Lauren, a white grade schooler with autism spectrum disorder, has good days and bad days. On the bad days she feels just like a slug—slow, slimy, and friendless.
Lauren has lots to contend with. She prefers predictable routines; changes—which are all too common—make her want to “flip my lid,” as she puts it. A new bus driver who hasn’t saved her favorite seat, missing reading because she had to take so much time tying her shoes just right, and frustrations with trying to write neat versions of the letters G and P all create believably depicted obstacles. Lauren’s narrative voice is honest, poignant, and spot-on in describing her often baffled perceptions as she tries but frequently fails to navigate a confusing world. Her parents’ and teacher’s successes and communication and occasional losses of patience, together with angry responses of annoyed classmates, add dimension to Lauren’s world. Her victories, such as finding a friend, subtly hint at progress. Bender’s pencil-and-digital illustrations appear on nearly every generously leaded spread. Her tender, winsome depictions of Lauren, sometimes endearingly engaged but other times steamy with anger, broaden the tale and make it accessible to even children transitioning to chapter books.
This nondidactic effort is a fine, affecting addition to the literature for kids on the spectrum and for those who know those kids—in short, for just about everyone. (author’s note) (Fiction. 5-9)