Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Nora Raleigh Baskin’s Anything But Typical has been on my “must read” pile for the last few months. I was excited to see that it was nominated for the Cybils because it meant I finally had an excuse to bring it to the top of the pile. Boy, am I glad I did. This is a fantastic book and I am thinking of using it as a read aloud with one of my classes after the holidays.

The story is written in the voice of Jason, a middle school boy diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. His life is full of letters- ADHD, LD, HFA, PDD-NOS, NT. While he struggles in school to be accepted socially, he is happy to spend most of his time on the Storyboard writing forum online. On the forum no one sees his odd hand flapping or his struggles to control himself. No one looks at him strangely or makes rude comments. He is a great writer and he can interact with other people without fear of ridicule. And when a girl befriends him on the forum he is thrilled. This would never happen to him in real life (despite the promises of his parents, “Someday you will meet a nice girl….”). But online, he suddenly has a girl friend. Maybe even a girlfriend.

Then everything begins to unravel. Jason’s parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard Convention. Phoenixbird messages him that she will also be at the convention. Jason knows that he can’t go to the convention- as soon as his online friends meet him they will treat him just like his classmates do.

I don’t want to give much more away, but this is a book that every.single.teacher should read. I found myself brought to tears more than once. This is not just about a child on the autistic spectrum; I found myself more involved than ever before while reading a book. I felt like I knew Jason. I felt like he was one of my own students. The reactions of his classmates were cruel while peppered with pure reality. Anything But Typical is a powerful book and I think it will make a wonderful read aloud for my students. I can’t recommend it enough.

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher. All views are my own and don’t represent those of my fellow panelists.

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3 Responses

  1. That does sound like a great book. I often find myself feeling the same that excellent books sit in my to read pile for way too long since there is always so many options of what to read. A lot of times I end up reading a particular book because I put it on my book reading challenge list.

    Recently one of my students was reading Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and when he was talking about what he remembered from the first book he mentioned how the main character’s sister was “sick”. We have two students in our class that are autistic, and I knew that the student did not make the connection. I was not sure of how I should respond to his comment. It was not to the whole class, and he did not say that she was autistic. I just remembered from when I read the book. I ended up not saying anything. Can you think of anything that you might have said?

    • Hmm….I probably would have had a discussion about the fact that autism wasn’t recognized (as easily, if at all) back then but how that has changed so much now. Hopefully that would have helped the student make the connection!

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