A Cir­cle of Smiles: A Sto­ry About Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s Lead­ing Orga­ni­za­tion in the Field of Disability

Sylvia Rouss
  • Review
By – November 7, 2011

A Cir­cle of Smiles is a beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed and very unusu­al intro­duc­tion for young chil­dren to learn about chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties. It allows the read­er to look at a par­tic­u­lar set­ting that ser­vices these chil­dren in Israel, Beit Issie. Told in the voice of a young Amer­i­can girl who trav­els to Israel with her fam­i­ly to vis­it fam­i­ly mem­bers includ­ing her cousin, Yoni, a child with mul­ti­ple dis­abil­i­ties, it is age-appro­pri­ate and sen­si­tive. Rachel speaks no Hebrew but man­ages to com­mu­ni­cate with Yoni via ges­tures and facial expres­sions, which are his method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion as he is unable to speak. Rachel’s sto­ry is illus­trat­ed with actu­al col­or pho­tographs tak­en at the school, allow­ing read­ers to share in her expe­ri­ences. Explana­to­ry text enhances many of the pho­tos. A well-thought-out, one-page adden­dum called Ideas for Edu­ca­tors and Par­ents” con­tains trig­ger ques­tions and ideas to open dis­cus­sion with young children. 

Sylvia Rouss, not­ed children’s author and award­win­ning author of the Sam­my Spi­der series, has donat­ed her tal­ents to Beit Issie to intro­duce their out­stand­ing pro­grams to oth­ers and to sen­si­tize chil­dren to those with dis­abil­i­ties. This is not a book that chil­dren will pick up or read on their own, but will be intro­duced to in the class­room or at home by adults. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 4 – 9 as a shared experience.

Shelly Feit has an M.L.S. and a Sixth-year Spe­cial­ist’s Cer­tifi­cate in infor­ma­tion sci­ence. She is the library direc­tor and media spe­cial­ist at the Mori­ah School in Engle­wood, NJ.

Discussion Questions