Robert Kraus and illustrated by Jose Aruego. It is written for 2nd-3rd graders and I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.
This story is about a young tiger that is not “blooming” or doing all the normal things that growing tigers do as they age. He wasn’t writing, speaking, or eating neatly, so his father was concerned. Leo’s mother told him to wait and allow Leo to bloom on his own timeline. Leo’s father would watch him to look for signs of blooming and when he didn’t notice any, he surrendered and returned to his normal activities. When Leo is left to develop free of his father’s watchful eye, he blooms. His parents are joyous and the book concludes with Leo telling his parents, “I made it.”
This book can be used in the classroom to discuss the various learning abilities between the students. One student may be able to draw a beautiful picture but may struggle to write a narrative. A classmate may excel in math while struggling in language arts. Each student has their own strengths and weaknesses, as can be seen in Leo. Leo may lack the abilities his father considers important, but he is not deficient in motivation or drive toward succeeding and making his parents happy.
Students may need some encouragement, like using Leo’s success as an example, to get motivated to succeed. As George Evans said, “Every student can learn, just not on the same day or the same way.” If students realize that learning differently or at various paces is not bad, the stigmatization of diverse learning curves can be erased in the classroom. Also, Leo never doubted himself and his ability to succeed. It was like he always knew it was going to happen, just when was left up to chance.
Here is a lesson plan to use this book in a kindergarten-2nd grade classroom.
Scholastic has put together a great unit about "I Am Special" that includes Leo the Late Bloomer, along with I Am Special by Kimberly Jordano and The One and Only Special Me by Rozanne Lanczak Williams. It involves students creating their own "special" books and involves the families too.