June 21, 2017

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons)

Written by Jodi Carmichael 
Illustrated by Sarah Ackerley
Little Pickle Press/Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
152 pp.
Ages 7-10

Though the number of books with characters with ASD is ever increasing (see my abbreviated book list from 2013 here, revised this week), few books are written from the perspective of protagonists on the spectrum, and very few from a preteen's point of view.  Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons) fits that niche and provides an enlightening approach to the thoughts and behaviour of a child with Asperger's Syndrome that will both teach and astound.

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons) is a story told in 14 lessons (chapters) experienced in one school day by third grader Connor Campbell, a little boy on the spectrum.  Amidst his passion for routines and strict adherence to the rules–except when they go against other rules or his thinking leads him astray–Connor is a boy with much knowledge, insight and perspective, though some students may label him as "weird."  He loves counting and he prefers the blue vinyl chair, not the red one, in the office–sadly he is sent there regularly–and smooth things rather than those with rough or squiggly edges and he adores dogs and dinosaurs and seeing others happy.  Of course, as a child and one with Asperger's, his choices don't always make sense to others, and while he can be rather entertaining, he can be frustrating and frustrated when misunderstood.  Fortunately, Connor gets a chance to show off his knowledge and make things right when a dog gets loose in the school, demonstrating that he has valuable and hidden strengths (even if he does do some silly things like dump spaghetti on his head).
From Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons) 
by Jodi Carmichael 
illus. by Sarah Ackerley
Jodi Carmichael, whose YA book Forever Julia (Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2015) took on the heavy issues of anxiety, grief and abusive relationships, switches flawlessly to the voice of a young child with Asperger's (though I guess the switch is actually the other way since Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons) was published in 2013).  Connor's voice is clearly defined, in his head at least, and after a few chapters or lessons, the reader will begin to understand his thought processes and choices.  What Connor's peers and teachers and principal and custodian cannot see or hear is what Jodi Carmichael imparts in his story and it all makes sense.  We might not agree with what he says or does but his lovely resource teacher Mrs. Rosetti helps him and the reader see his day from a different perspective and the path it took and how it could be different the next time.  Connor may be learning that spaghetti is not a finger food but we all learn why he might think it is under certain circumstances and appreciate his unique take on everything from geckos, to library stools and face wrinkles.  Like all of us, Connor is special in his own way and Jodi Carmichael has provided an accessible story about a child with Asperger's Syndrome that will ensure tolerance and compassion in ways that no classroom lesson ever could.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful review, Helen. Thank you so much for this lovely surprise.