Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
The story of Andy and His Yellow Frisbee takes place on the school grounds where Rosie plays soccer as Andy spins his yellow frisbee around in a corner on the playground. It just so happens that the new girl Sarah who carries a large backpack has taken notice of Andy. From the very first sentence, "Andy was a real puzzle to Sarah." I get a sense that the author knows first hand the trials and tribulations of raising a child with autism, since the autism ribbon is known as a “puzzle”.
Mary Thompson is the author and botanical illustrator/artist as well as the parent to a child with disabilities along with three other children. Her other book is entitled, My Brother, Matthew. My review is available at the link to the right. My youngest son is a Matthew as well, so I had to read that book too.
I have read of autistic children having a fascination for spinning objects but yet to experience the fascination with either of my autistic children. Andy on the other hand spins his yellow frisbee daily at school with a flick of his fingers. Rosie explains how Andy can spin coins to make a flash of light and dinner plates without breaking them. Rosie knows Andy has a special talent but she also knows about autism as she explains throughout the pages of Andy and His Yellow Frisbee. "It seemed like Andy wanted to be in his own world just about all the time."
During recess each day while Rosie was playing soccer she would watch over at the hopscotch area where Andy was engrossed with his yellow frisbee. She was not pleased when Sarah started observing her brother and getting closer to him. All Rosie could think about while trying to focus on her soccer game was whether Sarah would invade Andy’s space and be able to understand his speech if he tried to talk to her. "it was as if his words were stuck somewhere inside him, and couldn’t get out."
Rosie worried whether Andy would scream and shut his eyes if he could not get the words out and when she noticed Sarah getting closer to Andy she kicked the ball far away and quickly ran to Andy, "just in case". Rosie is portrayed as a caring sibling wanting to protect her little brother from someone new. Before Rosie reached Andy she noticed Sarah removing a pink frisbee from her backpack in an attempt to make contact with Andy. Andy just continued to spin his frisbee around and around while Sarah asked him to show her how to do that. Sarah sat beside Andy on the playground simulating parallel play as she placed her frisbee next to his. Andy continued doing his thing but moved a bit away from Sarah while the other kids were throwing balls and playing on the monkey bars. "It seemed to Sarah that Andy and his yellow frisbee were a little island of quiet on the busy school yard." I felt this was an accurate description and very observant for Sarah to think that way.
The soft pastel illustrations play out the story line with the body positions of Andy and Sarah and the busyness of the other kids in the background. While sitting there during recess Sarah pondered what it was like being new at the school as she checked her teddy bear inside her backpack. Rosie had noticed the large backpack of Sarah’s when she first arrived at the school and was cautious, but it turns out this was to keep her favorite item with her for extra comfort. Sarah decided that Andy’s yellow frisbee could be a comfort item like hers.
When Sarah got up to leave Rosie arrived as Andy continued to spin his frisbee around and around. Rosie was surprised that Andy allowed Sarah so close to his space and hoped this meant another day he would show her how to spin a frisbee. Rosie noticed the soccer game had ended so stayed beside her brother when Sarah offered the pink frisbee as a way for the girls to play catch, as Andy continued to spin his yellow frisbee around.
The final page of Andy and His Yellow Frisbee describes autism in easy terms for children to grasp. "They may keep lining up toy cars, stacking blocks, or spinning toys and objects like Andy does." The children profiled appear to be between eight and ten years of age. This was an interesting spin on comparing how a new student at school feels to the child who prefers to be alone in their own world. Something about Andy and his daily routine in spinning the yellow frisbee caught the eye of the girl allowing her to open up and meet others because of this.
The relationship between the siblings shows the compassion and lengths Rosie goes to keep her brother safe and make sure his environment is comfortable so he can continue with his spinning. Instead of showcasing him as being different he almost seems carefree and not strange as other books have portrayed those with disabilities. I highly recommend Andy and His Yellow Frisbee to those within the special needs community, special education system and families and neighbors of those with various disabilities. This will open the lines of communication and get children to discuss their feelings and how they view those who are challenged.
Originally published on Epinions
Promoting Autism Awareness