A middle-grade fiction book about a 12-year-old boy with autism doesn’t necessarily sound like a must read, but Anything But Typical is never what you expect. If you know someone with autism, you have to read this book. If you are interested in the craft of writing, you have to read this book. If you are a teacher with quirky students, you have to read this book. And, oh yes, if you are a middle-grade aged kid who likes a superbly written book, you have to read this book.
Nora Raleigh Baskin has taken on a tough assignment by telling the story from the point of view of the main character, Jason. It would be easy to fall into stereotypes or even worse, to create an unrealistic voice. Baskin has avoided the traps and created a character you can identify with and root for, a boy with an alphabet of labels who turns those letters into wonderful stories.
People with autistic spectrum disorders often have narrowly focused talents and/or interests. Some writers are going to say that Baskin copped out by having Jason an aptitude for writing. What’s easier than writing about a character with an ability in your own craft? Rather than taking the easy route, however, Baskin has defied the stereotypes. Too often people with autism spectrum disorders are pigeonholed as computer geeks, engineers or scientists. An autistic boy who is a gifted writer is a refreshing change.
Because Jason’s writing is such an important part, this book is a gem for teaching language arts. All the elements for crafting a fiction story, such as foreshadowing and conflict, are laid out for all to see. Reading this book would allow many opportunities for discussions about writing, and for tie-in writing activities as well as for ample material for sensitive discussions about autism.
Anything But Typical is a special book. My friend Lisa recommended to me (Thank you, Lisa!). Now it is my turn to recommend it to you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (March 24, 2009)