What to read after... A Kind of Spark
Published on: 16 August 2022 Author: Scott Evans, The Reader Teacher
If your children adore reading anything and everything by Elle McNicoll, find out which other books they might enjoy with The Reader Teacher Scott Evans' similar suggestions for fans of hers!
Elle McNicoll is a bestselling and award-winning author who is challenging and changing the literary landscape by bettering representations of neurodiversity in publishing. Celebrating difference through her authentic and compassionately-told books that are both unflinching and unapologetic, her debut, A Kind of Spark, won Best Story at the Blue Peter Book Awards and the overall Waterstones Children's Book Prize in 2021, whilst her subsequent stories Show Us Who You Are and Like A Charm have also positively put characters with autism, ADHD and dyspraxia into the spotlight to help neurodivergent readers to see themselves on the shelves.
For more stories with autistic characters written by autistic authors…
Though we still have a long way to go, we’re starting to see more autistic representation in children’s publishing, with books about autistic characters, and books written by autistic authors such as Can You See Me? co-authored by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott. A story of empathy and kindness that should be on every school’s curriculum, it follows Tally, an autistic eleven-year-old who is starting secondary school. Through moving diary entries which are based on Libby’s own experiences, it provides an authentic insight into life as an autistic person that makes its readers reconsider what being ‘normal’ actually means, and shows why autism is not a difference that one should shroud, but be proud of. Make sure to also check out others in the series: Do You Know Me?, Ways to Be Me and All the Pieces of Me.
Have you ever wondered how to fit in when you feel different to everyone else around you? Welcome to Frankie’s World by Aoife Dooley. Here, twelve-year-old Frankie knows she’s not like anyone else in her class but she can’t quite figure out why. Is it the fact that she’s small for her age, talks too much, says the wrong thing at the wrong time, or that she has to go to the hospital sometimes? Trying her best to blend in is proving difficult, and when she feels like her brain is broken and she’s from a different universe, she sets out with her best friend Sam on a mission to track down her absent father, who left when she was a baby. This two-colour graphic novel really shows the trials, tribulations and triumphs of truly understanding yourself, and is one that is perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks by Emily Kenny is a boarding school story with an autistic protagonist at its heart, and is also written by an autistic author. When Alice goes to boarding school, she struggles to make friends, that is until she discovers she is a Switcher: someone who can understand and talk to animals. After a rather strange encounter with a seagull on her first day, she’s left with a lot of questions. Why does the bird need her help? And WHY can she talk to seagulls? Alice is used to being by herself but she can't solve the mystery alone. With new friends behind her, can Alice harness her magic powers and become the hero she never imagined? Every reader will be wanting to talk to animals after this one. Also, it’s particularly enjoyable that Alice’s autism is shown as a strength in situations throughout the story.
Paws by Kate Foster stars eleven-year-old Alex for whom everything is changing and, as an autistic person, change can be super scary. With the first day of secondary school looming large on his mind, change is certain and Alex is sure that having a proper friend by his side will help him to navigate the choppy waters of change. So, he's come up with a plan of his own to impress the other kids by winning a trophy at the PAWS dog show with his beloved pet cockapoo, Kevin. But will Alex’s seemingly foolproof plan to make friends be as easy as he thinks?
For more scientifically-based stories…
Winner of the Children & Young People category at the Wales Book of the Year Award 2021, The Infinite by Patience Agbabi is a uniquely-told story about the time-travelling adventures of Elle, an autistic twelve year old who attends a school of time-travellers, and fights crime across time. This is because she is a Leapling, a child born on the 29th of February, and rarer still, she has The Gift, an ability to leap through time. She’s never had to use her special power, but on her twelfth birthday, that all changes when she’s called into action to travel to the year 2048 because she’s received a mysterious warning from the future. Can Elle fight to save the world as she knows it before it ceases to exist?
In Our Sister, Again by Sophie Cameron, Isla and her family are grieving the loss of her older sister, Flora, who died three years ago. Set on a small island off the Scottish coast, the family live in a town where everyone knows each other. So it’s a surprise when they’re offered the chance to be part of a top-secret trial, which revives loved ones as fully lifelike robots using artificial intelligence and their digital footprints. When their sister comes back as a returnee, she looks the same, sounds the same and pretty much is the same as Flora was. But not everyone on their island feels the same. And as threats to Flora worsen, she becomes more secretive in her software and hardware. Can Isla protect the new Flora or will she lose her sister again? This is definitely one for fans of Elle McNicoll with its similarities to Show Us Who You Are.
The incredibly thought-provoking story of Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum is another one thatasks important questions about artificial intelligence, friendship and what makes us human. Main character Sarah is often left on her own with increasingly busy parents and a best friend who’s struggling with her family separating, so Sarah’s mother fills the gap with the purchase of a robot for her daughter. But little does she know that Ivy the robot can actually feel and think for herself, and it’s not long before Ivy’s mind is battling the matter that her maker has given her. As Sarah and Ivy grow closer, will the consequences be dangerous or even deadly?
For neurodiverse non-fiction…
A Different Sort of Normal by Abigail Balfe speaks so much to me.Being neurodivergent, I’ve always felt difficulty in describing my ways of thinking, being and doing, and this book has helped me to learn more about myself and to look at my life in a different way, and I know it will do the same for so many others who feel similarly. Bursting with life through the sketches and speech bubbles of Abigail who spent most of her life not knowing she was autistic, and who was diagnosed at the age of thirty-three, she describes how she views the world, explains things she finds confusing or challenging, and shares strategies she has developed to help deal with stressful situations. This makes it an essential book for autistic and allistic (non-autistic) readers of all ages, including adults.
Meet thirty-four artists, thinkers, athletes and activists with disabilities, from past and present in I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Baldo. Meanwhile, Just Like Me by Louise Gooding, Angel Chang, Caterina Delli Carri, Cathy Hookey and Melissa Iwai contains biographies of forty neurologically and physically diverse people who have broken down barriers and achieved accomplishments nationally and internationally. Every double-page spread includes each individual’s struggles and successes, a motivational quote, information and illustrations. Both books include biographies that cover a wide range of different conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, progeria, leukaemia, alopecia, Down’s Syndrome and chronic illness, and more.
Drawing on her own lived experiences as someone with achondroplasia, Break the Mould by Sinéad Burke, and illustrated by Natalie Byrne, is an empowering book for readers to show comfortableness in their own skin, to understand the power in being different, and is a call to action to help them to not only find their place in the world but to use their voices to make it a kinder, more compassionate place.
Lastly is Wild Child: A Journey Through Nature by award-winning teenage autistic author, activist and conservationist Dara McAnulty and Barry Falls, a glorious family friendly guide to encourage us all to get outside and explore and enjoy the natural world. Beginning in Dara’s very own back garden, it takes us on a tour of his hills, woods and ponds, pointing out his favourite animals, flora and fauna, as well as providing expert explanations about migration, metamorphosis and classification. Finishing each chapter with advice and instructions about how to follow the countryside code when out and about, this book is a real love song to our world and how we can love it whilst living in it.
You've heard our suggestions – now we'd love you to tell us yours! Do you know the perfect book for a fan of the stories written by Elle McNicoll?
We'd love to hear which books you've enjoyed after reading Elle McNicoll’s! Let us know by tweeting us @BookTrust, with the hashtag #WhatToReadAfter!
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Scott Evans is a primary school teacher, reading for pleasure adviser, and children’s books consultant, content creator, critic & influencer. He reads, reviews & recommends a range of children's literature on his website and YouTube channel, both called The Reader Teacher. You can follow him @MrEPrimary on Twitter. He also hosts #PrimarySchoolBookClub - a monthly Twitter-based children's book club, chat & vote.