Slug Days

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Middle Grade Books - KAREN RIGBY

Sara Leach, Re­becca Ben­der (Il­lus­tra­tor) Pa­jama Press (OC­TO­BER) Hard­cover $15.95 (120pp), 978-1-77278-022-2

This is a win­some, gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to the dif­fer­ences and chal­lenges of autism spec­trum dis­or­ders.

So­lace in fixed rou­tines. At­ten­tion to de­tail. Mis­read­ing so­cial cues. These and other ten­den­cies are shared by many chil­dren with autism spec­trum dis­or­der, and they are com­pas­sion­ately em­bod­ied in Lau­ren, a per­cep­tive el­e­men­tary schooler in Sara Leach’s Slug Days.

The thought­ful chap­ter book spans the course of a week, high­light­ing Lau­ren’s ups and downs while invit­ing in­ter­me­di­ate read­ers to glimpse how one girl with ASD per­ceives her world. Ex­pres­sive pen­cil il­lus­tra­tions by Re­becca Ben­der fea­ture Lau­ren, her fam­ily, and her class­mates.

Lau­ren en­dures what she whim­si­cally dubs “slug days,” when lit­tle seems to go right. She misses out on an­tic­i­pated ac­tiv­i­ties, has her mo­ti­va­tions mis­un­der­stood, and en­coun­ters peers who re­act to her in un­ex­pected ways. Slug days in­ter­sperse with but­ter­fly days, when the prom­ise of ice cream or crafts brings joy.

Well-cho­sen scenes re­veal com­mon sce­nar­ios—such as board­ing a school bus— that mag­nify in sig­nif­i­cance when the usual or­der of events is in­ter­rupted. Lau­ren’s strug­gle to com­mu­ni­cate her needs and emo­tions laces through the story, but never builds into crescen­dos; her self-reg­u­lat­ing skills pre­vent her from com­pletely melt­ing down. The plot cul­mi­nates with Lau­ren be­gin­ning to find ac­cep­tance. It’s a straight­for­ward, read­ily grasped de­pic­tion of a child’s sen­si­tiv­ity to her en­vi­ron­ment.

Sub­tle mo­ments il­lus­trate Lau­ren’s per­fec­tion­ism as well as her some­times hu­mor­ous, in­fin­itely log­i­cal, lit­eral way of in­ter­pret­ing com­ments. When a teacher chides her for wast­ing ev­ery­one’s time, Lau­ren notes to her­self that it is only this par­tic­u­lar teacher’s time that is be­ing wasted.

With­out delv­ing into fine de­tail, the book por­trays enough aspects of liv­ing with ASD to be fa­mil­iar to those on the spec­trum and those who care for them. From agen­das (the Cana­dian ver­sion of IEPS) to a teacher’s les­son on mak­ing friends to a fa­ther staving off a tantrum dur­ing a pro­ject by us­ing clever re­di­rect­ion, Slug Days weaves in chal­lenges with ease.

Slug Days wisely presents autism as nei­ther dis­abil­ity nor ex­cep­tion­al­ism. It’s a fact that Lau­ren lives with; it shapes her en­coun­ters with­out nec­es­sar­ily lim­it­ing them. At the book’s core lies a wish that any­one can iden­tify with: the need for a friend. This win­some, gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to dif­fer­ences will be a pos­i­tive ad­di­tion to school and home li­braries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.