Andy and His Yellow Frisbee
by Mary Thompson

Mary Thompson's Andy and His Yellow Frisbee

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

A picture book about autism

Three cheers for thinking!

Maybe it's just me, but I have trouble getting truly upset at a child who happens to be staring at someone who looks different or acts oddly.

Staring is studying. Isn't it better that a child actively think about another person, rather than simply dismiss that person?

(Which is what I fear we're telling them to do when we hiss, "Stop staring!")

I'm in favor of children trying to understand. Isn't wondering what it would be like to be someone else called empathy? And what are we trying to teach our kids by exposing them to fiction if not to imagine themselves as another person entirely?

So, like I said, three cheers for thinking. And another three for Andy and His Yellow Frisbee.

Trying to understand an autistic boy's thoughts

Andy was a real puzzle to Sarah.
Sarah had noticed him her first day at her new school.

Andy spends all his recess time squatting over a yellow frisbee, which he spins incessantly. It's what he does. He has autism. No one knows why he does it. But that doesn't keep a curious mind from wondering.

Sarah wonders. She's the new kid in school, and therefore feeling like something of an outsider. She finds herself drawn to Andy, who seems like the ultimate outsider.

Sarah's approaches toward Andy are noted by Andy's sister, Rosie. Rosie worries Andy could react badly, but Sarah actually has a nice touch.

She isn't able to engage Andy, but she does manage to get closer than most, and her offer of a pink frisbee isn't rejected outright - a sign that perhaps, in the future, Andy might actually interact with her.

At least that's what Rosie thinks...and hopes. And so this selfless gesture by the new girl becomes the basis for, possibly, a friendship with Andy's sister. A good deed rewarded.

Andy studies his frisbee

Andy and His Yellow Frisbee
summary and review

The book is somewhat unusual in that it gives us two viewpoint characters instead of the usual one. The reader is privy to both Sarah's and Rosie's thoughts, making up for the fact that Andy's are so unknowable.

It's a nice touch.

The last page of the book attempts to answer the question, "What is Autism?" However, with all of the research going on in the field currently, some of the information may seem a little stale to those in the know.

(The book was published in 1996. If you're looking for more up to the minute information, make a stop at The Autism Society of America.)

For encouraging a thoughtful approach to someone with autism - or anyone "different" for that matter - Andy and His Yellow Frisbee gets my recommendation.

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