My Thirteenth Winter throws open all the windows for a look into LD

My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir by Samantha Abeel; published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., New York, 2003; 203 pages.

Readers may know Samantha Abeel from her book of poetry, Reach for the Moon, published when she was just 15 years old. Following reviews of that collection, Abeel discovered that her story of overcoming a learning disability, dyscalculia, was a struggle, journey and triumph she could share with a diverse audience. Dealing with the social, educational, and personal ramifications of identifying and dealing with a disability is a story that will obviously touch a sympathetic nerve in others dealing with learning differences.  But, educators, parents and peers can also gain insight into a world they can only imagine. Abeel’s gift with words pulls readers along her torturous path from a world of nightly terror worrying about not being able to cope the next day to color-coded planner to get through every day. With the support of family and professionals, especially a counselor with tips for coping with disability and depression, Abeel ends her memoir as a 25 year old who is “for the most part, just like everyone else.”

As the parent of two kids with various degrees of learning differences, I relished Abeel’s account of her struggles and triumphs. A mom can only get so much “truth” from her own children.  Thanks to this young woman’s courage to tell the whole truth, I think I have a better understanding of the daily hurdles my kids may face.  I think other parents would feel the same way.  I think educators should be assigned this book for an in-service day discussion, to help identify students that may have fallen through the cracks, those with disabilities who have found coping mechanisms.  I also think this book should be required reading for high school students, perhaps summer reading with a paper due on the first day of school in which each student writes about his/her learning struggles or about the struggles of someone they know.

Abeel and her mother travel to schools to talk about their journey, seeking help and overcoming obstacles.  After reading the book, I’d be interested in hearing them talk.  You can read more about them at Samantha Abeel’s official Web page: http://www.samanthaabeel.com/.

By the way, the book was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award for teens in January, 2005.  The Schneider Family Book Awards “honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”  You can read more about the award, and view lists of award winners, here: http://www.ala.org/ala/awardsgrants/awardsrecords/schneideraward/schneiderfamily.cfm

2P     4Q     Grade Level: 8 and up (for adults also)

Cover Art: The image of a face (the author’s?) appears to be on the other side of a rain-beaten window pane.  That’s the first clue that this is the story of someone that exists “on the other side.”  Perhaps that image, along with the fact that this is a memoir, will generate interest in the title.  Frankly, I think this book will have to be pointed out to a young adult for them to read it.  I found it in the adult biographies at my local library.

From Reading List: Too Good to Be True Nonfiction

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