Angela DiTerlizzi (author) and Lorena Alvarez (illustrator)
Reviewed by Viv Young
The Magical Yet is an imaginative introduction to ‘growth mindset’ (see here for a balanced explanation) for young kids.The rhyming text addresses the reader directly, introducing him or her to the personified Yet, a ‘most amazing thought re-arranger’. The Yet, portrayed as a pink fairy-like creature, helps kids (and grown-ups) achieve goals even when they find it hard to believe in themselves.
The creators of The Magical Yet manage the balance between didactic message and creativity masterfully. The story in which the magical Yet plays a part concerns learning to ride a bike. This story does double duty as the text imagines you (the reader) as the learner (‘Like that shiny, new bike you couldn’t ride, and it didn’t matter how hard you tried’) while the artwork invites the reader to identify with a young girl learning to ride too. The artworks also introduce additional characters—both boys and girls—who are portrayed receiving help from their own Yet in other challenging situations. This focus on when you might need a Yet—when you experience challenges—means that this picture book is a great choice for parents wanting to discuss emotions such as anger, frustration and disappointment. These kinds of feelings are shown in the illustrations and explored from the child’s perspective in those parts of the text that deal with times when success doesn’t come easily (‘…now you won’t ride. No way. Not never. No riding for you, you’ll walk…forever’). There are several useful prompts in the text to help parents scaffold the ‘yet’ concept such as the comment that the Yet doesn’t mind setbacks (‘Yet doesn’t mind warm-ups, fixes, and flops…’) and that the Yet has helped you before when you didn’t realise it was there (‘like when you babbled before you could talk or how you crawled before you could walk’).
The concept of Yet presented in the text is inspiring and the tone uplifting. The artwork not only meets the challenge of the text in these respects but elevates it further. The illustrations resemble our world but the magic is on every page, conveyed in the combination of bright strong colours, the striking use of dark and light tones, occasional but distinctive use of pattern and hyperbolic perspective (e.g. the young girl painting a huge picture of a bird from a trapeze-like swing). This book thinks big and that breadth of thinking is realised in the beautiful artworks.
THE CLASSROOM MYSTERY – a book about ADHD, is a light-hearted and strength-based introduction to ADHD, which may help children understand themselves or other children they encounter. Featuring full page illustrations and a story set within a school context, it is clearly aimed at early primary school children. The story centres around Izzy, a girl who is so intent on solving the classroom mystery that she cannot attend to the teacher’s lesson. Eventually the teacher allows all the class to take a break while Izzy connects pieces of information together to solve the mystery of the pet rabbit’s missing food. The story itself makes no mention of ADHD, but rather tells of Izzy’s experience and behaviour in the classroom as she tries to focus. For example, we read about Izzy tapping her foot, wiggling in her seat, snapping her hair clip and climbing on her desk, while she thinks about the mystery rather than the lesson. The teacher in the story becomes a little frustrated saying “What on earth are you doing?” but adjusts to Izzy by allowing the whole class to investigate outside and congratulates Izzy when the mystery is solved at the conclusion to the story. Izzy’s classmates show enthusiasm for her powers of deduction at the end of the story. The final two pages of the book offer notes for parents and children about ADHD, which is described as a learning difficulty, and discussion points that the adult reader may wish to raise with their class or individual child.
The bright and slightly retro look illustrations are inclusive, featuring cartoon like characters with different colours of hair and skin. Attention has been paid to the expressions on the children’s faces in the various scenes and these would make good discussion points. The pages are mat and the font is dyslexia friendly on a soft pastel background.
You can hear Dr Packiam talk about her books and neurodiversity on her website:
For now we’ll post reviews for books about neurodiversity on our blog. We’ll let you know when we have a full page of titles in our Reviews sections.
Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers
Walker Books: 2016
Reviewed by Viv Young
Isaac introduces himself as a superhero with special superpowers that make him different from other kids and his brother. He identifies his superpowers over the course of the book and they include a great memory, lots of energy, super hearing, and good attention to detail (‘good at spotting things’). Isaac also explains how superheroes have certain traits, such as saying aloud whatever they think, not wanting to look in people’s eyes, and becoming confused easily (e.g. by jokes). Each of these superpowers and traits is elaborated. For example, Isaac explains how his brother once told him he would pop if he ate too much and Isaac believed him. Occasionally, the focus is on how Isaac’s superpowers may affect others. For example Isaac’s Mum tells him people may be upset by his tendency to ‘tell people what they look like’. While some people don’t always understand Isaac, he explains that his pets do, and various others (father, teacher, brother) are also presented as supportive.
In a concise and caring manner Melanie Walsh provides an informative overview of experiences and behaviours commonly associated with what has traditionally been called Asperger’s Syndrome. The superhero theme is age-appropriate and apt for the focus on both the challenges and advantages high functioning ASD can involve. While Isaac is the central character, the pets, brother, teacher and father all demonstrate understanding and acceptance, providing a balance for the occasional reference to teasing and exclusion among peers. The illustrations concentrate especially on Isaac and represent the superpowers and super-person traits, such as memory and hearing, with great creativity. Melanie Walsh’s use of bold colour with simple yet symbolic artworks demonstrate a desire to communicate clearly the intense feelings associated with Isaac’s experience of the world. This is an informative story about one boy’s experience of autism that can be used to talk with other kids on the spectrum or with neurotypical friends and relatives.