Things Seen from Above

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Things Seen from Above Book Poster Image
Kids discover a quirky loner's talent in lovely, kind story.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Touches of academic information about history and myths, some background on the autism spectrum, and a lot of social-emotional content.

Positive Messages

Each person has a unique gift worth taking the time to discover. Kindness and embracing other perspectives can be life changing for everyone involved. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

April's parents and teachers are supportive, and the janitor, Mr. Ulysses, plays a valuable role, especially for the misunderstood kids.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shelley Pearsall's Things Seen from Above is a deeply empathetic story with an uplifting message about kindness and celebrating differences. Young readers can likely relate to sixth-grader April volunteering to be a Buddy Bench friend so that she can avoid an awkward social situation at lunch, and can get great insight into fourth-grader Joey, who walks in circles and spends his recess alone. April navigates a lovely balance between helping Joey realize his gift and protecting him once the rest of the town sees it -- a lesson about outside pressure on kids that adults would do well to remember. While it's written from April's perspective, the characters are well rounded, the premise is entirely relatable, and conversations are written with an authenticity that readers will enjoy.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMKLMom November 29, 2020

Realistic AND magical

So many kids -- including my own son -- struggle with friendships in late elementary school. Like Wonder or Stargirl, the story of April and Joey let kids see t... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In THINGS SEEN FROM ABOVE, April volunteers to be at the Buddy Bench so that she can avoid her awkward lunchtime situation with other sixth-graders. On her first day, she's drawn to watching Joey, a fourth-grader who spends recess alone, usually walking in circles in the wood chips until laying down on the playground with his eyes closed. When April tries to talk to him and gets no response, even Mac, the school counselor in charge of the Buddy Bench program, has no answers. Veena, new to the school and also feeling out of place, joins April and they talk through ways to help Joey. But a chance revelation from Mr. Ulysses, the school janitor, changes everyone's perspective and helps the entire community see Joey's special gift.

Is it any good?

This is a rare story that speaks authentically to the way many late elementary school kids are feeling. Friendships start changing, things get a little harder to navigate than when they were younger, and they begin to feel left out. The message in Things Seen from Above is as clear as the writing, and its simplicity is its strength. Author Shelley Pearsall ensures that the kids speak like real people, and both the vocabulary and structure of the book are exactly right for this age group. Above all that, it's a beautiful story about kindness, friendship, and looking beyond the obvious to find others' true gifts.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how their own schools and communities might react to Joey's behavior in Things Seen from Above. Are there kids at your school who might feel like Joey?

  • Which adult is most like Mr. Ulysses at your school? 

  • What other books or movies have characters like April and Joey?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of middle school and kids on the autism spectrum

Themes & Topics

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