It’s here…and it’s about time

m here cover3 Its here...and its about timeWhen I came across this book, it made enough of an impression for me to want to mention it well past its August 2011 publication date. Peter H. Reynolds’s I’m Here (Atheneum) is a welcome addition to the growing body of (mostly mediocre) children’s literature dealing with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Asperger’s Syndrome in particular. This one addresses the topic in what I find the most effective way: without explicitly mentioning it—unless you count the jacket flap, which explains that Reynolds wrote the book “to help us all reach out, embrace, and appreciate children in the autism spectrum, as well as anyone who is different from ourselves.”

Several YA books, especially Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo and the Real World and Katherine Erskine’s Mockingbird, deal stirringly with the realities of Asperger’s. But—not to point fingers at many well-meaning authors who have attempted to address this tough topic—this is the first picture book I’ve seen that’s a story lending insight into the complexities and nuances of ASD, rather than an overly didactic teaching tool.

Reynolds depicts scenes familiar to many a kid coping with ASD in sparse, simple text: “They are there. I am here.” is accompanied by a gulf of white space between a group of kids playing and one boy who just looks, well, confused.

m here interior Its here...and its about time

And he is: despite his loneliness, he has no idea what to do to connect with his peers. Ultimately he’s distracted by a paper sailing by. Befriending the paper (“No worries, friend. I am here.”), he folds it into a paper airplane and sends it off. When it returns, it is in the hand of a girl who approaches, ready for friendship.

I love this book. I love, love, love this book. I love it because the boy finds a way to connect, and because it really isn’t so hard for him, after all. I love it because the girl actually wants to be friends, because the pair have found a common interest and not because an adult has explained that she must be tolerant of other kids’ “differences.” I love the airy lines and soft pastels of Reynolds’s  art, his effective use of white space and the natural separation of the gutter.

And as the parent of a child with Asperger’s, I love it because it speaks to my son, to his brother who must deal with him every day, to me and my husband, who don’t understand what it’s like to be him, try as we might. Reynolds manages to speak to us simply and beautifully, without needing many words at all.

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About Rebecca Kirshenbaum

Rebecca Kirshenbaum is a current editorial intern at The Horn Book, Inc.

Comments

  1. Anne Ursu says:

    Thank for this. I followed the link off Twitter, and the review itself made me cry, not to mention the examples from the text. My five-year-old has Asperger’s as well, and I will get him this book now.

  2. Thank-you for this…my daughter works as an ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapist with children who have ASD. She will appreciate this book tremendously as they are in constant search for material for these beautiful children at the educational center where she works. What
    an important contribution this book is:)

  3. I agree – best book out there! Head and shoulders above the rest because it effectively reaches preschool to elementary age children on their own terms.

    Also in video form for kids (like my ASD son) who can access the message more effectively through animation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzSr5F8gt3o

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