Miller, Ashley Edward and Zack Stentz. Colin Fischer
8 November 2012
Colin, who is on the autism spectrum, starts high school, and for the first time, is without his aide for the first time. He manages to run afoul (yet again) of Wayne Connelly, who gives him a swirly. Colin returns home dripping wet, but his parents don't ask many questions, but send him back to school. Colin has many quirks-- he doesn't like to be touched, he is sensitive to loud noises, he doesn't like the color blue, and he is very observant. He also tries very hard to remember the coping mechanisms he has learned over the years-- how to read expressions, how to respond to people in various situations, and how to stop talking about what interests him and listen to other people. When a gun goes off in the cafeteria and Wayne Connelly is blamed for having it, Colin is bothered enough to investigate-- Wayne is a very neat eater, and the handle of the gun had frosting and cake all over it. He proceeds with his investigation, befriending Wayne, lying to his parents (which takes a lot of thought!), and assessing the social structure at his school in order to determine who really had the gun.
Strengths: My first impression was that I just really enjoyed the book. I liked the characters, including the once geeky Melissa who has gotten hot over the summer but still is nice to Colin; Colin's brother Danny who is rather angry at all of the attention Colin receives; Colin's parents, who are supportive and yet a little frustrated; Wayne, who is able to befriend Colin once he understands him a little more; even the enigmatic Rudy. I liked how Colin was able to use coping skills, and I liked how his attention to detail was used to solve a mystery. However...
Weaknesses: The point of view was a bit disconcerting. It's told in the third person, yet there are footnotes that are clearly in Colin's voice. It's not always a problem, but is occasionally. I also did NOT like the scene where Wayne dunks Colin's head in the toilet-- never seen it happen in 15 years, and yet it's a favorite of YA authors. Sigh. The gun making it into school seemed a little unrealistic as well, but could happen. The ending was a bit abrupt, but in general, I not only enjoyed this book but thought that it was a fairly good representation of a student coping with Asperger's Syndrome. There is such a wide range of behavior with such students, and I think that Colin's quirks are reasonably portrayed.Our autism spectrum unit teacher thought it was a good portrayal but didn't know if it would be a book that students with autism would understand, although she thought it helpful to others.
Grossberg, Blythe. Asperger's Rules! How to Make Sense of School and Friends.
15 May 2012, Magination Press
This book covers many topics with which students on the autism spectrum have trouble. Chapters include Your Feelings and Emotions; Teachers and Asking for Help; Friends,Classmates and the Other Kids; Bullies and Mean Kids; and Healthy Habits. Each chapter is further divided into what to expect in situations and how to effectively deal with them. Sometimes, there are flow charts and model conversations, which I found helpful. This was a very text-dense book, and sometimes the way the information was structured didn't make as much sense to me; it's arranged in outline format, and my mind organizes information more effectively horizontally, in a timeline format. (This is why I can't use standard lesson plan books!) Good information-- format could have used work, and some pictures wouldn't have hurt. I don't know how helpful the quizzes will be with the target population. I am going to give this to our autism spectrum unit teacher and see what she things.
Montgomery, Sy. Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World.
3 April 2012, Houghton Mifflin
I liked the set up of this book better-- more pictures, insets with additional information, and a very good biography skewed toward how Ms. Grandin's life was shaped by her perception of the world. I thought it was especially effective in showing the difficulties that Grandin has processing information, but how successful she was in her chosen field of work with understanding how animals think and feel.
The last two books could be used as nonfiction tie ins with titles such as these:
Baskin, Nora Leigh. Anything But Typical.
Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts
Dowd, Siobhan. The London Eye Mystery.
Lord, Cynthia. Rules.
Mackel, Dandi Daley. The Silence of Murder.