Abeel's charged autobiography about growing up both learning-disabled and gifted may be better suited for parents and teachers than children. Offering an intimate documentary, the author analyzes each stage of her life from an adult perspective, periodically recreating significant moments in her development-and using adult language to do so: "There was no truer feeling of joy or of all-consuming passion than when I had an opportunity to use my imagination in creative play." She examines her painful childhood, when she felt isolated from her peers and was fraught with anxieties about her inability to measure time and distance ("I feel so far away from everyone, removed, alone in my ignorance. I am terrified there is something really wrong with me," Abeel writes of sitting through a fourth grade math class). The author evokes the rush of relief she felt when, at age 13, she was finally diagnosed with dyscalculia. She recounts the encouragement she received to develop her talent as a writer, and traces her growing fame after her first book, Reach for the Moon, was published at age 15. Despite her triumphs, however, Abeel frankly admits that some obstacles in her path will never go away. Her memoir, expressing both her talents and her intense frustration at not being able to perform everyday tasks like telling time and making change, conjures a haunting, intriguing portrait of a lonely outsider using creative outlets to earn acceptance from herself and others. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Samantha Abeel, labeled as bright and creative by her elementary teachers, begins to have increasing difficulty with math activities. She is unable to tell time, make change, understand fractions, remember telephone numbers, or master a number of activities that her fellow students do easily. High school courses tax her abilities further. Simple tasks such as remembering a locker combination become a source of anxiety and tension. Sam is plagued increasingly by crippling anxiety attacks that severely limit her social life. At the age of thirteen, she is diagnosed with the learning disability dyscalculia. But the diagnosis does not constitute a cure. Attending special education classes for remedial help provides a partial answer. An understanding English teacher develops a summer course for her, pairing Sam's poetry with her grandfather's paintings. The resulting book, Reach For the Moon (Pfeifer-Hamilton, 1994), gives Sam a venue to call attention to her learning disability and to help people better understand learning disabilities in general. Eventually Sam finishes college with special help and encouragement. This introspective book provides a valuable resource for teachers or counselors working with youth with learning disabilities, but it might be a hard sell with most teens. The text is a combination of narrative and segmented essays describing Sam's struggle in great detail. There is never a real feeling of resolution. New problems continue to rise throughout the book, including a diagnosis of depression in the last chapter. Although the afterword offers hope, it is tempered with sadness. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P M J S (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interestin the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Orchard, 203p., Ages 11 to 18.
Nancy K. Wallace
"Sometimes a challenge can be an inspiration." So reads the cover on this touching, honest sharing of a life misunderstood for so long. Samantha Abeel uses her strong writing ability, discovered and nurtured by caring teachers in school, to tell of her struggle to come to grips with a long-undiagnosed learning disability. Never understanding why she worked twice as hard as other students with little improvement in math, Abeel had always been considered among the smartest in her class. She dreaded being called on during class for fear of the embarrassment of not being able to answer questions others seemed to understand with little effort. This dread and the added weight of not being what everyone thought her to be led to depression and full-blown panic attacks that began to cripple her emotionally. Abeel retreated socially as she became increasingly frustrated with her inability to do that which most take for granted. It was not until 8th grade, her "thirteenth winter," that the underlying cause of her academic challenges was discovered. This is a chronicle of emotions, frustrations, and fights to get properly diagnosed and develop a personal strategy to adapt to internal differences; readers will be touched by the rawness and honesty with which Abeel tells her storyone that reminds us that appearing "normal" rarely tells the entire story. Reading much like fiction, My Thirteenth Winter is a must-purchase for any library, especially where memoirs are in demand. The only drawback of this paperback edition is its rather small print. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Scholastic, 203p., Ages 12 to 18.
Samantha Abeel fears going to the cash register to pay for something because she has no idea if she has enough money to cover the cost. She has to take antidepressants to prevent sadness from ruling her life. She will always have trouble telling time, spelling, and handling money. Along with many others, these difficulties continue to rule Sam's life due to her learning disability, dyscalculia. Despite her handicaps, Sam overcomes these obstacles through perseverance and hard work. She creates an award-winning poetry book that moves all those who read it. Although she finds it frightening, Sam learns to be independent and graduates from Mount Holyoke University. Her inspiring memoir should make teachers proud of their profession, remind families what unconditional love can do, and help people know that learning disabilities are common and nothing to be ashamed of. 2003, Orchard Books, Ages 12 up.
Gr 9 Up-Abeel writes of her torturous year in seventh grade when she was diagnosed with a learning disability. Having been a gifted, creative preschooler, she was not prepared for the realization, in second grade, that she could not do many of the tasks that her classmates could accomplish with ease. By seventh grade, her feelings of insecurity had reached an all-time high, and she began to experience anxiety attacks over everything from having to remember her locker combination to managing her schoolwork to staying overnight at a friend's. When she was finally diagnosed with dyscalculia, she and her family felt relief. At least now there was a name for her difficulties and strategies she could employ. This account is an interesting mix of factual information and memories. Abeel relates her experiences with detached clarity, but each situation is followed by the thoughts and feelings that finally forced her to face her differences. Occasionally, her well-phrased prose slips into clich , and when she lists the math skills that she could not perform she becomes rather pedantic. While this book is not likely to be of great interest to casual readers, those with similar learning issues will identify strongly with the author's trials and triumphs. Pair this title with Abeel's book of poetry, Reach for the Moon (Scholastic, 2001), to inspire young people with learning disabilities and to educate others.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Evocative, elegant prose tells the true, first-person story of Samantha's difficult childhood navigating a learning disability. Sam has dyscalculia, which severely hinders her ability to understand sequential processing. Academic skills affected include math, spelling, and grammar; other inabilities are telling time, understanding how hours pass, counting money, and dialing the phone. As a child, Sam disguises both her inability to function like other children as well as her shame and fear about it. The eventual diagnosis of "learning disabled" is a godsend, but still leaves many challenges. At age 15, Sam publishes a group-project book of her own original poems (Reach for the Moon), and although high school and college are massive challenges, she finishes both. Crippling social anxiety turns out to be caused not just by the learning disability, but also by depression. Medication brings some long-needed relief. Educational and beautifully written, perfectly demonstrating how learning disabilities can coexist with real talent. (Memoir. YA)