The latest book we've been reading is The Pirate Train by Nicole Plyler Fisk. Oh my goodness, does M2 love it. So do I! Before I could even read it, she saw the cover, yanked the book out of my hand and run off. I promised her we'd read it later. That night at bedtime, she curled up in my lap and to my amazement, listened to every word. She even pointed out different animals, characters and items in the book -- without me prompting her. When we finished, she immediately wanted to read it again. I couldn't believe it. Not only was she sitting nicely in my lap looking at the book I was reading, she was interacting with it, repeating some of the words AND asked for the story again. The second time around, she was just as enthralled. Even other books she likes and enjoys have never elicited this awesome of a response. Needless to say, I was beyond happy and excited myself. After the second reading, she wanted the story again. Now, any time she sees it, she wants it read. And read again.
Unlike certain children's books, I enjoyed the pictures and story myself, too. It's written in a sing-song rhyme that fun to read out loud. The pictures are cute, too. Very colorful and bright. I had no problem at all reading it again. The pirate-speak sprinkled throughout makes the book even more fun. Seriously, what kid, or even parent, doesn't love pirates?
The theme of the Yo-Ho-Matey pirate family who has to leave their ship when the brother gets sea sickness to find a new home that fits them is adorable. Where they end up living, a pirate train, is creative and fun. The boat and train draw in kids who are into modes of transportation. M2 kept saying, "choochoo!" and, "Pirate Dad! Pirate Mom! Pirate! Arr! Tom!" while we read. Getting her to repeat words from a book is an amazing feat. A was impressed, too. My heart was melting! All of these things are huge for a child who is autistic and speech delayed. In the picture below, even one of our cats was getting in on the story telling action.
So many lessons are incorporated in The Pirate Train without taking away from the story or the fun. It doesn't feel like a lesson-filled book, though it really is. There's the lesson that family needs to stick together and work together. Another lesson that life changes but you can adapt, experience new things and still have fun. A third over-arching lesson is dealing with a move. Not to be forgotten, as a special-needs parent I picked up on the lesson that when a family member has an illness (or something that makes them different) crop up, it can be hard for the other sibling. Yet, you stick by them, get through it and won't be disappointed with the final outcome.
Even appreciating another's differences is mentioned with a homeless dog who is missing a leg. The family yet again doesn't blink an eye -- they help him adapt and make him a member of the family.
Lessons the author intentionally included are a love travel and a sense of adventure, an avoidance of gender stereotyping (dad cooks, mom and dad clean, both steer the ship or train), healthy body image (no impossibly tiny waists or body types on the females in this book!), and a love of animals. Later books in the series (a series of awesome books, just waiting to be published -- YAY!) tackle diversity as well.
None of the lessons make the book cumbersome or are too involved. Perfect for the target audience of kids who are in the picture book stage. It's especially good for young autistic kids like M2 who may not be able to yet grasp complicated lessons or sit through a typical story book.
With all the lessons, The Pirate Train can be applied to many different situations and families. Or, it can just be a fun book to read. For kids that aren't yet at the grasping a lesson stage, the rhyme of the story is sheer fun.
The story behind the story is heartwarming. Author and English teacher Nicole Plyler Fisk has a young son, Jack, who loves pirates and Thomas the Train. Disheartened with the area public schools, she set up homeschool for him. His first project? Write his own book. She and her son sat down and wrote the story together. (No wonder it's such a great book kids love, right?!) I'd give him an A+ on that project! The book is modeled around the Fisk family of mom, dad, big sis and little brother.
If you can't tell already, this book is a new favorite in our family that is going to be read often and kept on the bookshelf for years to come. I'm excited to read the rest of the series with M2 as soon as it's available. You can get your own copy here. Stop by and visit Nicole's site as well, she shares fun updates and promo codes as they're available.
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This post and giveaway are sponsored by Nicole Plyler Fisk. All opinions are my own.