Welcome to Picture Books for All

Children of all abilities should see themselves in the books they read. That's what makes reading fun. There are many picture books that include characters with disabilities; some are excellent in terms of their portrayal of these characters, some are pretty good, and some miss the mark. This blog features these picture books and evaluates them based on standards for quality in children's books that portray characters with disabilities. For more information, see the first post entitled "Welcome to Picture Books for All." (Click here) Welcome to Picture Books For All

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book #19 Anthony Best, A Picture Book about Asperger's

After reading this story, I was struck by how difficult it must be to write a realistic story about a character with an autism spectrum disorder while maintaining the standards for good literature that portray characters with disabilities. Authors want to show their characters’ true personalities and interactions, which in autism are often marked by what most people consider “weird,” “strange,” or “inappropriate” behaviors. Sometimes these characters are based on real children who have minimal positive interactions with their peers. It is clearly not easy for an author to find the right balance between portraying reality and portraying positive attributes such as “strength, independence, and similarity to peers.” This story emphasizes the reality of a child with Asperger's Syndrome who has a lot of trouble interacting with his peers. While some of the standards for good literature are not met or only partially met, there is something to be said for presenting a character realistically even if that reality does not include overwhelmingly positive attributes. This story would be a valuable addition to libraries because it promotes acceptance and tolerance despite a difficult reality.
Related Information
Anthony Best (A Picture Book about Asperger’s)
Davene Fahy
Carol Inouye
Sky Pony Press
Year of Pub:
ISBN:     (ISBN-13)
Age range
Type of Disability
Fiction or Nonfiction
Category:  B

A) books that provide factual information about a disability

B) books that provide information about a disability in a story format in which the character with a disability is integral to the plot

C) books that provide stories that have a character with a disability who may or may not be integral to the storyline and who has been added to the story to achieve diversity and reflect reality

D) books that include a main character with a disability but whose focus is not necessarily the disability

Annotation:  Anthony behaves differently from other kids. Hannah notices that Anthony gets upset easily, does not like nicknames, flaps his hands, and does not laugh at jokes. But something about him makes her want to play with him and be his friend. At the end, Hannah discovers Anthony has a hidden talent when she hears beautiful music coming from his home.

There is an information page about autism spectrum disorders at the end of the book. On this page it is stated that children with autism spectrum disorders “occasionally have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most children."
Link to publisher:
Links to professional reviews:
No professional reviews yet
If you know of an award this book has received, please let me know.

Standards for Quality Portrayal of Characters with a disability
1. Promotes empathy not pity
2. Promotes acceptance, not ridicule
Hannah explains why Anthony behaves the way he does.
3. Emphasizes success rather than, or in addition to failure
Anthony has a special ability—he is a talented pianist.
4. Promotes positive images of persons with disabilities or illness
Yes and no
Anthony’s strange behaviors are stated clearly, yet he is portrayed as positive in the end due to his musical talent.
5. Assists children in gaining accurate understanding of the disability or illness
6. Demonstrates respect for persons with disabilities or illness
7. Promotes attitude of “one of us” not “one of them.”
Not really
Anthony is portrayed as quite isolated in this story.
8. Uses people-first language
9. Describes the disability or person with disabilities or illness as realistic (not subhuman or superhuman)
10. Depicts people with disabilities as more similar to than different from other people
Anthony’s strange behaviors are the ones highlighted, not those that depict his similarity to other children his age.
11. Shows peoples’ strengths and abilities along with their disabilities
In the end
12. Represents characters as strong, independent people who others can admire or learn from
Not necessarily strong or independent, but definitely admirable in the end
13. Represents people with disabilities from different racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations
Main character is white.
14. Shows people with disabilities in integrated settings and activities
There is one scene that takes place in the sandbox, but Anthony is shown throwing sand at the other children rather than playing with them.
15. Shows people with disabilities in valued occupations and diverse roles.
16. Shows people with disabilities in reciprocal relationships
Not really
Though Hannah is interested in Anthony and wants to be his friend, no reciprocation is shown on Anthony’s part.
17. Main character develops and grows emotionally as a result of what happens in the story
Not clear
The story does not convey Anthony’s development or emotional growth, though it does show Anthony’s talent.

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