Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nora Leigh Baskin's Anything But Typical

We have an autism spectrum unit in our building, so I was very interested to read Baskin's Anything But Typical. This was one very well researched and well-written book. Middle school aged Jason is autistic. He is mainstreamed and knows a lot of ways to cope with the expectations of "neurotypicals", but it's still hard. School is a struggle, but when he goes on line, he can control his world a bit more. He is very involved in Storyboard, a writing web site, and publishes many of his stories there. He makes friends with Rachel, who also writes, and is able to communicate with her more effectively than he can communicate with other students in his school, since distractions such as facial expressions are not there to distract him. When his parents decide to take him to the Storyboard convention, and he finds out that Rachel is also attending, he is understandably leery about meeting her.

Jason's voice, and the view inside his psyche, is what makes this book riveting. I'm not a fan of quirky/dysfunctional characters, but I was drawn into Jason's world right away. Having worked with students on the spectrum, I think this was an accurate portrayal of one student struggling to make his way in a world that he has trouble understanding. If you have an interest in this topic, I would recommend John Elder Robinson's Look Me In the Eye. This book, while not really for students, also clearly described the difficulty of existing in a world where people don't necessarily speak one's language.

Vivian Vande Velde's Stolen has a promisingly creepy cover, and I am always looking for horror books, but it wasn't quite what my students are requesting. It has a quasi-medieval setting, which I have learned in the past few weeks is NOT popular among most readers (A teacher assigned a very nice project using fiction to learn about this time period. Then we realized that everything we had was vastly long, and the students are not happy. They even think Avi's Crispin is dull.) In short, Isabelle is found wandering in the woods, not able to remember anything. It is believed that she is a child stolen by a witch. Had its moments, but I'm going to pass.

Lauren Henderson's Kiss Me, Kill Me also had too many elements I don't like, even though it was well written and had some good twists. I'm just burned out on books set in exclusive private schools. Scarlett, a gymnast, struggles to fit into her school, and when she kisses the popular Dan at a party and he dies of an allergic reaction, she is traumatized and has to change schools. She begins to realize that Dan's death was not an accident, and starts her own investigation into the events. Too serious for a pink book, not mysterious for a mystery. Just not what I was looking for.

Items of the day unearthed in cleaning the library yesterday-- language arts posters for 1975, study prints of Mexico from 1963 that were last checked out in 1980. The good news-- I now have a place to store library posters we actually use!


Sadako said...

There aren't too many stories from the POV of autistic kids--Anything but Typical sounds great!

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