Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP, Authors

Clarabelle van Niekerk, Illustrator

Skeezel Press, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for:  Preschool to Grade 2

Awards:  2010 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award, and the 2009 Mom’ Choice Award.

Themes:  Understanding a child with Asperger Syndrome, Helping the child succeed at home and at school, Teamwork

Opening“Sam loved to giggle.  He would close his eyes, throw back his head, and just giggle.  This would make everyone else giggle.  Sam was a happy boy but he was a little different.  He did not like loud noises.  He did not like to rough and tumble with other boys.  Making friends was hard for Sam.”  This is an endearing story about Sam, who  acts differently.  He lives with his parents, his sister and his dog.  Sam doesn’t like his pancakes to touch each other on the plate.  He doesn’t like to wear new clothes because they feel funny.  He builds puzzles by himself at school and the kids tease him.   A fair comes to town and Sam’s father takes him to ride on the Ferris wheel.   Sam loves the feeling of going round and round so much that he slips out of the house later that night and returns to the Ferris wheel.  That’s when his parents realize it’s time to see a doctor.

Why I like this book:  The authors give a realistic portrayal of child with Asperger Syndrome in an upbeat and happy way.   The illustrations are colorful and beautifully support the positive mood of the story.  They show how important it is for the doctors, therapists,  family, teacher and students to work together as a team to understand and help Sam.  Over the months Sam learns to interact with the other students and they include him in their activities.  And, Sam is given his moment to shine at a school event where he shares a very special gift.

Activities:  At the end of the book, the authors have a special discussion guide for students, family and friends.  They offer 10 very helpful tips for kids who have friends who may seem a little different.   These tips will promote a thoughtful and lively classroom or family conversation.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

40 thoughts on “Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

  1. This sounds like another wonderful book, Pat. I love being able to add all these books to our list. I know that there are families out there who will benefit so much from these stories, and that they will help all kids to be more understanding of others. (Adding to the list now :))

    • Susanna, glad you enjoyed this book. It was so upbeat and a great introduction for kids. I discovered when I went back over all of the books I reviewed last year on the autism spectrum, I only had 2-3 picture books, the remainder were MG and YA. So this was a good choice.

  2. I kniw a friend with Asperger’s Syndrome. I didn’t really understand why he acts the way he does at first but my parents are helping me understand him better. I think this book might help me to understand him better, too. I wish all the kids at school would try to understand him instead of just avoiding him.

    • Erik, I’m glad you are interested in learning more. You might want to check out the 14 books I reviewed last year, just click on my topics section in the side bar. There is a very good MG book called Mocking Bird, that I think you’d like. And some YA that you could handle very well. They are just beautiful stories all kids need to know about. I think kids/people are naturally afraid of what they don’t know. The school should be teaching the students so as to include the boy you know.

      • I did read Mocking Bird (I reviewed it too) over the summer. I thought it was a pretty good book. I didn’t like the part of the story that talked about the shooting in the school, but I thought it explained a lot about Aspergers. I think schools should teach kids about things like this because my friend is a fun person to know and I think it would help him and kids like my little sister.

  3. Hi there Pat, as a clinician, children with Asperger’s has always been described as those who ‘march to the beat of their own drum.’ I have a feeling that this picture book would make such an otherwise drab description even more alive than usual. Thank you for leading us to reading materials such as these. 🙂

  4. Oh, I didn’t know about this book but it will definitely make its way to my shelf. Thanks for sharing a new title about this sensitive subject! Happy EAster.

    Barbara (The Corner On Character)

  5. I really hope that books such as these become mainstream reads in classrooms. It helps instill a beautiful empathy which is essential for all healthy human interaction.

    • Joanna, my wish too. You hit the nail on the head – empathy. We need to start young. Realized I’ve only reviewed 3 PB on the subject in the last year. Most books I’ve reviewed are MG and YA. So, was so happy to find this happy book — you can tell it in the cover art.

  6. The cover illustration with Sam looking joyful says it all for me. One of the hardest things in my life is watching people who are struggling, especially when I feel helpless to make any difference. One of the greatest things in life is seeing a person absolutely joyful, especially if something I’ve done or said helped create that joy. Our god-daughter has Down Syndrome and is a generally happy kid, but when she’s singing or dancing…. sheer joy. We had her in our shop for a few hours last week while her moms were off at an event and we watched Mama Mia together, singing and dancing along with the film. Sheer joy.

    Books like Understanding Sam can help children and adults understand the person in their midst with Aspergers and integrate that person into their lives more fully, and in doing so will help create those moments of joy for people like Sam and for themselves. Making someone else happy is infectious! “Keep Your Ear on the Ball” is another book that teaches how to truly include someone the way he or she wants and needs to be included, making for some moments of pure joy.

    Thanks for sharing this book and for Perfect Picture Book Fridays.

    • Craig, thank you for taking the time to comment — and a thoughtful comment at that! Yes the cover is engaging and happy. What a great time you must have had with your friends daughter. It is important to find the joy in life. I love books that are inclusive. The book you suggested, I have and will review. It is very good. Since April is National Autism Awareness Month, many of my April posts will focus on at least one book on autism a week – usually Monday. I appreciate your stopping!

  7. What a wonderful recommendation for Autism Awareness Month. Again, you’ve recommended a book that introduces children to all the wonderful people they’ll encounter in the world. Thanks Patricia!

  8. Thank you for sharing. I am actually working on articles about Autism and Aspergers for a local parenting magazine. It’s nice to know of other resources available. Appreciate it!

    • Miranda, that’s great you’re working on articles for a local parenting magazine. You might want to check out my Topics in the sidebar, as I’ve reviewed a lot of books on the subject ranging from PB, MG and YA. Also, my post on Apr 2, listed the books. I have some brand new ones to review.

  9. Great addition to the PPB library. I have heard of Asperger syndrome. I think all kids should read this. It would help them to accept the differences in people. We are all different in one way or the other. Thanks for adding it. Have a great weekend. 🙂

    • Robyn, Glad you enjoyed my choice. With the rising increase in autism since 2000, I would hope that the schools are doing a better job of including books like this in their library. And, there are many out there.

  10. Haven’t read this book, but another wonderful book about Asperger syndrome, for middle grade kids, is “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine, Philomel. Amazing book, told in first person by the girl who has Asperger.

    • Thanks Lea for stopping by. I review Mocking Bird about six months ago. I agree, it is a wonderful book. When I was posting on April 2, the kick-off for Autism Awareness Month, I listed the books I had reviewed in the past year and realized that only three were PB, the remainder were MG and YA. I have “Keep Your Ear on the Ball,” and will review it in the near future. All of my Monday posts will be on autism during April. With a couple of PBs on Friday.

  11. It’s in our age range with a beautiful cover. I sense Enzo and I both will learn a lot from this one. Thanks for another great recommendation Pat.

  12. Thank you for leading us to yet another excellent sounding book, Pat.

    I would think it would be quite a challenge to write a book such as this — but what a necessary topic these days.

  13. I always find your choices very meaningful and noteworthy. Thank you for sharing this book…I’m going to be recommending it to my teacher friends.

  14. Wow! What a great recommendation. I taught a boy just like that two years again. I LOVE that boy 🙂
    I’m going to Amazon right now to add it to my ever-growing shopping cart.

  15. Great selection, Pat! I think one of the best things about the book is that it shows a team approach to helping kids who have special needs. I’m really so happy that you always find these amazing books to bring to our attention…and I’m loving the awesome resource library that Susanna is building with all of the PPBF posts.
    This would be a must-have book for any school library!

    • Vivian, the team approach really caught my eye too. I’m finishing a new release about an autistic child and how exhausting it was for the family to advocate for their child and fight with the system. These kids are now becoming known and helping shed light so that others get the proper treatments. And of course organizaions like Autism Speaks is doing such an outstanding job. Glad you liked Sam!

  16. Patricia, Great review! At one point, I took a break from teaching in the public schools. One of those years, I taught Physical Education at a school for students with learning disabilities. Several had Asperger’s Syndrome. At that point, I knew about Asperger’s, but dealing with Asperger’s students was new to me. It was a great learning experience for me. Thanks for adding another great book to the list.

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