"Shirley celebrates friendship and helps dispel many misconceptions about life in a wheelchair."
In second grade, Mrs. Poole asks our narrator to show the new girl around school. Imagine the surprise when our narrator first meets Sarah--Sarah uses a wheelchair! For a moment, our narrator feels awkward.
A worthy message does not redeem the forced storyline and flat illustrations in this book about two girls, one of whom is wheelchair-bound. On the first spreads, the narrator lists the ways she and her best friend, Sarah, are alike; both are seen only from the waist up until the narrator acknowledges, "We're different in one way-she uses a wheelchair./ She rolls and I walk when we want to go somewhere." Rhymed couplets chronicle the story of their friendship, beginning with their first meeting: "I was so nervous, I stammered and stuttered./ I might say the wrong thing, I thought-so I muttered./ I wanted to get a good look at her chair,/ but I felt like a jerk, so I tried not to stare." Then the narrator notices that Sarah is wearing a "Rock Hound" button and she "yelp[s] with delight!" as she also collects rocks. This episode prefigures a similarly strained scene with an ice cream vendor who ignores Sarah until she notices Sarah's "I (heart) my finches" button, whereupon she announces that she owns 20 birds and is instantly at ease. This book protests too much to convince anyone. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
K-Gr 3- A rhyming text looks at two friends who share good times. It begins with a list of interests they share, and the colorful cartoon illustrations delightfully capture them in their favorite activities-reading, playing Frisbee, eating pizza (both pick off the peppers). It's not until several pages into the book that Sarah's wheelchair is revealed. Then the narrator flashes back to the day her second-grade teacher suggested that she show the new girl around. "When I saw she was using a wheelchair, I froze..../I stammered and stuttered./I might say the wrong thing, I thought-so I muttered. I wanted to get a good look at her chair,/but I felt like a jerk, so I tried not to stare." Children will identify with these feelings. The girls find something in common to begin a conversation-they are both "rock hounds." The rhyme moves quickly yet touches on many aspects of life for people in wheelchairs-the rude reactions, getting into bed, and children's normal activities. The artwork conveys the same positive fun as the text. The book's lesson is evident without being didactic; the story focuses on real friendship, not the disability. The narrator sums it up: "It's odd that the moment I met her I'm sure/I saw only the wheelchair..../but now I see Sarah first-and she's cool!" This is an excellent addition that will work for groups as well as individual reading.-Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH
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¿Best Friend on Wheels¿ by Debra Shirley is a charming picture book showing a close relationship between two girls, one of whom is in a wheelchair. The book goes on to detail all of the activities they share together, depicting a relationship no different than that of most second grade girls. They share pizza, secrets, sleepovers, and a special bond. The author doesn¿t completely ignore the fact of Sarah¿s disability. For example, during their sleepover, the other girl offers to help get Sarah¿s wheelchair in the bed. Sarah responds: ¿Silly, that¿s not how I do it! I slide off my chair into bed¿nothing to it!¿ and confidently shows her new friend how independent she is. This is a wonderful book to teach young children about disability and how people who may seem very different are more similar than they thought. While the rhymes are a stretch at some points, the core meaning paired with Judy Stead¿s vibrant, joyful illustrations combine to deliver a book that leaves you with a smile.
There are two reasons why I think readers of any age will enjoy this book and will want to recommend that their friends read it: Its irresistible narrator. Its superior writing and illustrations. What's so irresistible about the narrator? Well, let me tell you. Lots! * Her helpful innocence when she tells her friend Sarah, 'I'd be happy to help get your wheelchair in bed.' * Her candid awareness when she states, 'I wanted to get a good look at her chair, but I felt like a jerk, so I tried not to stare.' * Her delight at discovering Sarah, too, loves dancing. 'Dancing--yes, dancing! She love the ballet. She spins on her wheels and twirls every which way.' * Most irresistible of all is her sweet intelligence. 'Now Sarah and I, we're twin sisters at heart. Except for one HUGE thing that sets us apart.' 'It's NOT her wheelchair. Please read the book to find out.' Author Debra Shirley's prose shines poetic, her writing skill reflected in expertly crafted rhyme that doesn't resort to ho-hum singsongy-ness. And illustrator Judy Stead captures the narrator's youthful exuberance and humor while providing the reader with a clear sense of action and changing moods. I'd like to praise the editors at Albert Whitman & Company for pairing up these two gifted professionals.