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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST

20 LESSONS ON HOW TO WAKE UP, TAKE ACTION, AND DO THE WORK

A guidebook for taking action against racism.

The clear title and bold, colorful illustrations will immediately draw attention to this book, designed to guide each reader on a personal journey to work to dismantle racism. In the author’s note, Jewell begins with explanations about word choice, including the use of the terms “folx,” because it is gender neutral, and “global majority,” noting that marginalized communities of color are actually the majority in the world. She also chooses to capitalize Black, Brown, and Indigenous as a way of centering these communities’ voices; "white" is not capitalized. Organized in four sections—identity, history, taking action, and working in solidarity—each chapter builds on the lessons of the previous section. Underlined words are defined in the glossary, but Jewell unpacks concepts around race in an accessible way, bringing attention to common misunderstandings. Activities are included at the end of each chapter; they are effective, prompting both self-reflection and action steps from readers. The activities are designed to not be written inside the actual book; instead Jewell invites readers to find a special notebook and favorite pen and use that throughout. Combining the disruption of common fallacies, spotlights on change makers, the author’s personal reflections, and a call to action, this powerful book has something for all young people no matter what stage they are at in terms of awareness or activism.

Essential. (author’s note, further reading, glossary, select bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4521-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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