Archive for May, 2009

In AUTISM AND ME: SIBLING STORIES, Kids Tell It Like It Is

Dear Reader,

There’s a great new book for kids called Autism and Me: Sibling Stories, in which 14 kids, ages 5 to 17, give or take a year, tell readers what it’s like to live with a sibling who has autism. And they tell it like it is.

They say:
*their sibling is not like “regular” people, but they are also unique, or
*their brother or sister’s out-of-control behavior is frustrating, painful, or embarrassing, or
*they wish their sibling could speak or write or run fast, or
*their brother or sister is not dumb, or
*they are proud of their sibling’s accomplishments, like remembering details most people would forget, or never notice to begin with, or empathetic with teammates when they’re upset, or
*how much they enjoy and love their sibling, and
*more.

Author Ouisie Shapiro, whose niece Arie and nephew Luke are featured in the book, selected “telling,” sensitive, but not sappy, lines from her interviews with these children to illustrate how autism affects them. Photographer Steven Vote captured sibling interaction and, most important, the love between them in touchingly intimate photographs.

Kids who have siblings with autism will recognize themselves and their brothers or sisters in the essays and photos in this book. Perhaps they will want to write their own essays. Perhaps they’ll be comforted to know other kids think and feel some of the same things they do.

Kids who don’t have direct contact with autism will learn important information that will help them understand why people who have autism behave and think differently than other people, and it will help them develop empathy for these people.

Teachers and other adults will gain a new perspective about the many and  varied manifestations of autism. I’ve read this book several times, and each time I come away with something new.

I recommend another book about what it’s like to be close to someone who’s “different” than other People: Best Friend on Wheels, by Debra Shirley.

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You Can Count on Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle: A book review of MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE’S MAGIC

Dear Reader,

Have you read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, a children’s book written by Betty MacDonald (©1949)? If not, you really should. It’s got a lot of funniness to it; parents call on Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to break their kids from being thought-you-saiders, tattletales, bad-table-manners-possessors, interrupters, heedless breakers, never-want-to-go-to-schoolers, or waddle-I-doers, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s magic cures them every time.

My favorite chapter is about Christopher, a kid with bad table manners. He “chewed with his mouth open so that you could see all the food as he rinsed it around in his mouth. Also he smacked his lips so loud it sounded like someone slapping their hands on water; he gulped when he swallowed; he was washed food down with milk; he made enormous piles of meat, potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy on his fork and then thrust the fork so far down his throat you could hardly see the handle; he used his thumb to assemble big fork loads; he propped his knife and fork against his plate with the handles on the table; he buttered whole slices of bread on his hand; he chopped and smashed and mixed his food until his dinner looked like dog food; he picked up his soup bowl and held it just under his chin while he slurped his soup; he talked while he was chewing; he gestured with a fork full of food so that bits of food shot around the room like stones from a slingshot.”

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle cure was a large white pig named Lester. “Lester walked daintily into the kitchen, closed the door carefully behind him, climbed up and sat down across the table from Christopher. Christopher was jamming his mouth full of cookie and washing it down with cocoa. Lester looked at him, then took one cookie carefully between the split in his front hoof and ate it very slowly and with tiny bites. He picked his cocoa cup up with his hoof and after one small sip put it carefully down, while he patted his snout with his napkin.

“Christopher stopped eating, or at least stopped chewing, to watch Lester eat. Christopher’s mouth was open but full, he had whipped cream on his upper lip and crumbs on his chin. Lester reached across the table and gently closed Christopher’s mouth.”

I just love the image of a pig shutting a boy’s mouth, of anything or anyone shutting someone’s mouth! Do you? Love it, I mean. (Betty MacDonald had a knack for humor; she was known for humorous autobiography, and she created the comic duo Ma and Pa Kettle, whom she wrote about in her novel The Egg and I.)

Anyway, I suggest you read this book to yourself or some kids, or ask kids 4 to 8 years old to read it to you. Your giggles will be worth the effort.

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