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Different Perspectives: Autism and Aspergers in Middle Grade Fiction

Recently, The Conversation published an article entitled “Why there need to be more autistic characters in children’s books”.

Counting By 7s – Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan Dowd

When Ted’s cousin doesn’t get out of his pod on the London Eye, no one know what has happened to him. Has he spontaneously combusted? (Ted’s theory.) Has he been kidnapped? (Aunt Gloria’s theory.) Is he even still alive? (The family’s unspoken fear.)

Even the police are baffled – so it’s up to Ted, whose brain runs on its own unique operating system, to solve this mystery and find Salim. Teaming up with Kat, Ted follows a trail of clues across London – while time ticks dangerously by . . .

The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida

This short book brilliantly illustrates (in words) how autistic kids view the world — from sight to sound to touch. As a parent, you can begin to understand the ASD point of view through this series of Q&As with this nonverbal 13-year-old boy. For kids on the spectrum, it’s a refreshing chance to “bond” with someone like them, which is incredibly valuable.

My Lift As an Alphabet – Barry Johnsberg

Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people (and pets) in her life.

Laugh-out-loud funny and wonderfully touching, My Life as an Alphabet is a delightful novel about an unusual girl who goes to great lengths to bring love and laughter into the lives of everyone she cares about.

Rain Reign – Ann M Martin

The Baby-sitters Club and Doll People author Ann M. Martin has created a gorgeous story about homonym-loving Rose Howard and her dog, Rain. Kids will connect with tween Rose and her Aspie ways as well as her troubles connecting with other kids. Things are not always easy for Rose, and when her dog goes missing she must struggle with her emotions and learn to see things from someone else’s viewpoint.

Anything But Typical – Nora Raleigh Baskin

Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does.
Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird-her name is Rebecca-could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is.
By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this is the breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy’s struggles-and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.

Mighty Jack – Ben Hatke

Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his non-verbal autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made.

Mockingbird – Kathryn Esrkine

11-year-old Caitlin has Asperger’s Syndrome, and has always had her older brother, Devon, to explain the confusing things around her. But when Devon is killed in a tragic school shooting, Caitlin has to try and make sense of the world without him. With her dad spending most of his time crying in the shower, and her life at school becoming increasingly difficult, it doesn’t seem like things will ever get better again.

Rules – Cynthia Lord

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules-from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”-in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Smart – Kim Slater

When a local homeless man is murdered, Kieran seems to be the only one who cares and becomes determined to find out what really happened. To Colin, the dead man. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It’s a good job Kieran’s a master of observation and knows all the detective tricks of the trade.

But being a detective is difficult when you have asperger’s syndrome. When you’re amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof.

A Whole New Ballgame – Phil Bildner

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new teacher named Mr. Acevedo who doesn’t believe in tests or homework and likes off-the-wall projects – the more “off” the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo! Now Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone, and for Red, who has ASD, the changes are even more of a struggle. But the boys are a great team who know how to help each other and find ways to make a difference in the classroom and on the court.

The Someday Birds – Sally J Pla

Charlie feels safest at home in California, where his family tolerates his obsessive rituals and fascination with birds. But home isn’t the same without his journalist father, who is far away in Virginia being treated for a brain injury he incurred in Afghanistan. Charlie hates change and travel, but in order to see his father, he’s willing to endure a cross-country road trip with his twin brothers, boy-crazy older sister, and a pink-haired woman from Sarajevo serving as their chaperone.


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