Sunday, February 14, 2010
My Brother Charlie, written by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete and illustrated by Shane Evans. Scholastic, 2010. $21.99 ages 6 and up
"I'm blessed to be Charlie's sister and to share so much.
I count my 'Charlie Blessings' every day. At the very top
of my 'Charlie Blessings' list is the love Charlie and I
have for each other."
We have a Holly Robinson Peete story in our family. When Carmen and Bret were living near Halifax Harbour and the proud new parents of my granddog, Percy (a personable and 'gorgeous' English bulldog), one of their favorite daily pasttimes was a walk along the harborfront. Percy (that's him at the top of the page) attracted much attention, as he is certain that the best thing in life is to visit with anyone who looks his way. He is always quick to make himself known to them, and he especially loves children. One day they met up with Holly Robinson Peete and her children, who developed a mutual admiration society with Percy. They had a long conversation and went on their way. So, when I see the front cover of this book and the apparent attraction that Charlie and Harriet the dog have for each other, I am reminded of Holly and her kids.
This is a story about those same kids, the twins to be exact. In the story they are called Callie and Charlie; but their story is reflective of the life lived by the Robinson Peete family. Their oldest son RJ (twin to co-author Ryan) is autistic. Mother and daughter want to share with other families and the reading world what their days are like living with an autistic son/brother.
Charlie's mother knew from the beginning that the twins were alike in many ways, but not exactly the same. As a very young child, when Callie was pointing out all the discoveries she was making about the world and sharing her love with her mother, Charlie wouldn't play or kiss their mother's cheek or even say 'I love you'. They quickly discovered that Charlie was incessantly determined and needed someone looking out for him. Some days were not easy. But, the 'Charlie Blessings' made up for the tough times.
Charlie can do so much and while he can't always express what he is feeling, he can show it and he does feel it. I think that the important underlying message of this heartfelt look at a day in the life of Charlie and his family is that love is 'said in so many ways' and we must look at what we can do, rather that what we cannot. That is what makes our lives as good as they can be. There are many families who know the difficulties faced by the Robinson-Peetes and the heartache felt, but they also know the joy of every new day and the 'blessing' of each remarkable achievement. This book is testament to the patience, understanding and great joy that Charlie (RJ) brings to their life, and that they, in turn, share with us.