I came across James and the Amazing Gift by Nicola J. Rowley through BookTasters. I am reviewing an ecopy version provided by the author.
I read children's books, particularly younger children's books, with children of different sexes and ages, often with one or more on the autism spectrum. I also prefer to hold off reviewing for a length of time. I know this may seem unfair to the author but I believe it gives a clearer picture of the book. As parents,grandparents,caregivers and teachers we know how often we will read the same book to our children. What I look for to review them are:
1. Are the children interested? Has something about the story caught them? Do they care about the ending?
2. Do they like the characters? Can they relate to any of them?
3. After hearing/reading it several times, are they still enjoying it? Do they still laugh? Do they find new things in it? Do they stop paying attention half way through?
4. Do they enjoy the illustrations? Do they make the connection between the words and the picture? Do the illustrations ignite their imaginations?
5. (maybe it should have been higher up) Was I able to enjoy the book the first time? The fifth time? The twentieth time? Did I find it a chore to read it? Was I able to find anything new to comment on with multiple reading?
6. Did age/sex/ability affect the child's view of the story?
I enjoyed James and the Amazing Gift. I found value in the story. The message is an empowering one. I had a couple of audiences. The one most often was made up of two boys and a girl, the youngest 3 and oldest 10 and on the spectrum. The second group was similar in ages and sexes. They had been victims of abuse. I was hoping the story had value for them. I hope the message stays with them. I wish I had been given a book copy so I could have gifted it to them.
Both groups of children liked the pictures though they wanted them bigger. In a print version they may be bigger. They all liked James. I could tell they were relating to the story by the reactions to the lady. The children who deal with autism, thought the lady was on the spectrum. They thought this was why she did not make eye contact or talk to anyone. The children who had been abused thought she was being hurt at home. I found it interesting and a way to open the door of communication with the first group. After hearing the other children's observations, I was able to introduce different reasons for the lady to be sad, (something important for the one on the spectrum, who was the oldest). The first group of children are not tired of the story. We have had the book for a month now. We read it often with conversations about feelings and the importance of caring for others. The second group read the story three times before they moved on. They were still enjoying it at that time. I hope James becomes a part of them.
Sexes of the children did not matter, with both equally enjoying it. Age played a little into it with the three year old not getting the bigger message but still listening and enjoying it. I thought the 10 year old would get bored but he hasn't. This could be due to us working on emotions with him so much. I think it is a lovely story with a much needed message.
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