By Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO,

The New York Foundling


One of the most pressing education policy challenges our country currently faces is the persistently huge disparity in academic achievement between children growing up in poor, underserved communities and children in communities with the resources to meet their educational and recreational needs. That education gap is even wider for children who are also members of our most fragile student population: those in the child welfare system.


The New York Foundling is one of New York’s oldest and largest child welfare organizations and several years ago, we began an effort to develop an educational model that provided these children with the array of services they need and that incorporated our knowledge of child welfare into their school day.  Seven years ago, we launched Mott Haven Academy, a K-5 charter school in one of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities. Two-thirds of our students are in the child welfare system, with the remaining third from the surrounding community.


State test results just in show strong evidence that our approach is working. 


  • Overall, in both English and Math, the percentage of students with passing scores at Haven Academy was triple the percentage in the surrounding community school district.


  • Our students’ performance also exceeded the averages for New York City, New York State and other charter schools.



Most telling, even child welfare children at Haven Academy outperformed students in the community school district – students who may or may not have encountered the child welfare system.


  • In English, the percentage of child welfare students at Haven who passed the exam was double the percentage in the school district as a whole.


  • In Math, the percentage passing was two and a half times that in the school district and exceeded the overall City and State averages.


What are we doing to achieve these results?


We’ve found that children do better when educators and child welfare professionals work together, providing critical and comprehensive care to students. This collaboration enables us to develop and implement intervention plans in a timely manner.


For example, when a student is absent, the teacher notifies the school social worker who, based on the student’s history, determines if a child’s caseworker should be notified. This follow-up often includes home visits by school personnel and case workers. And since we offer health and dental services on the premises, if a child needs these services, we can integrate the visits into the school day, so the student doesn’t need to miss a day of school every time there’s an appointment. 


We also utilize a trauma-sensitive model, giving students access to advanced counseling services and a school culture designed to educate them academically and to teach them how to perform socially and cope with whatever trauma they may experience. 


This requires that teachers and staff receive intensive training on how to interact with children. For example, they recognize that when students are sensitive to physical touch, it may be because of a history of abuse – and that they need to engage students without physical contact. Teachers and staff are also very intentional about the language, habits, routines and interactions they exhibit.


By emphasizing the rewarding of positive behaviors, leveraging student strengths to curb unproductive behaviors and creating a consistent adult climate, we can encourage children to make responsible decisions based on outcomes they can predict. Traditional public education models are built to educate the majority of students.  They aren’t equipped, and understandably so, to address the special needs and circumstances of students in the child welfare system – many of whom have experienced trauma, been physically or sexually abused or seriously neglected.  Creating a model that reaches these children is crucial – without it, they are far more likely to struggle with unplanned pregnancies, drug abuse, incarceration and long-term dependence on government-funded services for food, healthcare and housing in the future.


We believe that in bridging the gap between educators and child welfare professionals to create trauma-sensitive schools, we can also bridge the education gap between at-risk youth and students of the general population nationwide. Our experience at Haven Academy is showing that it can work.


Please visit The Foundling’s Mott Haven Academy by Clicking Here

Completed Mural

Being creative through mediums such as dancing, singing, and art is important for every child. This month, Haven Academy scholars had the opportunity to express themselves by painting alongside the famous Brazilian street artist, NOVE. Scholars painted leaves at the bottom of a multi-story mural on the exterior of their school, located in The New York Foundling’s Bronx building at 170 Brown Place. Noeli, a fourth grader, was excited to take part in this project, saying, “You get to be creative and use your imagination.”


Scholars took pride in their hard work and the positive impact they had on their community. Haven Academy Principal Jessica Nauiokas told DNAinfo, “This mural is a perfect example of scholars collaborating to give back to the community by creating and sharing something beautiful, unique, and one of a kind.”


Although NOVE has completed murals, paintings and exhibits throughout the world, this was his first visit to the U.S.—and we were grateful he spent much of it with our scholars! NOVE wanted to visit the Bronx because he was inspired by street art in the area and The Foundling and Haven Academy’s mission to serve youth in the child welfare system. NOVE has been featured in publications such as Vogue Brasil, Abstract Graffiti, and Mapa of Arts, and he is currently working on a project for the 2016 Olympic Games.


NOVE partnered with Spoke, a fashion accessories and outerwear brand that cultivates urban art and environmental conservation, to create his first U.S. mural at The Foundling. Spoke collaborates with urban artists and sends them throughout the world to create public artworks. Spoke generously donated all of the costs associated with the mural painted on The Foundling’s building.


The project was a great success for The Foundling, Haven Academy, NOVE, Spoke, and the Mott Haven community, and attracted the attention of local media. News coverage of this event can be found here.  





Respect for self and other

Engage in positive decision-making

Support each other at camp

Peaceful conflict resolution

Experience something new

Care for your environment

Tolerance for others despite differences


Guided by this philosophy of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for the past 9 years, Camp Felix has offered an enriching camp experience for over 150 kids, completely free of charge. With the return of #SponsorACamper, we’ll highlight life at camp and with your help, make this summer the best yet. All donations go directly towards enhancing the camp experience for our youth. To donate go to: http://bit.ly/1dAWCXL


Sponsor Camper - R

R : Respect for self and others. From basketball to soccer, Camp Felix offers a variety of sports for campers. Being part of a team teaches campers the value of good sportsmanship and the importance of treating teammates and peers with respect. By donating to Sponsor a Camper, you can help foster youth experience the power of positive teamwork, and allow them to gain social skills that will lead them towards forming successful relationships later in life. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT



Sponsor Camper - E

E : Engage in positive decision-making. At Camp Felix, campers get a chance to express their creativity through various arts and crafts projects. The act of making artistic choices has been shown to increase decision-making skills in youth and provide a healthy outlet for expressing feelings. Coming from a school system where many arts programs have been cut due to budgets, Camp Felix is a place where kids can experience the benefits creating art has on their confidence level and decision-making skills. A donation to Sponsor a Camper will expose a child to the powerful benefits of the arts. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT



Sponsor Camper - S

S : Support each other at camp. Camp Felix counselors, many of whom are foster care alumni themselves, work hard to make sure there’s a sense of unity and support among campers. Because all campers have foster care backgrounds, they’re able to relate to each other and create bonds that can last a lifetime. By looking out for younger campers and being supportive towards peers, campers experience increased self-esteem and a feeling of competence.  Your donation can help kids from the child welfare system learn how to care for others, a skill they bring back with them when camp ends. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT



Sponsor Camper - P

P : Peaceful conflict resolution. Theater is one of the many activities at Camp Felix that help campers overcome fear and gain skills that allow them to address conflict in their lives responsibly and peacefully. The act of participating in a collaborative effort allows them to work through obstacles and equips them with the tools and words to face conflicts that may arise in the course of putting on a performance. By sponsoring a camper, you’ll be giving them a chance to improve their self-esteem and communication skills through theater. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT



Sponsor Camper - E2

E : New experiences. For our kids at Camp Felix, going away to camp itself is a new experience. Many campers in the child welfare system leave difficult circumstances and have the opportunity to live carefree outside the city. This is a true luxury that our campers have not been afforded often. As new experiences affect change in us all, campers leave Camp Felix more confident and hopeful for their future. Experience something new. At Camp Felix, campers are given a chance to try rock climbing, an activity most would never experience otherwise. Beyond being a way to keep kids physically active, climbing up to the top gives kids a sense of achievement and an ability to overcome obstacles. A donation to Sponsor A Camper goes towards helping foster youth participate in valuable experiences like this that they would likely miss out on. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT



Sponsor Camper - C

C : Care for your environment. Like at most camps, Camp Felix campers are required to make their beds and keep their cabins tidy. Campers also participate in nature exploration, where they learn the importance of caring for the environment. These types of skills are extremely useful to youth living in the child welfare system. Feeling a sense of control and positive ownership over their environment aids children in becoming productive members of society when they grow up. Your donation allows foster youth to practice skills that help them to become successful adults. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT



Sponsor Camper - T

T :
Tolerance for others despite differences. Camp Felix activities are designed to make campers feel accepted and valued. Being surrounded by peers with similar backgrounds allows them to feel like “a regular kid” –  a feeling that is invaluable for foster youth. Though campers may have many differences, experiencing new things for the first time together, like learning to swim, brings kids closer together and allows them to become more tolerant of others. A donation to Camp Felix will allow a camper to participate in experiences that foster tolerance and understanding. #SponsorACamper #RESPECT


Click here to make a donation and sponsor a camper, or to learn more about Camp Felix. 


Blog Post 2


In this 6-part series, Dr. Baker will provide a summary of the topics discussed in the book.


Bonded to the Abuser: Part 5


The 45 memoirs summarized and analyzed in Bonded to the abuser: How victims make sense of childhood abuse, heartbreakingly portray the basic desire most children have – even those abused and neglected – to be accepted and loved by their parents. They depict a scenario in which – absent any external influence – that desire remains intact, intractable regardless of the quality of the actual parenting the children receive. The authors of these memoirs while growing up could not imagine a way to go forward except in search of the love of their parent. In that sense, they are profoundly stuck. There is no alternate path in view. They are filled with unrequited longing and stuck in the belief that it is the parent’s love and acceptance that will make them loveable and worthy of being loved.  


Thus, one of the tasks of healing from this kind of trauma is to modify the belief that the parent must love and accept the child in order for the child to love himself and accept himself as a good and worthy person. In this way, the maltreatment victim needs to “unbind” or “unbond” himself from the maltreating parent, separating himself from that parent’s views of him. As long as the abuse victim’s mind is locked into emotional dependency on the abuser, there is little chance he can move forward away from the pain of the abuse.


It is clear through reading these 45 memoirs that the act of storytelling itself can play a central role in that very important process of untethering the abuse victim from the abuser. Storytelling has a long history in the healing of trauma, and deservedly so. The healing power of telling one’s story is certainly evident in the memoirs reviewed for this book. The authors painstakingly memorialized their painful childhood struggle with the hopes and expectations that in doing so they would diminish and manage their pain in a new way. There are many lessons that can be learned from these memoirs – summarized in Bonded to the abuser – that can be applied to the work that we all do every day with survivors of childhood maltreatment.


The New York Foundling’s Dr. Mel Schneiderman and Dr. Amy Baker are the authors of “Bonded to the Abuser: How Victims Make Sense of Childhood Abuse” – available May 16th. To purchase or view the book on Amazon.com please click here: Bonded to the Abuser: How Victims Make Sense of Childhood Abuse


To visit the author’s website: http://www.amyjlbaker.com/


Acknowledgments: Selected by Rowan and Littlefield for a book signing at the 2015 Book Expo of America

Blog Post 2

In this 6-part series, Dr. Baker will provide a summary of the topics discussed in the book.


Bonded to the Abuser: Part 3


Not all childhood maltreatment is physical or sexual. Some parent hurt their children’s bodies and some parents hurt their children’s psyches. The third type of childhood maltreatment discussed in Bonded to the abuser: How victims make sense of childhood abuse” is emotional abuse. According to the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children there are six types of psychological maltreatment, four of which are forms of emotional abuse. These are caregiver behaviors that result in a child feeling unloved, of no value, and only of worth in meeting another’s needs. Twelve memoirs written by adult survivors of childhood emotional abuse were summarized and analyzed for this chapter of “Bonded to the abuser.”


At the heart of each story of emotional abuse is a parent whose heart is not in the right place, a parent who – because of depression, mental illness, or addiction is too self-absorbed to be emotionally present and consistently loving to her child. In these stories the emotionally abusive parents varied in their educational background, socio economic status, cultural affiliations, professions, and lifestyles. What they shared, however, was their overwhelming inability to recognize and act on the fact that their children were separate people with their own experiences, perceptions, and subjectivity. In other words, they met the definition of a “traumatizing narcissist.”


As a result of the emotional abuse by a parent, the children absorbed three important lessons about themselves and their place in the world: I am not accepted for who I am, I am not safe, and I am not important. In this way, parental acts that fall within the category of emotional abuse can penetrate the very being of the child and shape their sense of who they, casting a long shadow on their lives.


The New York Foundling’s Dr. Mel Schneiderman and Dr. Amy Baker are the authors of “Bonded to the Abuser: How Victims Make Sense of Childhood Abuse” – available May 16th. To purchase or view the book on Amazon.com please click here: Bonded to the Abuser: How Victims Make Sense of Childhood Abuse


To visit the author’s website: http://www.amyjlbaker.com/


Acknowledgments: Selected by Rowan and Littlefield for a book signing at the 2015 Book Expo of America


Blog Post 1


In this 6-part series, Dr. Baker will provide a summary of the topics discussed in the book.


Bonded to the Abuser: Part 1


As anyone who works in child welfare knows, too often children are abused and neglected by their caretakers. We also all know the pain and suffering that parental maltreatment causes children both in the short run and sometimes over the course of their lives. What is less known is how strongly children feel the desire to remain with a parent who has mistreated them. This attachment to an abusive parent can be puzzling to an observer – and perhaps even to the abuse victim him- or herself. In order to better understand how and why children maintain bonds with abusive parents, we analyzed memoirs written by adult survivors of childhood maltreatment and have written a book, which is about to be released, entitled Bonded to the Abuser. The first section of the book describes and analyzes stories of physical abuse.


These stories are both moving and terrifying. In each, the author described severe physical abuse by a parent for the majority if not duration of their childhood. In response, the children (as described in the memoirs written when they were adults) wanted to understand why they were being hurt and, in the absence of any other explanation blamed themselves. They compared themselves to animals at the mercy of their abusers yet desiring of their love and willing to forgive them. They experienced their parents as omniscient, Godlike, and were obedient in response. They had empathy for their parents and wanted to understand what drove them to act as they did. They were hypervigilant of their parent’s moods and states of mind. They were afraid of losing that parent and yet wanted to be invisible to avoid further pain and suffering. They both loved and feared that parent. They craved that parent’s approval yet feared that parent’s attention. They lived in a state of chronic arousal. Perhaps most damaging was that the physical abuse became internalized in the child as a series of negative perceptions of the self as unworthy, dirty, and bad. The power the parents had over their children extended beyond the ability to inflict momentary physical discomfort. These parents had the power to define their children as worthy of abuse, a belief they carried within them for many years.



For those of us who have been at the forefront of the adoption of evidence-based practices (EBPs) for treating at-risk youth and families, the debate among professionals in this field has taken an interesting turn. With EBPs yielding excellent results in a variety of environments and across cultural settings, it now seems as if the composition of the model itself has become the focal point of debate.


Why not treat EBPs as a base, some argue, and adapt it to account for community, cultural or other population differences? “We know our population,” the argument seems to go, “and shouldn’t view EBPs as a one-size-fits-all solution.” While that argument sounds reasonable, it actually presents a number of issues and has the potential to undermine the credibility of the EBP movement through subjectivity, opacity and inconsistency.


Even though EPBs are still at an early stage in their adoption nationally, there is already some compelling data. In programs certified by the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development at the University of Colorado Boulder, outcomes include:


  • 25-70% reductions in rates of re-arrest
  • 47-64% reductions in out-of-home placements
  • Youth 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • Youth 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • Youth 33% less likely to hit someone.


At The New York Foundling, one of New York’s oldest and largest child welfare agencies, our BlueSky Program has seen similar outcomes. For a one-year period, compared to the New York City Office of Children and Family Services’ traditional programs, we saw:


  • 33% fewer arrests
  • 41% fewer felony arrests
  • Diversion of 223 youth from placement with an average cost of $210,000 each.


Obviously, findings to date are based on short periods of time since most EBP programs have been implemented only recently. But the dramatic results are impossible to ignore. With government budgets increasingly tight, the rationale behind these interventions is compelling: The BlueSky program alone has produced not only a remarkable improvement in outcomes, but a cost saving to New York’s taxpayers of more than $35 million.


With these strong initial findings and increasing buy-in from professionals in the field, many policymakers and providers are considering the application of EBPs to their local needs. In doing so, they are exploring whether modifications are necessary and, if so, how far those modifications should go.


Is there anything wrong with that? Isn’t innovation a good thing?


Unfortunately, allowing widespread tinkering with EBPs would be tantamount to allowing a physician to take an FDA-approved drug therapy and “adapt” it — taking components out, putting different components in, changing the dosage and then reporting only the positive outcomes without peer review. Some would claim such practices as innovations. But for the most part, a physician who did that would be widely discredited among serious professionals.


At The New York Foundling, we’ve had to deal with these issues ourselves. We’ve worked closely with EBP developers and have seen significant initial success with a modified program that applies the Functional Family Therapy (FFT) model to the child welfare system. We’ve learned a number of important lessons through this process.


First of all, while ideas for modifications are welcome and encouraged, they should only be done in collaboration with the EBP’s developers. When any program is ready to implement, there must be an evaluation process in place that includes a time frame for reporting results. The evaluation must include every aspect of the process, so we can recognize if one part works and another doesn’t. It must focus on outcomes and everything must be reported — the good with the bad. Evaluations should be equally rigorous whether the program is a modification of an established EBP or a newly developed local initiative.


Government agencies that fund these programs should require these transparent evaluations and in-depth reporting of data, so that they and other professionals can review them, comment on them and learn from them. If government agencies require it and information is transparent and available to all, it will eventually lead to greater uniformity in standards that everyone in this field can measure their programs against.


Critics may argue that one size doesn’t fit all — that they need to be able to adjust the protocols to meet their localized needs. The Foundling’s experience in a very diverse marketplace belies that argument. We see proven EBP protocols working effectively across a wide variety of demographic and cultural contexts.


Others say that EBPs are no substitute for clinical relationships. They are correct — they are not a substitute. In fact, these interventions are among the tools to be used within that clinical relationship. Most EBPs recognize the family as the client and provide the clinician the skills to help youth and their families by repairing family bonds, changing family interactions and improving relationships.


But the bottom line, if one is arguing for modifications in a particular EBP program, is this: Rigorous, transparent evaluation is the key. Even if modifications are developed in partnership with the original developers, they must be subjected to careful and detailed scrutiny. Without that, we may find ourselves with a multitude of programs — and new ones hitting the marketplace constantly — all calling themselves EBPs and using anecdotal, unscientific evidence to market themselves as new “cures.”


The last thing we want to do is hinder innovation. We should all be in favor of it — in youth and family therapies, just as we are in medical and drug therapies. We need to allow for it both within the EBP context and independent of it, as we conceive of new improvements to our current treatment methods. No one should stand in the way of locally developed program models designed to meet existing unmet needs.


However, these programs must specify for whom they work and under what conditions as well as including an evaluation plan with specified timeframes. Only when innovation is evaluated under generally accepted standards can it be built upon and broadly embraced.


Bill Baccaglini is president and CEO of The New York Foundling and Sylvia Rowlands is senior vice president for evidence based programs of The New York Foundling.


Source: http://jjie.org/op-ed-evaluation-must-join-innovation-when-using-evidence-based-practices/

March is Women’s History Month, and here at The Foundling we would like to take this opportunity to honor respected women that are dear to our organization. These women receive a spotlight and tribute this month because of their ongoing dedication towards children and families in need. Their contribution to our community is endless, and at The Foundling, we appreciate all that they have accomplished on behalf of our mission.


Zaida Milagros Fernández, the beloved founder of our Puerto Rico program, has devoted decades to advocating for the well-being of children, families and communities in the United States and Puerto Rico.


Born in the small town of Coamo in Puerto Rico, she came to the US to pursue her studies, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Social work from Fordham University.


Aware of the overwhelming needs of Puerto Rico’s disadvantaged communities, Zaida was drawn back to her home country a few years later. She quickly set to work offering her services and expertise, founding the Office of Social Services in the Archdiocese of San Juan and pioneering a program that offered aid to Cuban immigrants in exile.


In 1972, she established an office of The Foundling in Puerto Rico, responding to the needs of hundreds of children from foster homes of Puerto Rican families in New York who returned to the island. An adoption program was also established and helped countless local families make their dream of becoming parents a reality.


In 1984, the federal government granted funds to The Foundling to establish a Head Start Program. With Zaida’s guidance, centers were added in Barrio Obrera, Coamo, Hato Rey, and Cantera. Today, The Foundling provides Head Start and Early Head Start services to 1,190 children and their families in 29 centers.


Thanks to the lasting improvements she made in the lives of so many, we recognize Zaida Fernandez as a Foundling Women’s History Month honoree.






I believe most people want to improve their lives, but they just need the tools, resources and support structures to do it. The money that I raise makes it possible for The Foundling to make those connections for the people who need them.

New York, New York

Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at New York Foundling


Where do you work?:


Founded in 1869 as a home for abandoned children, The Foundling today offers an expansive array of services for underserved children, families, and adults with developmental disabilities. Whether it’s an abused child in need of a foster home, a young mother who lacks the skills to care for her child, or a young person lost in the juvenile justice system, The Foundling provides the resources necessary to rebuild lives and rebuild families.



Who inspires you to raise money?:


There are so many people in need in this city, and I don’t buy into the idea that people are poor because they don’t try hard enough. I believe most people want to improve their lives, but they just need the tools, resources and support structures to do it. The money that I raise makes it possible for The Foundling to make those connections for the people who need them.



Describe a typical day:


I spend my time researching prospects and writing grants, and networking with foundations and corporations who have the potential to support our work. So much of fundraising is about relationships, and you have to invest the time into building and maintaining them.



What drew you to work at your nonprofit?


I was really inspired by The Foundling’s holistic approach to poverty. We take a nuanced look at the underlying causes that lead our clients to be in need of our services, and then use evidence-based programs that address the issues faced by the whole person and the whole family. I was also really blown away by The Foundling’s level of execution as an organization.



We have a strategic plan, senior staff get together regularly to brainstorm, there is a dedicated Continuous Quality Improvement department, and an overall investment in organizational capacity. We also have a dedicated Business Operations team that has done amazing work to cut costs, utilize our resources more effectively, and raise the level of awareness of The Foundling in the community. You don’t see these traits in a lot of nonprofits, so it really stood out to me and made me want to be a part of the team.



Can you share an example of a meaningful way your organization makes a difference?


I’ll share an example from one of my favorite programs, the Crisis Nursery, because I think it really showcases the uniqueness of The Foundling’s approach to poverty and the issues that exacerbate it.



The Crisis Nursery, a completely free and voluntary program, offers a safe place to bring a child or children for up to 21 days, while parents deal with short-term crises that could otherwise easily turn into disaster, such as impending homelessness, hospitalization, drug rehabilitation, and domestic violence. While the children are staying with us, we have a team of social workers who work with the family to help them stabilize their situation, and then follow up with them for several months after their stay, to make sure that everyone is on the right track. Right now, we’re particularly proud that over 95% of the families who used the Crisis Nursery have not had to be re-admitted for the same issue.



I like to give the example of the mom  who struggles with substance abuse issues. Without a place like the Crisis Nursery, she has to choose between seeking treatment by going into a rehab program, or keeping her children with her and leaving her issues untreated. By giving her a safe place for her children to stay, we enable her to do both, and ultimately make it possible for her to be a better parent, which in turn gives her children a better chance at success in life.



How do you give of your time personally?:


When I was unemployed during the Recession, so many people who I barely knew were willing to sit down with me and make connections for me and help me figure out what my next steps were. I was really humbled by that, and feel really grateful. I try to pay that forward as much as possible now. I also recently completed a 3-year mentoring match with iMentor, where I worked with a high-school student from her junior year through her transition into her first year of college. And I’m on the board of the Philolexian Foundation, which supports Columbia University’s literary debate society of the same name, with which I was active in college.



What advice do you have for others considering the field?:


Don’t think of nonprofit development work as a monolithic industry. There are so many different aspects to it, and they all overlap to some extent: large organizations, small organizations, foundations, corporate philanthropy, consulting. Each of these has their own peculiarities of culture and plays to a slightly different skill set. Then you have all the hybrid positions, that do fundraising PLUS communications or fundraising PLUS HR or Operations. You don’t have to get pigeon-holed.



If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, think about exploring one of these other areas. And if you are trying to gain a foothold in the industry, I would encourage jobseekers to make sure that their search encompasses the full range of the fundraising / philanthropy community. Every place is different, and can inform your practice in a unique way.



What drew you to work in this industry?:


Fundraising has always been something that’s comfortable for me. I like talking to people, and I like sharing about the things that I’m passionate about. As a teenager, my dad used to take me to Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Super Sunday tele-thons, where we would all sit in a huge room and call donors for their annual contribution. That got me my first fundraising job in college, and it just went from there.



Photo Credit: www.chazcruz.com

Source: http://www.whywegive.co/erin-greenbaum/



Foundling Family Book Review – Issue #22
By Celia McGee


Farewell Floppy

By Benjamin Chaud (Chronicle Books)

Ages 4-6

farewell floppy

The deal with growing up is plotting, planning and satisfactorily finessing how to say goodbye in the course of moving on from childish things. It never seems to quite work out according to the rationalization in question, especially when it involves a lifelong friend. The snub-nosed little boy in Benjamin Chaud’s Farewell Floppy, here translated from the original French, is determined to make a clean break (however much ambivalence he unwittingly expresses) from his pet rabbit, Floppy, named for his unusual ears. These are now one mark against him in the conformist eyes of developing childhood—“They don’t stand up straight like other rabbits’.” It’s also about who the boy has started to become. Case in point: such critical remarks would never have passed the lips of the “baby” who loved his bunny. Floppy isn’t suited or suitable to soccer, wrestling, or playing cowboys and Indians, condemned therefore to a parting of the ways, however gentle and liberating it’s supposed to be for both sides.


Into the woods is the uncertain path the erstwhile chums, where a sprouting portion of the undergrowth appears to be a guilty conscience, especially since Floppy doesn’t seem to embrace the new surroundings chosen for him.  As an undertaking that leads farther into the dark forest than either has ventured before, the hike mirrors the fear that can still overcome a budding big boy. Chaud ingeniously transforms the red thread by which Floppy is finally left tied to a tree into a little breadcrumb action, forging a path not only to a new friend—a girl who knows that floppy ears denote a genuine and unusual “Lop bunny”–but to the possibility of an amended, amicable relationship between present, future and past. This resolution takes shape in the line Chaud uses to draw a certain main character’s mouth—stubbornly, angrily, and superciliously straight with frustration until the last page, where it bends upward on either end into something else.


To purchase click here. 


Willy Maykit In Space

By Greg Trine, illustrated by James Burks (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

Ages 7-10 

willy maykit

Lower-grade field trips are part adventure, part boredom, and part plain old ditching school for a bit. The same goes for Willy Maykit, in Greg Trine’s full-tilt, hilarious yet tenderly perceptive book. Except that not every fourth-grader’s father is a globe-trekking explorer whose fame and family are sorely tried when, as never before, on a foray into the Amazon jungle, he fails to return home—which is no boon to Willy’s father obsession.  As another twist, Willy’s class field trip happens to be heading outside the solar system for a day of learning firsthand about another world, Planet Ed. Despite James Burks’s illustrations looking more retro than futuristic and Trine’s perfectly contemporary and kindly evocation of childhood’s multiple sensibilities, it’s fantastically off to Planet Ed that Willy et al. go, aboard the outer-space commuting Starlite 3000. It’s not all zooming carefree into the wide blue yonder, though. Willy’s heart switches to pit-a-pat mode at the presence of his crush, the extremely pretty and computer-savvy Cindy Das (she’s among the unreservedly multi-cultural array of characters nicely taken for granted).  Nor does the humor-chip-lacking android pilot, Max, grasp his knock-knock jokes.


On the other hand, when has it not been a positive trait to follow Mr. Maykit’s mantra, “there is always something new around the bend?” Could be: when over-zealous curiosity separates Willy from the rest, and the Starlite 3000 takes off in an emergency without him.  Also stranded are Cindy Das, having gone in search of him, his stowaway pet seagull, Phelps, and, from another planet entirely (and due to similar circumstances) Norp, a green Thorstockan their same age.


Almost every planet, too, must have a native population. Inconveniently, those bred on Ed are huge, smelly, apparently kid-eating monsters, nothing like the creatures that Willy and Cindy (and countless others) have long imagined as lurking in the closet or under the bed. At the same time, Trine adroitly and surreptitiously imparts educational pointers about how to outsmart and outpace what’s scary, get a good deed returned by a mortal foe, and discover that alien only is as alien does. 


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The Wollstonecraft Craft Detective Agency, No. 1: The Case of the Missing Moonstone

By Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Random House Children’s Books)

Ages 8-12


Stories are made up, but it’s also fun to play around with bona fide history. In his debut installment of a promising series, Jordan Stratford gives it his all, and history accommodates his whimsicality.


To judge by the cover of this book, showing two young girls ascending over 1826 London in a hot air balloon invented by one and slowly accepted by the other, it’s not entirely remiss to feel a hint in reverse of Mary Poppins’s descent into the same city (somewhat later, mind you) out of pure fantasy and by open umbrella. But in spirit The Case of the Missing Moonstone more closely resembles Around the World In Eighty Days. Yet it barely leaves the posh Marleybone (unless you count an intrepid venture inside Newgate Prison) where 11-year-old Lady Ada Byron lives in isolated splendor, and where 14-year-old Mary Godwin arrives for the purpose of sharing a tutor they mercilessly nickname Peebs. In her time there, Mary provides assumingly corrective companionship to the budding inventor, bibliophile, and eccentric genius whose father was, in fact, Lord Byron.


Facts—some of the most interesting, important and prescient of the 18th  and 19th centuries—abound in Stratford’s novel. After all, Mary’s mother was the feminist intellectual Mary Wollstonecraft, author of The Vindication of the Rights of Women, and the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was not only Lord Byron’s close friend but would be Mary Godwin’s husband when she wrote Frankenstein.  It’s what Stratford does with those facts and the historical figures attached to them that produces his story’s magic, along with some imagined characters to bring extra drama and dastardly criminal elements to a tale of two young girls facing down wicked plots and pernicious deeds under the banner of their newly formed investigation operation.  Because he also invests these two very different beings with complex personalities, he is all the more able to take his time-scrambling notions and run with them.  All will be glad to follow.


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All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven (Knopf Books for Younger Readers)

Ages 14 and up


They don’t meet cute: it’s on the bell tower, six stories above their Indiana high school, where he is again contemplating suicide, and she, there for the first time, is despairingly marking the first anniversary of her sister’s death. In high school’s ruthless pecking order, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey could not be further apart. Though new, she’s from beach-breezy California and “cheerleader popular.” Since eighth grade, and some unspoken chapter in his progressively troubled history, he’s been teased, tortured and excluded as “Theodore the Freak.” Naturally, the anxious crowd gathered below, and a sentimental local media, mix up who saved whom. His preferred name, to his few friends and throughout Jennifer Niven’s uncompromising, seriously romantic, generous, devastating and also stingingly funny novel, is Finch.As in Atticus?  Or as in a wounded bird nevertheless able to reach altitudes of stunning intelligence and true love, grace and joy? Or both?  


Niven implies such questions in a story that deserves to be read for its commitment to unveiling some of the psyche’s hardest afflictions, no matter how bravely and idiosyncratically it chooses to fight back, and for its memorable, no-holds-barred portrait of family, community, and the singular conditions of adolescence. The clinical diagnosis of Finch’s mood swings and death wish reveals itself gradually. Blunders are made. Yet Niven’s fresh, engaging, polished writing contains a subtlety free of jargon. In service to a goofy geography assignment, Finch and Violet hightail it to loony tourist attractions in the nearby heartland. Roller-coaster rides stand out, for a reason.


Their unlikely friendship and the potentially life-saving passion it fuels, is a fragile wonder and zany delight. They correspond secretly on Facebook by quoting Virginia Woolf—mutually astonished, giddily grateful, and ominously apropos. When Finch’s sense of self goes dark, Violet–realizing that, in history as in life, “it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave behind”–comes closest to an understanding. 


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