Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway

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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.

 A dog Called Homeless Schneider Family Book Award Blog Tour There's a Book for That

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!

Check out all of the blogs participating in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:

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.

image of books for giveaway

Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.

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Monday July 22nd, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?IMWAYR

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult reads! These #IMWAYR posts are a great place to “shop” for new titles.

Favourite picture books from the week:

On a Beam of Light: A story of Albert Einstein written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky Sometimes in the middle of a picture book, I know. I know that it will become a favourite before I even finish it as a certain kind of enchantment begins. There is the purely wonderful feeling of experiencing the story and the illustrations and the magic of the book. But there is also the explosion in my head of all of the different ways I can use the story in the classroom. Loud, swirling and whirling ideas. So when the book itself is about how Einstein thought and approached the world, about how his thinking happened, well . . . the layers of wow can’t quite be described. Radunsky’s illustrations are divine and Jennifer Berne delivered a story about the complexities of Einstein’s ideas in a book that is simple and accessible and beautiful. Just. Pure. Brilliance. A book I plan to use to introduce my year – all the perfect themes of wonder, curiousity and thinking outside of the box.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

Nora’s Chicks written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Kathryn Brown A wonderfully lovely title that could be used to talk about what it is like to move somewhere new, away from friends, family and country. Little Nora moves with her family to the prairies from Russia. Nothing looks or feels the same and she is desperately lonely. Some little chicks and two geese become her adopted companions and lead her to both friendship and joy.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

 Coming on Home Soon written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis This pair create some absolutely beautiful books. I liked the simplicity to this story – a young girl misses her Mother who has gone to Chicago to work in a factory job left vacant as all of the men are off at War (WWII). Ada Ruth is cared for by her grandmother with a practical, no nonsense kind of love. Love that soothes the missing, comforts the sadness and has room for a bothersome kitten. Stunning illustrations.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

Hooray for Amanda and her Alligator written and illustrated by Mo Willems Oh Mo Willems, how do you do it? Engaging and hilarious as usual!

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

Matilda’s Cat written and illustrated by Emily Gravett. Gravett’s books are so frequently shared in my room during kindergarten buddy reading time and this title is another example of why. Even with sparse text, a big story is told. It makes you smile and lures you into frequent rereads, the repetitive elements making it all the more engaging. Matilda, dressed as a cat herself, leads her cat through a variety of activities, listing off what the cat does not like until eventually we discover what it is exactly that makes this cat so happy. Adorable. Perfect for a story time session with younger children.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

I have been previewing some early chapter books that I purchased for my class – hoping to introduce some new series.

The Disastrous Little Dragon by Gillian Johnson Part of the Monster Hospital Series. Fun and full of expressive illustrations – ideal for students moving into early chapter books. This story is full of humour, adventure and dragon mishaps. There is also a message that a certain degree of confidence goes a long way.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

Hello Nebulon!  Galaxy Zack series by Ray O’Ryan In the year 2120, it’s possible to travel and live on the planet Nebulon and what a fascinating new place for Zack and his family. Beds that descend from the ceiling, dinner that appears in moments, a house controlled by a robot (named Ira) and bikes and cars like nothing on Earth. Still adjusting to a new home and school is full of anxiety no matter what planet you might find yourself on! Lots of illustrations and fun fantasy perfect for readers just beginning to handle chapter books.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

Middle Grade/Young Adult Novels: 

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean For a book all about a girl who stops speaking, this book was anything but quiet. But yet it spoke sort of magically – weaving connections to the characters and the story around and around my heart until I was all wrapped up in this story. This is the first book that has made me cry in quite some time. It is simple and precious and poignant. We read about a little girl’s grief and the healing process she goes through which involves new friends, visions of her mother and a very special dog called Homeless. This book took on a tragic topic – losing a parent and sent a message that grief can take many forms and the importance of accepting them all. It also touched on selective mutism – which I don’t find very often in stories. It was handled so well here. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone – but will just say that Cally teaches us a lot about how to grieve, how to remember and how to live in a world that is all of a sudden without someone who means a lot. A beautiful book.

A Dog Called Homeless  Monday reads There's a Book for That!

 Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles I have now officially read all of the Jo Knowles novels out there except for Living with Jackie Chan which is released this fall. Since I am a huge fan of Knowles’ work I needed to get this title read as it is a companion book for  Living with Jackie Chan. I found it quite amazing that even writing from four different perspectives, Knowles could convey so sensitively the turmoil and angst a teenage pregnancy brings onto a group of connected teens. As always, Jo Knowles exposes the vulnerability of both male and female characters in such a believable, not over the top way. A book where you are rooting for everyone and where, I am sure, each reader brings different connections to this story of an unintended pregnancy and the complexity of relationships.

 Monday reads There's a Book for That!

What am I reading next? I am thrilled to be part way through The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (much gratitude to a friend who lent me her ARC!) I was waiting, extremely impatiently, until the September release and was very excited to be able to dive back into this mysterious, eerie and supernatural drama that Stiefvater leads her readers through. Then it’s Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick and The Apprentices by Maile Meloy – both recent holds I just picked up at the library.

What fantastic titles are you reading?