April has been designated World Autism Awareness Month. On April 1 and 2, landmark buildings like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Universal Studios, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and many other businesses and universities worldwide were illuminated in blue to honor this signficant campaign to educate the public.
Many of you may remember actress Holly Robinson Peete on “Celebrity Apprentice,” in 2010, vying to win money for the charity she and her husband Rodney Peete, former NFL quarterback, started — the HollyRod Foundation. Their eldest son, R.J., was diagnosed at age three with autism. Holly has become a leading voice in America for children with autism. She’s on the new CBS weekday show “The Talk,” which airs at 2 p.m. EDT. Every Friday in April, “The Talk” has devoted a segment to autism awareness. Today, Apr. 8, there will be a discussion on fathers of children with autism; Apr. 15, the show will profile inspiring teens with autism; and Apr. 22, will focus on what happens to autistic children when they grow into adulthood. Rodney has written a book for father’s called, Not My Boy!
It is only fitting that I review My Brother Charlie, written by Holly and her daughter, Ryan Elizabeth Peete. This beautiful and heartwarming story is told from a siblings viewpoint. The illustrations, by Shane W. Evans, are vibrant and engaging. The book has won the 2011 Image Award for Literature.
” My goal with this book is to let kids and their parents in on a little secret: Kids with autism are valuable human beings with real feelings, even though they can’t always express them, ” says Ryan Peete. “I feel it is up to those of us who don’t have autism to change ourselves so that we can better understand people who have it.” She did that very thing when she was in fourth grade and designed an Autism 101 for her class.
In My Brother Charlie, Callie and Charlie begin their life together as twins in their mother’s tummy. Throughout their lives they share many of the same things other children do. But, Callie soon begins to realize simple differences. Charlie won’t play with her, laugh, kiss Mommy on the cheek and ruins her playdates. Callie wishes at times she could “crawl into Charlie’s world to move things around for him.” She also realizes the things Charlie can do like playing the piano, running fast and the first time he comforts her when she is hurt and says, “Don’t cry, Callie, I love you.”
This book is authentic and inspirational. It will capture your heart. The authors show how a family pulls together to help bring out the very best in Charlie and themselves. As Callie so beautifully says, “Charlie has autism. But autism doesn’t have Charlie.” And, “I’m blessed to be Charlie’s sister and to share so much. I count my ‘Charlie Blessings’ every day. At the very top of my ‘Charlie Blessings’ list is the love Charlie and I have for each other.”
A percentage of the royalty earnings of My Brother Charlie will go to the HollyRod4Kids Foundation to help children with autism gain access to affordable treatment and therapies. Inspired by her father and son, the HollyRod Foundation was founded in 1997 and is dedicated to providing compassionate care to those living with Autism and Parkinson’s disease. The website is: www.hollyrod.org/.