This quick futuristic tale encourages autistic and neurotypical readers alike to venture beyond their comfort zones, albeit...

ELEMENTAL ISLAND

Interested in idioms and fashion, 11-year-old Astatine is an outsider on literal, scientific, inescapable Elemental Island—she has Social Syndrome in a place where implied, exaggerated autism is the norm.

When foreigner Danny lands in a forbidden plane, Astatine dreams of adventures beyond completing her adulthood thesis. Murky worldbuilding and shallow character development weaken this well-intentioned tale's effect. The portrayal of social people as abnormal may increase understanding of neurodiversity on both sides, but if readers aren't familiar with the historical treatment of autistic people, vague references to "de-socialisation" will have little emotional impact. Conflating autistic traits with entirely scientific aptitudes risks perpetuating stereotypes, especially alongside reductive contrasts between autism and Social Syndrome. Social Syndrome, for instance, is "hugs and wanting to be with people. Talking about life. Being curious about everything and obsessed about nothing." Hoopmann allows little spectrum, autistic or otherwise, outside Astatine's circle; borderline mechanical characters aren't much more than recitations of their obsessions, lacking opportunities to share thoughts or feelings that might add gradations to black-and-white thinking. The desire of some islanders to fly to the mainland and mingle with its social population verges on introducing the spectrum as well as its acceptance, but that may not be easily apparent after so many absolutes.

This quick futuristic tale encourages autistic and neurotypical readers alike to venture beyond their comfort zones, albeit clumsily. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-84905-658-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

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90 MILES TO HAVANA

After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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SWINDLE

From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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