a Kind of Spark: Being different doesn’t mean your voice doesn’t count by Elle McNicoll, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9780593374252
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Addie is an autistic fifth grader. Her new teacher treats her with an amount of malice and cruelty that is hard to fathom. Her best and main support is her older sister, Keedie, who is also autistic. She has been abandoned by her former friend Jenna. Jenna’s new friend bullies Addie hurtfully and relentlessly. The only one to stand up for her is her new friend Audrey. When the topic in school becomes the history of witches in her town of Juniper, Scotland, Addie reads all that she can find on the subject. The women who were murdered as witches disturbs her so much that she begins a campaign to have a plaque or memorial erected in their name. Audrey becomes a staunch ally both to Addie and to the campaign. Addie has not shared the attacks by the teacher and the students with her parents or Keedie’s twin sister, Nina. When they finally find out, the reader can finally calm down a little.
This is an excellent account of what life can be like for one who is autistic if she meets with foes like Addie did. A big plus is learning how Addie saw the world, what difficulties she had in speaking, in making eye contact, in defending herself – and in not doing school work the way other children might. This might make a good classroom read to help others understand and be more empathetic to the differences in other students. All characters present as white.
Anything you did not like about the book? The cruelty and abuse by the teacher are a little hard for me to accept. This same teacher treated Addie’s sister Keedie the same way but was never found out. I know both parents here are working but having a much younger child experience what an older one did does not ring true for me especially when they are actually good, caring parents who interceded for Addie when they did find out. This being said, the author herself identifies as a neurodivergent writer so it is possible she had very similar experiences to those of Addie.
To whom would you recommend this book? Kids who are on the autistic spectrum might identify with Addie and gain the courage to stand up for themselves while others can have a look into how different kids might be on the autistic syndrome, each having a unique way in viewing the world and reacting to it.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school libraries and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? J Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? In your pile if not near the top.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Contributor, Youth Services Book Review
Date of Review: December 5, 2021