Tag Archives: reviews

How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname)

  • Author – Pat Mervine
  • # of Pages – 26
  • *includes illustrations

How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname) is a story told by a fourth grade classmate of Katie, the new girl in school. Everyone in the school has a nickname related to individual interests and personalities. When Katie comes into the class, the students are eager to involve her in their activities and to learn what is special about her. This proves to be quite a challenge. Katie has significant physical disabilities. How can Katie fit in with her classmates when she can’t even talk? When Katie is introduced to assistive technology, she is finally able to communicate with her new friends. As a result, the students are delighted to see her as a person with many interests and abilities, just like them. Katie knows she is a valued member of the school when she is given her own special nickname.

Just like its theme, there is a very special concept that differentiates between this book and many other books for young readers. Most times stories written for young kids try to emphasize the idea that being different is okay, and go against the idea of herd mentality – a term that describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items. In this case, the book’s starting point is that everyone is different. Miguel, nicknamed “The Punster,” makes up nicknames for kids and staff at school based on what makes them unique (such as Picasso the painter or Tunes the music lover). When Katie shows up he can’t figure out a name for her since she can’t… do anything. Katie doesn’t move or play or talk. She just laughs and looks around. Usually, Katie would be the “special” one, as we often use the word “special” in a negative connotation to hint at disabled kids. However, here her disability specifically is not considered an issue with the kids, they just can’t figure out how to include her in the group. After explaining the issue to her teacher Katie gets sent to a speech therapist, and eventually is connected to a machine that allows her to draw, play music and even talk! The kids, by turn, exclaim out loud that Katie can now participate in their hobbies – reading, painting, playing music, and even cheerleading for the sports team. Now, when they can get to know her, Katie can be given a nickname as well, one that showcases, of course, her uniqueness.

The book How Katie Got a Voice takes a very delicate subject and handles it beautifully. It shows kids that being unique is important, and it also teaches skills such as asking for help and including everyone in the group. When the kids don’t know how to play with Katie or share their hobbies with her they turn to a teacher for help. They don’t avoid Katie, or the problem at hand, and instead choose to actively search for a solution. They want to be able to hang out with their new friend, even if she’s unlike any other kid they’ve met, because that’s what makes kids cool – being different. Moreover, the book had both male and female characters. Many books these days don’t have enough important female characters with actual lines and importance, and so it’s important to start writing well developed characters for both genders in books aimed at kids and young children.

The book’s last pages include some simple tips for kids when dealing with people with disabilities, such as not staring at them or asking about their condition unless they bring it up first. The tips explain that even when someone needs an interpreter or assistant to communicate, you should speak to the person and not the companion, and most importantly, be patient. The author’s website includes a PowerPoint presentation called “Katie’s Lesson in Disability Etiquette,” aimed to help teachers introduce students to the topic.

In conclusion, this is a very good book for kids. It’s relatively short and easy to read, allowing young kids to read it themselves. The illustrations are colorful and very pretty. More importantly, the book deals with many important subjects that parents often don’t know how to bring up with their kids. How Katie Got a Voice can assist parents and teachers in introducing these topics and starting discussions about them with their children. I highly recommend the book both for reading at home, and for reading in class.

*I received a free copy of this book from Story Cartel in exchange for my honest review.

 

Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

  • Title – Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency
  • Author – Douglas Adams
  • # of Pages – 306

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There is a long tradition of Great Detectives, and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time traveler, AND the devastating secret of humankind! Detective Gently’s bill for saving the human race from extinction: NO CHARGE.

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Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency is the seventh Douglas Adams novel I’ve read (if you count Starship Titanic, which was his idea and highly resembles his writing style, depsite being written by his friend Terry Jones). I’ve mentioned countless times how much I love this man. I usually do so not by using the word love exactly, but by mentioning future plans to pickle his brain in a jar on my shelf or plan a pilgrimmage up to his grave. I think Adams is a brilliant writer – witty, funny, and a master of satire and sarcasm.

It took me nearly two weeks to finish this book – a major break from my previous five-completed-books week. The last Adams book I’d read before this was Starship Titanic and even though I haven’t, were I to review that book it would be very similar to the points I shall make in this one.

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

  • Title: The Reluctant Fundamentalist 
  • Author: Mohsin Hamid
  • # of Pages: 191

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid turned out to be another one-day read. It’s relatively short, not even 200 pages, and it is told from the point of view of the main character Changez, telling his story to an American stranger as one continuous monologue. The book is literally just a story being told.  We do not know what is going on in Changez’s setting lest he chooses to mention something. The entire time he talks he is sitting in a restaurant with this foreigner he met seemingly at random, only leaving near the end as they walk to the stranger’s hotel. The reactions of the American to the story, the arrival and departure of the waiter, the noises and sights surrounding the two as they sit in Lahore in Pakistan and dine – all of these occurrences are known to us only if Changez chooses to address them.

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Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

  • Title: Suicide Notes
  • Author: Michael Thomas Ford
  • # of Pages: 295

I’m not crazy. I don’t see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it’s a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff’s perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.”

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Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford is a novel told from the point of view of a kid who finds himself in a 45 day psychiatric hospital program after attempting to commint suicide on the night of New Years Eve. The chapters in the novel are basically entries for each day – 45 total – in which Jeff, a ffiteen year old teenager, goes through a self-discovery journey that starts from anger and denial and eventually reaches a sort of acceptance and attempt to get back up on his feet.

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How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan

  • Title: How They Met and Other Stories
  • Author: David Levithan
  • # of Pages: 256

How They Met and Other Stories is a collection of eighteen short stories written by David Levithan. This is the sdecond Levithan book I’ve read – well, you could say first and a half – the half being Will Grayson Will Grayosn which he co-wrote with author John Green.

This book is a collection of short love stories. There is no connection between the plots or the characters except the general theme – love. The writing spans across Levithan’s entire life as an author, icnluding stories he wrote in high school up until more recent ones. It started with Levithan writing a physics-themed love story in a boring physics class as a junior, a story he later gave to his friends who obviously demanded another one – and so he gave them just that. Over and over again.

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