Tag Archive: my brain won’t float away

“We had a room with some books but nobody ever went in there.” This is a quote from Alan Cohen, P.S. 69’s principal. Imagine being a student in NYC and not having access to a proper library? Many students in low income communities face this issue daily. Rooms that are dedicated to being libraries, are often  found bare and deserted due to low or no funding and lack of materials- mainly books. With the economy tumbling and still uncertain, many budgets for NYC public schools have put Libraries at the bottom of the list. It seems there just isn’t enough money to support a program that is so essential to students.

There may be hope! A foundation known as the Robin Hood Foundation is looking to change the direction and image of many poverty stricken NYC public schools. The foundation over the past nine years has been:

 “dedicated to fighting poverty in New York City, and the city’s schools administration have built, with the help of private donors, libraries in 62 schools in low-income neighborhoods.”

The Foundation has had such success that many of the libraries that have been built in these schools have been adorned by murals from famous artists. These libraries and pictures have transformed schools that once seemed headed in a one way direction with the students having no choice but to follow the same dooming direction.

Another example of this transformation is Public School 47, located in the Soundview section of the Bronx. The school is in need of space. So much so that the gym has been transformed into classrooms and administrative offices have been created from bathrooms. Yet with the help of the Robin Hood Foundation, the school now seems to have a promising future- thanks to the addition of the new library located on the second floor. The room is described as expanding in a somewhat magical way. Above all, the new library (home to roughly 7,000 books) is the first “proper” library that the school has had in many years. All thanks to the Robin Hood Foundation.

Please visit their site to learn more information about how their program works and how their efforts have helped to keep literature within the NYC public school system. Foundations such as this one and books such as A Very Smart Cat/ Una Gata Muy Inteligente, My Brain Won’t Float Away/ Mi Cerebro no Va a Salir Flotando, and A Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) aim to improve and inspire reading among young students and children.

My Brain Won’t Float Away

Before I was a nanny, I worked with children with special needs.   One of my classes was the first autistic class to be mainstreamed in our school district.  What I took away from that experience was that children are basically more kind than cruel if they have information about being different.   When I read My Brain Won’t Float Away, I had to smile with the gentle humor the mother used to help her child understand her disability.  Children relate to blunt questions and quiet humor.  I think it helps them process their world better.  The reason we read to our children is to open up dialog whether it be about the monsters under the bed fears or dealing with emotions, it is our doorway to helping them to think out loud.   The book doesn’t talk down to children but rather lifts them up to a world they may know nothing about in simple words and story line.   I read extensively to all the children I mention and when I was given this book for an INA raffle, I admit, I read it first!   I knew if i didn’t win it in the raffle I would be online ordering it the next day!  Lucky for me, it was given to me as a Nanny of the Year present.  I will still have to order it as I know two children already who will love it.

A Caribbean Journey from A to Y

My speciality is as a traveling nanny so naturally this book with its bright colors caught my eye immediately.   I often judge books first by the illustrations as they are so important to jump starting a child’s desire to read a book.  The first thing I do is tell them the author and who drew the pictures.   A Caribbean Journey from A to Z was a delight to read as I have had many trips with children to the various islands.   Sometimes when I go to a new child they ask me where I have been and we look on the maps.  The map in this book is gorgeous and a wonderful page to use just by itself!   I love using fun books to teach children and this will definitely go into my nanny bag.  Our world is getting smaller and books that help define or arouse curiosity about a different culture are important.   This book would be the perfect jumping off place a children’s monthly theme in the playroom.  I was very curious as how they would use the letter Z and I thought the ending was just perfect!   You will have to read it yourself to see if you agree! 

 Donna Robinson, The Traveling Nanny & 2008 INA Nanny of the Year Recipient.


Since 1989, the Barahona Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents has been working to promote the Latino culture and its people.  The center was established by Dr. Isabel Schon and hopes to answer one of many questions including:

How do we motivate reluctant and struggling Spanish-speaking and Latino children and adolescents to become readers?”

Editorial Campana and Campanita (publisher of My Brain Won’t Float Away/Mi cerebro no va a salir flotando) are also promoting Latino culture and its people. There is a great need for reading material that caters to the many Hispanics living in the United States. Yet aside from libraries and schools, there is still more English literature readily available when you walk into a book store. Making sure that children and adolescents have access to books not only gives them the opportunity to read and learn, but can help them stay out of trouble and encourages positive behavior. Editorial Campana publishes literature in English and Spanish written by Latin@s that dare to challenge the literary canon, conventional social thinking, and that believe in culture as patrimony for everyone. The Barahona Center targets children and adolescents and strives to accomplish the following:

You can read the full article here

The Barahona Center and Editorial Campana are two examples of how we need to make sure that Latino’s have access to reading materials- especially literature that Latinos can relate to.



What do Roald Dahl and Annette Perez have in common? They are both authors of children’s book. Yet their connection lies with hydrocephalus. Many of us may not be aware of the fact that famous children’s author, Roald Dahl (of Willie Wonka fame) dealt with hydrocephalus on a very personal level.  His son Theo developed hydrocephalus when he was four months old, after a taxi in New York City hit his baby carriage.  Click on the articles below to learn more about Roald Dahl’s contributions to the awareness and therapy of hydrocephalus.  As a side note, keep in mind that September 13th, is Roald Dahl day across the world.  Take a minute to look over Annette Perez book (and interview) and you will learn a lot about this condition from the perspective of a person who grew up with the challenges of having hydrocephalus.  Both authors, in different ways, have made significant contributions with their books. My Brain Won’t Float Away/ Mi cerebro no va a salir flotando info: www.editorialcampana.com



Hydrocephalus awareness seems to be making some headway. In an article that was posted on Gabrielslife website http://blogs.gabrielslife.org/blog/2008/01/16/hillary-clinton-dicusses-hydrocephalus-in-presidential-campaign

Click on the article to read it at full size.

Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton talked briefly about hydrocephalus. This was due to the fact that back in 2004, Shannon Mallozzi, mother of Isabella, approached Hillary Clinton. What followed was a conversation where Clinton stated she would pledge her personal support. As well, Clinton suggested that her office would help lobby to fund federal research into the disease. Although nothing has been done yet, the fact that Hillary Clinton took the time to talk to a person- a mother helps illustrate that just like Annie, we need to take control of our lives. Currently, the government does not keep records of individuals diagnosed with hydrocephalus. Yet this disability is real and it affects a lot more people than we might think. Here are some interesting facts about hydrocephalus, http://nhfonline.org/info.php?id=fact

Click on the article to see the whole thing.

Annette Perez’s book gives the reader the ability to connect to a loveable and realistic character. At the same time, Shannon Mallozzi and her daughter, Isabella, emphasize the fact that there are families out there that are dealing with this disability. What’s surprising is the fact that since this disease affects so many people, there should be more resources available and there should definitely be more awareness. Annette Perez’s book is helping; stories such as the Mallozzi’s are also helping (along with this inspirational video clip). http://www.thehillaryiknow.com/ There is so much more that can be done… only time will tell. If Hillary Clinton were to become our next President, would she remember her visit with Mallozzi? Even more importantly, would she act on her pledge to promote hydrocephalus support?

The winter 2008 edition of The Hydrocephalus Association newsletter wrote an article about Annette Perez and her new book. The article can be found at the following link (refer to page 22)  http://hydroassoc.org/docs/winter08news_email.pdf


The Hydrocephalus Association (http://hydroassoc.org/) is a great resource for anybody who has hydrocephalus or in one way or another is connected to hydrocephalus. Sadly, there does not seem to be a lot of information readily available regarding hydrocephalus. Although My Brain Wont Float Away does not answer all the questions, the book is a great reference for familiarizing oneself about the disability. Annette Perez is hoping that this book raises awareness in both adults and children, about hydrocephalus. My Brain Wont Float Away seems to be achieving that goal.


Annette Perez seems to be getting a lot of press lately, so I decided to post an interview with her from Editorial Campana’s website, about her bilingual children’s book My Brain Won’t Float Away/Mi cerebro no va a salir flotando. You can read the interview in it’s original context here or read it in Spanish here.

*In January, Annette’s book was chosen by the first lady of Puerto Rico to be given away as a gift to children at the Fiesta de Reyes, a celebration of Three King’s Day. Full article.

*Annette recently appeared on Despierta America, the largest morning news show in the nation for Spanish-speaking audiences. See the piece on YouTube or see it in one of my earlier posts.

*I just found out My Brain Won’t Float Away is currently in the #22 spot on Amazon.com for best-selling children’s books on disabilities. (And My Brain Won’t Float Away is the ONLY bilingual one on the list.)

*This weekend Annette will be appearing in television news again on Primer Impacto (First Impact).

This is one of my favorite interviews with an author.

Annette MBW cover

1. What inspired you to write My Brain Won’t Float Away?
I don’t think anything specific inspired me. When I started to write the book I was just looking for something to do with writing. I remember thinking of one or two sentences and writing them down, not expecting to do anything specific with what I had written. I have friends like Jacqueline Herranz-Brooks and Sonia Rivera-Valdés who encouraged me to write about my life. The idea of a children’s book began to take shape later.

2. Is it based on a true story? If so, tell us about it.
The story was based on a true story, but we played with many elements to make it fun. The character and story revolve around my own experience as a child growing up with hydrocephalus. I was almost a teenager when I was taught how to tie my shoelaces with one hand. In the book, we made that happened when I was eight. Until then, I had always relied on other people to tie my shoelaces for me.

3. Tell us about growing up with hydrocephalus, and the role that your parents, your school, and doctors/physical therapists played in helping you adjust and live with it.
Growing up with hydrocephalus was not easy. Outside of attending school, I was constantly going to visit doctors at different hospitals. At that time, I remember we visited doctors to find out what caused my disability. It wasn’t until later in my childhood that my mother looked into other facilities that could help me become more independent. The reason I received occupational and physical therapy at a local hospital (clinic) was because at that time (early 80’s) these services were not provided by schools.

My parents raised me in a very loving and nurturing environment. They raised me to be a very independent individual. According to my parents, my disability was not so severe. They knew I was capable of doing things independently, and that I would succeed in life.

4. What was then and what is now the biggest difficulty or difficulties of living with hydrocephalus?
I would have to say that, as a child, the biggest difficulty was having other children—and adults, as well—staring at me as if my condition were contagious or something. It was also hard for me to accept having to exercise to strengthen my weak hand. As an independent person, it has always been very difficult for me to do things that others tell me to do, especially when I am told to do something I do not like or want to do.

5. You are a college graduate and are studying to receive a Master’s degree. Is it hard for you to achieve these goals?
No, not really. I believe that the reason I graduated from college and am working towards obtaining a Master’s Degree has to do with my emotional growth. As I grew older, I realized how important it is to have an education. Having a disability was not going to stop me from furthering my education, or from doing anything else.

6. You seem to be an achiever. What motivates you?
As a “disabled” person, I have a need to accomplish as much as I can throughout my life. I guess you can say it’s the disability itself that gives me the motivation to achieve and succeed in any goals I may have.

7. Tell us a little about your parents.
My parents are both of Puerto Rican origin. They lived in New York City ever since they got married in the 1960’s. Out of the four children they had, I was the only one who was diagnosed with a disability. However, my parents raised me the same way that they did my siblings. Although my parents knew about the difficulties they had to face in certain situations, they never once doubted my capabilities. If anything, they refused to allow my so-called disability stop me from living like an independent individual. My parents were not going to allow my minor physical deformity stop me from living like any other “normal” child.

8. Why did you write the book?
As I would go to different bookstores and look through the children’s section for books on children with special needs, I noticed two things. One was that the section for books on children with special needs was very small. There would be at the most just one shelf of books. My second reason for writing the book is that I also noticed that out of the small selection of books about special needs, there were no books written about hydrocephalus.

9. What do you wish to achieve with My Brain Won’t Float Away?
With this book, I hope to raise some awareness in people, both adults and children. I want people to understand that just because some of us are different in certain ways it does not mean that as disabled people we don’t have feelings. Furthermore, by writing this book, I want to hopefully give some hope and awareness to those individuals who are living and dealing with a similar situation. One can accomplish many things even if having a disability is a part of your life. I hope this book shows people that a disability should not control their life. The individual controls his or her own life!

10. Can you explain to us where the title came from, and what it means?
The title came from the question that Annie (the main character in the book) asks her mother in the story “Is my brain going to float away?” It is based on the “common” definition of hydrocephalus, and is one of the contributions that Mario, my editor, made to the book. I told him the story about the time I actually asked my mother that same question, and he thought that it would make a great title for the book. You have to read the story to understand the meaning.

11. Why is it bilingual?
Campanita Books is committed to publishing books in English and Spanish, so as to make the book accessible to as many people as possible. I wrote the text in English, and Jacqueline Herranz-Brooks, translated it. I am bilingual, so wanting to do the book in English and Spanish made sense, and I am very happy that kids in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the rest of Latin America will be able to read it, as well as children who read English.

12. How did you work with your editor?
My editor and I were in constant contact via e-mail. I can honestly say I stopped counting the e-mails, there were so many. We also spoke on the phone and got together in person whenever possible. He was instrumental in giving the book the shape it has, he found the core to my story and made it revolve around the one-handed shoe tying incident. He picked up little things in my conversations with him and would add them to the story, like the chocolate ice cream, the hand shaking with my therapists, and other little details. He helped me turn my idea into a book, and made many contributions to the final manuscript. We get along quite well, except that I am sure I drove him crazy with my questions and my wanting to know when the book was coming out. I had no idea how much work was involved in writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing a book.

13. How did you work with illustrator Yolanda Fundora?
I worked with Yolanda mostly through Mario, my editor. However, Yolanda and I would get together and speak via email, time permitting. She used actual photographs of me as a child, and also did some sketches of me for the illustrations. I also gave her a picture of my mother for the book. She worked with Mario and they would send me samples once in a while, but from the time I saw the first sketches I had no doubt that the book was going to be beautiful and that she was capturing the spirit of my text. I did not see the completed book until Yolanda was basically finished with the illustrations. I was happily surprised to see myself as a “character.”

14. Do you have plans for more books?
Eventually I would like to publish another book. However, for now I am extremely happy to have completed this one.

Tonight at Columbia University Bookstore in New York, NY…

Join us for Children’s Story Hour with Annette Perez reading from her bilingual children’s book My Brain Won’t Float Away/Mi cerebro no va a salir flotando, an autobiographical story about her experiences growing up with hydrocephalus.

WHAT: Children Story Hour @ Columbia University With Annette Perez
WHEN: TONIGHT! Tuesday, February 5th 6:00 PM
WHERE: Columbia University Bookstore
ADDRESS: 2922 Broadway, Alfred Lerner Hall Ground Level, New York, NY 10027/ Tel: 212-854-4131
PRICE: Free and Open to the Public

Also, check out this video of a piece about Annette on Despierta America (in Spanish). She really has an incredible story. You can read more about her and her book here.