Tag Archive for Children’s Books with Aspergers

Fan Mail Wednesday #96

Dear Mr. Preller,
My son bought your Along Came Spider book at the school bookfair. At first I thought he chose it for the cover art, but he assured me he had read the back and the story sounded appealing. As a habit I try to read the books my children select. My son is just nearly on the autism spectrum -- so again, as a habit I try  to read books my children are interested in when I am unfamiliar with the  story.  First, I read it in one sitting and it nearly made me weep . . . as a  parent of a "Trey" and as a parent volunteer in our elementary school.  I  felt the story was just so well thought out and really hit the areas that a lot  of 9-11 year old boys have trouble with.  (Forgive me only having boys I'm  not sure how parents with daughters would feel.) I have recommended your book to  our school principal and will be talking to the school social worker about the  possibility of using it for a directed reading 'book club' for small group  instruction and Social Development curriculum.

Do you have discussion points available for your books if they were to be used as a book club book? Perhaps, one that you have already completed you could maybe email? I would like to lend our copy to the school social worker with some suggested book club discussion points. Our school also has an active social development committee and with all that goes on in the world of kids to navigate through books like Along Came Spider might be a helpful way to engage them in some dialogue both with their peers and their own feelings through self-dialogue as part of this curriculum.
I look forward to reading more of your materials.
Thanks again so much for taking the time to get back to me.

I replied:


Thanks for your note. Your approval really means a lot, coming from someone with your personal experience.

Spider was named 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing by the New York Public Library Association in 2008. I wrote a follow-up book, Justin Fisher Declares War!, that can be considered a very loose sequel. It takes place in the same school, Spiro Agnew Elementary, and some characters recur in minor roles (Trey, Spider, Ms. Lobel), though the emphasis is on several new characters in a different fifth-grade classroom. In addition, my book Bystander, set in a middle school environment, also focuses on similar issues of exclusion, bullying, and tolerance.

I am impressed by your commitment to social development in the school. Obviously, it’s essential to build a community of learners, with tolerance and respect as cornerstones to every classroom. I’ve heard from teachers who have used Spider as a read-aloud, for the reasons you pointed out: it can serve as a good conversation-starter.

It’s interesting that you asked about discussion points. Nothing like that has been formalized. However, I recently set up a Skype account and I’m interested in exploring those possibilities. If you’d be willing to work with a complete novice, we could arrange for a free 15-minute question-and-answer chat where we can talk about the talk. Obviously, we’d need to work out some details. Author Skyping has become all the rage lately, and I’ve been looking for a way that works for me. Generally, authors charge a fee ($100-$200), request that books are offered for sale, and that the gathered group is prepared with thoughtful questions.

What do you think?

You would be my guinnea pig!


An early, rejected version of the cover,

which I still much prefer.

POSTSCRIPT: Lianne, and other curious readers, might be interested in this book, by Kathryn Erskine. Though Aspergers is much more likely to occur in boys, this book looks at it from a girl’s point of view. I own it, but haven’t tackled it yet. It’s on the stack, or the pile, or the list, and I’m sure that all readers can relate.

Fan Mail Wednesday #30

I’ve thought about whether I should pick this one or not, because it’s sort of grossly self-aggrandizing, but isn’t that what Jamespreller.com is all about? Hopefully my reply might be helpful to somebody out there. Note: As always, I’ve removed any names that would identify the writer or, in this case, her son.

Dear Mr. Preller,

I wish I could find the words to thank you for your newest book Along Came Spider.  My son, who is in the fifth grade, has been recently diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.  I’ve always known that he’s struggled with the whole playground rules and pecking order but after reading your book, I’ve gotten an even better understanding.  My heart breaks to see how his classmates talk to and treat him.  I’m coming to understand that it probably hurts and upsets me more than it does him.  He says he knows he weird and different from everyone else and while he’d like to fit in he’s also come to accept the fact that he won’t.  As a parent, that’s hard to hear.  I suppose I need to come to accept what my son has already accepted.  I’d like to think there are teachers and educators in the school systems similar to your characters who have these children in their eyesight and are willing to go the extra mile for them without a parent having to fight for it or for being afraid of administration.  We all have a part of us that likes to believe that everyone is there for the greater good.  I’m finding I have to fight tooth and nail for administration to see the need for special services.  Something as simple as your characters allowing Trey to have a special quiet place to escape to would be wonderful for my son.  Unfortunately, I am required to prove that he needs something as little as that and that means paying for private psychological testing, private OT assessment and therapy, and psychiatric consultations.  Short of the psychiatric consultations, the school system should have provided me with the other two but they refused.  I wish your book would be a “mandatory” reading for anyone in an educational setting. Instead of frowning upon, criticizing and singling a child out for their oddities, perhaps they would see the wonderful traits and characteristics children like Trey and my son possess.  Thank you once again for this incredible book.


I replied:


Thank you for sharing that remarkable letter. I am truly touched. As much as this book touches upon Aspergers, it is also, I hope, relevant to any child who might be something of an outcast in school. As the trend continues to move toward inclusive classrooms, it’s so important for everyone to become more alert to these issues.

I profoundly recall when my oldest son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with leukemia at two years old. Suddenly we were thrown into a world that was confusing, frightening, overwhelming. We had to become instant experts. We would be called upon to be “strong” in ways we weren’t sure we were capable of. One great solace through all that was the slow realization that we were not alone. There were communities available, support groups, information. I mean to say: There’s help out there. And you are stronger than you think.

Here’s a few links that might be useful:

* Children’s Disabilities Information — featuring an annotated list of support groups for children with autism/Aspergers/PDD.

* The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide by Dave Angel.

* O.A.S.I.S. — Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support.

* A Directory for Asperger Syndrome — support groups and organizations.

Jana, the very fact that you read Along Came Spider tells me  you are already well on your way in finding the resources you need. For books, I’ve found the life and work of Temple Grandin . . .

to be particularly . . . insightful and inspirational.

Another book that really got me thinking is called Elijah’s Cup by Valerie Paradiz. Subtitled, “A Family’s Journey into the Community and Culture of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome,” it is a mother’s story, and she happens to be an incredibly gifted writer — insightful and honest.

Highly recommended. There’s so much great information out there, so many amazing books.

Good luck, my best to you and your son. Remember, you are not alone — and there’s a bright future ahead.

James Preller