Entertaining, accessible, and beautifully lucid look at what it’s like to have autism.

Paul and His Beast

This middle school novel explores the perspective of a sixth-grade boy with autism trying to fit in with neurotypical classmates.

Paul Stephens just wants to be normal. That’s why he asked to be transferred from his special school for children with disabilities to Beacon Middle School, which he hopes will turn him into a regular kid. But having autism means he’s easily overwhelmed by sounds, sights, people, and new situations, and being overwhelmed brings out Paul’s “Beast”—“the behaviors of autism itself,” such as sniffing things, humming, and maintaining routines (sitting in the same chair, naming all the streets on his bus route). Though some teachers and kids are kind, many tease him or just don’t understand; Paul himself doesn’t always understand why he can’t help himself. “My body never does what I tell it,” he thinks to himself. When Beacon Middle School gives a training program on what it’s like to be autistic, his classmates experience for themselves what a typical class hour is like for Paul: competing visual and auditory distractions make it almost impossible to pay attention. Before long, many students become distracted and distressed, so aides yell into their faces: “It’s all right! Don’t be so nervous!” After this eye-opening session, many students and teachers are more open to making accommodations, and Paul finds he can advocate for himself better, reducing his need for the Beast’s protection. Stup, who has autism and types to speak, presents an understandable child’s-eye view of the condition, poignantly capturing both Paul’s need and hate for the Beast. Her characterization is three-dimensional; for example, Paul’s autism doesn’t make him saintly, and popular kids aren’t always jerks. By including Tim, a character with autism who is nonverbal, Stup acknowledges the condition’s spectrum. She also provides empathetic sketches of how frustrating autism can be for neurotypicals while stressing that accommodation is for everyone. Extras include a readers’ guide, suggestions for activities, and tips for welcoming people with disabilities.

Entertaining, accessible, and beautifully lucid look at what it’s like to have autism.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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