The ColorFeeling Picture Book Series Written by Esther Adler and Illustrated by Shrutkirti Kaushal

Book Review by Carla M. Paton

I have a background in Child Education and Development and a Masters in Psychology, and I found these books to be quite remarkable. In a world that rewards and prioritizes thinking skills over emotions and feelings, anytime we can encourage children to recognize and process their emotions, we are giving them and ourselves a great gift.

This series, written for ages three to eight, helps children focus on one emotion at a time. One of the ways that the books do this is by associating one color with one feeling per book. For example, in the Angry book, the color focus is red. Red for red-in-the-face, hot-tempered, and other fiery reactions that we see reflected in Lion’s flaming mane and features. Sad is associated with blue, Happy with yellow, and Jealous with green. Another way that the books help children to process their feelings is by showing how emotions express themselves physically. For example, in the Sad book, the blue Dinosaur’s body “feels tired and heavy.”

It is one thing to recognize feelings, and another to cope with them. All of the books demonstrate coping skills. In the second half of each book, the book asks the reader questions to consider such like what happens when they feel jealous, sad, happy, or angry. Then the child reader is given a series of things they can effectively do to work through the emotions in a constructive way. For example, in the Jealous book, the green jealous snake is shown asking Lion, “Can I play with your toy airplane?” and the caption that accompanies this picture is, “When I feel jealous I can ask to share.”

Another method that the books employ for helping children to work with their emotions is to have them work through interactive activities and with the aid of free worksheets. The quiet introspection and thought that the worksheet activities provide will give children a depth of reinforcement beyond the time spent with the colorful, charming characters.

In all the books, children will be happy to see all four of the characters returning and interacting in similar attractive scenes. When Lion, Chick, Dinosaur, and Snake look at themselves in their reflections, and in turn to ask the child reader, “What makes you angry, happy, sad, or jealous?” We can be sure that the question is taken to heart and that the answers will help and heal long after these delightful books are tucked away for the night. In conclusion, I give this book series my highest recommendations.

Hard Candy, Nobody Ever Flies over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Book Review

HARD CANDY: Nobody Ever Flies over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Written by Charles A. Carroll is a must read.

This book should be sitting on the desk of every governor, senator, representative, every director, educator and all students in departments of human and social services, psychology and public health available as a ready reference to the bureaucratic nightmare and lost humanity of a system set up to protect and care for our abandoned children and our mental and physically deficient citizens of all ages. Hard Candy is a must read for anyone who even pretends to care about the welfare of our children. This is an unforgettable saga of the will of a young human spirit to survive incarceration in one of our nation’s institutions with living conditions so sadistic, brutal and degrading that “child abuse’ doesn’t come near describing this disgrace.

I had the privilege of meeting the author and reading an advanced copy of this soon to be released book. The ever gracious host, Charles has devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge and generating awareness about the abuse that still occurs to this day inside such institutions. Do not for one moment think that his is a tale of yesteryear and we have fixed the problems, improved the system.

Told with the innocent clarity of a young child interspersed with the accumulated knowledge and hindsight analysis of the adult, this true story travels through a decade during which the author as a young boy was repeatedly abandoned by the system and lost in the tombs of a bureaucratic hell.

Left on the doorsteps of an orphanage as a toddler with his less than one year older sibling who was probably borderline retarded, this is a tale of an enduring love between two brothers who had no one else in life but each other. Never losing the impish grim and charming good looks, Charles along with his brother traveled from orphanage to foster home to state institution to foster home and back to state institution. As a court order required the brothers not to be separated, a terrified young Charles found himself joining his brother in a state facility for boys with mental disabilities, “a nuthouse” as one would call it. No one bothered to notice that this was not an appropriate placement for a perfectly normal little boy.

The story relates in chilling detail the daily living horror that was Charles’ life. A normal youngster dumped in with society’s outcasts in a nightmarish hell of abuse, hunger, filth, punishment, neglect and unending loneliness. A world where almost all adults he encountered continued the pattern of outright brutality and physical abuse or in true institutional form looked with strong blinders the other way and just did their time at the job. A world where children were left just to sit for years, suffering unending misery and boredom, never given the chance to develop their natural capabilities in any manner. The will to endure, protect his brother and survive kept Charles placing one small foot in front of the other each despairing day. The will to maintain his sanity in an insane place, to endure suffering no child should ever be expected to face and to survive to bear witness against an unjust and little known system gives Charles the strength to speak for the all but forgotten.

Book Review: Pretty Dolls, by Kimberly Dana

Pretty Dolls by Kimberly Dana, a finalist in the Children’s Picture Book category at the 2011 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, is a delightful story about overcoming jealousy and the love a girl can share with her special doll, no matter what she looks like.

Little Tasha has several dolls, but her favorites are Emily-Nicole and Gracie. Emily-Nicole is the most beautiful of all, with porcelain skin, silky red hair and turquoise-blue eyes. She spends most of her days perched on the top bookshelf case with the other beautiful dolls. Unlike Emily-Nicole, Gracie has tufts of brown hair (from when Tasha played hairdresser), purple eyes (from when she played artist), and a missing arm. She’s not at all beautiful like Emily-Nicole. But Tasha loves her because she’s the snuggliest of all and that’s why she always carries her around.

Unbeknown to Tasha, once she’s deeply sound asleep in the quiet of the night, Emily-Nicole, jealous of Tasha and Gracie’s closeness, starts making fun of Gracie and calling her cruel names. The other pretty dolls giggle and together they mock:

“Pretty eyes and pretty hair. We’re the best dolls anywhere. If you were a pretty doll, you’d be up here standing tall.”

Night after night the banter continues. As Emily-Nicole becomes more and more jealous, she turns increasingly cruel. Her heart becomes just as cold and porcelain-like as her beautiful face. Deep inside, though, she suffers. She would like to be the one to snuggle up with Tasha instead of standing on the shelf all day and night. She just can’t understand why Tasha prefers Gracie when Gracie is so ugly compared to her.

One day, Tasha’s dog Victor charges into the room and rocks the bookshelf back and forth, making Emily-Nicole stumble and fall. He snatches her into his mouth and shakes her, then heaves her into the air and she lands on Tasha’s bed… right next to Gracie. Will the other dolls help Emily-Nicole or will Gracie?

Pretty Dolls is an adorable picture book for little girls ages 3 to 8. It is a story about kindness and discovering new friendships. The book offers a valuable and lovely message about what it means to be truly beautiful and about accepting others, even if they look a little different than us. The language is simple and engaging, appropriate for this age group. The illustrations are charming, a splash of color on the pages with a lot of pinks and purples. There’s an accompanying audio book included with Pretty Dolls, which can be downloaded for free from the Tate Publishing website and burned onto a CD or saved to a portable device such as an iPod. Recommended.

Author Kimberly Dana is an award-winning English teacher. In addition to writing for children, she also writes for young adults. You can visit her at http://www.kimberlydana.com