Oh, my heart. Even if you don’t usually read Middle-Grade novels, this one will yank your heartstrings in the best way. This is an unusual book as the characters are in fourth grade and act more like maybe seventh graders in their actions? In some ways, that will increase the readership range, and I think people on the autism spectrum will enjoy it any age. Although technically it is not a #ownvoices novel, the author does have a daughter with both autism and epilepsy, and both are featured in this story.
The story begins with Hank hating the World War II book that his teacher is reading his class. You can tell right away that he’s a kid filled with empathy, and those books where someone nearly always dies can be rough to navigate at any age. He steals the book, heads to the boys’ bathroom, and sets it on fire, which obviously, was not a great idea. He gets justifiably suspended. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Hank has loving, involved parents, and even with them, and plenty of support from his doctors and the school life is difficult for him.
When he heads back to school, Maisie (a classmate) takes him under her wing and befriends him. It seems like she is the first friend, and their friendship is bumpy as they both make some not wise decisions spurred on from good intentions.
I think the fact that neither Hank or Maisie is mean, or destructive tempers the fact there are a lot of actions in this book you won’t want your kids emulating. But, the love that they show their families and neighbor is both sweet and genuine. They are kids who think a little differently and jump to conclusions that maybe other kids wouldn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and would recommend it up through eighth grade.
If this is the kind of book that your kid adores, imagine the joy of your child going to the mailbox each month for a shiny new book of their very own, and then meeting with kids their age to talk about the latest, greatest middle-grade titles. Consider a Bookish Society Membership!