Chapter Books for Kids With Special Needs Characters that Teach Compassion
I live in a city that is composed of about a dozen villages. Most of the villages have a small town center and most of the town centers have an ice cream shop. My village has a town center but it’s a small one so it’s not really a draw. The town center lacks, well, a center. It’s more of a town perpendicular than a town square. There is an ice cream shop but it was one that we rarely visited, opting instead to drive further to the center of town with the bad parking to another ice cream chain store because our ice cream store wasn’t much of anything. Even the ice cream there tasted a wee bit like freezer burn.
But then we went a few months ago not realizing that the shop had changed owners. Everything was different. The shop was freshly painted in bright colors. The shop was rearranged in a more pleasing feng shui layout. The store was clean … and inviting … and the most amazing thing is that they named it after their dog, Wally. Did I mention that our new puppy is named Wally?! (Both after the Red Sox mascot). Their dog is black and white and ours is a Golden Retriever. They welcome dogs in their shop. There’s always a bowl of water out for dogs and dog treats inside.
Wally’s Wicked Good Ice Cream is right next door to Tom’s Pizza (just like in this book, Rocky Road). What a perfect combination: pizza and ice cream. It makes our lives easier because we can feed our kids something they love. We can take a bunch of their friends and not worry about seating for seven. We can even bring our dog! The funny thing is that while they do make their own h0t fudge, the ice cream is from the same source. Only now the ice cream is delicious! (Must be because they keep it at the optimal temperature. I read about this in Rocky Road).
Rocky Road, by Rose Kent, brings a similar ice cream store story to life. Behind every mom-and-pop enterprise is a story to be told about hopes and dreams, elbow grease, and resilience. Kent tells an engaging coming-of-age story about twelve-year-old Tess and her family (sans dad) as they struggle to revive a has-been business district in Schenectady, New York after relocating from San Antonio, Texas. Tess’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder which causes her high highs and crashing lows. This is not the first business venture she has attempted. The rest were failures resulting in financial disaster. Tess is worried that the ice cream shop will be the same story again, though this time they will be truly down and out, as their mother has risked the last of their savings.
Will things turn out differently? Tess’s neighbors at the Mohawk Valley Village Independent and Assisted Living are pulling for them and helping them in every way they can. Tess’s new friends at school, Pete and Gabby, not only seem to understand difficult situations but are actually adept at fixing them. Even her brother Jordan who is hearing impaired seems to be thriving in his new school. And Tess’s talent for design and decoration is welcomed and appreciated here. If only it turns out to be true that ice cream warms the heart no matter the weather because Schenectady is freezing in the winter. Ice cream, it turns out, in the hands of Delilah Dobson, manages to pull a community together and give life endless possibilities. Rocky Road is a heartwarming, feel-good, perfect summer read, as appealing as hot weather and ice cream! [chapter book, ages 9-12]
Cast of Characters and their Ice Cream Personalities
Tess Dobson. twelve-years-of-age. Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Rocky Road. Personality Profile for Rocky Road: You present a balanced mixture of charm and practicality. You are outgoing and goal-oriented, and you appreciate the finer things in life.
Delilah Dobson, her bi-polar mother. Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Coffee. Personality Profile for Coffee: You thrive on the passion of the moment and you throw yourself into all that you do. Friends know you as adventuresome and dramatic, but you tend to overcommit yourself.
Jordan Dobson, her deaf younger brother. Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Peanut Butter. Personality Profile for Peanut Butter: You like to be helpful and are generous with your time, so friends often come to you when they have problems. You are very patient and thoughtful, and you give your friends useful advice every time.
Pete Chutkin, Tess’s classmate at school who becomes her friend and soda jerk at her mom’s ice cream store. Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: hmmm… not sure. Ice Cream Personality: Vanilla fits his personality. Don’t believe the myth. The vanilla lovers are never boring — you’re colorful, impulsive, expressive, and a risk-taker.
Gabriella Danes, “Gabby,” Tess’s first friend at her new school. Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Lemon Sorbet. A lot of people fall into this category. If you don’t like ice cream it means that you are an independent, free-spirited person who won’t let anything get in the way of your freedom.
“Chief,” Fred Morrow, their neighbor at Mohawk Valley Village, Independent and Assisted Senior Living. Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream: Butter Pecan. Personality Profile for Butter Pecan: You are devoted, orderly, respectful, and fiscally conservative. Odds are high that you make your bed every day and never have a messy desk.
Winnie Lincoln, their neighbor/fairy godmother/ at Mohawk Valley Village, Independent and Assisted Senior Living. Favorite Flavor: Mocha Fudge. Personality Profile for Mocha Fudge: You are a negotiator. You’ll do anything you can to avoid open conflict so you never start quarrels. You will give in when you think it’s appropriate but you can be doggedly persistent when you know that justice is on your side.
Want to know your ice cream personality? Take this quiz. Here’s another quiz matching your personality to an ice cream flavor.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.