The Schneider Family Book Award honours an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. As so many of us are trying to include more diverse titles in our classroom libraries and read aloud selections, these award winners are an important resource for teachers and parents.
When Alyson Beecher from KidLit Frenzy asked if I would be willing to talk about a favourite Schneider Family Book award winner, many titles came instantly to mind. I chose to share Sarah Lean‘s touching middle grade novel A Dog Called Homeless (a 2013 winner) because this is a title that both my daughter Beatrice (now eleven) and I adored. I am also planning to read this book with my Junior Student Book Club this fall.
This is a precious and poignant read – one that you can sit down and finish in one emotional sitting and then carry it with you for ages. Lean takes on a tragic topic – losing a parent and explores the complexity of carrying on. We meet Cally Fisher and experience her grief and the healing process she goes through which involves new friends, visions of her mother and a very special dog called Homeless.
Cally needs to talk about her feelings and about missing her Mom but lives in a home with a brother who buries himself in his room and a father who covers himself in work and detective dramas on television and works hard to desperately avoid any memories of his wife. After Cally participates in a “sponsored silence” at school, she stops talking altogether. Without words, she begins to learn there are many ways to listen and to be heard. Sam, a new neighbour and friend who is blind and mostly deaf teaches her some of the most important lessons about communication. He gives Cally space, trust, faith and the companionship that she really needs.
“Sam is the best friend anyone could have. He’s like an angel from another world, and as he held my arm while we walked away, he was reading my heart, guiding me.”
This book is about many things, but at its core is a relationship between daughter and mother. So I asked my daughter to help me write this post. We both reread the novel and wrote up some questions for each other to answer. I asked Bea to write three questions and she gave me ten. An incredible, thoughtful ten! Proud Mama that I am, I’ve included all of them below. We each responded to three questions posed by the other.
Bea’s questions and my answers:
1. Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?
Jed is the link to both Homeless and Cally’s Mom. But he is also one of the characters that helps us measure the hearts and compassion of the other characters in terms of how they interact with him and the respect that they do or don’t show him.
2. Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)
Surprise, surprise that I identified with Sam’s Mom, Mrs. Cooper. I loved how she adored her son and was very protective but yet, she had lots of room in her heart to care about others too (like Cally). She was a fun Mom who interacted with children in a natural and encouraging way.
3. Other than her mother, what do you think Cally needed most in the story. Do you think she got it?
I think what Cally needs most is a way to go on and be happy without her Mom being physically there with her. Do I think she got that? I think by the end of the story, there is a promise of how that can be possible
My questions and Bea’s answers:
1. Cally’s Dad says to her midway through the book: “You know sooner or later you’re going to have to speak. How else are you going to get what you want.” What do you think about this?
That wasn’t fair to Cally – her mom just died and her dad should realize that is is so hard on her and maybe he should have asked her to write stuff down rather than pressure her into it. It seems like her Dad doesn’t understand her or try to understand her.
2. All of the characters handle grief in such different ways. How do you think you would handle grief?
If you died, I would always be crying. I would probably shut off from the world for a while. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it.
3. What made Sam such a good friend to Cally?
I think Sam knew that Cally was going through something rough and he understood the rules of friendship and knew how to not make her sad but instead make her SHINE. He let her feel like he understood her. And he was also kind of an inspiration to Cally. He had all these disabilities but he got through it and was a better person because of it!
Beatrice’s ten questions:
- What did you think about how Cally’s friend Mia treated Cally?
- Do you think Cally’s dad payed more attention to Cally when her mom was alive?
- Do you think it was proving something to Mia and her teacher that made Cally stop talking for longer than needed?
- Would you run away from Sam like Cally did? And do you think Sam felt bad when that happened?
- Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?
- What do you think was the role of Homeless in the story?
- Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)
- Do you think that Cally’s dad should have let her keep Homeless in the beginning?What effect do you think that would have on the story?
- Do you think that Cally’s mother was really there as a ghost at the beginning of the story or do you think Cally just wanted her to be so badly?
- Other than her mother what do you think Cally needed most in the story? Do you think she got it?
I found a tweet in author Sarah Lean’s twitter feed tweeted the day her Schneider award arrived in the mail. Thank you Sarah, for sharing A Dog Called Homeless with your readers!
Nobody home and this just arrived. Feel need to share moment. pic.twitter.com/xI1ffEUqhm
— Sarah Lean (@SarahLean1) January 31, 2014
Check out all of the blogs participating in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:
- July 6, 2014 Nerdy Book Club
- July 6, 2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
- July 7, 2014 Nonfiction Detectives
- July 9, 2014 Teach Mentor Texts
- July 10, 2014 There’s a Book For That (my turn!)
- July 11, 2014 Kathie Comments
- July 12, 2014 Disability in Kidlit
- July 14, 2014 Librarian in Cute Shoes
- July 15, 2014 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
- July 16, 2014 Read, Write, and Reflect
- July 17, 2014 Read Now Sleep Later
- July 18, 2014 Unleashing Readers
- July 19, 2014 Great Kid Books
- July 20, 2014 Maria’s Mélange
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, readers have an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award winning titles. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. There will be one winner but you can enter from any of the blogs as part of this celebration.
Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.