Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Module 7: Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Anything But Typical, is a story told from the point of view of Jason, an adolescent boy with autism. Jason’s disability hinders his ability to verbally communicate with most people. The book details the challenges of his everyday life. Jason shares how sensory experiences most people can easily ignore affect him in ways that totally disrupt his way of life. He explains his difficulty recognizing people by their faces. Most important, Jason explains the frustration of dealing with people who do not comprehend the implications of his disorder. Despite his limitations, Jason is a brilliant writer. Through Storyboard, an online writing community, Jason makes a friend who is a fan of his work. This friend is a girl, and Jason interprets this to mean he has a girl friend. This girl friend is a great source for anxiety for Jason as he prepares to go to a Storyboard convention where he is likely to cross paths with her. Jason’s worst fears about meeting his friend are put to ease and his love of writing is reinforced at the conference.

Nora Raleigh Baskin has done an amazing job personalizing Jason and a great job writing this book. I think that disabled individuals and people with autism are often labeled and forgotten by the rest of the population. In truth, people with disabilities are valid members of society who have contributions to make. In Anything But Typical Jason is undervalued by many because he is autistic. His Storyboard friend, who does not know of his disability, values his talent so much that she asks Jason for writing help. This book gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a person with autism with the aim at teaching instead of creating pity.

Jason is extremely knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the English language. He describes literary devices and parts of speech in this book in a way that seems natural but is education for an uninformed reader. Because of this, I think Anything But Typical would make an excellent read for an English class. The book reinforces grammar while offering the class a great read.

Review: Publishers Weekly
Baskin. (All We Know of Love) steps into the mind of an autistic boy who, while struggling to deal with the "neurotypical" world, finds his voice through his writing ability. Though Jason initially seemed a prodigy, by third grade he had fallen behind academically, and his parents reluctantly had him tested CA year later the only letters anybody cared about were ASD, NVLD, and maybe ADD or ADHD, which I think my mom would have liked better. BLNT. Better luck next time"). Now in sixth grade, Jason still has behavioral difficulties, but is passionate about his writing and actively posts stories in an online forum. There he strikes up a friendship with (and develops a crush on) a fellow writer, though he becomes distraught when he discovers they will both be attending the same writing conference. The first-person narration gives dramatic voice to Jason's inner thoughts about his family and his own insecurities, even as he withholds details (usually about incidents at school) from readers. Jason's powerful and perceptive viewpoint should readily captivate readers and open eyes.

Suggested Activities

I would organize a group of young library patrons to read Anything But Typical. We would discuss the book and its implications about people with disabilities. I would then organize a “mixer” for these children and children with disabilities like Jason.

Baskin, N.R. (2009) Anything But Typical. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 1416963782.

[Review for the book Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin]. Publishers Weekly. 256(6), 48-50.

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