I haven’t written a new post for quite a while, and I guess that’s not a bad thing. We are trudging along here at the Burts house, keeping plenty busy, and trying to recover from the winter of 2013-2014 that seemed to be fueled by the Energizer bunny. The snow just kept going and going and going… I desperately hope we are finished with snow and ice and sleet and are finally on the verge of warmer spring temperatures.
Speaking of busy, I have mentioned before that I started a Master of Library Science program in the fall of 2012. With a full time job and two somewhat challenging children, I can only handle one class at a time. It’s going to be the slowest graduate degree in history, but I’ll get there eventually. Anyway, this semester I’m taking “Library Materials for Young Adults,” which I am loving! I’ve had a lot of reading to do, but it’s been FUN reading, so I haven’t minded. It is not at all like the theoretical, tedious academic stuff I had to read for some of my earlier classes. One of my assignments this semester is called a “Publicity Project,” where I am required to create a display, brochure, or some other medium to help advertise and promote a set of books specifically for young adults based on a theme. The syllabus encourages us to be creative. When I decided to use “Books About Autism” as my theme, (go with what you know, right?) I realized that this blog would be a good medium to use for my project. So yes, I am killing two birds with one stone here, posting in my blog AND completing a project for class. I hope you don’t mind!
I must admit that I haven’t read all of these titles, but I’ve read most of them, and the ones I haven’t read are definitely on my list of things to read in the near future. I have also seen both of the movies. All of the titles I’ve selected have positive reviews from professional journals and positive reader reviews as well. I know it’s not a comprehensive list of books about autism. I had a difficult time limiting myself to the 7-10 items required by the syllabus. (There are 12 items here. I just couldn’t get it down to 10!) What follows is my Publicity Project for my class. I hope you enjoy the titles on this list.
Do you know someone with autism? I bet that you do. Maybe someone in your homeroom, someone who rides your bus, or someone in your neighborhood has autism. People with autism can be smart or funny or good at a lot of different things, but they have a very hard time interacting with other people and making friends. You may feel like they don’t want to talk to you because they seem awkward or shy. But here is a little secret – PEOPLE WITH AUTISM WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND! It’s just really difficult for them to make friends. Do you want to learn more about autism? Here are some books and movies you should check out. They will help you learn a little bit more about what it feels like to have autism, and will show you how important it is for you to try to make friends with someone with autism – or anyone who might be a little bit different from you.
FICTION BOOKS ABOUT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This story is a murder mystery of sorts, told through the eyes of 15-year-old autistic Christopher Boone as he investigates the strange death of a neighborhood dog. The first person style is a very realistic portrayal of autistic traits such as Christopher’s intense stress when his routine is altered, his difficulty in making conversation with others, his giftedness in math, and his inability to understand jokes and humor.
2. Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna
Also told in first person by a character with autism, this is the diary of 18-year-old Taylor Jane Simon. Taylor lives with her mother, who decides to move for the summer to be closer to her boyfriend. Taylor, who does not like loud noises and cannot bring herself to look at people’s faces, is terrified by the thought of moving to a new town and disrupting everything in her established routine.
3. The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley
In another novel narrated by a person with autism, we meet 13-year-old Merilee Monroe, who craves order in her every aspect of her life. Her life gets turned upside-down, however, when she meets Biswick, a new kid in town who has his own difficulties because of fetal alcohol syndrome. The two find themselves on an adventure that causes them to grow into unlikely friends.
4. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Marcelo Sandoval has Asperger’s syndrome. At 17, he has spent most of his life isolated from others by attending a school for children with special needs and working part time at the horse stables at his school. During the summer before his senior year of high school, Marcelo’s father forces him to get a job at his law firm. Marcelo is nervous and distraught about his new job, but slowly learns that he just might have the skills he needs to fit into the “real world.”
5. Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
This is the story of 12-year-old Jason Blake, who has autism and is desperate to make friends and maybe even find a girlfriend. When he meets Rebecca online, he is excited to chat with her, and then mortified to realize that he will not be able to avoid meeting her in person. Jason must overcome his difficulty with deciphering social situations and hopes that Rebeca will see his sense of humor and his talent for creative writing, and not just his autism.
6. The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
Twelve-year-old Ted and his older sister Kat are hosting their cousin Salim for a visit in London. When Salim takes a ride on a Ferris wheel and isn’t there when the ride is over, Ted and Kat must solve the mystery of what happened to their cousin. Ted has Asperger’s syndrome, and his differently-wired brain often annoys his older sister, but his unique way of thinking just might crack the mystery.
NON-FICTION BOOKS ABOUT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM
1. Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann
Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with severe autism at age 2. Her parents and doctors believed that she would never surpass the cognitive abilities of a toddler. Then at age 10, Carly began to type. It turns out that although her sensory problems are severe and she remains nonverbal, she is a highly intelligent, spunky teenage girl. With the help of an iPad and assistive communication software, she has become a very successful student. Written mostly by her father, this memoir confirms that lack of speech does not necessarily mean lack of intelligence.
2. Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s by John Elder Robison
Growing up, John Elder Robison always had difficulty connecting with others and was sometimes called a “social deviant.” Despite his quirkiness and his difficulty with eye contact, he has led a fascinating life with adventures that most of us could only imagine. He is also a gifted storyteller, and this autobiography is both funny and sad, yet always uplifting. Finally diagnosed at age 40, Robison finally understands why he is the way he is, and shows that Asperger’s syndrome is not a disease, but simply a way of being.
3. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism by Naoki Higashida
Naoki is autistic and nonverbal, and speaks through an alphabet grid. Although his method of communication is tedious, Naoki is intelligent and insightful, and provides a profoundly interesting look inside the mind of someone with autism. He answers such questions as “Why don’t you make eye contact?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” with honesty and thoughtfulness. This memoir will inspire understanding, patience, and compassion for those with autism.
Tito was diagnosed with severe autism at age 3 and is mostly nonverbal. His persistent and dedicated mother taught him to read and write in both Bengali and English using a letter board. The result is this book, written by Tito between the ages of 8 and 11, which provides explanations of his seemingly strange behaviors as well as poetry and short stories. This is yet another memoir proving that spoken language and intelligence are not always related.
MOVIES ABOUT PEOPLE WITH AUTISM
1. Temple Grandin – HBO, 2010 (non-fiction)
Temple Grandin is one of the first people with autism to become successful in her field, and to become famous because of it. This made-for-television movie starring Claire Danes was the winner of 7 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress for Danes as well as Outstanding Made for Television Movie. It documents Grandin’s fascinating life from her difficult childhood to her love of animals and her graduate work as a designer of animal handling equipment. Grandin has worked hard over the years to overcome her sensory and social difficulties, and her success story is inspiring.
2. Adam – 2009 (fiction)
Starring Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne, this film tells the story of Adam, a young man with Asperger’s syndrome. Craving order in all aspects of his life, Adam’s world is turned upside-down when his father passes away and he loses his job at the same time. In the middle of this chaos, he meets his new neighbor, Beth. He is interested in developing a romantic relationship with Beth, but his social awkwardness often gets in the way. Throughout the movie, Adam is forced to grow and learn about relationships and also about himself.