Did you see Spot run when you were a kid? Ponder green eggs and ham—and where the sidewalk actually ends? We all did, but sometimes life takes a turn beyond the whimsical and storybook endings. Experts agree that it’s important kids know how to deal with heavy topics (death, divorce, disease), but it’s not always easy to talk about. So we’ve rounded up a few children’s books (all written by local authors) that tackle the tough issues for you.
CHECK OUT: The Dyslexic Dalmatian by Dana Willhite
Weighty Matter: Spot only answers to the name “Tops.” Unlike his brothers and sisters, instead of white with black spots, he’s black with white spots. You see, Spot is dyslexic. This book reminds us that doing things backward isn’t wrong—it makes you special.
About the Author: Dana, an El Paso transplant, has been a Granbury resident for 11 years. She’s an animal lover—and rescuer. She’s also a second grade teacher (this will be her 20th year!), and it was her work with dyslexic students that inspired her to write The Dyslexic Dalmatian. What does she enjoy doing (while not writing)? She says her favorite thing to do “in the whole wide world” is snow skiing; she’s been doing it since she was 7 years old, so she’s practically a pro by now! “Life is like snow skiing,” she says. “You can’t get good unless you fall a few times!” She’d love to write another book—what that is she’s not sure yet, but whatever it is, it’ll be a feel-good read with an important moral. (Maybe it’ll be about me: two left feet on skis!)
Check Out: I Miss You When I Sleep by Noelle Leveaux
Weighty Matter: “I’m not sleepy.” “It’s too dark.” “My pajamas are too small.” Kids come up with the darndest excuses for not going to sleep—when really they just miss you! The lesson for your little ones is that no matter how much they miss you at night, you miss them just as much! So they can go to sleep with smiles on their faces.
About the Author: Noelle, a Plano resident, is the proud mother of two beautiful girls (Sydney, 5, and Jordan, 2) and she’s the director of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications for Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. She enjoys writing, running (she’s completed one full marathon and two halves!) and Sudoku (she does have a math degree, after all!). In addition to her authoring, mothering and careering, you could call her a philanthropist. In 2005 she co-founded Dress for Success Dallas, an organization that helps disadvantaged women gain self-sufficiency by providing interview attire and a professional networking group. Fun facts: Her favorite quote comes from Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not!” And she grew up on Appletree Lane—with an apple tree in the yard! I Miss You When I Sleep is her first children’s book.
Check Out: A Day With Jay by Jay Armstrong
Weighty Matter: Kids don’t always know how to respond when they see something unfamiliar—like a classmate in a wheelchair. Follow along with Jay as he navigates his first day of kindergarten as a child with cerebral palsy, and discover that a wheelchair doesn’t hold him back from things like playing games—or being a friend.
About the Author: Jay never let his own cerebral palsy slow him down. He wrote this book at age 9 and went on to earn a B.S. in Sport Management from the University of Texas in 2007. A native Texan, he now resides in Southlake, where he spends his days speaking at elementary schools and social clubs about how people with physical challenges are no different from anyone else. He calls himself a bonafide sports junkie—for three years in college he saw every single home game, from soccer to baseball to basketball! Now he keeps himself entertained by cheering on the Rangers (and of course the UT Longhorns!). He has a golden retriever, Major, and he’s also a big movie buff—he lists Top Gun and Major League as his favorites (Harry Potter, too!). Jay says it was incredibly rewarding to write this book; in particular, he has loved the reaction of readers. He finds that kids make the most intelligent observations (“If you grow, the wheelchair has to grow”). One man even told him he reads the book every night! Essentially, Jay hopes people take away from this that being in a wheelchair does not make you different or hold you back—just like it didn’t hold him back.
Check Out: My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames and Other Facts About Me by Bill Cochran
Weighty Matter: It’s common for young kids to feel confused—or hurt, or unloved—when parents divorce. While Ted, the quirky narrator, shares “weird” facts about himself (he sleeps with socks on and has nicknames for his elbows), he knows its OK to be sad about his parents’ divorce. This story uses humor to remind kids that, in the end, their parents still love them.
About the Author: Bill lives in Dallas, where he is preparing for his upcoming nuptials to fiancée Rachael. Who is Bill in just four words? “Tall guy, big heart.” Oh, and he laughs a lot.
His first book, The Forever Dog, about the loss of his beloved golden retriever, Mo, was published in 2007—he says it’s made many a grown man cry. His second book is semi-autobiographical (no elbow-naming involved). When he’s not at work writing commercials for advertising agency The Richards Group (so that’s where that creative writing knack comes from!), he enjoys track and field (he’s a self-proclaimed nerd), working out and cooking. Fun fact: Just for kicks, he does improv comedy on the side—you can catch him at Ad Libs in Deep Ellum on weekends.
Bill’s best advice: “Keep laughing, stay weird,” he says.
Barnes & Noble Lincoln Park;
Check Out: The Life of Bud by Laura Eckroat
Weighty Matter: A lot of children’s books explain death by illustrating a tragedy and taking the kids along for the ride. Eckroat’s fiction, full of warm illustrations, follows Bud, a tiny bud who grows into a beautiful vibrant leaf on a mighty oak tree. In observing Bud’s lifecycle, children learn that death is a natural and important part of life.
About the Author: Laura lives in Fort Worth with her daughter Ashley, 17, and her husband of 18 years, Steven. They also have a beagle named Mable—a “citified” couch potato, she says! She enjoys reading and journaling—in particular, nature fascinates her. She also loves to do storytime and craft events with children. She wrote The Life of Bud, her first book, after losing her father to colon cancer and going through a difficult time; it won The North Texas Book Festival Award for Best Children’s Book for 2010. Last May, Laura released a second book, A Simpler Time, about living in Georgia with her daughter.