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


Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


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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A witty addition to the long-running series.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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