Sort of But Not Exactly We Recommend: Books for Immigrants and Detainees

I don't even want to write the usual intro here, because this seems too important, but I will say that if you or someone you know is looking for a book for a specific person or on a specific subject, we are here for you. Just email thediamondinthewindow(at)gmail(dot)com, and ask away. And while we try to recommend great books, you, our readers, have the best recommendations, so look in the comments.

Well here we are, in a world full of confusing and terrifying things, as the world has long been for children, but now we've added in some extra horrors specific (but not unique) to our time and place: having the government bust up your family. Here's what happened: my sister, a social worker, wrote to me recently, about trying to find books to read to the kids she works with about their fears that their parents will be deported.

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That last one, in case you're looking for a good cry that won't destroy you, is about a cat that got separated from a family fleeing Mosul, and then was reunited with them by aid workers. In case you forgot that some people are out there doing amazing work—an easy thing to forget. My sister then wrote this:

So I am looking for recommendations for books for families to read together to help discuss fears related to immigration status and deportation. The book about the cat does not exactly fit the mold, but I just loved it anyway. Another one that is more generally about dealing with children's fears and separation anxiety is The Invisible String. When I read it to immigrant children they always start to talk about their relatives back home. But I would love to hear other suggestions and ideas.

She works with younger kids, so picture books would be great, but if you know of middle grade books, nonfiction, YA—any of it, throw it in there in the comments.

Chestnut offers up this, which is about a girl separated from her parents, who goes out in search of them:

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But Silver Dollar Girl isn't about the fear so much, and it's for older kids. And what kills me is that all the picture books I can think of are about little kids fearing their parents are gone, but then they come back. So please, my wonderful readers: do you have any books for her?

 

We Recommend: 6 1/2-year-old girl seeks awesomeness

It’s We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send us (thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com) his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

It's back! And it's a fun one, because just reading it makes you remember how much fun it is to start reading. All of a sudden you can fly, just anywhere. And lo, she is flying. See?

I stumbled across your website as we have just discovered the "Katie Woo" books and are looking for other recommendations for similar books. My daughter is 6.5-yrs-old and in Grade 1. She loves The Kingdom of Wrenly, The Adventures of Sophie Mouse, Mermaid Rock, The Cobble Street Cousins. I have read her all of The Magic Treehouse series, we are onto Greetings from Somewhere, and I have read aloud all of the animal books by Jill Tomlinson. There are a few great series that are a little bit too long for her to read yet like Piper Green, Violet Mackerel, and the Sword Girl books. She does not like Geronimo Stilton, Flat Stanley or Nate the Great. And we haven't tried any of the Junie B. Jones or Ivy and Bean type ones because I don't really like sassy, bickering characters that focus on school yard drama… haha…. Any suggestions for us!? Primarily looking for easy chapter books with some colour pictures that my daughter can read aloud like the Katie Woo books. Fairies, mermaids, strong, creative female main characters are a bonus.

Fairies! Mermaids! And wow, that Katie Woo has some special powers. Remember this? And the terrifying follow-up? Sometimes I still worry about that librarian hiding behind her desk while the little girls rattle the doors bellowing "Katie Woo! Katie WOO!"

Anywoo (ouch, sorry) what about this young lady? So many wonderful books for her! My first thought was The Fairy Realm, because oh! She would love them! But then I asked Chestnut, and she reminded me of all that is good. In other words, she remind me of this:

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I have no idea why that is so gigantic. But the thing is: she is right. These books are wonderful, and they will be so utterly satisfying.

But…you all must have ideas, right? Mermaids? Fairies? Strong female characters? Books she will read on her own? Doesn't this sound like a wonderful pleasure? Please put all your excellent ideas in the comments, so she can read them all.

We Recommend: Imaginary Characters

It’s We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send us (thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com) his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

What, you may be asking, are imaginary characters? Aren't all characters (in fiction at least) imaginary? 

Yeah, that's what I was wondering too, when I got this:

My sone just read The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, and is reading George’s Marvelous Medicine, both of which he really likes. He likes books with imaginary characters that are interesting to read. 

Well, books with imaginary characters that are interesting to read would pretty much cover my interests too. But more! I needed more! So I wrote back and asked for more. What was an imaginary character anyway?

He told me likes “magical” characters, and yes he loves fiction although he is also obsessed with cars and would read non-fiction about how cars are made forever. He’s just starting to read 60- to 80-page chapter books, and I’m hoping to find books that size or a little longer with a capturing story that can keep him practicing. He’s turning 8 this december, he’s moderately interested in baseball, obsessed with cars, likes science and “how things are made.”

Ah! Magical characters! Now we're cooking with gas. Also, he will read nonfiction about how cars are made forever? I am, as often happens, captivated by the very idea of this person going busily about the world, with his strong and strongly felt, interests. 

But the real issue is: what should he read? Of course, one wants to go with Roald Dahl, and I was thinking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but first of all, he's probably read it, or at least heard of it, and second of all, Charlie is an ordinary boy in a magical world. Are there any magical characters I could think of?

Strangely, this was harder than I'd thought it would be. So many regular kids! So many magical worlds they go to! I thought of Stuart Little—a mouse is certainly magical. I thought of Secrets of Droon—but I always recommend that, and the kids aren't magic. I thought of Miss Piggle-Wiggle, and hit right up against non-magical kids again.

I suggest this with trepidation, but hope:

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My reasoning? He's flat, for Pete's sake! That is magical. 

And I don't want to go crazy on this kid and offer the Hobbit when he's ready to read 80 and 90 page books. Flat Stanley is an icon! A hero! A touchstone! 

At least I hope he is. I have not, it must be admitted, read Flat Stanley, so please please please if I am far off, readers, speak out in the comments! And find us some magical characters while you're at it!

We Recommend: Comic Excitement Without Romance, Please

It’s We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful to us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

We're on a roll! Yet another person is looking for the right book, and by god we aim to give it to her.

This is another request that was given mostly orally (as opposed to writing in, you know), so understand that the following is perhaps not exact, but we're trying to get the essence here:

The Young Lady in Question is going into fifth grade, is extremely interested in science, in space, and in scary things. HOWEVER. Some books, and of course movies, have been deemed too scary. She is known to have scared my grown friend with creepy story about someone being skinned alive (eek!), but she agrees that the fifth Harry Potter movie might be too much for her. She loved the Harry Potter books, but was disappointed when they veered to (she thought) excessive coverage of the characters' romantic yearnings, and kissings, and stuff like that. In the Harry Potter universe, she found the Weasley twins to be enormously entertaining.

In short, my friends, she is a mass of excellent contradictions, and she fully expects, I am sure, that none of your suggestions will work. Let's prove her wrong, shall we?

My first impulse was to suggest both the Warriors and also the Tamora Pierce Circle of Magic series, as they're wild and amazing but not terrifying. However, on second (third? fifth?) thought I have a new idea, based on her admiration for the Weasleys. Because to me that means one thing: she wants things to be funny. Magic would be good too. And no romance. Can we do it? Maybe? How about this? (And yes, know that this is entirely courtesy of one persistent commenter who brought Sir Terry to our attention years ago, and we have been big fans ever since.)

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It's funny! It's weird! There are so many in the series you'll never run out!

And yet—I'm not sure, part of me thinks that she wants more slapstick, right? Oh help me, excellent readers! If you have any ideas at all, put them in the comments, and do this kid a favor.

We Recommend: Chapter Book for Thoughtful 7-Year-Old

It’s We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send us (thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com) his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

I am in California! Which is nuts, but extremely nice at the same time. And last night I had the rarest of all We Recommend scenarios, the one in which I meet a person, who in this case has a 7-year-old, and my excellent friend says to her, "Ask her! She'll know the right book!" And I try to come up with something.

So what we have here, friends, is not a letter or email, but a vague, half-remembered, probably inaccurate reporting of a conversation, like so:

My 7-year-old son loves to read, and we're looking for chapter books for him, but he's also easily scared, so nothing too scary. We were thinking of Harriet the Spy, is it going to go over his head?

So first we have to bow down and acknowledge the overall awesomeness of Harriet the Spy, which is a wonderful book, and which he would certainly love. And also maybe we should make time to notice that we have forgotten whether he likes fantasy, or realistic books, or what (oops. Our excuse = jet lag). Suffice it to say that he reads a lot of chapter books already, and is hungry for more.

Onwards. I've been thinking, first of all, that of course he should read Harriet the Spy, because everyone should read Harriet the Spy, whether they get all the nuances or not. It's just fun, and he can reread it when he's 11 and understand more. But. What else should he read?

It seems to me that he is of that age and disposition when the classics make all the sense in the world. For instance, The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little are long and rich and absorbing, but not at all scary. For other fun, I mentioned Secrets of Droon. And then this morning, as I hung around at 5am drinking coffee that was WAY too strong (can you tell? Is it totally obvious?) I thought: heavens! He should read this!

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I know there are all sorts of opinions on which is best, but if you want the honest truth (and who doesn't?): this is the best one. The big bladder catch! The smoking of the ham! Pa! Ma! Maple sugar candy made in the snow! All of it.

What's that, you say? He's already read that? Well, that's entirely possible isn't it. Which is why it is SO IMPERATIVE that you put your own suggestions for what this literate young person should read in the comments.