Category Archives: Neurodiversity

What Stars Are Made Of [released 3/31]

Written by: Sarah Allen 

For ages: Middle Grades, 5th and up.

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Own Voices, Turner Syndrome, Neurodiversity (NLD), STEM, Women in STEM, Friendship, Social-Emotional Growth & Development.

Summary: 

Hot damn, I’m glad this book exists.  This middle grade novel follows 12 year old Libby over the course of a school year.  Libby has difficulty making friends, and talks to famous women in science that she’s learned about inside her head.  When Libby’s sister Nonny moves back home because her husband Thomas is on a longterm job in another state and Nonny is pregnant, Libby is both excited and worried.  Libby has Turner syndrome, and because of this she has some complications like giving herself shots daily, and sterility.  She’s worried that the baby might need extra help too.

This book covers a wonderful amount of topics throughout the story, and I seriously could not put it down.  Libby navigates family dynamics, making friends with a new girl at school, and figuring out how to win a Smithsonian contest with a 25k grand prize (that could really help Thomas and Nonny). Libby has a good relationship with her teacher Ms. Trepky who encourages her to submit the essay and works with her on editing.

There is a particularly beautiful part of the book that really stuck with me after finishing it.  Libby and Ms. Trepky are in the classroom, discussing how the world is shaped by individuals, but the individual that changes the world is also shaped by an innumerable amount of people themselves.  Libby takes a moment of reflection and comprehends the magnitude of the fact that “the world was shaped by billions and billions of unknown hands…that meant [she] could sculpt and write on the DNA of the universe from [her] little corner of it, too, no matter [her] smallness or genetics or scars” (p137 of ARC).  This is a profound realization for a middle schooler, and a mindset that we have sought to emulate by creating ripples of change wherever we can.  For us, that means sharing stunning Own Voices texts such as this one.  This book comes out on March 31st and please do yourself a favor and devote a few hours to this splendid read, you will absolutely not regret it.

This book was generously sent to us by Macmillan, but all opinions are our own! Note: the quote we cited may differ slightly from the published edition, we will be checking for correctness once the edition is actually published.

About the Author:

Headshot-cred Sarah AllenSarah Allen got her MFA in creative writing from BYU and while Utah will always be her home, Sarah moved around a bit and currently lives in the Seattle area.

Pretty much every area of writing interests her, and regularly submits short stories, poetry, articles, and other fun things. Sarah is a Slytherin (with a Hufflepuff exterior), overenthusiastic about most things, and a shmoosher of dog faces. Her superpower is speaking fluent movie quotes.  Sarah is also a major lover of Pixar, leather jackets, and Colin Firth.

The Degenerates [released 3/17]

Written by: J. Albert Mann

Cover Art by: Design: Rebecca Syracuse; Illustration: Sarah Maxwell-Folio Art

For ages: YA (14 years and up)

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Growing Up, Mental Health, Disability, Own Voices, Interracial Love, Family, Friendship, Institutionalized Lives, Courage, Bravery, Love. 

Summary: 

This book is incredible.  I truly hope this book review does it justice, I couldn’t put it down.  We were given the opportunity to read the book before it’s released on 3/17 and I am so appreciative!  Four young girls (Rose, Alice Maxine, and London) are all institutionalized at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, also known as the Fernald School.  Set in 1928, readers get a look inside the dismal and regimented existence that these girls as well as the rest of the inmates are subjected to.  The book is told in the four voices of the girls mentioned above, and the reader learns the schedule of the “school” and why they were abandoned there.  Using the language of the day, you can anticipate outdated terms for Down syndrome as well as learn about the eugenics movement that drove the incessant testing and measuring of intelligence leading to categories that we no longer use (but that many still use as ableist insults today).

I don’t want to give away too much, but The Degenerates is a slow burn, and made my little gay heart go pitter patter all the way until the last pages.  It’s a fantastic historically accurate book, and I’ve already told several people how much they need to read it!

In an extensive note in the back, we learn more about the author and how she developed the book from actual records found from the Fernald School, which was finally closed in 2014.  We coincidentally live very near the Fernald, so this book was of particular interest to us!  Everything in the book that a doctor or nurse says to a character was pulled from hospital records, as well as the characters names and their conditions.  The author herself is disabled, giving a personal voice to the probability that she herself would have been committed to an institution such as this one should she have been born last century.  Honestly, we probably would have been committed too, due to the criminalization of queer people in addition to the other disabled and marginalized citizens.  This adds another layer to reading the book and the heinous “care” that these individuals committed for life were given.

The Degenerates will be released on March 17th! This book was sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. This is a YA book everyone should devote a few hours to reading!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

Jennifer+Mann_Author+Photo_2016+(1)J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee.

selfieSarah Maxwell is an American illustrator based in London. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas, only to then travel to Paris for studies. Having lived there for over 5 years, she has made the move to travel across the pond to the UK to start a new chapter of her life.

Her work ranges from fashion illustration to animated GIFs and comics. The best way to describe her work is summed up in 4 key words: nostalgia, tenderness, femininity, and 80’s electronic music.

0-3Rebecca Syracuse is a graphic designer and illustrator, highly experienced in children’s publishing and product design.

Inclusion Alphabet

Written & Illustrated by: Kathryn Jenkins

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Literacy, Inclusion, Neurodiversity, Disability, Friendship, Vocabulary, Family, Love, Global Community, Social-Emotional Learning & Development.

Summary: For our second skill to take into 2020 we’ve chosen Inclusion! Our planet is a wonderful, weird, diverse place.  It becomes better when we include and advocate for everyone, especially marginalized populations.  By understanding the intersections of oppression, we can be better allies and embrace the teachable moments throughout the day.

This is a creative take on an alphabet book, both teaching the letters and telling a story with it.  The book encourages the reader to recognize and embrace differences. We really like how the book demonstrates that something or someone might be unfamiliar, but friendship is possible.  There is an emphasis on social-emotional learning and kindness to others.  In the back is a glossary with all of the words used, and they are great for vocabulary development.  This book would be a great tool to inspire action, introduce a new classmate, or help with teaching how to be a good human.

This book was kindly sent to us by Kathryn, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Kathryn Jenkins is the author and illustrator of this book, and also runs a website called Inclusion Project!  The website has resources, a list of things that her family loves (that have withstood the test of 3 children!) and a shop where she designs her own inclusion-based shirts.

Here is a blurb from her website about why she does the work she does:

“In 2016, I started Inclusion Project because I wanted to talk about inclusion with others and how its not a place but rather — a mindset. I truly believe that, as a mom to three boys, one of has autism, — we can be more inclusive and kind and respectful and promoting of each other. We can believe in each others success, even though it does look different and because of my strong passion in that belief

Because of my strong passion in that belief, I picked up a pen and wrote a book. It was published in October 2018 and titled Inclusion Alphabet. I also designed shirts. I created several coloring pages and I am now currently writing a second and third book book full of worksheets and ideas to spread more inclusion. Be sure to join my community on Instagramand Facebook. You will find me there a lot. For any collaboration opportunities or features, check out my media kit. “

 

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

Written by: Stacy McAnulty

Cover Art by: We can’t find this, if you know-let us know!!

For ages: YA Book-middle grades

Language: English

Topics Covered: Middle School, Neurodivergence, OCD, Friendship, Fitting In, Self-Acceptance, STEM, Synesthesia, Social-Emotional Learning & Development. 

Summary: This book was great!  Lucy Callahan got struck by lightning, and because of this gained extraordinary mathematical abilities, as well as synesthesia and OCD.  After being homeschooled by her grandmother, she is thrust into the 7th grade at a local public school despite having taken both high school and college courses.  Lucy has a plethora of online friends on math forums and they are her only interactions.  She rarely leaves the house, and has severe germ anxieties.  Her grandmother makes her a deal-1 year, 1 book, 1 friend, and Lucy can go to college.

Lucy starts school, navigating being the new kid and having her compulsive habits publicly acknowledged by classmates.  This book, which we won’t give too much away, is about self-discovery, patience, and friendship.  Lucy may be a genius, but she has some trouble relating to others.  Luckily a service project, animal shelter, and a couple friends come along and help Lucy realize that maybe being out in the world, and seventh grade, aren’t so bad after all.

About the Author:

stacy mcanultyStacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a dog therapist (is that a thing???), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). She has written dozens of books including her debut middle-grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl , a Junior Library Guild Selection, and the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor book Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert, illustrated by Deborah Hocking, Brave and Beautiful, both illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, illustrated by Edward Hemingway; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. She’s also authored the chapter book series Goldie Blox, based on the award-winning toys, and The Dino Files. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband.

 

Deadendia: The Broken Halo [released 10/17]

Written & Illustrated by: Hamish Steele

For ages: YA middle & upper grades (2 vaguely implied sexual situations)

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Neurodivergent Characters, LGBTQ, Supernatural, Friendship, Graphic Novels, Adventure, Love, Family, Acceptance. 

Summary: This graphic novel is the next installment in the series!  We were sent this book by the publisher, Flying Eye Books, (Nobrow in the UK) but all opinions are our own.

We really liked this book, and the diverse cast of characters can’t be beat.  Norma is an autistic POC queer character, Barney is trans, and Badyah is Muslim.  Besides this badass trio, there are a range of demons and angels all vying for control of the 7th neutral plane also known as earth.  Because of previous events, Norma’s soul won’t stay in her body when she’s surprised.  This is both helpful and aggravating as tensions mount between demons and angels.  Barney is hiding a secret career from his boyfriend though, but it’s very lucrative. Norma and Badyah along with some demons are working overtime at the Dead End, a haunted house during the day and demon B&B at night.  We don’t want to give too much about this graphic novel away, but it’s incredible and Corrie had to start reading it right away! It would be helpful to read the first volume before this one, but not necessary.  There are a lot of references to past events but enough context to provide the reader of this volume backstory.  We can’t wait to see what happens next, it’s an amazing series with awesome representation!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Screen-Shot-2018-01-01-at-21.35.01_3_400From the website of Hamish: My name is Hamish Ridley-Steele and I’m a Animation Director and Comic-Book artist from London. Soon after graduating, I directed Dead End, a short for Frederator Studio’s Cartoon Hangover. This lead to me directing two films for Nickelodeon’s International Shorts program, the second of which I collaborated on with Blink Industrieswho now represent me.

In 2014, I self-published my first graphic novel Pantheon thanks to Kickstarter. Since then, it has been republished by Nobrow Press. This year, they will also publish my webcomic DeadEndia which is based on that first Cartoon Hangover short.  I really like crocodiles. My dream is to meet one.

Top 5 Books We Read in 2018

2018 was a rollercoaster of a year, with so many opportunities for growth and learning all over the place! We launched this site as a passion project, and we have been so lucky to connect with many people from all over the globe, sharing our mutual love of diverse literature!

We have no idea what 2019 will bring,

but we resolve to fight injustice,

to spread love and liberation,

and to lift up the voices of those most marginalized.

In 2019, we will educate to empower!

Without further ado, here are the Top 5 books we read in 2018:


5) A Day With Yayah  

Words by Nicola I. Campbell, Pictures by Julie Flett

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Click here for more about Indigenous Voices!

Why We Loved This Book:

-It promotes multilingualism & discusses the cultural significance of certain traditions

-Teaches about respecting and revering natural resources

-Julie Flett’s illustrations are stunning


4) Captain Starfish 

Written by: Davina Bell, Illustrated by: Allison Colpoys

captain starfish

Click here for more about Neurodiversity!

Why We Loved This Book:

-The protagonist Alfie learns about himself from the natural world-the aquarium is the place for him!

-Alfie learns to manage his anxiety on his own timeline, with his parent’s support

-Anxiety is described in a very understandable way, so children can identify times that they may have felt anxious


3) Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Poem by Maya Angelou, Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

life doesnt firghten me

Click here for more about POC-Centric Narratives!

Why We Loved This Book:

-It introduces poetry and art to readers at the same time

-It highlights two incredible artists of color and brings them together in a way that appeals to children

– It’s easy to use this book in a variety of ways in the classroom as well as the home (see our full review for ideas!)


2) Neither

Written & Illustrated by: Airlie Anderson

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Click here for more about Gender Identity!

Why We Loved This Book:

– The imaginative illustrations draw the reader in, where they then encounter a lovable cast of characters

-Diversity and individuality is celebrated in a simple way that effectively communicates what can be a complex topic

-It opens the door for further conversation and self-reflection about identity!


#1 : Interstellar Cinderella

Written by: Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by: Meg Hunt

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Click here for more about Social Emotional Development!

Why we loved this book the most:

-It has a strong female protagonist who thinks for herself, and an interracial friendship

– Cinderella is a STEM-loving role model for young girls who beats the odds

– It switches up the typical fairy tale ending of marriage being the ultimate goal- Cinderella gets the job of her dreams and a new best friend who understands her!


Happy New Year, and may the year 2019

bring you more amazing books!

Rad American Women A-Z

Written by: Kate Schatz

Illustrated by: Miriam Klein Stahl

For Ages: 8-16 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Activism, Strong Women, Trailblazers, Musicians, Artists,

Summary: This book goes through the alphabet, each letter representing a famous woman. Jovita Idar, Odetta Holmes, Carol Burnett, and Wilma Mankiller are some of the famous figures written about. Each page has a brief description of her achievements followed by several biographical paragraphs of more detailed information. Illustrations are black and white graphics against a brightly colored background, with names stamped above. Having this introductory conversation about so many strong and revolutionary women can introduce young readers to a variety of new worlds and new access points to activism. Perfect for a quick story or an introduction to a longer unit on any of the topics covered in the book: activism, neurodiversity, music, or comedy. The book leans heavily on activist leaders and could be considered a primer for the aspiring young trailblazer.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which one of these women is doing something you would like to do?
  • Who would you like to learn more about?
  • Which person that we read about is your favorite?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Pick one of the rad women featured and learn more about her accomplishments.  How can you follow in her footsteps and help make the world a better place?
  • Find a rad woman in your own community!  What has she done for your area, and could she come visit the class and talk about what she does everyday?

About the Author & the Illustrator

kate-schatz-webKate Schatz (pronounced ‘Shots’) is the New York Times-bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, as well as My Rad Life: A Journal and Rid of Me: A Story. She is the co-founder of Solidarity Sundays, a nationwide network of feminist activist groups. She’s a writer, organizer, public speaker, educator, and left-handed vegetarian Bay Area-born-and-bred feminist activist mama.

 

 

 

miriam-klein-stahlMiriam Klein Stahl is a Bay Area artist, educator and activist and the New York Times-bestselling illustrator of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide . In addition to her work in printmaking, drawing, sculpture, paper-cut and public art, she is also the co-founder of the Arts and Humanities Academy at Berkeley High School where she’s taught since 1995. As an artist, she follows in a tradition of making socially relevant work, creating portraits of political activists, misfits, radicals and radical movements. As an educator, she has dedicated her teaching practice to address equity through the lens of the arts. Her work has been widely exhibited and reproduced internationally. Stahl is also the co-owner of Pave the Way Skateboards, a queer skateboarding company formed with Los Angeles-based comedian, actor, writer and skateboarder Tara Jepson. She lives in Berkeley, California with her wife, artist Lena Wolff, daughter Hazel, and their dog Lenny.