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World Autism Awareness Week and Autism Acceptance/Awareness Month

A sign at Cambridgeport School

an Autism Awareness Week sign at Cambridgeport School

The last week of March is World Autism Awareness Week, which leads into Autism Acceptance Month (also known as Autism Awareness Month). Below, we’ve compiled some resources for advocacy and recommended books highlighting experiences of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their loved ones.

Resources from The Horn Book

 Resources from around the web

 

All of the following titles were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide at the time of their publication; some terminology has changed as understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder has evolved. Reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

Picture Books

lears_ian's walkLears, Laurie and Ritz, Karen  Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism
32 pp.     Whitman     1998
Trade ISBN 0-8075-3480-3

Without ever saying what autism is (beyond “Ian’s brain doesn’t work like other people’s”), Ian’s older sister Julie details his interactions with his surroundings as they walk to the park. Low-key watercolors casually offset Ian’s idiosyncrasies with Julie’s frustration and impatience. The unsensational tone is maintained to the end when Julie realizes that she appreciates Ian simply for who he is.

peete_my brother charliePeete, Holly Robinson and Peete, Ryan Elizabeth  My Brother Charlie
40 pp.     Scholastic     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-09466-5

Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. With Denene Millner. Callie describes similarities and differences between herself and her twin brother, Charlie, who has autism. While the text strains for a child’s voice (even though it was co-written by then-twelve-year-old Ryan Elizabeth), the story does eloquently highlight the love between the siblings. Attractive art with visible brush strokes and large-eyed characters accompanies the tale, based on actress Peete’s real family.

I'm Here by Peter H. ReynoldsReynolds, Peter H.  I’m Here
32 pp.     Atheneum      2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-9649-1

A boy feels alone on a crowded playground until he creates a paper airplane “friend” upon which he imagines flying. Satisfyingly, he makes a real friend when a girl returns the plane. Reynolds’s lyrical, dreamy text and his simple pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations touchingly portray the boy’s painful isolation, then his joyful companionship. [Also see Rebecca Kirshenbaum’s blog post about this book.]

walsh_isaac and his amazing aspberger superpowersWalsh, Melanie  Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers!
32 pp.     Candlewick     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-8121-0

Isaac attributes his differences, such as fidgeting, forgetting to say hello, and telling people miscellaneous facts, to being a superhero. The instructive text about characteristics of children on the autism spectrum is made approachable by friendly, colorful illustrations with pleasing shapes and by the story’s fantasy set-up with a turn of honesty (Isaac admits at the end he has Asperger’s, not superpowers). Websites.

 

Primary

o'donnell_case of the snack snatcherO’Donnell, Liam  The Case of the Snack Snatcher
128 pp.     Owlkids     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-77147-069-8

Illustrated by Aurélie Grand. West Meadows Detectives series. On his first day at a new school, third grader Myron and new friend Hajrah investigate who trashed the school kitchen and stole their classmates’ morning snacks. Myron’s literalism (he has autism) and Hajrah’s hyperactivity become strengths as they examine clues and use deductive reasoning. O’Donnell’s humorous and sympathetic characterizations are enhanced by Grand’s cartoonlike black-and-white illustrations.

 

Intermediate

baskin_anything but typicalBaskin, Nora Raleigh  Anything but Typical
197 pp.     Simon     2009
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-6378-3

Sixth grader Jason, who has autism, is an aspiring writer who takes comfort in Storyboard, a story-sharing website. One of his tales attracts positive comments from a girl, and Jason becomes panic-stricken when he learns they’re both planning to attend a Storyboard conference. Baskin writes with striking honesty, incorporating details about Jason’s perceptions of and reactions to people while establishing common ground with readers.

benjamin_thing about jellyfishBenjamin, Ali  The Thing About Jellyfish
350 pp.     Little     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-38086-7
Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-38083-6

Suzy starts seventh grade traumatized by the accidental drowning of her former best friend, Franny, and by her parents’ separation. However, she finds solace in researching the jellyfish she persuades herself caused Franny’s death. Promising in voice, although somewhat overburdened by issues, this is an original and affecting take on the preteen-turmoil novel.

bildner_whole new ballgameBildner, Phil  A Whole New Ballgame
243 pp.      Farrar      2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-30130-9
Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-30133-0

Illustrated by Tim Probert. When fifth graders Rip and Red get an unconventional new teacher, there are big changes — which for Red, who’s on the autism spectrum, spell big anxiety. Narrator Rip’s empathy for his friend helps both boys not only adjust but excel in surprising new ways. Bildner’s portrayal of an ASD child is sensitive and thoughtful in this entertaining, diversely populated school story.

crowley_merilee marvelousCrowley, Suzanne  The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous
377 pp.     Greenwillow     2007
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-123197-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-123198-8

Thirteen-year-old Merilee’s highly structured life in Jumbo, Texas (home to colorful characters galore), is disrupted as she slowly opens her heart to a plucky little boy disabled as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome. Merilee, whose brain is “wired differently,” has Asperger’s syndrome, and her first-person narrative voice is memorable. The story’s leisurely pace suits its small-town setting.

dowd_london eye mysteryDowd, Siobhan  The London Eye Mystery
323 pp.     Random/Fickling     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-84976-3
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-94976-0

When twelve-year-old narrator Ted’s cousin disappears, he and his sister join forces to solve the conundrum. Ted has Asperger’s syndrome, and his hard-wired honesty and never-ending struggle to make sense of the world make him an especially sympathetic character. The mystery itself includes well-embedded clues readers can follow; Ted’s literal, logical brain lets him step back to see the solution.

erskine_mockingbirdErskine, Kathryn  Mockingbird
235 pp.     Philomel     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-25264-8

Caitlin’s older brother Devon is killed in a school shooting, and she and her father are left to “Deal With It.” But Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome and has to “Deal With” emotions, which are not one of her strengths. A tidy resolution weakens what is otherwise a strong and complex character study.

lord_rulesLord, Cynthia  Rules
200 pp.     Scholastic     2006
Trade ISBN 0-439-44382-2

Catherine is often embarrassed by her brother (who has autism) and develops rules to help David act appropriately. When Jason, a non-verbal, wheelchair-using boy, asks her to a dance, she invokes her own rule against dancing. Jason uses his communication book to reply “RULE. Stupid. Excuse,” and Catherine must face her fear of embarrassment. The emotions in this fast-paced novel ring true.

martin_reign rainMartin, Ann M.  Rain Reign
226 pp.     Feiwel     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-312-64300-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-250-06423-3

Eleven-year-old Rose, who has autism, lives with her single dad, who doesn’t have the resources, material or emotional, to be a parent. Luckily her uncle Weldon has her back; she’s soothed by her ongoing collection of homonyms; and she has Rain, her dog — until Hurricane Susan, during which Rain disappears. This could be a tear-jerker. It isn’t. Rose is a resilient, honest, and perceptive narrator.

mcgovern_just my luckMcGovern, Cammie  Just My Luck
230 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-233065-9
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-233067-3

Life isn’t easy for fourth grader Benny Barrows. His best friend has moved away, his brother George has autism, and — worst of all — his father has been in a terrible accident for which Benny feels responsible. How Benny processes these challenges is the heart and soul of this quiet story. McGovern’s observations about ordinary-seeming life and small acts of kindness and forgiveness are perceptive.

temple grandinMontgomery, Sy  Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
148 pp.     Houghton     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-547-44315-7

Featuring a foreword by world-renowned animal-science expert Grandin, photos from her childhood and adult life, reproductions of her schematic designs for livestock facilities, and inserts on topics ranging from autism to factory farming, Montgomery’s biography is full of inspiration and information. This powerful story of one amazing woman’s life journey will likely help readers better understand those with autism. Bib., ind.

rorby_how to speak dolphinRorby, Ginny  How to Speak Dolphin
267 pp.     Scholastic      2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-67605-2

Lily’s younger brother Adam has autism and is nonverbal. When he makes a connection with a sick dolphin at a theme park, it seems like a breakthrough — until Lily and her friend Zoe see that the captive dolphin’s situation is the result of animal cruelty. The novel is brave and unflinching as it confronts difficult topics such as coping with disability, accepting a parent’s death, and standing up for animal rights.

 

Older

duyvis_edge og goneDuyvis, Corinne  On the Edge of Gone
458 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-1903-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61312-901-2

Running late to reach the shelter that will shield them from an apocalyptic comet, teenager Denise (who has autism) and her drug-addicted mother find temporary safety on a generation ship, which will soon leave to colonize another planet. The ship is full; however, Denise learns that those with useful skills may gain passage. A cast of diverse, fully realized characters populate this story of surviving a world-ending disaster.

franklin_half-life of planetsFranklin, Emily and Halpin, Brendan  The Half-Life of Planets
221 pp.     Hyperion     2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-2111-2

Vivacious Liana escapes the world by studying science and kissing too many boys. Hank, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is introspective and awkward. Their worlds converge during one overwhelming and confusing, romantically entangled summer. Through alternating chapters, the authors create distinctive and believable voices for their protagonists.

ginsberg_episodesGinsberg, Blaze  Episodes: My Life As I See It
274 pp.     Roaring Brook     2009
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-461-5

In this creatively structured memoir, teen Ginsberg presents his everyday life with autism as a series of TV episodes, complete with listings of songs for the “soundtrack” accompanying the action. Blaze’s observations on navigating social interactions at school, home, and out in the wider world are sometimes poignant, other times humorous, and always unique.

kehoe_sound of letting goKehoe, Stasia Ward  The Sound of Letting Go
390 pp.     Viking     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-01553-5

Star student and gifted trumpet player Daisy is furious when her parents decide they must institutionalize her younger brother, who has autism; his increasingly violent behavior makes home life dangerous. The difficulty of decision-making is echoed in Daisy’s mixed-up feelings about alluring bad boy Dave and Irish exchange student (and fellow jazz musician) Cal. Kehoe’s novel in verse is a compassionately told, compelling story.

mathieu_afterwardMathieu, Jennifer  Afterward
314 pp.     Roaring Brook     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-238-5

Caroline’s eleven-year-old brother Dylan (who is on the autism spectrum) goes missing. Five days later, the police find Dylan — as well as Ethan, a teen who’s been missing for four years. Caroline and Ethan develop a friendship, but as Ethan confronts his abuse, he must decide what he should tell Caroline about his complicity in Dylan’s abduction. Caroline’s family’s struggles ring true; the topic of sexual abuse is treated with great sensitivity.

mazer_somebody please tell me who i amMazer, Harry and Lerangis, Peter  Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am
148 pp.     Simon    2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-3895-8

Ben suffers a traumatic brain injury while in Iraq. The brief novel covers big themes: language, memory, identity, and how a war injury affects not just the soldier but everyone around him. Ben’s parents and his girlfriend all suffer, and his brother (who has autism) must learn to cope with his disordered world. An easy-to-read war novel that respects its readers and challenges them to understand the true consequences of war.

MS_Miller_ColinFischerMiller, Ashley Edward and Stentz, Zack  Colin Fischer
235 pp.     Penguin/Razorbill     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-59514-578-9

After a gun goes off in the cafeteria, fourteen-year-old Colin Fischer is determined to figure out who brought the gun to school; having Asperger’s proves both help and hindrance to the young detective. Readers will appreciate the snappy dialogue, Colin’s notebook entries, and the footnotes describing the kind of details that fascinate him in this engaging and humorous mystery.

miller-lachmann_rogueMiller-Lachmann, Lyn  Rogue
230 pp.     Penguin/Paulsen     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-16225-1

Because of her Asperger’s syndrome, eighth grader Kiara has difficulty connecting with people and instead identifies with the character Rogue of the X-Men. When Kiara befriends troubled neighbor Chad, she becomes a target for his exploitation. The depth of Kiara’s loneliness, her capacity for empathy, and her persistence in her quest for true friendship make the book a substantive addition to literature about Asperger’s.

roy_mindblindRoy, Jennifer  Mindblind
253 pp.     Cavendish     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-7614-5716-9

Fourteen-year-old “genius” Nathaniel, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is taking a gap year between college and graduate school. His life mostly works well for him — until a teen party triggers a breakdown, marking the novel’s turning point. Roy succeeds in presenting a unique and human perspective that allows readers to laugh at her character’s quirks while engaging with him wholeheartedly.

Marcelo in the Real WorldStork, Francisco X.  Marcelo in the Real World
316 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2009
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-05474-4

Seventeen-year-old Marcelo is at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. A summer job in the mailroom at his father’s law firm tests Marcelo’s coping and social skills, moral compass, and loyalty. His brave journey into “the real world” will engender a protective instinct in readers, ratcheting up the tension as the plot winds to its satisfying denouement.

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