Happy Monday, one and all! Here are a few books I read this week.
Johnny is a little bit strange. He’s never precisely on time, he doesn’t usually say exactly what he means, he doesn’t flap his arms when he’s excited, and he doesn’t like to follow the same routine. Johnny is NT, but that’s OK, he’s still a good friend!
Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap has a really refreshing premise – unlike most books about neuroatypical children, which serve primarily to educate neurotypical children and their caregivers, Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap is presented from the perspective of a child on the spectrum. A little boy describes his friend Johnny, who is NT, or neurotypical. From the narrator’s perspective, Johnny’s behaviours seem very strange. Still, as he repeatedly reaffirms, Johnny is a good friend, despite his oddities.
Concepts like “normal” and “odd” are social constructs. The denotation of something as “typical” can be based on a statistical occurrence or probability, but it’s the association of “typical” with “good”, and “atypical” with “weird” or “odd” that can cause such damage, especially to young people. Most books on autism serve to reassure “typical” children that their peers or siblings with differences are “OK” and “normal”. What Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap tries to do is to turn that awareness on its head. From the perspective of a neuroatypical child, the behaviours exhibited by “normal” children might seem strange, odd or hard to understand! While much of the existing literature focuses on reassuring or education typical readers, Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap serves both typical and atypical children. Even books written from the perspective of an neuroatypical child typically strive to explain the “unusual” behaviors of atypical children – the autistic child protagonist explains their behavior to the reader. In this version of the narrative, though, the behavior of the neuroatypical child isn’t justified or rationalised – rather it is the behavior of Johnny, the “normal” child that is depicted as unusual, and in need of explanation. Neuroatypical children are given an opportunity to see themselves portrayed as “normal”, while neurotypical children are reminded that “normal” is in fact all about perspective, and that their behavior can seem odd and out of place to someone else.
The design of Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap isn’t the greatest – the text is small, and the illustrations seem flat, without a lot of animation or expression. As one reviewer noted, though, this might have been an intentional design choice with the needs of neuroatypical readers in mind. It’s not the most visually attractive book, and the text does feel a bit lengthy, but it provides such a refreshing and much-needed perspective on stories featuring neuroatypical children that I do recommend taking a look.
If you work with preschoolers and haven’t shared It’s a Tiger! with them yet, you are in for a real treat. This zany story is an absolute hoot, and the kids I shared it with this week universally loved it. A child seems to be constantly on the edge of being devoured by a hungry tiger, who keeps reappearing in different and increasingly absurd ways. I find that books like this suit my story time style because I tend to be pretty over-the-top in my readings, and stories like this that hilariously ramp up the tension offer perfect opportunities for me to really ham it up. Lots of fun for preschool story times!
On the grown-up reading front, I’ve just started a new book by a local author about his experiences surviving a brutal storm while climbing Canada’s tallest peak, Mount Logan. I’m pretty much the exact opposite of ‘outdoorsy’ – I’m not particularly fit, I don’t enjoy getting muddy, I’m not a big fan of bugs, and I absolutely prefer my washrooms to be of the flushing variety. Perhaps it’s because of this that I have always been drawn to tales of the great outdoors, particular climbing stories. These gripping accounts take me so far out of my norm and my comfort zone, and allow me to experience places I’ll likely never actually visit in my lifetime. The author of Surviving Logan is a firefighter in a neighboring city, and references many places in the area that I’m familiar with, which makes for a neat reading experience – I often read about far-away places and exotic locales, but rarely do I see places I know intimately appearing in print in front of me. It’s also neat to read about an expedition to a mountain in Canada – I’ve read accounts of climbs in the Himalayas, the Andes or the Alps, but never my own home country, which has some of the most impressive natural scenery in the world.
I’m not that far into the book as of yet, but I’m enjoying it so far. The writing is direct, unadorned and to the point, which is actually quite refreshing, and there’s a good feeling of tension being built as the climbers prepare to tackle the mountain. So far, so good!
Here’s hoping everyone has a great week!