The story is based on a real boy, who has autism, and the trials and tribulations he faces at school, and particularly when he is asked to present a science project to his class. Like all of us he faces obstacles, craves friendship, and seeks to find acceptance from those around him. His story is told here, in a way that is accessible to children.
When I trained as a therapist several *cough* years ago autism was part of the course, but even I found my preconceptions of what it means to be autistic challenged by this children’s book, and therein lies one of its main strengths:
“Sometimes he cries when he is sad or angry, sometimes he giggles too much or laughs too loud when he is happy. He walks with a bounce, and he flaps his hands like a bird trying to fly.
August is special. He sees and hears things a little different from how you or I see and hear things. August is autistic.”
Throughout August is treated as a boy first, and someone who has autism second. There are enough pointers within the book to give a child reader the sense that August isn’t altogether the same as they are, but neither is he that different. I felt the balance was about right here, there is enough there for the book to be a useful springboard for a discussion in a classroom or home context, but the reader is not overwhelmed by information about autism as a condition.
For conservative parents who are concerned about some of the more ‘modern’ trends in kid’s books, you will have no worries here. The topics of friendship, courage, encouragement, and valuing the differences in individuals are all dealt with clearly, openly and honestly with a light, easy style to the prose. There may be no monsters, guns, or space-slime here but the writing has a simple charm that will engage most children, and any adult reading to them. As the book goes on you do root for August, and hope he succeeds, and that he gets his one main wish: that he is able to find one true friend.
The illustrations by Tracy Rand complement the style of the prose well, being clean, colourful, traditional, and engaging. The book is well put together; a professional job.
‘”All of a sudden August hears loud cheering and clapping. When he looks around at his classmates, he sees all of them standing up and cheering him on, saying, “Way to go August—you did it!”’
Autism is a complex condition, affecting individuals and families in a myriad of profound and subtle ways, but here is book that relates some of these truths in a way that a child will understand, while enjoying an engaging story about someone they can relate to. It’s the focus on August as a boy, and his adventures at school that means the book can also be enjoyed as simple children’s story, and not just by those with a special interest in autism. Recommended.
NOTE: All images and quotations were included with the kind permission of the author, Sandra Westendorf, and remain © Copyright of Purple Birch Publishing, 2010.