When Alyson asked me to participate in this blog tour, I knew immediately which book I wanted to share. It's partly because I haven't read as many of the Schneider Award winners as I would like to, but mostly because this book is nearly perfect.
It had been on my "to be read" list for several years, but I finally made the space to read it in December of 2013. My colleagues and I were doing our second annual Bookish March Madness, with titles selected by our students, and Mango appeared on the list both years. What was it about this story that appealed to them so strongly?
A Mango-Shaped Space
by Wendy MassPaperback, 276 pages
Published October 19th 2005 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 0316058254 (ISBN13: 9780316058254)
Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she's keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses.
I had heard of synesthesia before, and it intrigued me. Mia's sense-mingling was a fascinating hook for a story. Kids can be cruel, and they aren't always accepting of those who don't fit in. It can be frightening to be different, and Mia's desire to hide it from those around her struck me as incredibly realistic.
I loved how there were so many other facets to her story, too. She's growing up, and has trouble figuring out her place with her friends in school. She has trouble in school, even though she seems like a bright young woman. Mia struggles with her spot as a middle child. She argues with her older sister. She bickers with her younger brother. Unlike many middle grade tales, though, her parents are both present and love her dearly. Her family feels like one that could easily live in my neighborhood, or be in my school.
What Makes it Special:
What I love most about A Mango Shaped Space, though, is that her difference is portrayed as both a blessing and a challenge. The synesthesia causes her to have trouble in math and foreign languages, but it also gives her a unique and creative perspective. Mia has no desire to change into someone she is not. Once she understands that her condition isn't a sign of a serious medical problem, she embraces her view of the world, and harnesses it in her art. She even reaches out to help a younger child avoid falling into her own pattern of hiding her truth from those around her.
This is a story of a young woman coming out of hiding. So many girls are convinced that they can only fit in if they wear a mask. She may be concealing talents to avoid the appearance of conceit. She may hide interests she has been told are "too masculine". Whatever her reasons for not embracing her true nature and sharing it with those around her, Mia is a wonderful example of the power of sharing your true self with those you love.
In the Classroom:
A Mango Shaped Space is a perfect title to help with discussions about:
If kids are curious about synesthesia after reading, there is information at the end of the book to help them learn more.
Keep The Noisy Paint Box on hand for children intrigued by how Mia imitates the style of the artist Kandinsky (who also had synesthesia)
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art
Published February 11th 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN 0307978486 (ISBN13: 9780307978486)
Check out all of the links of the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:July 6, 2014 Nerdy Book Club
July 6, 2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
July 7, 2014 Nonfiction Detectives
July 9, 2014 Teach Mentor Texts
July 10, 2014 There’s a Book For That
July 11, 2014 Kathie Comments
July 12, 2014 Disability in Kidlit
July 14, 2014 Librarian in Cute Shoes
July 15, 2014 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
July 16, 2014 Read, Write, and Reflect
July 17, 2014 Read Now Sleep Later
July 18, 2014 Unleashing Readers
July 19, 2014 Great Kid Books
July 20, 2014 Maria’s Mélange
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, we are providing readers with an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award Winners. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address.