Happy World Autism Day, and Children’s Book Day!

The White BicycleToday is both World Autism Day, and Children’s Book Day. In honour of these two events, I would like to profile books that star autistic children or youth.

The Wild Orchid Trilogy, by Beverly Branna, is narrated by Taylor, a young woman with Aspergers Syndrome (Autism Level 1 under DSM V).

In the first book, Wild Orchid (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2005), Taylor is visiting Prince Albert National Park (in Wakesiu, Saskatchewan) with her mother. There, she learns about wild orchids from Paul, a botanist who is going through a rough time.

In Waiting for No One (2010), Taylor is attending university, and befriends Luke, a young man who understands special needs.

In The White Bicycle (2012), Taylor, her mother, and Luke’s family are visiting France. Taylor reflects on her past, and in doing that, is able to move forward. She also learns something special about friendship. These three books portray Aspergers accurately, and focus on Taylor’s coming of age, as opposed to her differences. The White Bicycle cover is beautifully illustrated by Taylor Crowe, an animator who has autism. His website, http://www.taylorcrowe.com, gives a first hand account as an adult with autism.

Speaking of book illustrations, there are very few picture books about autism. However, there are a few gems out there. Ian’s Walk (written by Laurie Lears, illustrated by Karen Ritz, published in 1998 by Albert Whitman and Company) is a beautifully illustrated story about Ian, a boy with autism, and his sitter. As they take a walk through their neighbourhood, Ian’s sister tries to see the world through Ian’s unique insight. Ian’s Walk is a simple, beautiful story about siblings, enjoying life, and walking in the shoes of our fellow human beings.

One of my favourite autism picture books is All Cats Have Aspergers Syndrome, and its companion book, All Dogs Have ADHD (written by Kathy Hoopman, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers). Those books contain adorable cat and dog photos, with funny captions. The text uses cat and dog personalities to explain autism and ADHD in a funny, sensitive, and easy to understand way. Kathy Hoopman has also written a great YA mystery story for teenagers called Haze, and the fun Asperger Adventure series for 9-12 year olds (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).