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Many of you will have heard of Dr Temple Grandin, a pioneer in animal science and a trailblazer in the autism community. She’s a prominent author and speaker and is probably the most famous autistic adult in the world.
You may have read one of her books on autism or watched her speak. You may have seen one of the viral videos featuring her thoughts on autism. You might have even seen the 2010 HBO biopic of her life, featuring Claire Danes.
The life of Temple Grandin is a fascinating one and it’s now the subject of a picture book for children. Written by Julie Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a truly engaging book for kids, both big and small.
It may be a book about someone on the autism spectrum but it’s not about autism. In fact, the word autism is only used once in the story. Instead, it’s a positive tale of valuing difference in all its forms. It reminds us all to believe in ourselves, regardless of what others might think and say. It breaks through gender stereotypes and encourages kids to follow their dreams, whatever the barriers.
In other words, it’s a great book to share with any child!
As a parent, the opening lines of the book reassured me this was going to be a must-share with my kids:
“If you’ve ever felt different, if you’ve ever been low,
if you don’t quite fit in, there’s a name you should know…”
It’s a classic tale of overcoming obstacles, accepting difference and finding your place in the world. The lilting, rhyming prose makes it an easy read and the distinctive illustrations take us into Temple’s unique mind.
It’s the perfect book to introduce the concept that everyone is different but no-one is less (taken from one of Temple’s most famous quotes, “I am different, not less.”) It’s a book promoting tolerance, understanding and compassion, important messages in these not so tolerant times.
For kids on the spectrum, it encourages them to follow their own interests, by recounting how Temple’s strengths and interests led her to a rewarding life and career in animal science. This is an important point for parents to note too!!!
The book also touches on Temple’s sensory challenges, her difficulties in managing her emotions and her loneliness, showing how these impacted on her early life. Most importantly, the story also recounts how Temple’s growing awareness of her needs and preferences helped her better manage these as an adult, with the first of her many inventions, the squeeze machine.
For parents, this is a book all about inclusion, acknowledging difference and self-acceptance. It’s a book for all ages, with extra information included at the end for older readers. There are fun facts and tidbits from the author’s chat with Temple; there’s a timeline of Temple’s life; and a more detailed personal history for parents and older kids, providing context beyond the picture book.
You can check out a preview of the book or watch this quick flip through video below:
As part of this review, I shared the book with my two girls – Matilda, 11 and Delilah, 7. I was keen to get their thoughts on the book, considering their varying ages and different neurology (Matilda is on the spectrum, while Delilah is not).
I asked Matilda to read it first. While she was initially taken aback that it was a picture book, she read it with interest, as well as the extra information at the end. She told me she also thought in pictures and it sparked a conversation about the different ways we think and feel, something we don’t always get the chance to talk about.
She also pointed out issues she found with the illustrations (sorry Daniel!), something only a detailed oriented person would pick up. Again, it provided me with a fascinating glimpse into Matilda’s thought processes and displayed her visual strengths.
With Delilah, I read through the picture book with her and we looked over the timeline of Temple’s life. She enjoyed the rhyming words and the pictures and thought the story was cool. I have to say I was proud of her outrage on Temple’s behalf at certain points in the book too!
When it came to the single mention of autism in the book, she wanted to know more and we were able to talk about autism and how it’s a part of our family. It was a natural and honest conversation, which allowed her to connect the dots when it came to the experiences of her siblings.
I really enjoyed sharing this book with my kids and I look forward to continuing to share it with them in the future. Whether your kids are aware of autism or not, this book is all about accepting difference, following your interests, loving yourself for who you are and not giving up. I think it’s the perfect book to share with our kids in this not so perfect time.
Video and image credits – The Innovation Press
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Temple Grandin (RRP USD $17.99) from Innovation Press for the purpose of this review. The views and opinions shared here are 100% my own (except for those of my daughters, obviously!)