Autism gets the unsentimentally sensitive treatment it deserves in Davis’ debut.
White kid Lester Musselbaum loves science, especially space, more than anything, but since his astronaut father died in a shuttle accident five years ago, the 10-year-old’s mother refuses to talk about the stars with him. When Mom goes back to work, the previously home-schooled Lester goes to public school. Navigating this strange place where no one, not even his teacher, understands him, the easily overwhelmed Lester gets into trouble daily. The noise in the lunchroom makes his head feel like it will explode, and last-minute changes in the schedule throw him off course. When a bully destroys Lester’s anchor, a Superman figure that was a gift from his father, a kind classmate, a black boy named Michael Z, tells him to find his “thing”—something he does better than anyone else. Since science is already his thing, Lester finds a way to use his smarts to deflect the angry bully. Lester’s first-person narrative is honest and pure. The text never infantilizes or romanticizes him, something that often happens in an attempt to teach a lesson about kids who don’t fit into any particular box.
An intelligent and gently humorous story about an underdog who explores his place in a world that doesn’t readily accommodate kids who possess different ways of being or thinking. (Fiction. 8-12)