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Kids and Characters: Facing Challenges

Sheila Welch, our book reviewer, has compiled her list of recommended books to read in late summer.  As we start getting ready for the beginning of the schoolyear, perhaps it’s time to pick up some new books to read? 

By Sheila Welch

Soon children will be starting back to school where they’ll be meeting new people and dealing with unfamiliar situations. Here are four stories about some of the challenges that others face. Young readers might be inspired by these characters in ways that will  help them deal with their own challenges.

Balancing girlTHE BALANCING GIRL by Bernice Rabe and illustrated with charming three-color sketches by Lillian Hoban is not a new book. In fact, it was published in 1981, but the story is just as fresh as the first day of school.  A little girl named Margaret has leg braces and a wheelchair but a steady hand that she uses to balance various objects. When a classmate insists that all of her accomplishments are “easy”, Margaret is determined to do a really difficult balancing act for the school carnival. This is a wonderful read-aloud for Kindergarten or preschool-age children.


HANNI AND BETH: SAFE AND SOUND by Beth Finke and illustrated by Anthony Alex LeTourneau is told from the point-of-view of a Seeing Eye dog who happens to belong to the author. Beth has been blind since she was in her late 20s, but with the help of her competent dog, she’s able to travel and work. Adding to the book’s appeal are beautiful full color illustrations plus a special section about the training that both Hanni and Beth needed in order to learn how to work together. Although this is a picture book, it’s perfect for listeners and readers of all ages.


THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE, a novel by Lisa Graff, features a fourth-grader whose mother is expecting a baby. The problem is, the baby will be of normal height, like their parents, and will grow taller than Georgie  in just a few years. Told with both humor and compassion, this story will make kids smile and think. It’s good for independent readers in third through sixth grade and would make an interesting read-aloud for a whole family.


DON’T CALL ME MARDA, written by Sheila Kelly Welch tells the story of sixth-grader Marsha and how she feels when her parents decide to foster an eight-year-old girl, whom they plan to adopt. The arrival of Wendy turns Marsha’s life upside down because Wendy is developmentally delayed and acts like a two-year-old. Will Marsha agree to having Wendy become her sister? This realistic story is for mature fourth-graders through eighth-graders.


Sheila Kelly Welch is a mother, grandmother and retired teacher.  She’s been writing all her life and counts among her children’s fiction books Little Prince Do-It-All and A Horse for All SeasonsSheila's most recent book, WAITING TO FORGET, published by namelos, has been selected by Bank Street College and Pennsylvania School Library Association for their lists of best-books-of-the-year.

You can learn more about Sheila on her web site