Across the Spectrum
There have been several good books for children that feature a child on the autism spectrum. These books are positive and well reviewed, and would be helpful in building understanding for those who might be a little different than us.
I’m Here by Peter Reynolds
A young boy sits apart from a group of others, and we sense his longing, as he whispers, “They are there. I am here.” The gap between the boy and the others seems so great. Then the boy makes a paper airplane, that is retrieved and returned to him by a girl with a smile, and the gap becomes much smaller. A story so simple, I wasn’t aware of its message until reading a review of it.
Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely and illustrated by Polly Dunbar
When a new boy with autism joins their classroom, the children try to understand his world and to include him in theirs. The story is told from the point of view of the girl who sits next to Louis. Autism is not mentioned in the story, the girl just says that Louis in not quite like the rest of us. Louis repeats what others say, and disrupts recess games and class time. But the children work to include him, and show understanding. There is an end note from a child clinical psychologist, which explains about autism.
Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome by Clarabelle van Niekerk and Liezl Venter
A young boy named Sam, has difficulty at school and seems moody at home. When Sam is diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger syndrome, his family and teachers understand him better and learn how to help him succeed. Includes tips for parents, teachers and children on being with children who have Asperger's.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete.
Actress Peete writes from her own experience. Her son was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. She wrote this book with her daughter, the twin of her son RJ. A girl tells what it is like living with her twin brother who has autism, and sometimes finds it hard to communicate with words, but who, in most ways, is just like any other boy. The love and acceptance Callie shows to her brother is inspiring. This would be a good choice to spur discussion with young children.
Novels for Older Readers:
Frustrated at life with an autistic brother, twelve-year-old Catherine longs for a normal existence but her world is further complicated by a friendship with a young paraplegic. She writes rules so her brother will learn to act “normal.”
Anything But Typical
Jason, a twelve-year-old autistic boy who wants to become a writer, relates what his life is like as he tries to make sense of his world. He meets a fellow writer online, but has fears when it appears they will be meeting in real life at a conference.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards' families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his sister, who displays characteristics of autism. Autism was not a condition that was diagnosed during the time this book is set, and the author has created some strong and courageous characters.
DeAnn O. has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years; she is a long time bibliophile, children’s advocate, and book reviewer for School Library Journal.