This week is World Autism Awareness Week, so is the ideal time to share with you a brilliant new picture book from Scallywag Press. ‘Talking is Not My Thing!’ by Rose Robbins tells her story from the perspective of a non-verbal autistic sister who has found other ways to communicate with her sibling, based on Rose’s own experiences growing up – which you can read more about in her special blog piece below.
This wonderful picture book takes the reader on a journey through a little girl’s day. She likes reading stories, drawing, playing with her cuddly bunny. The only way her day is different to lots of other people’s is that she sometimes things are too noisy and she wishes she could turn her ears off, and that she has to to find different ways to communicate with her family because when she tries to use her voice, the words don’t come out right.
Cleverly told through a mixture of thought and speech bubbles, the complexities of the little girl’s day are framed in such a positive and upbeat way. I love the fact that many alternative communication methods besides talking are featured in a way that I’ve not seen in a picture book before. The bright, sunshiny artwork adds to the happy mood and humour of the story.
I think that this is an absolutely vital read for any family or child for whom this is the norm. It’s so empowering to see yourself and your world reflected back to you in the books you’re sharing. This would be ideal for anyone aged 4+
It’s now time to hear from the author and illustrator, Rose Robbins, about growing up with a disabled sibling:
Growing up with a Disabled Sibling by Rose
I cannot recall the moment I realised that my brother and I were not like other siblings, although I did find it strange that he never spoke,and that we didn’t go to the same nursery or schools. I was always hopefully waiting for his first words, occasionally trying to egg him on with subtle suggestions such as “come on, just talk!”. Our household was dominated by the needs of my brother, and we were always on hyper alert to his movements and fluctuating moods. My parents were my brother’s full-time carers, with breaks occasionally provided by paid helpers. If it was too quiet, something was wrong, if it was too noisy, it was possible that there would soon be a meltdown. At the time, I did not find it strange at all, the chaos was my normality.
Of course, it was not all stress and disaster, I would occasionally snatch joyous moments with my brother, dancing to Queen in his bedroom, or reading books. Nowadays, I am able to visit my brother in his own supported accommodation, where he is cared for by a team of incredible staff (none of whom are paid enough for the vital role they play in his life). I can sit with him and play with jigsaw puzzles, while listening, of course, to Queen.
My brother and I have always loved picture books, even now that we are approaching our 30s! I have even started to make my own. With my first children’s book (for Scallywag Press) “Me and My Sister” I decided to write a book that was directly inspired by my childhood experiences. In the book I take a look at the relationship between the two siblings, what they have in common, and what they don’t. What do they do to bridge the gap? Is it effective? Is there anything that cannot be reconciled? There are helpful tips for embracing difference, and finding practical compromise (for example, Hi-Five instead of a Hug). At the end of the book, the message reads “we love each other just the same”. This is a message to young siblings, that their connection is true even if it is expressed in a “different” or “unusual” way, your sister may not make eye contact, but that doesn’t mean she loves you any less. If my brother has taught me anything, it is that true affection, no matter how fleeting, should always be treasured.
There is now a second book in the series – “Talking is Not My Thing!” in which I tell a similar story but from the perspective of the sister. As the sister does not speak, her words are expressed in visible thought bubbles, an ability I would have loved my brother to have! Nowadays I don’t see the need, as long as he is happy and healthy, he can keep his secrets.
What a beautiful testament to the adaptability and unconditional love of siblings. Thank you so much for sharing those insights with us, Rose.
*Many thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this title to review*