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January 15, 2014
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Reading therapeutic for children at the Bustamante hospital

Retired judge and clerk to the parliament, Shirley Lewis (left), and children's author, Hope Barnett, look on as Her Excellency, the Most Honourable Lady Allen, introduces patients at the Bustamante Hospital for Children to 'No Boy like Amanda'. Barnett joined Lady Allen and Lewis on their visit to the hospital to bond with and read to the children. 'No Boy like Amanda' is Barnett's debut novel, which has received excellent reviews since its release last year.

Patients at the Bustamante Hospital for Children had a different type of therapy recently when children's author Hope Barnett joined Lady Allen and retired judge Shirley Lewis on a visit to the hospital, taking the children on an exciting reading adventure.

Settled in the brightly coloured library of the hospital's Learning and Activity Centre, Barnett autographed and presented copies of her novel, No Boy like Amanda, as gifts to Lady Allen and Kathleen Cooper-Brown, on behalf of the centre.

The children listened keenly as, led by Lewis, they dived into chapter one of the novel, meeting Amanda Simpson; reliving her horror as, 'the most beautiful doll in the world', Chloe was destroyed by her brothers to become a 'tattered, one-eyed, one-arm, non-crying, balding doll', and revelling in the suspense of Amanda's plan to join the boys' exploits after they destroyed her prized possession. The children had lots to say about what their own plan would have been.

"Coming to the Learning Centre, they are very excited," La-Toya Latty, early childhood specialist at the centre, said. "The centre is really a therapeutic environment. Children are imaginative beings, and reading takes them on an adventure. They are happy to go outside of the hospital, even Jamaica."

A perfect gift for children 8-13 years, No Boy like Amanda is described as a true Jamaican novel that the average child can relate to. Set in rural Jamaica, the novel tells the story of Amanda, a young girl in a loving family with meagre resources and four boys.

She tries very hard to fit in with her brothers, who are always having loads of fun.

Amanda's involvement usually ends in disaster. Readers follow Amanda's misadventures and personal victories with laughter and some tears, a journey that leads to her finding herself.

No Boy like Amanda, endorsed by the Children's Advocate of Jamaica, recently won the BIAJ 2013 Publisher's Award for Best Children Chapter book with special commendation from the judges, and was selected by the Jamaica Reading Association as the official book for its 2013 National Reading Week activities.

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