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Monday, August 17, 2015

A Story of a Kid with Autism Who Falls in Love -- and what happens next

Baskin, Nora Raleigh (2009) Anything but Typical  New York:  Scholastic

Opening Lines:  "Most people like to talk in their own language.  They strongly prefer it.  They so strongly prefer it that when they go to a foreign country, they just talk louder, maybe slower, because they think they will be better understood"

Jason Blake is a twelve-year old kid.  He really likes to write.  He posts his stuff on a writing website and reads stuff that other writers post.  It is on that site that he meets PhoenixBird, a giel his age.  He encourages her in her writing and chats about school.  When he finds out that she is gong to the same children's writing convention ) sponsored by the website) he is excited, then scared, then wants to call it off, then wants to go.  Jason wants to meet her, but worries that if they meet, nothing will ever be the way it was before.  This story has echoes of the play Cyrano DeBergerac in which a talented poet with a grotesque nose, uses his words to woo a woman he loves..  Like that play, the ending is not a happily-every-after ending, but rather an ending that is more real than that, yet somehow still satisfying.

I really enjoyed this book, despite some moments when the dialogue seemed inauthentic.  For example, at several points in the book, girls, when seeing Jason acting out some aspect of his autism, respond by saying "Gross!"  Now I am the first to admit that kids can be cruel and insensitive, but I have also seen when I visit schools that because we no longer segregate students with autism, it really isn't such a big deal.  And I also think that when kids are going to be cruel, they can be a lot more subtle than saying "Gross!".  However, apart from a few moments like that, it is an interesting book.  While it could work for studying in a fourth, fifth, or sixth grade classroom, I think it would work best as an addition to a classroom library.  

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