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.