A True Friend with Autism in Tween Novel – Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry

A True Friend with Autism in Tween Novel – Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry

How can we help middle grade students to be more respectful and accepting of each other’s differences? How can schools be more proactive to stop bullying of students who have special needs BEFORE it starts? One way is by making youth aware and knowledgeable about why some of their peers have different behaviors because of the challenges they face.

We are pleased to tell you about a beautiful, fiction novel for middle readers about a true, tween friend with autism. Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry is about Alice who has autism but as she is high-functioning nobody at her new school knows she is autistic until they notice her different behavior. The author wrote that her book is for “To every child who has ever felt different. Individual differences are what make people special and provide us with unique strengths.”

Alice has sensory issues and doesn’t like noise, smells or strangers. Alice says that she is hyper aware of stimuli. She has difficulty blocking out irrelevant stimuli. However, one of her coping strategies is to focus on one specific thing, e.g. counting or dictionary definitions. She uses several strategies for coping when she is overwhelmed. As you can see, a classroom discussion after each chapter of Everyday Hero would do wonders for students to learn about the challenges and coping behaviors individuals on the autism spectrum have.

What Reviewers on Amazon Are Saying:

“Kathleen Cherry does a remarkable job of presenting Alice’s stream-of-consciousness thinking without letting it weigh down the story. The character’s tendency to focus on multiple definitions of words, in situations that perplex her, assists readers in understanding Alice’s point of view, and her reliance on previous experiences and rules when interpreting new situations captures an important aspect of autism…As Alice relates the story of her developing friendship with Megan, it unfolds as an honest account by an unfailingly accurate and likeable narrator. Her challenges with sensory stimulation and verbal communication are only part of her rich characterization, and readers will immediately perceive that there is a great deal more to Alice than any kind of diagnosis would suggest…While the short sentences and straightforward plot present this book as a story for younger readers, its characterization of Megan, a girl abused by her stepfather, may resonate more clearly with ages 10 to 12. Older children and adults, however, will overlook the intended audience in favour of the delightfully fresh perspective Alice provides…Highly Recommended.” (CM Magazine 2015-12-04)

“[Alice’s] difficulties, along with her steadfast courage, are effectively depicted…The happy outcome of their connection, as Alice describes a ‘tingling, bubbling feeling’ in her body when their friendship is cemented, makes the journey worthwhile. Insightful and sometimes moving, Alice’s evolving coming-of-age provides a perceptive exploration of unexpected friendship in the face of disability.” (Kirkus Reviews 2016-01-15)

“Illuminating…Engaging.” (Booklist 2016-03-01)

“Readers look at life through the eyes of Asperger’s. The author understands Alice and does an astounding job bringing her to life. Kids will understand and empathize with Alice by book’s end. They will also understand a little more about kids like Megan. Understanding can go a long way toward kindness and acceptance, making Everyday Hero a brilliant debut.” (Kid Lit Reviews 2016-08-10)

We have reviewed another book written by Kathleen Cherry titled Blowing Bubbles and we have an interview with her. The links to these two posts are at the end of this one.

 

Guest Post by Kathleen Cherry

Everyday Hero

Description of the Book:

I am drawn to stories about the courage of the everyday. For an individual under the autism spectrum, so much about the minutia of life is challenging, making the successful negotiation of mundane events a personal triumph. I also wanted to debunk stereotypes and show an individual under the autism spectrum as being a true friend and having a courage and strength in many ways greater than more typical peers.

Target Audience:

Kids – approximately ages 9-12.  A children’s book must entertain kids –  a child can sniff out a lecture wrapped up as a story within a nano-second.

Excerpts from Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry

One afternoon Megan didn’t go straight to her home in the trailer park. Instead she walked to my house and stood at the edge of the small drive, watching me as I walked down the path and then up the three green steps to the front porch.

“Alice?” she said.

I put the key in the lock and turned it. The bolt clicked, and I pushed open my door. “Yeah?” I said, glancing back.

“Um—can I come in?” She had a black tuque pulled down low on her forehead.

“No,” I said, because—well, because people do not usually come to my house, and I do not like change. It makes me want to squeeze into a corner or thump my head.

“Your dad doesn’t let you have people over?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I’d never asked. Actually, my mom used to invite kids over. She’d arrange playdates. I’d hated them. I’d rock and bang my head until the other kids screamed too.

I remembered with sudden clarity how Mom had cried so hard that her mascara had run in black streams down her face. I just want to give you a normal life, she’d said.

Again normal—the average in type, appearance, achievement, function and development.

“Do normal kids have playdates?” I asked Megan.

“Huh?”

“Do normal kids have playdates?” I repeated.

“What? I guess when they’re, like, two.” Megan turned.

I watched her walk back up the street. I watched the side-to-side swing of her backpack and listened to the click-clack-click of her boots.

“Megan,” I said.

She didn’t stop.

“Megan.” I tried again, making my voice louder.

She turned.

“You can,” I said.

“Huh?”

“Um—come in,” I said.

Megan came back and climbed the three green steps. She stepped into our entrance, which has mud-beige carpeting and measures three feet two inches on each side. She took off her boots and walked up the three mud-beige steps and sat on the couch opposite the gas fireplace. She looked at the thirty-two-inch television, the Wii, the Xbox, the chair and the glass coffee table.

“I like your house,” she said.

I thought this strange, because I do not like new places or mud-beige carpet. “Why?”

“It’s quiet,” she said.

“That’s because the tv isn’t on.”

In reality, the house is not silent. I am always conscious of its sounds—the tick-tock of the hall clock, the quicker tick-tick-tick of the clock on the mantel above the gas fireplace, the intermittent hum of the refrigerator, a strange tap-tap in the plumbing whenever the water is running, the barking of dogs outside, the shouts from kids next door…

Megan sat on the couch, and I went to the kitchen to make a snack. After school I always have peanut butter and jelly on white bread.

“Your dad won’t mind me being here?” Megan asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Does he get mad?”

Mad is a word with multiple definitions. It can mean angry or insane. I said this to Megan.

“Does he yell?” she asked.

“Only when he watches the Canucks.”

Then I turned on the television. I always watch television after school. I like to watch The Emperor’s New School and Phineas and Ferb, which are animated and not shows with real live people, although real people do the voices.

I like animated shows better because it is easier to remember that they are not real.

Everyday Hero Teachers’ Guide

Teachers who want to use this juvenile fiction book with their class will be overjoyed to learn that there is an Everyday Hero Teacher’s Guide from Orca Publishing.

This guide presents strategies for using Everyday Hero in the middle school classroom.

Includes:

  • Classroom Discussions: chapter-by-chapter discussion topics
  • Language Arts: creative writing
  • Group projects: plot and character examination

The teachers’ guide for Everyday Hero is free to download and copy.

Biography Kathleen Cherry:

Kathleen Cherry Author of  a tween novel about a true friend with autism - Everyday Hero Kathleen lives in Kitimat, B.C, and is employed as a school psychologist. Before working in this capacity, Kathleen was a school counsellor and has also taught English, social studies and special education.

She is married and has two daughters.

Her post-secondary education was completed through the University of Victoria and she has a B.A. in Creative Writing and history and a Masters of Education in counselling.  Kathleen is currently on leave from a doctorate degree through Walden University in psychology.

This is Kathleen’s second children’s book. She has also been published in magazines including Highlights for Children, Northword, Easy Living, Teacher and Woman

Kathleen loves to visit classrooms and inspire children to follow their dreams. She delights in their stories and has helped them to create their own printed works.

As well as writing, Kathleen loves to run, hike, travel and read.

School Visits and Workshops

Kathleen is happy to provide presentations for any age group and is willing to do as many as four workshops in a day.

Kathleen’s presentations are described on her web site.Picture Book Helps Children Cope with Illness and Aging: Blowing Bubbles by Kathleen Cherry

Follow Kathleen Cherry:

Read Also:

Buy books by Kathleen Cherry:

  •  Picture Book Helps Children Cope with Illness and Aging: Blowing Bubbles Amazon.ca and Amazon.com

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.
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