Review: Elemental Island

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Summary: Astie has always been different. Her 12th birthday is looming and she still has not decided on her thesis. All the Learners at the Hub picked theirs years ago. If it wasn’t for her cousin, Jakob, life would be unbearable on Elemental Island. On the verge of being diagnosed with Social Syndrome, she stumbles upon Danny who has landed in a forbidden flight machine….(continued here)

Age Level: Middle Grade (ages 8-13)

Genre: Adventure (with low level Sci-Fi feels)

Pages: 224 (hardcover)

Published: December 2015 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is a celebration of differences. In a world where everyone loves logic, order, and alone time, main character Astie is on the verge of turning 12 with no scientific thesis to obsess over and an enjoyment of spending time with people, and hugs, that is going to get her shunned as having what is known as Social Syndrome. Of course, Astie winds up saving the day. But I will leave it to you to discover just how she does it.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was a quick read, coming in at only a few hours in one of my days to read it, but the storyline has stuck with me. The world Ms. Hoopmann created is a logical, scientific narrative of what an island full of fully functioning autistic humans might be like. They are secluded. They are safe. They have no contact with an outside world, because there isn’t one (as far as they know). They like it that way, and if anyone starts being too social, or illogical, or touchy feely. Well they might have to be retrained. This flip-flop of what we normally see in books made me happy and excited to read on. I really liked the interactions between our main character and her family and friends. They were written true to how someone with non-neurotypical tendencies might speak and react, which I really appreciated.

This book earned 3.5 dragons from me. Go check it out.

 

Review – Be Different

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Written by John Elder Robison as a series of short stories from his childhood and meant to give the reader a peek into the Aspergian mind, this book is a mix of memoir, education, mental health, and even self help.

Originally published: U.S. March 22, 2011

Blurbed by Temple Grandin and Mark Roithmayr (president of Autism Speaks) and sporting a beautiful cover, be different draws the audience in and prepares them for some quirky fun as they learn more about Aspergers, a form of autism.

When I requested, and was subsequently sent, this book for review from Blogging for Books, i was expecting something that looked more into the technical bits of Aspergian life. I saw that it was a series of advice/short stories and was honestly expecting to see articles, anecdotes from other Aspies (Robison’s word for those diagnosed with Aspergers), and maybe even some notes from a teacher or two. However, this book was not at all what I expected. While I was looking for the ‘advice’ part promised to me in the title, what most of the book entails is actually the other part, the part where he details his own adventures with Asperger’s. Except Mr. Robison was not diagnosed until his 40s. Which means that the stories we get in this book are actually told to us as an acknowledged Aspergian looks back at his childhood and discusses what happened in the light of having NOT KNOWN he was Aspergian. Sound confusing? It isn’t really.

What Mr. Robison does well in this book is, among other things, detailing what he did and what happened to him and then spending a sentence or two describing whether that was or was not a good way to handle it in the light of Aspergers.

The writing style is fairly clear and well done. The stories are mostly memoir with very little advice thrown in until the final chapter, but the advice seems like something most people can easily discern without explicit directions. (Unless you’re one of those Aspergians who NEEDS explicit directions. Hmm…)

However, Mr. Robison only mentions females as ‘girls’ to be learned about, feared, and, hopefully, dated. The only instance of women otherwise mentioned (besides offhand mentions of his mother) were of Little Bear, his son Cubby’s mother. She also has Aspergers…but he offers no advice or comments TO females. In fact, all of his stories and advice is written with an obvious slant to males. While this is understandable since he is, in fact, a male, AND the advice is applicable to both genders, someone with autism might not feel they ‘belong in/reading’ a book that doesn’t mention their gender. As someone dealing with a form of autism, I felt that he should have known and dealt with that at some point. He is also very self involved, which is typical for Aspergians and comes across well. I haven’t decided, and likely never will agree with myself, on whether this is frustrating, annoying, and a poor writing choice (especially in the times when he completely condones physical violence and leaving schools) or if it is necessary.

On the whole, I found this book to be well written and interesting. Though I would have liked more advice and possibly less repetition on the themes, I feel like this is a solid book for helping teen Aspies, Prot-Aspies (people with traits but not full on Aspergers) and Nypicals (neuro-typical or non-autistic people) understand how to handle their side of the spectrum and possibly how to help others.

I am rating this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Raising Cubby By John Elder Robison

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives.
Written By: John Elder Robison

*I received a free copy of this book from BloggingForBooks in return for an honest review

John Elder Robison has written a beautifully worded tome that takes people through his life as a father with Aspergers…raising a son with the same.

A little back story on Aspergers, for those who don’t know much about it:

The dictionary defines Aspergers Syndrome as – noun, Psychiatry.
1.
a developmental disorder characterized by severely impaired social skills, repetitive behaviors, and often, a narrow set of interests, but not involving delayed development of linguistic and cognitive abilities: now considered one of the autism spectrum disorders.

Social Skills – things that most people take for granted like speaking to friends, meeting new people, or even walking through school – these ‘normal’ and often overlooked skills are difficult to learn and understand when you are a member of this ‘elite group.’ (Think – Bazinga! You sat in my spot!)

Change is difficult, minor issues become obsessions (poodle hair feels strange so I can’t pet my dog!), and many parts of your day must be repetitive to keep you comfortable.

Think about that for a few seconds

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Now, imagine having all of that and raising a child; a child who is also diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. This book allows you to take whatever shallow pseudo-understanding a person not suffering from being on the spectrum might have, and kick it up a notch (even those of us who have had a lot of interaction with the Spectrum aren’t going to ever truly understand it, each case is different and trying in its own right!).

I’m not going to launch a litany of reasons for you to read this book, there are too many to list in my self-imposed 500 words or less box. I’m just going to give you two more:

1) This book is ACTION PACKED (explosions, court cases, car wrecks, etc)

and

2) If you were a completely, socially anxious person with trouble expressing yourself to the outside world and you wrote a book that is now available to that outside world…would you want people to pass it by? I wouldn’t…and I don’t think you should either!

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 Dragons.  Thank you Mr. Robison for sharing this story with the world!

*As a side note, as doctors begin to understand more about the Autism Spectrum, changes are being made to the way people are being diagnosed, and handled, and teachers are able to learn more about how to teach those particular students.

One Of THOSE…

 

I was mortified as I walked in to the building this morning. I couldn’t help but turn a little red and hurry a little faster into the safety of my room. It was hard to believe that she had really pointed me out that way, right in front of students and co-workers. It just isn’t right! 

You see, I’ve never seen myself as one of “Those” people. You know the ones…totally left brained anal-retentive rule keepers who never color outside of the lines and who couldn’t possibly fathom putting a neon purple streak in their ferret’s hair (Mostly because they only own those little miniature rat things that squeak instead of bark but would never have colored fur). NO SIRREE! I AM A REBEL! I AM A WRITER AND WRITERS ARE BOHEMIAN ARTIST TYPES! I AM WEIRD! FORGET THE NORMIES AND COME FROLIK! And then day 2 of students being in school rolls around. As I’m walking into the school to open up my room, a fellow teacher calls out to a couple of boys nearby. “Boys! We want you to walk on the sidewalk instead of on the grass…you see how Our teachers are doing it? See Ms. Tyree there? We want you to walk like her, on the sidewalk and not killing our grass!”

 

I could feel my street cred flying away from me. Knife to the heart, wrenching stomach pains, pounding headache…Ms. Tyree is a side walker, a joiner, a follower…my toes screamed out “No, we love the grass! Don’t point to us!!” but it was too late, the damage was done. I was labeled.

 

*Though this is a true account, I have exaggerated a little here and there (mostly right there to your upper right hand side). I didn’t realize until halfway through, however, that I was doing so for a purpose. You see, I have students who have been spoken about, applauded, and/or ignored for the better part of their existence. As 5th graders, they know who is different or if they are the different ones. But I don’t want to know more than I absolutely have to. Do I have to know who has autism and who is ADHD with meds to take? YES! I need to know for everyone’s safety and, more importantly, to give them their best chance at growth this year. But I don’t need another teacher to tell me how my student used to lay down on the floor and bellow like a goat in the second grade…I’m fairly certain that I used to swing by myself, singing made up songs in four part harmony when I was in second grade. I had mostly grown out of that by the time I hit 5th grade.

More than that…writing does not only belong to the ‘gifted’ program kids, or to the ‘normies.’ In fact, most of those people won’t understand the real truth in writing, because writing is a very adaptive art. My ‘specials’ on the other hand, have learned from experience the need to learn and adapt. Who do you think would do better? I’m betting on my specials!

 

Thank you all for your continued support. I will (hopefully) be able to spend a little more time with the blog by next week. I know we are sorely in need of some new posts! (I also just remembered that today is Wednesday so….no Reading Wednesday this week).

 

May you all be blessed and peaceful this week, and may you never be a “Normie!”