Monday, May 20, 2013

Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander

It's the principal's birthday so the class are making birthday cards. But when Stan tries to write Happy Birthday, his letters come out back to front and upside down. Stan is sure everyone will laugh at him. “Stan felt sick, like his tummy was being all stirred up with a big wooden spoon.” The illustration shows a dismal Stan huddled in the lower corner of a big black page.

At recess, his friend Jack urges Stan to ask the teacher for help. And when Stan does, no one laughs and Mimi admits she needs help too. With a lot of practice, Stan is able to make the card come out the way he wants. He proudly presents it to the principal at the party.

Students, teacher, and principal are each pictured as a different animal with very expressive faces. The story is written in letters like a young child's printing. Any child entering school can take heart from the words of Stan's friend, “We all have to ask for help sometimes.”

Miriam Cohen's When Will I Read? offers similar reassurance as children begin to master writing and other skills in school. Back to Front and Upside Down can also augment a selection of birthday stories like Ezra Jack Keats' A Letter to Amy. While dyslexia is not mentioned in Alexander's book, it is the only picture book in the catalog with the subject of dyslexia.  And, it received the 2013 Schneider Family Book Award for younger children. These awards honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience. 

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