Book Review

Children's Book on ASD: Anthony Best

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At last. Here's a book that is a wonderful combination of entertainment and information, resulting in a great book for your kids.

Anthony Best, written by Davene Fahy, MA, CCC-SLP, and illustrated by Carol Inouye, is dedicated to "all the Anthonys I have known." The general lesson is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and this is what makes us unique. The character Anthony Best exemplifies this because he is a child on the autism spectrum who plays wonderful piano music. The story is told through a neighborhood friend who, in the process of describing Anthony, describes the characteristic traits of someone on the spectrum.

The children I know who "field tested" this book responded that they liked the story and the illustrations. One 8-year old said it would be "good to read in school, especially if there's someone like that in the class." Other students reported "the pictures were very good," "I learned something new," and "It had a good ending." Some children were fascinated with the joke page, where Anthony does not understand a knock-knock joke. Since these students are just learning to understand jokes themselves, this was an interesting concept for them.

Were there critical comments from the children? Yes. Two students told me they thought it could be a little longer! Of course, these were "older" students who were 7 or 8 years old. One student told me he wanted to know more about kids like Anthony and how to make friends with them.

The text and illustrations are clear, interesting and thought provoking. The ending serves as a launching pad to begin discussions about differences in people in general, and those with Asperger's syndrome and autism in particular. A seasoned educator who read the book loved it, and said it was a clear and simple way to discuss autism with children. A book such as this, she told me, "opens doors for conversation" about the subject.

Anthony Best, by Limerock Books, is an obvious choice for a classroom theme on learning styles, but would also be a great bedtime read. The author wisely added an appendix with a description of the syndrome as well as informational websites. Reading this book has raised my interest in the two other books Fahy has written, and has me looking forward to the one she may be writing now.

Dora Campbell is a speech-language pathologist at Learning Solutions for Learning Success in Northampton, MA, and maintains a private practice.

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