“caregiver burnout”

This blog post by Love Explosions covers an important concept of parenting that is not unique to parenting autistic children and it does so brilliantly. Given that I have not covered the topic of self-care anywhere in my blog, I thought I should share it.

love explosions

"Caregiver burnout" caries the implication that the person being cared for is somehow culpable. It also leaves others with the impression that this state of emotional distress is inevitable when you have an Autistic family member “Caregiver burnout” caries the implication that the person being cared for is somehow culpable. It also leaves others with the impression that this state of emotional distress is inevitable when you have an Autistic family member

I dislike the term “caregiver burnout.”  To me, it carries a very negative and connotation about the person being cared for.  It also seems to imply some sort of culpability on the person under care which makes me super uncomfortable in a way that I cannot articulate.

It makes me so sad to see people using this term to describe themselves and all that it implies about their Autistic children.  And families.  It makes me sad that these stories of hardship dominate the conversations about Autism because it gives the impression that there is no alternative to this way of life–to this emotional state of being when you’ve got an Autistic family member.

The…

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to the autistic people in the crowd

It was a call for autistic people!

It was a call for autistic people!

In my last post ‘Autistic Voices’, I almost congratulated our State organisation’s (AMAZE) attempt at promoting autistic voices in their ‘SPECTROSPECTIVE’ movie project. I barely discussed that several of the videos submitted and shared were from a carers point of view and sacrificed the dignity and privacy of their autistic children (such as Addie’s video here http://www.spectrospective.com.au/gallery-4.html#). It was disappointing that those few videos compromised the message but I was so used to it that I accepted it as inevitable. However, just today I read this blog post by Jess from ‘A Diary of a Mom’ and I realised that AMAZE could have done better. AMAZE called for autistic voices (stories of autism from an autistic persons perspective) so they should have been the only videos shared. Neurotypical people should not be hijacking our voices. Neurotypical people already get most of the attention on the discourse of autism. Neurotypical people could learn from Jess. I could learn from Jess. Keep spreading your words Jess and amplifying ours, we need allies like you 🙂

a diary of a mom

I had made a decision. Before I said anything else, I would say this. Even if it were technically only addressed to 3 out of the 240 people in that room, it mattered. And it mattered that the other 237 hear it.

This is what I said.

I did my best to transcribe the words (below) for those who find auditory processing challenging. Any errors are wholly unintentional.

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me here to all of you and Lisa and Maeghan for all of the incredible that work you’ve done here. I hope you guys can take a minute now that you can breathe and appreciate what you’ve done. This is some pretty amazing stuff. Above all, thank you for ensuring that I am sharing the stage with Michele [Gauvin} who will speak for a few moments later. That’s Saturday, April 4, 2015

” target=”_blank”>really important stuff.

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Autistic voices

Our state autism organisation is called AMAZE. According to their website “Amaze is a member-based not-for-profit organisation and is the peak organisation for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the state of Victoria. Amaze represents around 55,000 Victorians who have ASD and work for the benefit of all individuals and their families and to promote better understanding of ASD in the general community.”

To promote a better understanding of autism in the general community is a massive task when there is so much misinformation about it. The AMAZE Facebook Page posts are often followed with passionate comments about the sorts of ‘awareness’ articles they should and shouldn’t post from neurotypical parents of autistic children versus autistic people. A lot of the comments reflect ignorance and fear. The debates are predictable and painful.

Some neurotypical people, such as parents of autistic children, believe that autism is the worst thing that has ever happened to them or that it creates undue stress on their children so they wish their child didn’t have it and they would embrace a cure. Meanwhile, autistic people who embrace their autistic identity, both their strengths and vulnerabilities, feel that their disability arises from a lack of acceptance and inclusion. Not only do autistic people feel that they are undervalued and therefore discriminated against but that they are a likely target for eugenics through the search for a “cure”.

AMAZE will never please everyone but it should be clear which path favours social justice. Unfortunately, social justice has never been an easy path to take. If AMAZE chose to please the majority (a numbers game) they will be catering to neurotypical narratives of autism, which can often be ableist and unintentionally harmful to autistic people through stigma. If they chose to please the minority they are doing right by disability advocacy guidelines “Nothing about us without us” but they will lose popularity and likely donations to further “promote a better understanding of autism” (ironic).

We can support autistic people AND their families while being respectful to autistic people but the task of helping the neurotypical majority to see that seems enormous. It’s almost as though you need to give people a degree in autistic experiences to understand why this is necessary.

Perhaps AMAZE has decided to tackle the difficult path with their recent attempt at doing something different for the World Autism Awareness Day (autistic advocates would prefer the day to be called ‘Autism Acceptance Day’). Instead of the usual march, sporting blue shirts with the latest prevalence numbers printed on them (we are not a number), AMAZE chose to call for autistic people to video record their stories and send them in. The stories were edited and condensed into a 17 minute movie shown at cinemas in Victoria, on the 2nd of April and available to be watched online or by purchased CD.

The initial call was for autistic people to contribute but a few family members chose to speak on behalf of their child/children from their neurotypical perspective and how it affected them as carers, which was particularly unfortunate in the cases where the children were portrayed as a burden. However, the broader message of acceptance was clear enough for those willing to listen.

I chose to watch the movie online, in the comfort of home, with my autistic sons so that I could expand on different concepts that were raised. Much to my surprise and my boys delight, part of my video recording featured in it (at 14:03 min)*. You can view the edited movie and the individual videos at www.spectrospective.com.au. I’m curious to know if you found that it helped you to understand autism from the lived experience and made you question the common narratives of burden, numbers and cure.

*Although my boys were keen to contribute a video recording of their own, my husband was concerned about their privacy, which I respected, so they did not contribute.

The Grief of the Privileged

Grief as defined by Wikipedia is “a multifaceted response to loss, particularly in response to someone or something that has died to which a bond or affection was formed”. However, it is the grief of “expectations lost” that I am most intrigued by. Specifically, the expectation of giving birth to a “normal” or “typical” baby.

When I learned that my first born was on the autism spectrum, I did not grieve. I was relieved to have an explanation for his differences, luckily an explanation that I had just become personally familiar with. Yes, I felt lucky to share the diagnosis with my son, so that it was our normal. At worst, I was concerned that he would be socially isolated and develop lifelong anxiety and depression like I did but I didn’t wish I had another child instead of him and I certainly didn’t grieve for any unborn child.

Later, when I ventured into social media territory, I became bombarded with ‘gloom and doom’ rhetoric about autism that frankly made me feel like a less worthy person. Each word was a microaggression drilling little holes in me; burden, cure, hate, missing, stolen and grief. These days, it is so common to hear the rhetoric of grief being associated with diagnosis of autism that it becomes expected and I’m not the only one who doesn’t appreciate it.

Something I learned during my adult life when attending couples counselling is to always validate each other’s feelings (when I said “but it’s not logical” about my husband’s feelings, to the psychologist, it got me referred for additional counselling). So I was torn between validating others grief of the unborn child and somehow processing my feelings of unworthiness about their grief that were just as valid.

Then, I remembered a post by a transgender blogger titled ‘Transition is not death‘ and I remembered about the white lesbian couple who gave birth to a black baby and sued the sperm bank (read the last paragraph of this article about it) and I realised that we shared one thing in common. The children were lesser privileged than their parents in each case. The parents grief, although valid, was prejudiced. Do you know many parents who grieved that they gave birth to able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual white children instead of another ideal?

In his article, ‘Don’t Mourn For Us‘ Autistic Advocate Jim Sinclair says “Much of the grieving parents do is over the non-occurrence of the expected relationship with an expected normal child. This grief is very real…but it has nothing to do with autism” and he stresses the importance of grieving “away” from the autistic child.

I would add that part of that process of managing your grief should involve acknowledging the culturally learned aspect of grief whether it comes from ableism, sexuality prejudice, genderism or sexism or even physical attractiveness or intellectual ability etc. Not only should this be acknowledged to yourself (and for your social media audience when you refer to your grief) but also that you should openly challenge those prejudices and help to create cultural change so that one less person is duped into false expectations.

In the words of Jim Sinclair: “The tragedy is not that we’re here, but that your world has no place for us”

Fairness, Anxiety and Disability update

Following my realisation that a discussion of privilege was warranted to change Jeremy’s (my 8 year old son) perspective on fairness, I decided to create a questionnaire to expose how people are treated differently based on appearance. The questionnaire and discussions that followed are below:

Questionnaire:

Illustration

A group of children with different appearances are pictured standing together smiling. A boy sits in a wheelchair toward the front of the group. A girl in a pink shirt stands next to him.

A group of children with different appearances are pictured standing together smiling. A boy sits in a wheelchair toward the front of the group. A girl in a pink shirt stands next to him.

Image obtained from http://esl-multicultural-stuff-page4.blogspot.com.au/p/diversity.html

Question 1.

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the girl with the soccer ball if she said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the girl wearing the head scarf if she said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the boy wearing the blue shirt (who is standing) if he said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the girl wearing the yellow shirt if she said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the boy wearing the red shirt if he said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the boy in the wheelchair if he said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How comfortable would you be saying “hello” to the girl wearing the pink shirt if she said hello to you (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

Question 2.

How much would you like to play with the girl with the soccer ball (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How much would you like to play with the girl wearing the head scarf (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How much would you like to play with the boy wearing the blue shirt (who is standing) (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How much would you like to play with the girl wearing the yellow shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How much would you like to play with the boy wearing the red shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How much would you like to play with the boy in the wheelchair (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How much would you like to play with the girl wearing the pink shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

Question 3.

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the girl with the soccer ball (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the girl wearing the head scarf (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the boy wearing the blue shirt (who is standing) (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the girl wearing the yellow shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the boy wearing the red shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the boy in the wheelchair (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

If you needed help with your school work how likely would you be to ask the girl wearing the pink shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

Question 4.

How likely would you be to share your food with the girl with the soccer ball (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How likely would you be to share your food with the girl wearing the head scarf (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How likely would you be to share your food with the boy wearing the blue shirt (who is standing) (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How likely would you be to share your food with the girl wearing the yellow shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How likely would you be to share your food with the boy wearing the red shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How likely would you be to share your food with the boy in the wheelchair (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

How likely would you be to share your food with the girl wearing the pink shirt (out of 10)?

1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9              10

Question 5.

Which child or children do you think would most likely become a doctor when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely become nurse when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely become a teacher when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely become an athlete when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely have children when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely become prime minister when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely become a scientist when they grow up?

 

Which child or children do you think would most likely become an astronaut when they grow up?

Question 6.

Who gets treated the best? More hellos, more play, more food etc.

 

Who gets treated the worst? Less hellos, less play, less food etc.

 

The person that gets treated the best is the most privileged. What things about them made you decide to treat them better?

Boy or girl?                                                          Yes/no

Clothes they wore?                                            Yes/no

If they could do things like you?                      Yes/no

If they looked like you?                                     Yes/no

Other: 

Question 6.

Do you think they way you treat people based on how they look and what you think they can be when they grow up affects what they think they can do and therefore what they end up doing? Way too confusing, question failed.

How do you think they feel about that? Do you think that is fair?

What could you do to change that?

Discussions of questionnaire:

I explained the questions and gave no sign as to the preferred answers. I just noted their answers as they went along. Some answers were surprising in that they thought the boy at the back of the image had a disability but they couldn’t explain what it was (perhaps because his facial features seemed less symmetrical and his head was turned to the side). Once the boys started to realise that they weren’t treating people the same (based on some of the later questions) they started to get upset and wanted to change some answers.

Jeremy was more comfortable in general with saying hello to everyone, asking for help with school work and playing with everyone in general. For Jeremy, there wasn’t a significant difference in the ratings between the children (even though they varied I couldn’t detect a pattern) but the girl in the pink shirt and the girl in the head scarf appeared to rate lower in general for both Jeremy and Damian. Damian even said that he didn’t think the women with the head scarf would have any of the jobs and Jeremy said “Yeah, me too”. Damian was more likely to feel comfortable saying hello to and playing with boys. Jeremy and Damian chose boys as most likely to have the higher paying occupations of scientist, astronaut and prime minister.

I asked Damian why he chose boys for specific occupations and he said the jobs were “a better fit” for them but he couldn’t explain further. I asked if he thought boys were smarter than girls and he said “No”. I said “Do you think women could do those jobs?” and he said “Yes”. I told Damian and Jeremy that they are among the very privileged in this world. They are treated better because they are boys, have white skin and are well-off financially. They are less privileged than some white boys because they have a disability (autism) but are still treated very well. I explained that even though we don’t mean to we tend to treat some people better based on sex, skin colour (Jeremy thought it was wrong to say ‘black people’ but I mentioned that many black people are proud of being referred to as ‘black people’), how much money they earn and if they are disabled or not. The questionnaire showed that to be true for them too even though they thought it was important in general to treat everyone equally.

In response to the boys being very privileged Damian said “People in America are richer than us!”. This reminded me of a youtube video that I had watched with the boys before, which pointed out the wealth disparity in America and we watched it again. I showed Damian that a lot of people are poor in America. Jeremy began to realise and say that it was probably the people who were treated worse who were poorest and he specifically mentioned women. He then extrapolated to black people and disabled people (obviously there are many other disadvantaged groups and I will eventually add them all in, in everyday discussions recently we watched this video). I asked if we should blame people for being poor and they both adamantly agreed that we shouldn’t and it was because we treated them worse (they preferred the cup half empty approach then cup half full i.e. treat them worse and not treat us better). I didn’t really know how to discuss what we should do to change this besides being aware and trying to be nicer (pretty pathetic really, but at least a start).

The creation of the questionnaire was inspired by privilege checklists that I came across on the internet when searching for ways to explain privilege to my boys. Another day I will translate one or two of these lists for the boys to build on what they have learnt today.

 

 

 

 

Fairness, anxiety and disability

After the annual ‘Ride to School Day’ (where I fell off my scooter) our school introduced a monthly ‘Ride to School Day’. Jeremy, Damian and I have participated in it several times since (with me on a bike not a scooter). Each time that we have done it has been somewhat stressful for me (and my boys but they still insist on doing it) not because of the risk of injury but because of the risk of meltdowns. What usually happens is that one boy insists he wants to turn around and go home and the other boy insists he must and will go on.

Although, my boys have many strengths they also have some challenges due to their unique autistic traits. Traits that make participating in events that test their endurance more challenging than for many other children. Jeremy has anxieties around order, routine and doing things the ‘right way’. Damian has many anxieties about things he perceives to be dangerous and has greater sensitivity to touch, pain and internal discomfort. Regardless, of how their challenges affect them on these events they insist on doing the ‘Ride to School Day’ anyway.

This morning, Damian initially said he didn’t want to do the ride, which was fine by me. I said reassuring “That’s fine your Dad can drive you to school with the school bags”. Of course, as soon as he realised that he had the choice he changed his mind and with a sharp intake of breath I said “Are you sure? I don’t want you to come if you are going to complain the whole way.” He was sure.

So off we went and the usual challenges ensued. Damian scratched his leg on the bike pedal (no broken skin) and stopped to whine about it, both boys kept trying to overtake one another and got upset about whose turn it was to lead and Jeremy complained about tired legs but ten seconds later was riding too close to Damian saying he was going too slow. I had offered 3 tokens (to add to their reward charts) for a ride without complaints and reminded them to good effect until…

50 metres before the bridge Damian stopped and refused to go any further. It was a very well-built wooden bridge with thick wooden pylons and planks. I’ve never seen a more sturdy looking wooden bridge before but it was high up over a body of water (an inlet) and from a distance may have looked imposing. We had all crossed this bridge many times before. In fact, before, it had been Jeremy and not Damian who was nervous about it.

Damian insisted he wanted to go home. I offered another token for crossing but to no avail. I explained how safe it was and how he had crossed it many times before but fear was resolutely setting in. I recognised that Damian had passed the limits of effective coaxing and external motivators. I could have offered him 20 tokens and scientific evidence from a construction engineer and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

I tried going on ahead without him. I thought, if he sees Jeremy and I on the bridge he might realise it is safe. I even jumped up and down to illustrate the point that it was safe. It didn’t work. I called Andrew on my mobile phone and he suggested I carry him across. However, the idea of it only intensified his feelings (I guess carrying him would make him even higher off the ground). I thought if we go back home we will be very late for school and Jeremy will refuse to go back anyway and become just as upset as Damian so I had no other option.

I told Damian that I was going to have to carry him against his will because we had to go to school and that he would never have to cross that bridge again after that. I picked him up and carried him to the bridge. Once on the bridge, I put him down knowing that finding that nothing awful was happening it would reassure him a little. He was still very anxious but I held his hand and he walked with me while I constantly reassured him until we got to the other side.

Jeremy had been so helpful just by being understanding and patient and I told him as much and how much easier it made things for me. However, when we got to the school and I confirmed that they’d both be getting their full quota of tokens, Jeremy was less understanding. Jeremy didn’t think it was fair that Damian could complain so much about the bridge but still get just as many tokens as him. Jeremy is very insistent upon what he considers as fairness.

Fortunately, I had explained to Jeremy before about Damian’s anxieties and how it made things harder for him and how we had to be understanding of his disability (not penalize him for it). Crossing that bridge was extremely difficult for him but he did it, so he gets the tokens. His complaints were expressions of great distress in this case and therefore didn’t count. Jeremy knew how distressed he was. In the future, it would just be Jeremy and I doing the ‘Ride to School Day’*.

Anyhow, now it is clear to me that I need to have a bigger discussion with Jeremy (and Damian) of what it means to be privileged (not just disability) and the social model of disability so that he can challenge his perception of fairness. Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

*we can’t avoid a bridge on the way to school, the alternative way includes a road bridge and Damian is equally terrified of riding on the road.

Diverse books for kids

I am passionate about diversity and I want others to be as passionate. Every now and again, I am inspired to embark on a small project in trying to ‘make a difference’. Yes, I am privileged.

It occurred to me that in raising my sons to embrace diversity, be aware of their/our privilege and encourage taking action to effect social change that I could have a greater impact on the world than just through me. So instead of getting out the text books (I’m no teacher or expert on those topics), I decided I would search the internet for entertaining books for my boys to read to promote awareness of diversity and social justice.

Everyday the mail carrier delivered a new book, I jumped up with glee and devoured them instantly and I was not disappointed. Some of the books were perfection in my eyes. I’m hoping that by sharing some of these books with you, through this blog post, that perhaps you might be inspired to make my project yours and recommend some books to me too. I sure that I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Photo of the front cover of the book ‘Desmond and the Very Mean Word’ by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams. The light blue sky with sparse white clouds takes up most of the background of the front cover. The ground between a few dull buildings is flat with light brown to orange dirt. A young black South African boy is riding a bike away from three young white South African boys who are holding up their arms in threatening gestures (fists and pointing). The white boys have aggressive expressions, with their mouths wide open indicating that they are yelling at the black boy.

Photo of the front cover of the book ‘Desmond and the Very Mean Word’ by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams.
The light blue sky with sparse white clouds takes up most of the background of the front cover. The ground between a few dull buildings is flat with light brown to orange dirt. A young black South African boy is riding a bike away from three young white South African boys who are holding up their arms in threatening gestures (fists and pointing). The white boys have aggressive expressions, with their mouths wide open indicating that they are yelling at the black boy.

A photo of the book ‘Desmond and the Very Mean Word’ in open position, showing two pages.  The left page is full of text on a white background. The right page contains an image of a white priest in a black robe crouching down between two young black South African boys who are seated on the floor of a room. Part of a circle drawn in chalk can be seen on the floor with marbles lying inside and outside the circle. The priest is leaning toward the circle with a marble in his hand presumably about to toss it into the circle.

A photo of the book ‘Desmond and the Very Mean Word’ in open position, showing two pages.
The left page is full of text on a white background. The right page contains an image of a white priest in a black robe crouching down between two young black South African boys who are seated on the floor of a room. Part of a circle drawn in chalk can be seen on the floor with marbles lying inside and outside the circle. The priest is leaning toward the circle with a marble in his hand presumably about to toss it into the circle as part of the game.

Of course, the first question my boys asked me was “What is the mean word?” but that is not the point of the book so it isn’t mentioned.

Written by none-other-than Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself along with Douglas Carlton Abrams, this book is based on a true story of how Desmond (the child) learned to forgive and the sense of freedom that forgiveness can provide. Not only does it convey a great message for children, it also introduces the concept of apartheid and the anti-apartheid movement, in South Africa.

My Two Blankets

Photo of the front cover of the book ‘My Two Blankets’ by Irena Kobald. On the front cover, on a background of light grey colour, is an illustration of a young white girl with pale yellow hair, blue striped leggings, white shirt and long sleeve light aqua cardigan. The girl is holding the handle of a light blue umbrella with white spots so that the umbrella is covering herself and another young girl with dark brown skin, earthy bright orange skirt, sleeveless shirt and fitted head cover. The young girl in orange holds an object that looks like an umbrella shaped paper cut-out.

Photo of the front cover of the book ‘My Two Blankets’ by Irena Kobald.
On the front cover, on a background of light grey colour, is an illustration of a young white girl with pale yellow hair, blue striped leggings, white shirt and long sleeve light greenish blue cardigan. The girl is holding the handle of a light blue umbrella with white spots so that the umbrella is covering herself and another young girl with dark brown skin, earthy bright orange skirt, sleeveless shirt and fitted head cover. The young girl in orange holds an object that looks like an umbrella- shaped paper cut-out.

A photo of the book ‘My Two Blankets’, in open position, showing two pages. The left page contains an illustration in the background, of the two girls running together between a few trees. The illustration in the foreground is of the two girls next to a tree. The girl in orange is looking up at the top of the tree holding an object that looks like a tree-shaped paper cut-out. There are four lines of text also on this page. The right page contains an illustration of the two girls crouched beneath the umbrella, the girl in orange is holding an object that looks like an umbrella –shaped paper cut-out. There are also four lines of text on this page.

A photo of the book ‘My Two Blankets’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page contains an illustration in the background, of the two girls running together between a few trees. The illustration in the foreground is of the two girls next to a tree. The girl in orange is looking up at the top of the tree holding an object that looks like a tree-shaped paper cut-out. The right page contains an illustration of the two girls crouched beneath the umbrella, the girl in orange is holding an object that looks like an umbrella –shaped paper cut-out. There are four lines of text on both pages.

My Two Blankets was one of the first books that I purchased for the sole purpose of teaching my boys about social justice, specifically refugees, following my disappointment in the recent attitudes of Australians towards and our country’s treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. The illustrations are lovely and the story is sensitive and age-appropriate.

Rosa’s Bus

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Rosa’s Bus’ by Jo S. Kittinger. In the background of the front cover is a light blue sky with white light clouds and vague shapes in the far- off distance resembling buildings of the city. In the foreground, is an illustration of the lower right front part of a bus with it’s door open. The number 2857 is printed beside the door. The outside of bus is painted orange in colour in the lower half and light green in the upper half.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Rosa’s Bus’ by Jo S. Kittinger.
In the background of the front cover is a light blue sky with white light clouds and vague shapes in the far- off distance resembling buildings of the city. In the foreground, is an illustration of the lower right front part of a bus with it’s door open. The number 2857 is printed beside the door. The outside of bus is painted orange in colour in the lower half and light green in the upper half.

A photo of the book ‘Rosa’s Bus’, in open position, showing two pages. The left page contains five lines of text over the far left part of an illustration, of the inside of the empty bus, which is continuous across both pages. The inside of the bus contains long seats in rows of dark green. A metal handrail spans the length of each row along the top of the seat backing. Attached to the top of the handrail of a row towards the back is a rectangular sign (approximately 10 by 40cm) with the word ‘Colored’ in capital letters, printed on it.

A photo of the book ‘Rosa’s Bus’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page contains five lines of text over the far left part of an illustration, of the inside of the empty bus, which is continuous across both pages. The inside of the bus contains long seats in rows of dark green. A metal handrail spans the length of each row along the top of the seat backing. Attached to the top of the handrail of a row towards the back is a rectangular sign with the word ‘Colored’ in capital letters, printed on it.

Rosa’s Bus is an uplifting and well-written introduction for children on issues of racism and civil rights in the United States of America. The story about the bus itself and it’s journey through the ages, added extra appeal to my sons.

Collecting Colour

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Collecting Colour’ by Kylie Dunstan. The front cover has a bright earthy red colour background. Two young girls with wide smiles hold onto a handle each of a woven green and blue basket. The girl on the left is white with yellow hair, wearing a red dress with bright blue splotches and red sandals. The girl on the right is brown and has curly dark brown hair in short pigtails. The girl in pigtails wears a bright blue skirt and yellow shirt with thick orange stripes across it.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Collecting Colour’ by Kylie Dunstan.
The front cover has a bright earthy red colour background. Two young girls with wide smiles hold onto a handle each of a woven green and blue basket. The girl on the left is white with yellow hair, wearing a red dress with bright blue splotches and red sandals. The girl on the right is brown and has curly dark brown hair in short pigtails. The girl in pigtails wears a bright blue skirt and yellow shirt with thick orange stripes across it.

A photo of the book ‘Collecting Colour’, in open position, showing two pages. The left page consists of a pale yellow background with three lines of text. It also contains an illustration of the two girls swinging together standing on a plank of word hanging from a single rope. The right page consists of a dark greenish grey background with four lines of text. It also contains an illustration of a pandanus tree in view. The pandanus tree is drawn with long angular pale yellow, green and brown leaves and a dark brown trunk.

A photo of the book ‘Collecting Colour’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page consists of a pale yellow background with three lines of text. It also contains an illustration of the two girls swinging together standing on a plank of word hanging from a single rope. The right page consists of a dark greenish grey background with four lines of text. It also contains an illustration of a pandanus tree in view. The pandanus tree is drawn with long angular pale yellow, green and brown leaves and a dark brown trunk.

A lovely colourful book about two friends, Rose and Olive. Rose goes on an everyday adventure into the bush with Olive and her family, learning about indigenous Australian culture along the way.

Same, but little bit diff’rent

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Same but little bit diff’rent’ by Kylie Dunstan. The front cover shows two young children sitting on a pale grey wall, next to each other, with big wide smiles, looking up at the sky. To the left is the young boy with dark brown skin, wearing a yellow cap, bright red shirt and bright blue shorts with bare feet. On the right is the young girl with white skin and dark brown hair in short pigtails. She is wearing red glasses, a yellow dress with black flower patterns and red gumboots. Beside the girl is a closed bright yellow umbrella hanging over the wall by the hook of its blue handle. The sky is olive green with big rain drop shapes of pale yellow, light grey and dark grey.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Same but little bit diff’rent’ by Kylie Dunstan.
The front cover shows two young children sitting on a pale grey wall, next to each other, with big wide smiles, looking up at the sky. To the left is the young boy with dark brown skin, wearing a yellow cap, bright red shirt and bright blue shorts with bare feet. On the right is the young girl with white skin and dark brown hair in short pigtails. She is wearing red glasses, a yellow dress with black flower patterns and red gumboots. Beside the girl is a closed bright yellow umbrella hanging over the wall by the hook of its blue handle. The sky is olive green with big rain drop shapes of pale yellow, light grey and dark grey.

A photo of the book ‘Same but little bit diff’rent’, in open position, showing two pages. The left page consists of a pale pink background with six lines of text. In the top left corner of the left page is a partial view of a crouching woman with dark brown skin and bare feet, wearing a yellow dress. The woman is weaving the red coloured thick thread into a basket of green and red. The right page consists of a red background with two lines of text at the top. Below the text is an illustration of a woman (from the chest up) with white skin, wearing big floppy yellow pointed hat with green tassels at the pointed end and green diamond shapes in a line around the circumference of the bottom of the hat. The woman is also wearing red glasses and a thick woven blue baggy jumper.

A photo of the book ‘Same but little bit diff’rent’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page consists of a pale pink background with six lines of text. In the top left corner of the left page is a partial view of a crouching woman with dark brown skin and bare feet, wearing a yellow dress. The woman is weaving the red coloured thick thread into a basket of green and red. The right page consists of a red background with two lines of text at the top. Below the text is an illustration of a woman (from the chest up) with white skin, wearing big floppy yellow pointed hat with green tassels at the pointed end and green diamond shapes in a line around the circumference of the bottom of the hat. The woman is also wearing red glasses and a thick woven blue baggy jumper.

Another colourful fun book written by the same author as Collecting Colour. This story involves two children discussing how their cultures are different but also similar, to demystify indigenous Australian culture.

Black Fella White Fella

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Black Fella White Fella’ by Neil Murray. The front page consists of a black background with the title written in very large thick capital letters. Each letter contains white, yellow and black patterns of dashes, lines and rough small repetitive shapes. Three handprints are illustrated around the title. One handprint of white colour, one yellow and one light brown.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Black Fella White Fella’ by Neil Murray.
The front page consists of a black background with the title written in very large thick capital letters. Each letter contains white, yellow and black patterns of dashes, lines and rough small repetitive shapes. Three handprints are illustrated around the title. One handprint of white colour, one yellow and one light brown.

A photo of the book ‘Black Fella White Fella’, in open position, showing two pages. The left 3/4s of the left page has a white background with two lines of text on it. The right ¼ of the left page and the right page has a continuous black background with a blue circle representing the Earth, with different coloured shapes representing different countries roughly outlined on the globe. Colours of the countries include dark green, pink, purple, orange, red and yellow. Text across the globe is in white and reads ‘With different lives in different places’.

A photo of the book ‘Black Fella White Fella’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left 3/4s of the left page has a white background with two lines of text on it. The right ¼ of the left page and the right page has a continuous black background with a blue circle representing the Earth, with different coloured shapes representing different countries roughly outlined on the globe. Colours of the countries include dark green, pink, purple, orange, red and yellow. Text across the globe is in white and reads ‘With different lives in different places’.

I wanted plenty of books on indigenous Australian culture, given we are Australian. I read somewhere of the limitations of exposure to a ‘single story’ so the more stories, the better. Black Fella White Fella is a colourful book with an important but possibly ambiguous message for kids (read it with them initially to explain).

As I Grew Older

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘As I grew older’ by Ian Abdulla. The front cover has a thick white border. The title is written in black across the top of the border. Three lines of text are printed in white across a black night sky with yellow dots representing the stars. Below the sky the ground is covered in thick bushy dark green vegetation. Brown skinned people dressed in bright coloured trousers, shirts, skirts, red cowboy boots with grey spurs and cowboy hats of red, green, yellow and white, stand to the sides of a fenced-in area (simply illustrated as a high barbed wire fence with four wooden posts). Within the area is a person riding a horse under bright yellow lights.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘As I grew older’ by Ian Abdulla.
The front cover has a thick white border. The title is written in black across the top of the border. Three lines of text are printed in white across a black night sky with yellow dots representing the stars. Below the sky the ground is covered in thick bushy dark green vegetation. Brown skinned people dressed in bright coloured trousers, shirts, skirts, red cowboy boots with grey spurs and cowboy hats of red, green, yellow and white, stand to the sides of a fenced-in area (simply illustrated as a high barbed wire fence with four wooden posts). Within the area is a person riding a horse under bright yellow lights.

A photo of the book ‘As I grew older’, in open position showing the right page. There is a clear light blue sky with small black birds in the distance among five well spaced trees around the far edge of a lake. The water in the lake is blue. Swans and a family of ducks float and swim across the top of the lake which contains a few clumps of white and green reeds containing clusters of white eggs. Several people all with black hair are dressed in shirts, shorts and trousers in white, black and red. They are situated at the edge of the lake and in the lake holding black bags.

A photo of the book ‘As I grew older’, in open position showing the right page.
There is a clear light blue sky with small black birds in the distance among five well spaced trees around the far edge of a lake. The water in the lake is a darker blue than the sky. Swans and a family of ducks float and swim across the top of the lake which contains a few clumps of white and green reeds containing clusters of white eggs. Several people all with black hair are dressed in shirts, shorts and trousers in white, black and red. They are situated at the edge of the lake and in the lake holding black sacks.

A more detailed account of indigenous Australian culture mashed with western culture through the eyes of an indigenous Australian boy. The story includes unique everyday adventures that my sons found very interesting.

A Girl Named Dan

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘A Girl Named Dan’ by Dandi Daley Mackall. In the foreground of the front cover is a young girl standing on a grassed area with trees in the background. She has long dark hair in two platted ponytails and is wearing a purple and white striped singlet top and rose coloured 3/4 pants, white socks and blue shoes. The girl is standing on a flat grassed area with a baseball bat in her right hand (which is leaning on the ground) and a baseball glove on her left hand (which leans on her hip). In the background, are a group of young boys standing apart, dressed in jeans and shirts, most wearing baseball gloves and one boy resting a bat over his shoulder. The boy closest to the girl has his arms folded and looks displeased. The girl has a slight smile on her face.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘A Girl Named Dan’ by Dandi Daley Mackall.
In the foreground of the front cover is a young girl standing on a grassed area with trees in the background. She has long dark hair in two platted ponytails and is wearing a purple and white striped singlet top and rose coloured 3/4 pants, white socks and blue shoes. The girl is standing on a flat grassed area with a baseball bat in her right hand (which is leaning on the ground) and a baseball glove on her left hand (which leans on her hip). In the background, are a group of young boys standing apart, dressed in jeans and shirts, most wearing baseball gloves and one boy resting a bat over his shoulder. The boy closest to the girl has his arms folded and looks displeased. The girl has a slight smile on her face.

A photo of the book 'A Girl Named Dan', in open position, showing two pages. The left page consists of three paragraphs of text on a white background with a small illustration of a white and red baseball cap below it. The right page has an illustration of the girl holding firmly onto a baseball bat, with her elbows bent, which she has just unwrapped from a box. She is standing in the kitchen with cream cupboards. A bowl of cake mixture in a red bowl with a spoon in it sits in front of the box on the kitchen bench. The girl has an angry/ determined expression on her face.

A photo of the book ‘A Girl Named Dan’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page consists of three paragraphs of text on a white background with a small illustration of a white and red baseball cap below it. The right page has an illustration of the girl holding firmly onto a baseball bat, with her elbows bent, which she has just unwrapped from a box. She is standing in the kitchen with cream cupboards. The girl has an angry/ determined expression on her face.

An introduction to feminism, this book introduces children to the frustrations faced by gender exclusion. Although it has an uplifting ending, my son Jeremy was upset that Dan was not allowed to be an official baseball ‘batboy’. It was no consolation to Jeremy that Dan showed the boys at school just how good she was at baseball and is now an accomplished writer inspired by the events in the book (true story).

Be Good to Eddie Lee

A photo of the front cover of the book 'Be Good to Eddie Lee' by Virginia Fleming. The background of the front cover is a mix of colours suggestive of the dark and light areas of forest such as greens and browns with a little yellow and red. A realistic detailed illustration of a young boy with Down Syndrome facial features from the chest up fills most of the front cover. The boy has light brown hair and is wearing a dark blue skivvy. He is holding out a lily flower as if offering it to someone, his fist gripping the stem.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Be Good to Eddie Lee’ by Virginia Fleming.
The background of the front cover is a mix of colours suggestive of the dark and light areas of forest such as greens and browns with a little yellow and red. A realistic detailed illustration of a young boy with Down Syndrome facial features, view from the chest up, fills most of the front cover. The boy has light brown hair and is wearing a dark blue skivvy. He is holding out a lily flower as if offering it to someone, his fist gripping the stem.

A photo of the book 'Be Good to Eddie Lee', in open position, showing two pages. The illustration is continuous across the two pages. The left page consists of three lines of text at the top and a pond below. The pond is covered in green lily-pads with a few white lillies. The right page shows a young girl crouched down beside the young boy on long green grass at the edge of the pond. Her hands are resting on his shoulders. Both of them are peering into the water with the boy pointing to a clump of small light bluish round frogs eggs. The girl has long reddish brown hair hanging down her shoulders and back. She is barefoot and wearing a white t-shirt under a sleeveless blue cardigan with light blue spots and reddish brown shorts. Their mouths are open in surprise and wonder.

A photo of the book ‘Be Good to Eddie Lee’, in open position, showing two pages.
The illustration is continuous across the two pages. The left page consists of three lines of text at the top and a pond below. The pond is covered in green lily-pads with a few white lillies. The right page shows a young girl crouched down beside the young boy on long green grass at the edge of the pond. Her hands are resting on his shoulders. Both of them are peering into the water with the boy pointing to a clump of small light bluish round frogs eggs. The girl has long reddish brown hair hanging down her shoulders and back. She is barefoot and wearing a white t-shirt under a sleeveless blue cardigan with light blue spots and reddish brown shorts. Their mouths are open in surprise and wonder.

I am feeling conflicted about this book. The dialogue at the start of the book is pretty brutal but probably reflects the language used by some kids towards others. Perhaps it could have been less stigmatizing if it was told through the eyes of Eddie Lee and not his ‘friend’/ neighbour. However, there is a good simple message to this book. Don’t be mean to kids who are different and don’t underestimate them.

I’d love it if someone could recommend more books featuring children with down syndrome.

Note: My son Jeremy refused to listen to this book after the first few pages because it of the cruel language used by the other characters towards Eddie.

Different Just Like Me

A photo of the front cover of 'Different Just Like Me' by Lori Mitchell. The border of the background is dark green. The illustration on the centre has a white background. A young white girl with brown straight bobbed hair lies resting on her elbows with her hands under her chin. Her lower legs are bent back, feet in the air. She is wearing red boots and a short sleeved red dress. The girl is surrounded by different varieties of flowers in different colours of yellow, red, white, purple, orange and pink.

A photo of the front cover of ‘Different Just Like Me’ by Lori Mitchell.
The border of the background is dark green. The illustration on the centre has a white background. A young white girl with brown straight bobbed hair lies resting on her elbows with her hands under her chin. Her lower legs are bent back, feet in the air. She is wearing red boots and a short sleeved red dress. The girl is surrounded by different varieties of flowers in different colours of yellow, red, white, purple, orange and pink.

A photo of the book 'Different Just Like Me', in open position, with two pages showing. The left page consists of text on a white background. Across the top of the page, in capital letters, is the first half of the alphabet with illustrations of the sign language for those letters underneath each letter. Across the bottom of the page, in capital letter, is the second half of the alphabet with illustrations of the sign language for those letters underneath each letter. On the right page is an illustration of the inside of a bus, sketched in black and white. The people seated on the bus are in colour. Among the people seated on the bus are a young girl and a young boy communicating with each other in sign language. The girl is leaning toward the boy with her left hand on his shoulder. She has light brown long hair and is wearing a light blue short sleeved dress. the boy has dark brown short hair and is wearing a dark blue t-shirt and blue striped shorts. The girl from the front cover is pictured in the lower right corner watching them interact.

A photo of the book ‘Different Just Like Me’, in open position, with two pages showing.
The left page consists of text on a white background. Across the top and bottom of the page, in capital letters, is the alphabet with illustrations of the sign language for those letters underneath each letter. On the right page is an illustration of the inside of a bus, sketched in black and white. The people seated on the bus are in colour. Among the people seated on the bus are a young girl and a young boy communicating with each other in sign language. The girl is leaning toward the boy with her left hand on his shoulder. She has light brown long hair and is wearing a light blue short sleeved dress. the boy has dark brown short hair and is wearing a dark blue t-shirt and blue striped shorts. The girl from the front cover is pictured in the lower right corner watching them interact.

April is acutely more aware of her week in the lead up to a visit to her Grandmother’s house. In particular, she pays great attention to the diverse people (race, disability, gender) passing her by in the street, in shops and on public transport. April notices how everyone one is different just like her.

Moses Goes to a Concert

A photo of the front cover of the book 'Moses Goes to a Concert' by Isaac Millman. A young boy with backwards-turned red cap and large round clear prescription glasses with a smile on his face, stands facing away from the entrance to a concert hall. He is wearing a white t-shirt  with a wide blue stripe across the middle, brown shorts and white shoes. He is holding a booklet close to his chest with his right hand. There are a large number of children entering the concert hall in the background.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Moses Goes to a Concert’ by Isaac Millman.
A young boy with backwards-turned red cap and large round clear prescription glasses with a smile on his face, stands facing away from the entrance to a concert hall. He is wearing a white t-shirt with a wide blue stripe across the middle, brown shorts and white shoes. He is holding a booklet close to his chest with his right hand. There are a large number of children entering the concert hall in the background.

A photo of the book 'Moses Goes to a Concert', in open position, with two pages showing. There are two paragraphs of text at the top of the left page. Three bordered squares containing illustrations of the Moses doing sign language are at the top of the right page. The illustration is continuous across both pages. Down the bottom of the pages are the back of two front rows of the audience. The chairs are red and the backs of the childrens' heads, including that of Moses can be seen just above the backs of the seats. Spread across the front of the stage, which is lower than the back of the stage, are a range of percussion instruments including drums, cymbals and chimes in red, yellow and white. At the back of the stage sits a large orchestra dressed in black and grey suits, each holding their musical instruments with black music stands in front of them. The conductor stands with his back to the audience ready to command the orchestra.

A photo of the book ‘Moses Goes to a Concert’, in open position, with two pages showing.
There are two paragraphs of text at the top of the left page. Three bordered squares containing illustrations of the Moses, doing sign language for key words, are at the top of the right page. The illustration is continuous across both pages. Down the bottom of the pages are the back of two front rows of the audience. The chairs are red and the backs of the childrens’ heads, including that of Moses can be seen just above the backs of the seats. Spread across the front of the stage, which is lower than the back of the stage, are a range of percussion instruments including drums, cymbals and chimes in red, yellow and white. At the back of the stage sits a large orchestra dressed in black and grey suits, each holding their musical instruments with black music stands in front of them. The conductor stands with his back to the audience ready to command the orchestra.

I’m not a huge fan of the front cover because it seems too plain to do justice to this brilliant book. Inside the book the illustrations are greatly improved.

Moses is deaf and him and his classmates attend an orchestral concert. This book explains how Moses interprets the world of sound quite beautifully and models ability for adults and children alike through an accomplished percussionist who is also deaf. My boys loved the illustrated sign language instruction and alphabet and found all the percussion instruments very interesting too.

Personally, I feel uneasy that the children go to a school for children who are deaf because I am a big fan of inclusion. I believe that mainstream schools should cater for all children to attend them regardless of disability, it’s a matter of rights as well as the need for diversity in schools to encourage acceptance of people with disabilities. Of course, I know next to nothing about the deaf community and their needs so it is likely that I could be ‘jumping the gun’, feel free to enlighten me if you are deaf or a disability advocate.

Looking Out for Sarah

A photo of the front cover of the book 'Looking Out for Sarah' by Glenda Lang. The front cover has a yellow background with a grey sidewalk in view. A large black dog wearing a harness stands next to his owner on the side walk.  Only the owners blue trousers and shoes are in view. The owner is holding the reigns of harness. The big black dog has his pink tongue handing out as if panting.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Looking Out for Sarah’ by Glenda Lang.
The front cover has a yellow background with a grey sidewalk in view. A large black dog wearing a harness stands next to his owner on the side walk. Only the owners blue trousers and shoes are in view. The owner is holding the reigns of harness. The big black dog has his pink tongue handing out as if panting.

A photo of the book 'Looking Out for Sarah', in open position, showing two pages. There are several lines of text at the bottom of each page. The left page contains an illustration of the dogs' owner seated on a wooden chair holding onto the dog's lead while it lies in front of her surrounded by a small group of children who are looking up at the owner. The children are wearing long sleeve shirts and trousers of different colours, blue, purple, pink and brown. The right page contains an illustration of the children patting the dog on the head and ears. One child is gently touching the dog's leg. The dog is lying down, resting his head on the ground and appears to be relaxed. One child is looking at a photo (details not discernible).

A photo of the book ‘Looking Out for Sarah’, in open position, showing two pages.
There are several lines of text at the bottom of each page. The left page contains an illustration of the dogs’ owner seated on a wooden chair holding onto the dog’s lead while it lies in front of her surrounded by a small group of children who are looking up at the owner. The children are wearing long sleeve shirts and trousers of different colours, blue, purple, pink and brown. The right page contains an illustration of the children patting the dog on the head and ears. One child is gently touching the dog’s leg. The dog is lying down, resting his head on the ground and appears to be relaxed. One child is looking at a photo (details not discernible).

This story has a unique appeal in that it is told from the perspective of a guide dog (through a narrator) and involves a visit to a school. It is based on a true story.

Helen’s Big World: The life of Helen Keller

A photo of the front cover of the book 'Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller' by Doreen Rappaport. There is light blue sky in the background with white clouds. A side profile of the head and shoulders of a young white woman, with her eyes closed, fills the cover. She is holding a red rose up to smell. She has thick brown hair loosely rolled up from the sides to a low bun in the back. She is wearing a white blouse.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller’ by Doreen Rappaport.
There is light blue sky in the background with white clouds. A side profile of the head and shoulders of a young white woman, with her eyes closed, fills the cover. She is holding a red rose up to smell. She has thick brown hair loosely rolled up from the sides to a low bun in the back. She is wearing a white blouse.

A photo of the book 'Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller', in open position, showing two pages. The right page contains eight lines of text and one quotation in larger writing below it. The quotation reads "The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them". The illustration is continuous across the two pages. In the background is a pale blue sky and a slightly darker blue sea. The woman from the front cover looks older now. She is pictured from the waist up next to the white rails of a boat, the top of a life-saving flotation device can be seen attached to the rails. The woman is wearing a brown coat, reddish brown scarf and brown hat with raised reddish brown flower shapes around it.

A photo of the book ‘Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller’, in open position, showing two pages.
The right page contains eight lines of text and one quotation in larger writing below it. The quotation reads “The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them”. The illustration is continuous across the two pages. In the background is a pale blue sky and a slightly darker blue sea. The woman from the front cover looks older now. She is pictured from the waist up next to the white rails of a boat, the top of a life-saving floatation device can be seen attached to the rails. The woman is wearing a brown coat, reddish brown scarf and brown hat with raised reddish brown flower shapes around it.

This book had me in tears of joy. This is an excellent book for showing the importance of presuming competence. Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan are inspiring beyond words.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

A photo of the front cover of the book 'Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World' by Laurie Lawlor. The front cover contains an illustration of a young woman is seated on her knees among the flowers, bushes and trees, with a couple of small animals scampering about on the ground around her including a bird and a couple of squirrels. The woman has long wavy brown hair hanging down her back. She is wearing a 3/4 sleeve blue dress with a long blue collar and a yellow neck tie. She is reading a book containing an illustration of a bird and text, while holding a bunch of red flowers in her left hand.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World’ by Laurie Lawlor.
The front cover contains an illustration of a young woman is seated on her knees among the flowers, bushes and trees, with a couple of small animals scampering about on the ground around her including a bird and a couple of squirrels. The woman has long wavy brown hair hanging down her back. She is wearing a 3/4 sleeve blue dress with a long blue collar and a yellow neck tie. She is reading a book containing an illustration of a bird and text, while holding a bunch of red flowers in her left hand.

A photo of the book 'Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World', in open position, showing two pages. The left page contains ten lines of text. The illustration is continuous across both pages and is a scene from underwater along a seabed. A person is dressed in a white coloured deep sea suit with a brown helmet. Ropes and a breathing tube are attached. She is standing among plentiful and colourful corral, fish and sea plants of orange, purple, pink, green, blue, yellow and red.

A photo of the book ‘Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page contains ten lines of text. The illustration is continuous across both pages and is a scene from underwater along a seabed. A person is dressed in a white coloured deep sea suit with a brown helmet. Ropes and a breathing tube are attached. She is standing among plentiful and colourful corral, fish and sea plants of orange, purple, pink, green, blue, yellow and red.

A true story about a trail-blazing, dedicated and talented biologist/writer who brought the safety of the environment to the notice of the western world much to the chagrin of big business.

Inside Asperger’s Looking Out

A photo of the front cover of 'Inside Asperger's Looking Out' by Kathy Hoopmann The front cover contains a photo of a cute black and white striped raccoon peering from between narrow wooden posts in a fence.

A photo of the front cover of ‘Inside Asperger’s Looking Out’ by Kathy Hoopmann
The front cover contains a photo of a cute black and white striped raccoon peering from between narrow wooden posts in a fence.

A photo of the book 'Inside Asperger's Looking Out', in open position, showing two pages. On the left page is a photo of a brown and white guinea pig, standing on a red plate, with a small white bandage loosely tied around it's head. On the plate in front of it are an assortment of coloured pills and a thermometer. Four lines of text are underneath the illustration. On the right page is an illustration of an orderly school of gold fish on a white background with one lone goldfish swimming in the opposite direction to the school. The text on this page reads "Sure, we may think and act and learn differently from others, but different can be a good thing".

A photo of the book ‘Inside Asperger’s Looking Out’, in open position, showing two pages.
On the left page is a photo of a brown and white guinea pig, standing on a red plate, with a small white bandage loosely tied around it’s head. On the plate in front of it are an assortment of coloured pills and a thermometer. Four lines of text are underneath the illustration. On the right page is an illustration of an orderly school of gold fish on a white background with one lone goldfish swimming in the opposite direction to the school. The text on this page reads “Sure, we may think and act and learn differently from others, but different can be a good thing”.

I almost forgot to add this book in and it happens to be my favourite autism book of all time. I’ve written about autism in-depth in past blog posts and this book reflects my outlook perfectly. It embraces the ‘accepting difference’ aspect of autism.

The Panicosaurus

A photo of the front cover of the book 'The Panicosaurus' by K.I. Al-Ghani. The background colour of the front page is orange. The illustration beneath the title is of a comic looking green dinosaur with red spots, wearing a sleeveless white animal hide outfit. The dinosaur has a long thick tail with a point on the end and is standing on two legs in an aggressive squat position, arms raised, claws out, mouth open exposing rows of sharp pointy teeth and red tongue.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘The Panicosaurus’ by K.I. Al-Ghani.
The background colour of the front page is orange. The illustration beneath the title is of a comic looking green dinosaur with red spots, wearing a sleeveless white animal hide outfit. The dinosaur has a long thick tail with a point on the end and is standing on two legs in an aggressive squat position, arms raised, claws out, mouth open exposing rows of sharp pointy teeth and red tongue.

A photo of the book 'The Panicosaurus', in open position, showing two pages. The left page is full of text on a white background. The right page has an illustration of a young girl clinging to her mother, tears streaming down her face, eyes and mouth open wide in fear. The girl is wearing a pink hooded jacket (hood on) and pink skirt with a pink backpack. She is looking at a nearby cream coloured dog with a blue lead. Two thought bubbles hang beside her head. The thought bubble to her right contains an image of the dinosaur from the front page. The thought bubble to her left contains an illustration of a smiling green dinosaur, dressed in a white suit, wearing glasses and holding a notepad and pen.

A photo of the book ‘The Panicosaurus’, in open position, showing two pages.
The left page is full of text on a white background. The right page has an illustration of a young girl clinging to her mother, tears streaming down her face, eyes and mouth open wide in fear. The girl is wearing a pink hooded jacket (hood on) and pink skirt with a pink backpack. She is looking at a nearby cream coloured dog with a blue lead. Two thought bubbles hang beside her head. The thought bubble to her right contains an image of the dinosaur from the front page. The thought bubble to her left contains an illustration of a smiling green dinosaur, dressed in a white suit, wearing glasses and holding a notepad and pen.

This book gives excellent advice on managing anxiety in children for both adults and their children alike. It explains what is going on in their body and minds using an illustrated analogy of a pesky dinosaur called the Panicosaurus. It’s an appealing and informative book for kids to read and even more importantly, it encourages children to be supportive to anxious children in the classroom.

The Disappointment Dragon

A photo of the front cover the the book 'The Disappointment Dragon' by K. I. Al-Ghani. The front cover is light blue in colour. Below the title is an illustration of a dark purple dragon in the foreground. The purple dragon has small pointed white horns atop his head, large purple wings and red spines along his long thick tail. In the background, is a winking orange dragon with a smile on his face. The orange dragon has large wings and multicoloured stripes across his belly.

A photo of the front cover the the book ‘The Disappointment Dragon’ by K. I. Al-Ghani.
The front cover is light blue in colour. Below the title is an illustration of a dark purple dragon in the foreground. The purple dragon has small pointed white horns atop his head, large purple wings and red spines along his long thick tail. In the background, is a winking orange dragon with a smile on his face. The orange dragon has large wings and multicoloured stripes across his belly.

A photo of the book 'The Disappointment Dragon', in open position, with two pages showing. The left page is full of text on a white background. The right page contains an illustration of a young girl with red spots on her face sitting up in bed smiling while holding a round box decorated with colourful flower shapes of pink, orange and yellow. The girl has long wavy brown hair hanging down her back and is wearing a yellow long sleeve top. Beside the bed are the two dragons from the front cover. The purple dragon looks worried and the orange dragon is looking at the box and smiling.

A photo of the book ‘The Disappointment Dragon’, in open position, with two pages showing.
The left page is full of text on a white background. The right page contains an illustration of a young girl with red spots on her face sitting up in bed smiling while holding a round box decorated with colourful flower shapes of pink, orange and yellow. The girl has long wavy brown hair hanging down her back and is wearing a yellow long sleeve top. Beside the bed are the two dragons from the front cover. The purple dragon looks worried and the orange dragon is looking at the box and smiling.

With the same author as ‘The Panicosaurus’ this wonderfully illustrated book explains how two children manage their disappointment.

I take issue with one exclamation, which was stated in the book, as being written on a notice on a classroom door: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude. Don’t bring one into this room. Thank you!” I don’t think it’s fair or helpful to deny someone’s disability. I may have taken it too literally but then so may others. However, the book was so good that I forgive it that one slight and have explained to my sons that I don’t agree with that particular bit.

The Black Book of Colours

A photo of the front cover of the book 'The Black Book of Colours' by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria. This book's including the front cover is entirely coloured in black except for the white text. Illustrations are raised, can be felt and appear darker in colour. The front cover contains an illustration of a butterfly above long grass. There is a bunch of flowers among the grass to the right of the front cover. The title is written in large white print with black Braille translation of the text underneath.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘The Black Book of Colours’ by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria.
This book’s including the front cover is entirely coloured in black except for the white text. Illustrations are raised, can be felt and appear darker in colour. The front cover contains an illustration of a butterfly above long grass. There is a bunch of flowers among the grass to the right of the front cover. The title is written in large white print with black Braille translation of the text underneath.

A photo of the book 'The Black Book of Colours', in open position, with two pages showing. The left page contains several lines of Braille along the top and white printed text across the bottom. The right page contains raised illustrations of floating feathers.

A photo of the book ‘The Black Book of Colours’, in open position, with two pages showing.
The left page contains several lines of Braille along the top and white printed text across the bottom. The right page contains raised illustrations of soft floating feathers.

When I showed this book to a friend she suggested that it would make a great ‘coffee table’ book. Devoid of colour, it is a beautifully constructed and poetic book. The text describes a different colour on each page using the senses of taste, sound, touch and smell.

The book helps to create awareness of how people who are blind experience the world around them; differently but just as intricately.

The text is also written in Braille and the illustrations are also raised.

The Berenstain Bears: Learn About Strangers

A photo of the front cover of the book 'The Berenstain Bears: Learn About Strangers' by Stan and Jan Berenstain. The front cover of the book appears busy with brown bear characters, dressed as humans, are walking on two legs in different directions all appearing to be running errands. One bear carries a ladder, another a walking stick. 'Mama bear' is holding 'sister bear's' hand while walking among the crowd and sister bear is looking worriedly at all the other bears. Sister bear is wearing a pink long sleeve top and trousers (none of the bears are wearing shoes) and is clutching a brown teddy bear under her left arm. Mama bear is carrying a bag of groceries in her right hand. Mama bear is wearing a blue dress with white polka dots, a yellow hat and handbag and a pink scarf tied over her shoulders.

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘The Berenstain Bears: Learn About Strangers’ by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
The front cover of the book appears busy with brown bear characters. They are dressed as humans and walking on two legs, in different directions, all appearing to be running errands. One bear carries a ladder, another a walking stick. ‘Mama bear’ is holding ‘sister bear’s’ hand while walking among the crowd and sister bear is looking worriedly at all the other bears while clutching a brown teddy bear under her left arm.

I love the Berenstain Bears and so do my sons. They are a family of bears that encounter common family problems and develop nifty solutions. They do seem to represent a privileged family though.

In this story, they explore the topic of stranger danger but without pathologizing strangers. I particularly love mama bears’ ‘bad apple’ analogy (although this may require some explaining to your child).

Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley

A photo of the front cover for the book 'Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley' by Aaron Blabey. This cover has a light brown background. The illustration is of a young girl and boy with arms around each others shoulders, heads leaning against each other with rosy cheeks and big smiles. They are shown from their waist up. The girl has red hair in pigtails that stick out to the sides. She is wearing a long sleeve dark green top. The boy has spiky black hair and is wearing a blue striped pyjama top with a collar and small white buttons down the front.

A photo of the front cover for the book ‘Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley’ by Aaron Blabey.
This cover has a light brown background. The illustration is of a young girl and boy with arms around each others shoulders, heads leaning against each other with rosy cheeks and big smiles. They are shown from their waist up. The girl has red hair in pigtails that stick out to the sides. She is wearing a long sleeve dark green top. The boy has spiky black hair and is wearing a blue striped pyjama top with a collar and small white buttons down the front.

A photo of the book 'Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley', in open position, with two pages showing. The left page has a dark brown background. The illustration is of the girl from the front cover, shining a torch at footprints and using a magnifying glass to look at them. The right page has an illustration of two worried eyes peering out from a pile of pillows. Both pages contain several lines of text.

A photo of the book ‘Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley’, in open position, with two pages showing.
The left page has a dark brown background. The illustration is of the girl from the front cover, shining a torch at footprints and using a magnifying glass to look at them. The right page has an illustration of two worried eyes peering out from a pile of pillows. Both pages contain several lines of text.

This is a beautiful book with lovely illustrations and cute story line about two friends who are different but complement each other. An extraverted, adventurous girl and a shy, sensible boy (I like that it challenges typical gender stereotypes).

It’s NOT the Stork!

A photo of the front cover of the book 'It's NOT the Stork! A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends' by Robie H. Harris. For ages 4 and up. In the centre of the front cover is a pregnant woman. She is smiling and has long black hair hanging out over her shoulders. She is wearing a long sleeve orange maternity shirt over her protruding belly, light blue trousers and pink shoes. A pink baby is illustrated inside her womb, almost fully developed and appearing to smile and wave. The baby is attached to her mother's placenta by a purple cord. Beside the woman are two children. To the right is a young black girl with long hair tied back into a pony tail in lots of little plats, she is smiling and pointing at the baby. To the left is a young white boy  with short blonde hair, he is holding a book and looking away from them looking a little perplexed or surprised. Behind the woman is a man with short dark hair and darker skin than the woman. He is peering over her right shoulder at the young girl and smiling. A large white stork is pictured standing between the man and the woman peering over the woman's left shoulder at the baby. In the air, to the left of this family is a cartoon- like green bird wearing a purple shirt and blue shoes saying (text in a speech bubble) "So-ooo a baby comes from a STORK???" In the air, to the right of the family, a cartoon-like bee wearing glasses, a yellow and brown striped shirt and red shoes says (text in a speech bubble) "I don't THINK so!!!"

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘It’s NOT the Stork! A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends’ by Robie H. Harris. For ages 4 and up.
In the centre of the front cover is a pregnant woman. She is smiling and has long black hair hanging out over her shoulders. She is wearing a long sleeve orange maternity shirt over her protruding belly, light blue trousers and pink shoes. A pink baby is illustrated inside her womb, almost fully developed and appearing to smile and wave. Beside the woman are two children. To the right is a young black girl with long hair tied back into a pony tail in lots of little plats, she is smiling and pointing at the baby. To the left is a young white boy with short blonde hair, he is holding a book and looking away from them looking a little perplexed or surprised. Behind the woman is a man with short dark hair and darker skin than the woman. He is peering over her right shoulder at the young girl and smiling. A large white stork is pictured standing between the man and the woman peering over the woman’s left shoulder at the baby. In the air, to the left of this family is a cartoon- like green bird wearing a purple shirt and blue shoes saying (text in a speech bubble) “So-ooo a baby comes from a STORK???” In the air, to the right of the family, a cartoon-like bee wearing glasses, a yellow and brown striped shirt and red shoes says (text in a speech bubble) “I don’t THINK so!!!”

This book covers a range of areas on the topic of sex education in a diverse and engaging way for young children. It discourages gender stereotypes and promotes diverse families.

I am more open with my children about most areas of knowledge than most parents, however, even I waited until my boys were a bit older than the recommended age range before I was ready to read them this book.

My sons regularly read this book to themselves because they love the funny things that the comic characters (the bird and the bee) say on each page.

It’s So Amazing!

A photo of the front cover of the book 'It's So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families' by Robie H. Harris. A pregnant woman smiles while touching her pregnant belly with her hands. She has short dark wavy hair and is wearing a purple long sleeve shirt under a sleeveless blue dress, pink leggings and yellow shoes. Many young children, all of a similar age, wearing colourful shirts and trousers are standing around her. Some of the children are touching her belly, most are looking excited except for one girl who looks a bit concerned while a mischievous looking boy appears to be whispering something she does not want to hear in her ear. The bird from the front cover is flying above the children to the left and saying (text in speech bubble) "Every single thing about where babies come from is SO-OOO A-MAZING to me!" The bee from the front cover is flying above the children to the right and says (text in speech bubble) "Can we talk about something else? ANYTHING else?"

A photo of the front cover of the book ‘It’s So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families’ by Robie H. Harris.
A pregnant woman smiles while touching her pregnant belly with her hands. She has short dark wavy hair and is wearing a purple long sleeve shirt under a sleeveless blue dress, pink leggings and yellow shoes. Many young children, all of a similar age, wearing colourful shirts and trousers are standing around her. Some of the children are touching her belly, most are looking excited except for one girl who looks a bit concerned while a mischievous looking boy appears to be whispering something she does not want to hear in her ear. The bird from the front cover is flying above the children to the left and saying (text in speech bubble) “Every single thing about where babies come from is SO-OOO A-MAZING to me!” The bee from the front cover is flying above the children to the right and says (text in speech bubble) “Can we talk about something else? ANYTHING else?”

A photo of the book 'It's So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families', in open position, with two pages showing. The left page has three paragraphs of text on a white background. Beside and between lines of text are illustrations of many adults and children representing different family members of many different ages, races and different abilities. They are participating in different activities such as reading, running together, drawing and playing with blocks. The bird and the bee are pictured up top commenting as usual. The right page has a couple of paragraphs of text on a white background. Again there are many people of different ages, races and religions all participating in different activities as families. Again the bird and the bee are at the top of the page commenting to each other.

A photo of the book ‘It’s So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families’, in open position, with two pages showing.
The left page has three paragraphs of text on a white background. Beside and between lines of text are illustrations of many adults and children representing different family members of many different ages, races and different abilities. They are participating in different activities such as reading, running together, drawing and playing with blocks. The bird and the bee are pictured up top commenting as usual. The right page has a couple of paragraphs of text on a white background. Again there are many people of different ages, races and religions all participating in different activities as families. Again the bird and the bee are at the top of the page commenting to each other.

The second of three books in the series, it expands on topics of sex education for those age seven and up. Under the “What’s Love?” chapter it talks about homosexuality but doesn’t cover any other LGBTIQ categories.

After reading the first book in the series (It’s NOT the stork!), I actually felt comfortable reading this to my six-year-old after reading it to my seven-year old. Siblings are often exposed to concepts a little earlier in lieu of their older siblings and I’d prefer they hear it from me first.

You can find more diverse books that I have purchased for my children here.