their own ways. As Ryder might say, Vrabel has an eye for sympathetic, offbeat characters—and a knack for feel-good resolutions. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

Her website is www.bethvrabel.com.

Around the Web

A Blind Guide to Normal on Amazon

A Blind Guide to Normal on JLG

A Blind Guide to Normal on Goodreads

 

Love and First Sight by John Sundquist

Love and First Sight by John Sundquist. January 3, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 978031605358.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Love is more than meets the eye.

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Will Porter, blind from birth, has sculpted his world using smells and sounds. When he transfers to a conventional high school to prove his independence, he finds that trusting in others is his biggest challenge. After meeting Cecily and being charmed by her voice and company, Will gets the opportunity he never dreamed of—an experimental operation to restore his sight. But with that prospect comes the task of learning the world all over again, as well as learning how to trust Cecily when her secrets are revealed. Rich in sensory detail, this novel pulls readers into Will’s world. Sundquist meticulously traces out mundane tasks with fresh takes to highlight how the blind navigate ordinary spaces and occasions—from entering a new place for the first time to playing a game of Settlers of Catan. Through Will’s postoperative struggles, Sundquist deftly shows the difference between the act of seeing and truly seeing. This fresh and funny coming-of-age story presents an opportunity for readers who take certain abilities for granted to take stock of challenges facing peers.

School Library Journal (November 1, 2016)
Gr 7 Up-Blind since birth, 16-year-old Will Porter has decided that he is ready to mainstream at a new high school rather than continue attending his former school for blind students. After a few minor missteps, which are presented with humor, he adjusts to the new school and makes some interesting friends along the way. The most unique aspect of this inspiring tale is that it is told exclusively from Will’s point of view. The author succeeds at providing readers with a sense of the challenges of day-to-day life for someone with a visual disability, especially for a risk-taking teenager who is striving to be independent. A close friendship and budding romance between Will and fellow student Cecily add further layers. When Will considers surgery to restore his sight, the threat that this possibility poses to the teens’ relationship will encourage young adults to think about their own biases related to physical attractiveness and body image. Readers will enjoy the humor and romance of the story while gaining a better understanding of life with a visual disability. Sundquist makes it clear that Will is not defined by his disability; he often has better “vision” than those with eyesight. VERDICT A highly recommended and engaging story for most YA collections.-Theresa Muraski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

About the Author

Josh Sundquist is a Paralympian, motivational speaker, and Halloween enthusiast.

His website is www.joshsundquist.com.

Around the Web

Love and First Sight on Amazon

Love and First Sight on JLG

Love and First Sight on Goodreads