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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Anything But Typical, written by Nora Raleigh Baskin. Simon & Schuster, 2009. $8.99 ages 10 and up

"When I write, I can be heard. And known.
But nobody has to look at me. Nobody has to see me at all."

Jason is twelve and he has autism. His view of the world is decidedly different. He has trouble making friends, because they want him to be like them, to think like them and to express feelings in the same way they do. Jason cannot do that. He has trouble in school with people who do not understand his needs, and cannot accept his many peculiarities. He loves the computer, and writing and especially a site called Storyboard. Through this site he meets PhoenixBird, aka Rebecca, and he can be himself when their communication is online. He looks forward to her responses to his writing and he is willing to offer counsel for hers. It is the highlight of his day!

When he gets a chance to go to a Storyboard conference, he is ecstatic and terrified. He knows he will have a chance to learn more about his writing in workshops offered by authors, he knows there will be much for him to learn, and he knows that he might come face to face with PhoenixBird. He is terrified that it will change her opinion of him when she actually sees Jason. Maybe she, too, will only see his autism.

I have read some wonderful books in the past few years with autistic main characters. The most recent was Marcelo in Marcelo in the Real World (Tuesday, April 13). Another from a book that I read less recently, and which I have not posted is Ted, in The London Eye Mystery (Dowd,2007). I am sure there will more in our future.

In this book, we quickly become attuned to Jason's voice, to his love for family, his worries about the future, his reactions to those things that bother him. Jason knows he's different; yet, he is also a twelve year old boy with twelve year old boy senstivities. He is not a character you will soon forget. His voice will linger in your mind when you move on to other stories and other characters. We only have to listen:

"I knew I had these letters - ADOS, LD, HFA, PDD, NOS - that would
be linked to my name, that I was not going to outgrow. And even if
my mom didn't know it, I only had one choice. I could keep my name
with all its letters and sounds and all its meaning and all its
nonmeaning. Or I could disappear.
And that's when I started writing stories."

Bravo, Nora Raleigh Baskin!

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