Written by Shaina Rudolph and Mary Vukadinovich
Illustrated by Fiona Lee
(Magination Press/APA; $16.99, Ages 4-8)
Note: dyslexia-friendly EasyReading font used in this book.
Brilliant Bea written by Shaina Rudolph and Mary Vukadinovich with illustrations by Fiona Lee is an important read and truly an eye-opener for anyone not familiar with dyslexia. I once attended a workshop where participants were given various tasks to perform as seen through the lens of someone with this learning difference. By the end, I was frustrated, mentally exhausted, and had a splitting headache. I had new admiration and respect for my dyslexic friends and friends of my children.
The closeness and candor of the first-person narrative the authors have used in this story invite instant compassion for the main character, Bea. Early on we learn that Bea has a way with words, despite her difficulty putting them onto paper. Bea describes having to stay behind during recess to finish up her work. This was because of how hard reading and writing were and how “the words jump around the page and my eyes try to shoot laser beams to catch them.” That has to be exasperating for a child. Imagine how you’d feel if your pencil wouldn’t write what your brain was thinking. For Bea, every day in school this scenario plays out over and over again. Kids tease her and Bea feels awful and alone.
Fortunately for Bea, she has Ms. Bloom as a teacher. Ms. Bloom totally understands how Bea’s brain is wired and how the girl takes the brunt of her classmates’ bullying yet perseveres. Ms. Bloom encourages her student by saying her brain is brilliant. That’s the vote of confidence Bea needs. So, when Ms. Bloom gives Bea an old-fashioned cassette tape recorder to tape her stories, Bea’s confidence blossoms. No longer is she by herself at recess. Instead, she makes a friend who wants to illustrate her stories. Others just want to hear them. Bea is no longer stuck and the class seems to warm up to her as well.
With the right instruction and tools, Ms. Bloom has empowered Bea and given her the motivation she needs to cope with her dyslexia and grow. The helpful two-page back matter by Ellen B. Braaten, Phd, addresses the challenges children with dyslexia face and how accommodations, such as using the tape recorder can make a huge difference in written expression. It offers some thoughtful questions to jumpstart a conversation on the subject and discusses how to find out if a child has dyslexia, and what the treatments are.
The cheerful artwork by Lee takes readers inside and outside the classroom and adds to the enjoyment of Brilliant Bea. My big takeaway after reading this book is how, in addition to being well written and sweetly illustrated, it recognizes anyone dealing with dyslexia in a positive way and validates their experience making this an invaluable resource for schools, libraries, and families whose children want to see their own stories reflected on the page.
- Reviewed by Ronna Mandel