Tuesday 30 November 2021

A Different Sort of Normal


A Different Sort of Normal, Abigail Balfe (Penguin Random House, UK)

Junior Non-Fiction $19.99 ISBN 978 0 241508794

 Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

 This is a book about Abigail Balfe’s journey growing up, feeling different and discovering she is autistic. Abigail is a London-based writer, illustrator and creative producer.

 Balfe has written an open and honest story. She always felt different but didn’t know why. There is a wealth of information not only about autism, but gender and sexuality that is easy to read and educational. The first five pages are a poem. The opening stanza reads This is for the Souls, who never quite fit, The odd ones out, The misfits -, Told to grow a thicker skin. Then the imprint page, title page and contents follow. The contents’ list the places we will visit and includes a comprehensive and educational glossary at the end.

 The book’s voice is like Balfe is sitting chatting with you. She writes as though  her mind jumps around, an autistic trait. The reader is asked questions and invited into dialogue that encourages self-reflection. Hopefully, through telling you my own growing up story, I can help you see why it’s actually pretty amazing to be a different sort of normal, whatever those five words mean to you.

 What really is normal? This made me think, that it’s much better to reflect on who you are and not what you are. We are all a mix of many different things. We learn Balfe is gay and that she identifies herself as a cisgender woman. But, a bit like an overwhelming (yet delicious) breakfast buffet, autism is open to everyone. She doesn’t hold back on topics and openly shares her truth. Knowledge is power and Balfe’s words help create love and understanding. I feel sensory overload as both a physical and an emotional thing. My veins get sore and itchy. My head feels swollen, dizzy and full. And my chest flutters like the family of moths I’ve been watching eat all the clothes in my wardrobe for the past five years.

Balfe’s illustrations support her words and highlight her personality and thoughts. She shares her love of cats, lists and humour. Borders on pages and little blurbs with info make the book seem a little like a diary. Drawings of herself as younger and older with speech bubbles show her thoughts in a fun and engaging way. Touches of colour throughout the book make it easy to read and the graphic design of the art really makes the book appealing.

 A Different Sort of Normal, is a book for 8-15 years that is beautifully written and illustrated. It is an important book, that’s funny and informative and one that the world needs now. We have all felt out of place at times and this book reaffirms how human and different we all are.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Buzz Words Books would love to hear what you think.