The Hill
by Jessica Crews
Mascot Books

"Grant taught him a lesson that day in the sun/ do unto others the way you would like to be done!"

The deepest and most profound revelations are often derived from simplicity. Jessica Crews’ The Hill is no different. On the surface, it narrates an encounter between Jermaine, a domineering giraffe and Grant the ant, kind and unassuming. Crews caters to the mindset of today’s children by portraying a seemingly David and Goliath type scenario. The author’s passion for educating and experience working with children with special needs gleams brightly. Her prose exhibits lyrical mastery: a strong rhyming scheme that will undoubtedly reel the reader in from the start complements engaging illustrations by Yulia Potts. Whether a student learns through visual graphics or the written word, he or she is bound to benefit from a story that belongs in the forever famous Aesop’s Fables. At its core, the moral of the story is apparent: Never underestimate those that look weak and vulnerable; as the cliche goes, looks can be deceiving.

When Jermaine the giraffe towers over Grant the ant and pounds his hooves all over the ant hills just because he can, it appears that he will never learn the most important lesson made prominent by biblical scripture: “Do unto others the way you would like to be done.” Make no mistake, the tone is light-hearted and never nears lecturing or preaching. On the contrary, the author provides a situation that is simple enough for children of all ages to both enjoy and understand.

Moving on to real-world implications, The Hill is littered with potentially difference-making and insightful concepts. With technology coming to the forefront in the 21st century, in-person bullying has been supplemented by cyber bullying. The reality, as Crews fully understands, is that there simply aren’t enough pairs of eyes to look after every child. However, there are other children. From a thematic point of view, this book has the potential to equip children with the right attitude and the proper communication tools to both avoid falling victim to bullying and stopping others from being bullied.

The Hill has a youthful exuberance that shines through the relationship between Jermaine and Grant. In this youthful exuberance dwells a desire for this relationship to translate into real life. In an age where mental health and special needs education is evolving, individuals with special needs should not be perceived as weak or “different.” The direct message of this book is that friendships are not forged based on your size, color, ethnicity, or any other qualifier.

When literature can make a difference, particularly in the lives of young children that will form the crux of tomorrow’s society, it’s a no-brainer to gain access to a copy of that book. It belongs in all elementary classrooms and children’s nightstands. While there are numerous stories written with strong moral inclination, this book is unique in its dedication, both literary and financially as all proceeds go to the author’s non-profit organization, No Hill to High, Inc., which specializes in music therapy for special needs individuals. Interestingly, the author’s own experiences as a special needs student now catapult her into pursuing a Masters degree in special education and proving that potential is brimming within each and every individual, irrespective of their physiological and cognitive differences. To measure them by anything other than their intensity and desire is unjust. In many ways, Jessica Crews, like millions of others in the world, embody the character of Grant the ant. To all those that channel their inner-Grant, The Hill is a surefire must-read.

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