Saturday 15 May 2021


Paws, written by Kate Foster (Walker Books Australia) Paperback $13.99 ISBN 978 1 760652685

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Kate Foster is a literary agent and children’s author who writes about friends, family, and dogs. She originally hails from the south east of England and now lives on the sunny Gold Coast. What makes Paws special is the fact that it is based upon Kate’s own real-life experiences. You see, Kate’s family adopted a spoodle who bonded with her youngest autistic son. This special friendship comforted her son and helped him to feel safe and calm. Paws is an authentic read.

More than anything 11-year-old Alex wants a friend before he goes to high school. But it’s so confusing when you need to learn about human interaction and emotion, so Alex has devised a plan. He thinks that by winning a trophy at the PAWS dog show and representing his school in running, this will give him a friend. He is sure with his best friend Kevin, a cockapoo, by his side his plan can’t fail. But being autistic means Alex often feels alone and things don’t always go to plan. 

Kate Foster’s voice in Paws is genuine, believable and heartbreakingly honest as to what it is like to function in the world as a neurotypical person. I startle and scream, leaping up from the chair and running to the bedroom, my ears buzzing as the air whooshes past. This story is important for developing empathy and understanding about autism. You can feel the raw honesty. I particularly like how the reader learns not only what it feels like to be autistic but how it frustrates and confuses those closest to Alex, especially his mum and brother. We also learn about the important role a dog can play in providing comfort and friendship to humans. Kevin always seems to know when Alex needs doggy kisses as he can read his body language.  The part in the story about the dog show is captivating to read and leaves smiles all round. The ending is not only uplifting but shows how Alex has grown as a person and navigated the tricky world of friendship.

Paws  is a perfect read for Years 5-8. It captures a reader’s heart with its endearing characters, both human and furry. Making friends is often not as easy as it seems and being autistic can make it seem virtually impossible. This is an important book for any bookshelf that is well written and totally engaging.

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