Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D., Author
Monika Pollak, Illustrator
Magination Press: Non-fiction, 2011
Suitable for Ages: 5 – 10
Themes: Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Support, Differences
Opening: “Russell is a kid with special differences. He has autism. This means his behaviors can be surprising in three big ways. He likes to be alone…He can’t talk…He doesn’t play the way other kids do.”
Synopsis: Russell is nine years old and has a form of autism which makes it hard for him to talk and learn. He hums, babbles, giggles and screams. He has two younger brothers, Benjamin and Gregory, who love Russell and play with him when he’s willing. They also know when they need to leave Russell alone. When his brothers have friends over, Russell leaves the room. Benjamin and Gregory are important in helping Russell copy things they do through repetition. Russell attends school where he learns sign language, manners and playing with other children. But, there are times that Russell puts his relationship with his brothers to the test when he breaks their toys or throws tantrums during the night. Unlike many children with autism, Russell, loves hugs and tickles. He is happy boy with brothers who support him.
Why I like this book: This story is a heart warming look into a family living with a child with autism. It is written by Russell’s father, a doctor, who uses very simple language to help children understand autism. The story is told through a collage of photographs of Russell and his brothers accompanied by colorful illustrations that create a background. Very clever. Throughout the story Dr. Amenta shares a situation, and then helps kids understand Russell’s response. He’s also quick to point out that even though Russell may be nonverbal, other kids with autism do talk, have an easier time learning and have special talents. He explains to kids that autism affects each child differently. I feel that parents of an autistic child would find this book useful in helping siblings understand the differences.
Since the book was first published in 1992, Russell and his brothers are now adults. Russell runs a small envelope stuffing business and has a deep love of music. Benjamin is a pianist and Gregory is a mathematician/physicist and percussionist. Music is a very strong bond for this family.
Resources: There is extensive back matter in the book for parents. In using the book with children, ask them what is alike and what is different in Russell’s world compared to their own. Siblings of kids with autism may see both similarities and differences between Russell and their brother/sister.
This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.