Thursday, March 11, 2010

Anything but Typical

Nora Raleigh Baskin

This little book is not an easy, lyrically-written bit of prose, but in this case, that doesn't mean it isn't good. 
Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world.  Through Jason's narration experiences are relayed, both past and present, giving a very real look at how difficult it is to be "different" in our world. 

This is a perfect quote to understand a day in Jason's life:
     School doesn't always go very well.  It is pretty much a matter of time before the first thing of the day will go wrong. 
     But today I've gotten far.  It is already third period.  Mrs. Hawthorne is absent and so we are going to the library instead of art class.  This is a good sign.  You'd think art class would be one of the easiest classes, but it's not.  I mean, it's not that it's hard like math, but it's hard like PE.  A lot of space and time that is not organized.
     Anything can go wrong in that kind of space.
     But  not in the library.  There are computers in the library.  And books. And computers. Keyboards and screens and desks that are built inside little compartments so you don't have to look at the person sitting next to you.  And they can't look at me.
     When we get into the library, somebody is already sitting in my seat, at my computer.  At the one I want.  Now I can't breathe.  I want to log on to my Storyboard website.  I was thinking about it all the way here.  I have already had to wait so long.  I don't know.  (p. 3-4)

His discomfort is palpable, his anxiety rising as the librarian tries to direct him to another computer, which does not work.  Eventually the young girl using the computer is talked into giving up the computer but only after she has made Jason feel horrible.  It continues:

     I feel off balance, like I am going to fall.  I need to shift my weight back and forth, back and forth, rock to stabilize myself.  I can feel my chance to use my computer getting further and further away from me.  There isn't even enough time left in the period.  I might not get to log on at all, even if this girl does get up.  A hundred little pieces threaten to come apart. (p. 8)
Lucky for Jason his parents are supportive and understanding and he has one friend, Aaron, who is nice to him at school.  I loved this book because it gave me true insight into what it is like for an autistic child to live in for one moment, one day, every day, weeks rolling into months and years and the answer is its not easy.  I put this on my last order for the year, switching out a Babymouse, to purchase this one instead because I believe it will make a great read aloud for 3-5 grade students to hear and open up to the idea that, while Jason is different, many of his feelings are ones they have as well.
Another great review here at Abby (the) Librarian. and another from Tina at Books are my thing.  Nora Baskin's site-click here.  I will definetely look for more from this author.

5/5 peaceful stars
Recommended for elementary / middle grade fiction


veterankindergartenteacher said...

Good review. Thanks for sharing.

Liz B said...

I love this book! I also think its a must read for adults: parents, teachers, well meaning aunts and uncles and grandparents, who may have a "Jason" in their lives.