Anything But Typical, Show Way

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

*Starred Review* Baskin tells this luminous story entirely from the point of view of Jason, an autistic boy who is a creative-writing whiz and deft explainer of literary devices, but markedly at a loss in social interactions with “neurotypicals” both at school and at home. He is most comfortable in an online writing forum called Storyboard, where his stories kindle an e-mail-based friendship with a girl. His excitement over having a real friend (and maybe even girlfriend) turns to terror when he learns that his parents want to take him on a trip to the Storyboard conference, where he’ll no doubt have to meet her in person. With stunning economy, Baskin describes Jason’s attempts to interpret body language and social expectations, revealing the extreme disconnect created by his internalization of the world around him. Despite his handicap, Jason moves through his failures and triumphs with the same depth of courage and confusion of any boy his age. His story, while neither particularly heartbreaking nor heartwarming, shows that the distinction between “normal” and “not normal” is whisper-thin but easily amplified to create the chasm between “different” and “defective.” This is an enormously difficult subject, but Baskin, without dramatics or sentimentality, makes it universal. As Jason explains, there’s really only one kind of plot: “Stuff happens. That’s it.” Grades 4-7. –Ian Chipman

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Gr. 3-5. A Show Way is a quilt with secret meanings, and the image works as both history and haunting metaphor in this exquisite picture book. Based on Woodson’s own history, the unforgettable story tells of African American women across generations, from slavery and the civil rights movement to the present. The cut-out jacket design is impressive, as is Talbott’s mixed-media artwork inside, which extends Woodson’s clear poetic narrative with beautiful collages that make use of big triangles, squares, and curves to emphasize portraits and landscapes and show connections and courage. The first double-page spread is of anguished separation when Soonie’s great-grandmother is sold “without her ma or pa.” Growing up on a plantation in South Carolina, Soonie learns from Big Mama about children “growing up and getting themselves free,” and also how to sew quilts with signs that show the way to freedom. Time passes: Soonie’s granddaughter, Georgiana, has twin girls who march for freedom in the 1960s. The final glorious spread shows Georgiana’s granddaughter, Jacqueline Woodson, laughing at home with her own beloved daughter, Toshi Georgiana, whose picture is embedded in a quilt, connecting her with those who came before. A must for the classroom, this story will move many readers to explore their own family roots; link it to the Booklist interview with Woodson [BKL F 1 05], in which she talks about what she owes to those who came before her. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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