Sam the Superhero and His Super Life (Kathryn F. Pearson & James T. Pearson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sam the Superhero and His Super Life, written by Kathryn F. Pearson and James T. Pearson, illus. by Lauren Jezierski, a look at the experience of a nuero-atypical child.

Sam is a happy, healthy boy who lives with his loving grandparents, Grandpa Dan and Grandma Lucy. In many ways, Sam is just like any other kid – he loves to learn, read, and play – but in others, Sam is different. He can feel overwhelmed that noises and bright lights, can be confused by social interactions with his classmates, and has trouble controlling his motor skills when holding a marker or hugging friends. These differences often make Sam feel angry, sad, or hurt, and when Sam is excluded by his peers for being different, these “big feelings” get even worse. After one such incident, Sam decides that he will never try to make friends again, and tells his Grandpa as much. Yet Grandpa Dan knows that Sam is much stronger and braver than even he knows – in fact, he’s a superhero, and it’s time he learned his origin story…

Earnest and sweet, if slightly uneven, this indie title looks at the challenges that children with developmental disabilities can face as they grow (Sam’s delays are broadly nuero-atypical, though his diagnosis is never explicitly stated; context within the story and backmatter suggest NAS and ASD). This core theme is well-explored, as is the affirming lesson that the things that make us “different” are often the same things that make us strong and special. Sam is an endearing and relatable character for readers of all abilities, assisted greatly by the simple yet tender pencil illustrations. As with many indies, there are some rougher edges: the text can be a little redundant, the pacing uneven, and the poor formatting of the dialogue makes reading it – especially aloud – a challenge. And while JJ was a bit wiggly through much of the text, she enjoyed the expressive illustrations and Sam’s interactions with his comfort toy, Hercules. So while rough around the edges, the charms of this title are definitely worth a look. Baby Bookworm approved!

(A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

I Will Dance (Nancy Bo Flood)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the stunning I Will Dance, written by Nancy Bo Flood and illustrated by Julianna Swaney, an inspiring tale of a young girl’s love of dance.

When Eva was born, she could barely breathe; the doctors said she would not survive more than a few minutes. Yet Eva defied the odds and, ten years of minutes later, she has one dream: to dance. Confined to a motorized wheelchair with very limited mobility, her moms and teachers encourage her to “imagine” or “pretend” that she is dancing, but this simply isn’t enough. Eva wishes she could swirl, glide, leap, and twirl like dancers do, and she will not give up this dream. Yet when one of her moms finds an audition notice for dancers of “all abilities, all ages”, Eva is nervous: what if the others laugh at her, or stare, or tell her she doesn’t belong? Eva must face her fears, but she may find that the ability to dance was actually hers all along.

Incredible. This beautifully inclusive and affirming tale, based on a real-life Eva and the Young Dance Company, uses a singular balance of lyrical text and soft, graceful illustrations to tell a powerful story. Eva’s dance company features children of all sizes, genders, and abilities – other dancers use crutches, walkers, prosthetics, and so on – who work together to rehearse and choreograph a dance that features each person’s unique abilities, culminating in a breathtakingly-illustrated performance sequence. It’s a rare story about disability from the perspective of a physically-disabled person, voiced in a way that invites readers of all abilities to identify and empathize with Eva, sharing both her frustrations and eventual triumph. This one is a little longer than other picture books, but JJ was rapt throughout; she was particularly taken with the visual theme of movement expressed as winding, sweeping lines, and enjoyed tracing them across the pages. This one is simply a must-read; Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)