June 22, 2017

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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | March 2017

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1703_Xpress_NFBates, Helen. A Girl Like Tilly: Growing Up with Autism. illus. by Ellen Li. 72p. ebook available. Jessica Kingsley. Nov. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781785921636.

Gr 3-6 –Bates follows a young girl with autism through her childhood. The adults in Tilly’s life notice that something is different about her but brush these observations off and attribute them to things such as daydreaming and shyness. Meanwhile, Tilly grows increasingly frustrated and confused, often overwhelmed by new situations and social settings. Things get harder as she ages. Tilly struggles with boundaries, communication, and her gender identity until a psychologist connects the dots and realizes that Tilly has autism. Small details throughout, including discussions of Tilly’s interests and strengths, humanize her and make her a highly empathetic character. Li’s soft but detailed illustrations effectively convey Tilly’s sense of the world. Blush tones are contrasted with a bright blue line that represents Tilly’s journey. The book is a powerful tool for those with autism to see that they are not alone and for families to gain empathy or a new perspective. The ending imparts the valuable message that not all girls with autism are the same and that differences can lead to new possibilities. A helpful list of resources relating to autism is provided in the back matter. VERDICT Effectively portraying the challenges that girls with autism often experience, this is a worthwhile addition to collections catering to children with disabilities.–Kathryn Justus, Renbrook School, West Hartford, CT

Biles, Simone with Michelle Burford. Courage To Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance. 256p. ebook available. Zondervan. Nov. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780310759669.

Gr 7 Up –Nineteen-year-old Biles, Olympic gold medalist and the most decorated U.S. gymnast of all time, takes readers along her journey to the podium in this memoir. After spending her early childhood in and out of foster care, Biles was adopted by her biological grandparents. She began her gymnastics training at the age of six after a field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix, where the coaches quickly discovered that she “had what it took to go all the way.” Biles describes not only her gymnastics training and career but also her personal life, including her grandmother’s death, the difficult decisions she made in order to balance school and gymnastics, her “bratty period” in her early teens, and her love for her car, with its zebra-print interior. In recent years, Biles has won three consecutive world championship titles followed by her team gold and individual wins at the 2016 Olympics. Biles’s narration is effervescent, showing her to be, as her brother says, “a goofy and down-to-earth kid.” The tone is conversational and includes casual phrases such as “if you can’t already tell” and “just kidding.” She expresses appreciation for her family, friends, teammates, and coaches and frequently credits God and her faith for her success. One slight caveat: readers without background knowledge about gymnastics may not find the terminology to be adequately explained. VERDICT Essential for libraries serving tween and teen gymnastics fans.–Magdalena Teske, Naperville Public Library, IL

Pessin-Whedbee, Brook. Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity. illus. by Naomi Bardoff. 40p. further reading. websites. Jessica Kingsley. Dec. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781785927287.

PreS-Gr 2 –This primer on sex, gender, and identity is an ideal title for caregivers and educators to share with children. An opening “Note for the Grown-Ups” instructs adult readers on how to use and discuss the book with kids. The text addresses young readers directly (“This is a story about you”) and goes on to define sex (a guess based on body parts observed at birth) and gender identity (“who you feel like inside, who you know yourself to be”). A middle section features a number of illustrated clothes, toys, and accessories accompanied by the question, “What do you like?” A removable “Gender Wheel” that students can turn to complete three sentences (“I have,” “I am,” and “I like”) using a range of terms/expressions (gender neutral, trans, not sure, etc.) is also included. Bardoff’s illustrations are colorful and bright and depict a diverse group of carefree children playing together in a variety of settings. VERDICT A solid package for families and educators interested in an introduction to gender identity.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH

Sill, Cathryn. About Reptiles/Sobre los reptiles: A Guide for Children/Una guía para niños. illus. by John Sill. 40p. (About…). glossary. Peachtree. Aug. 2016. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781561459094. BL

Gr 1-3 –A fine title to introduce young readers to the world of reptiles. Each spread contains large, crisp text describing a trait of reptiles or of a specific species, along with a realistic illustration that complements the fact. Children will learn about different types of reptiles, what they look like, how they move, what they eat, and how they reproduce. A glossary defines important terms in English and Spanish, and an afterword provides additional information. Facts as well as image captions are presented in English and Spanish. VERDICT Highly recommended for bilingual nonfiction collections, especially where the “About…” series is popular.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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