Kids dealing with differences

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books


These three full-color books help youngsters cope with feeling different and show them that “everybody will laugh at me” can turn into laughing with friends who enjoy hanging out with them and celebrate the differences that make them wonderfully special.

“The Day You Begin” (by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. Rafael Lopez, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, hardcover, 32 pgs., ages 3-8, 2018, $18.99) says, “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” The classroom may erupt in giggles when you speak with the accent of your country. When the other students tell what they did last summer, you may have gone no farther than your own home. “There may be times when the world feels like a place you’re standing all the way outside of….” But everything changes on the day when you begin to open up and share the real you. The recipient of a National Book Award, Coretta Scott King Award, a Newberry Honor, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, Jacqueline Woodson has crafted a powerful message. Rafael Lopez, who supports the lesson with appealing pictures, has won two America’s Book Awards and has created no fewer than seven U.S. postage stamps.

“What in the World Is Wrong with Gisbert?” (Jochen Weeber, illus. Fariba Gholizadeh, Flyaway Books, hardcover, 32 pgs, ages 3-8, 2018, $16.00) starts with a giraffe so tall he can nap with his head in the trees. He feels very cheerful until hyenas tease him about his spots on his way to kindergarten. Suddenly, he shrinks two inches. The next day, ostriches call him a beanpole. He shrinks again. Before long, he doesn’t want to see anybody. He skips school, until his friends ask him to come back. Now he grows a whole six feet in a half second. Acceptance and putting his plight in perspective add up to an important, happy ending in this effective story about bullying and the power of words.

In “Crouching Tiger” (Ying Chang Compestine, illus. Yan Nascimbene, Candlewick Press, hardcover, 40 pgs, ages 6-9, 2011), Vinson’s grandpa arrives from China. Vinson hopes to learn from him about tai chi and martial arts. Instead, they ride together on the bus, and he has to wear a red silk jacket to the New Year’s Eve parade. How embarrassing! He hopes his friends won’t see him. But when the lion dancers let him lead them in the procession, tradition emerges as better than he could have imagined. Engaging first-person text and beautifully thoughtful art combine to deliver a gentle, compelling tale. Named one of "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" by the Author’s Show and regularly profiled in media such as the “New York Times,” “Washington Post,” “San Francisco Chronicle,” and “Huffington Post,” author Ying Chang Compestine appears frequently on national television.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” is available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum, and Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2018-11-09