How do the siblings of a child with special needs feel? Are they jealous of the time it takes to care for this child with greater needs than theirs? Julie Leavitt Wolfe found a solution to bring understanding and acceptance of this situation by writing and illustrating a 24 page picture book, My Holly – A Story of a Brother’s Understanding and Acceptance. The book is dedicated to Ryan, her son, who must share his space and parents with a 3 year old sister who had a stroke when she was one. Ms. Wolfe really understands her son’s dilemma because her character says, “I was pretty sad when Holly was in the hospital, but not ‘cause I missed her, but ‘cause I missed my mom and dad who were gone A LOT…”
The young boy in My Holly is named Jack and Julie’s illustrations bring him to life. Like many little boys he must love his blue baseball cap, t-shirts, and cat Sylvester. The siblings of a child with special needs, will easily relate to this loveable Jack as he tells his story and shows his mixed feelings for his little sister who “… I had to get used to sharing my mom and dad’s attention, and Holly took a LOT of their attention!”
Julie’s background as a graduate with a BS and an MA in Early Childhood Education, five years as a Kindergarten teacher and now the mom of two, surely qualifies her to write this much needed book. Her illustrations prove she has the talent to bring her words to life. Julie knows how to explain things so young children can easily and clearly understand. This book is great to read with a child to open the door to a discussion about what is really going on with your own child in regards to a special needs sibling. An 8 year old good reader should be able to read the easy to understand text.
The story is told in the first person as if Jack is having a conversation with your child. I commend Julie in writing this, as it really IS. The children she hopes to help with her book can see that it is normal for them to have mixed feelings about their special needs sibling. “I never wanted to help out with anything that had to do with Holly either. She wasn’t any fun, and sometimes I secretly wished she wasn’t around.” Then at other times, “Holly is kinda cute.”
Julie also slips in great educational details about WHY it takes so much time to care for a special needs child and these parts can be applied to all situations. While reading My Holly with your child(ren) you will be able to add details about your personal story. When Jack tells us about the stroke his sister had he explains why she had to be in the hospital for a long time mentioning all the tests and the medicines. When Jack declares he didn’t understand why Holly had to go to so many therapies a very clear explanation is given.
The illustrations are simple, childlike and convey the message very well. One of my favorites is the split drawing of Holly’s hospital stay showing Jack with a sad face at home in his soccer shirt and his parent’s at the hospital with equally sad faces. There are numerous places in this book for teachable moments with your child to make him see he is an important part of your family, equally loved and appreciated.
About the Author
Julie Leavitt Wolfe graduated with a BS and MA in Early Childhood Education. She was a Kindergarten teacher for five years in Teaneck, NJ before having her two children, Ryan and Sydney. She resides with her family in Bergen County, NJ. Julie says on her site she loves to write and she runs 3-3.5 miles a day, 5-6 days a week.
Read our interview with Julie L. Wolfe here.
Julie Leavitt Wolfe’s web site here.
Buy book here.
This book is also available in eBook format here.