Recommended Age Range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Publisher's Summary: Aaron Slater loves listening to stories and dreams of one day writing them himself. But when it comes to reading, the letters just look like squiggles to him, and it soon becomes clear he struggles more than his peers. When his teacher asks each child in the class to write a story, Aaron can’t get a single word down. He is sure his dream of being a storyteller is out of reach . . . until inspiration strikes, and Aaron finds a way to spin a tale in a way that is uniquely his.
Dr. Annie's Takeaways
Recommended for: This story is a celebration of all means of storytelling (i.e., through art and verbal storytelling, in addition to reading and writing). It is an excellent book to read with any child who is struggling to read or write, regardless of diagnosis, who would benefit from a reminder that there are many ways to share one’s truth, and that with practice reading and writing will get easier too. It features a family with two moms and is written in a dyslexia-friendly font. It is available in Spanish and English.
Tone: Poetic, inspiring, emotionally rich
Story Quality: This story is really well-written in rhyming verses that flow nicely and contain a lot of beautiful imagery (e.g., the book starts with this lovely scene: “At the end of the garden, in the soft, fading light/ when the day turns to dusk and then dusk into night/ the sweet scent of jasmine floats into the air/ to mix with the music of laughter and there…/ Aaron D. Slater soaks it all in/ with his flowery blanket tucked under his chin”). The story is earnest and very sweet.
Illustrations: Pretty illustrations in watercolor and colored pencil with lots of color, texture, and detail.
Representation: Aaron Slater is a boy with brown skin and short, curly black hair. He has two moms–one who is Black and one who has light brown skin and straight brown hair. Aaron has three older siblings, two of whom are Black or biracial, and one of whom is White. Aaron’s teacher, Miss Lila Greer, is a White woman. Aaron does not have a diagnosis, but he is described as having trouble with reading (“the words are just squiggles”) and writing. He is a wonderful storyteller and artist.
Psychological Practices: This lovely book celebrates unique ways of sharing one’s story and one’s truth. Aaron loves listening to his siblings read stories, and he thinks writing stories would be “the greatest of things.” When he starts first grade, he dresses in bold colors and expresses confidence that he will be able to read by the “end of the day.” But he struggles more than his friends, and although he makes progress, by the end of the year he is aware that he isn’t reading or writing as well as other kids in his class. At the start of second grade, he heartbreakingly decides to try to blend in, and he starts wearing plain white t-shirts and trying to avoid being noticed. His teacher assigns a homework assignment to write a story, and when he stands in front of the class to read his story (the reader can see that he has drawn illustrations instead of words), he tells a beautiful story that makes the kids gasp and his teacher cry. She thanks Aaron for sharing his story in a very meaningful moment for both of them, and helps him to realize that he can be a storyteller, starting with illustrations, even if reading and writing are challenging for him. Aaron continues to practice reading with his teacher and his parents, and “his reading gets better. Of course it’s still tough,/ but each day that they work is a little less rough.” The story ends with Aaron painting an “Illustrator’s Garden” mural in the hallway of his school to celebrate this form of storytelling.
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