CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 5 . . . . October 6, 2017
Sara Leach. Illustrated by Rebecca Bender.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2017.
120 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
Asperger's syndrome-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Bev Brenna.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I thought I might flip my lid, so I pulled out my squishy ball to help me calm down. It was part of my plan, and Mrs. Patel wasn't allowed to tell me to stop. Squishing the ball against my hand helped me feel better, so I did it some more. I started tossing it from hand to hand, because it felt really good when it landed. And then I started throwing it up in the air and catching it with both hands, because it felt good when it landed in both hands at the same time. And then I started saying, "Whoosh, whoosh," each time the squishy ball went up and down.
Mrs. Patel caught the ball when it was in the air.
"Hey! Give it back. The ball is part of my plan!"
Mrs. Patel took a deep breath. She looked right in my eyes. I looked around the room. The other kids were looking at me too, so I looked back into her eyes.
"Squishing the ball is part of your plan. Throwing it is not. Can you make a good choice?"
Lauren is a young girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), an umbrella term that now includes Asperger's Syndrome, and she sees the world in her own unique way. The authentic school setting provides an appealing backdrop to many of Lauren's challenges (the slug days) and triumphs (the butterfly days).
Sara Leach's writing is dependable in its craftsmanship, including appropriate word choice for this age group, and Lauren's first-person voice is clear and direct. In addition, Rebecca Bender's engaging black-and-white illustrations offer consistent support for reading comprehension. However, the book is really an extended character study rather than a plot driven story. In addition, its happy ending—offering the possibility of friendship with a newcomer who has limited English—doesn't seem entirely earned.
Slug Days ultimately leans toward teaching a lesson about ASD rather than offering a page-turning read. Because this author has taken such care with Lauren's characterization, however, the book will find an audience in readers who wish to learn about diversity from a trustworthy source.
Bev Brenna is the author of the "Wild Orchid" trilogy dealing with a teen protagonist who has Asperger's Syndrome.
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- October 6, 2017.