A young narrator explains that his neurotypical friend is OK, even though he sometimes plays games out of order and doesn’t flap his hands to express emotions.
It’s a neat bit of role reversal. It’s really OK that Johnny arrives for playdates a few minutes late or early (“hopeless when it comes to punctuality”), that his gaze is direct, that he really doesn’t seem interested in knowing everything about hydraulic forklifts, wants to play with other kids (“Maybe he’s a little too obsessed with social interaction”), and never has a meltdown when there’s a fire drill at school. “Mom says that everyone’s brain is different, and different isn’t always wrong.” A closing note for parents offers further bids for acceptance: “as many as 67 in 68 children may be neurotypical. So if your child does not currently have an NT kid in their life, they almost certainly will.” Merry’s stripped-down, neatly drawn generic views of dewy-eyed figures with fixed, tight-lipped smiles neither give the characters any individuality nor do the premise’s ingenuity much service, though they are doubtless calculated to make it easy for the book’s autistic readers to decode.
It looks bland at first, but it’s a clever perspective changer for NT children as well as a rare chance for young readers with autism to see themselves as a point-of-view character. (Picture book. 6-8)