The holiday season is just about here! Your child might have compiled a wish list for Santa, but why not throw in a last-minute surprise along with the expected gifts? What could be a better surprise for your child than a book? I have compiled a list of ten picture books that I hope will appeal to autistic children up to age eight. Some of these deal with being “different”, but most are just fun, silly, and entertaining.
- The Imagine a… series by Sarah L. Thomson, illustrated by Rob Gonsalvez
Imagine a Night, Imagine a Day, Imagine a Place, and Imagine a World are picture books with surreal illustrations by artist Rob Gonsalvez. If your child is the creative type, these books are a perfect feast for the eyes and an exercise for the imagination. On the cover of Imagine a World, for example, a brick path turns into a birds-eye-view of a city!
- Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
This story was written as an allegory for being transgender, but I decided to include it because some people have commented that it also works nicely as an allegory for being on the autism spectrum. A blue crayon is in a red wrapper, so all the other crayons assume that he’s red. But when Red tries to make red drawings, he continually fails. All the other crayons and art supplies accuse him of not trying and attempt to “fix” him. Will they learn to understand Red and appreciate him for his unique strengths?
- Neither by Airle Anderson
Once upon a time there was a land in which everyone was either a rabbit or a bird. Then another critter is born, who is part rabbit and part bird. The rabbits and birds call him “Neither” because he doesn’t fit in with any of them. Neither is too “rabbit” for the birds and too “bird” for the rabbits. Will Neither find a place that accepts him?
Neither is a wonderful story for kids who feel different. It provides hope of acceptance and belonging.
- Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis
Annie is a little girl who wears her favorite plaid shirt all the time. Her mother wants her to wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding, but Annie hates dresses. Annie’s mother is worried about what other people will think, but what about Annie’s comfort in her clothes?
I decided to include this book because many girls and women on the autism spectrum prefer traditionally masculine or more androgynous clothing than their neurotypical female peers. And many, like Annie, have a favorite article of clothing that is very important to them. With cute illustrations, this is a book that will entertain kids but also help parents understand their child.
- But No Elephants by Jerry Smath
In this silly classic story with colorful illustrations, hard-working Grandma Tildy is continually visited by a man selling exotic pets. She opens her home to a canary, a woodpecker, a beaver, and a turtle. Each time she agrees to buy a pet, she reminds the man that she will not buy an elephant. One day, the pet man abandons the elephant at Grandma Tildy’s house. Now what will she do? And can the elephant help make things better for everyone who already lives there?
- Don’t Fidget a Feather by Erica Silverman, illustrated by S. D. Schindler
In another silly– and beautifully illustrated– story, Duck and Gander constantly compete against each other in contests to see who is the true “champion of champions”. Finally, the two friends have a freeze-in-place contest, with the winner being the last to move. Both birds stand perfectly still even when annoyed by bees, bunnies, crows, and a gust of wind. But what will they do when a hungry fox shows up?
- Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire
This picture book tells the true story of Nelle Harper Lee, the author of the semi-autobiographical book, To Kill a Mockingbird. With gorgeous digitally-painted illustrations, Alabama Spitfire follows the childhood of a scrappy tomboy, a nonconformist who carves her own path in life and grows up to become one of the greatest writers of all time.
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
No childhood library is complete without this classic. The Giving Tree tells the story of a young boy who loves playing with a conscious, talking apple tree. As he grows up, he wants things from the tree– and the tree continually gives them to him. This book is good discussion material about friendships: Is the tree too generous? Is the boy taking advantage of the tree? What makes a good, healthy friendship?
- Blackout by John Rocco
One hot summer night, a little boy is irritated because everyone is too busy to play with him. But then there’s a blackout, and the entire city neighborhood comes together for an evening of fun without electricity. This book has spicy illustrations and very few words, encouraging your child to add their own ideas to the story.
- Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
If your child has a cat, then this book is perfect! Written entirely in Haiku, the story is told from the perspective of Won Ton the cat as he is adopted by a young boy and adjusts to his new home. The gorgeous graphite and gouache illustrations accompany the funny tale about a cat who makes sure his new owners know who’s boss– even if he’s never sure if he wants to stay inside or go out.