Monday, April 10, 2017

A Boy Called Bat, by Elana Arnold -- friendship & bonding with a pet (ages 6-10)

Our students have been eagerly reading A Boy Called Bat, drawn in by the adorable cover. Many students relate to the bond that Bat feels for the baby skunk, but it is about much more.

I love how this quiet book shows how a pet can help children form relationships, take responsibility and feel a sense of empathy. Even more so, I love how it shares the story of an autistic boy whose neurodiversity is just part of who he is.
A Boy Called Bat
by Elana K. Arnold
illustrated by Charles Santoso
Walden Pond Press, 2017
preview book through Overdrive
Educator's guide
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Third-grader Bat got his nickname because it's his initials; his full name is Bixby Alexander Tam. Like his namesake, Bat has super-sensitive hearing. Also, he sometimes flaps his hands when he's nervous or excited. Adult readers may recognize that Bat is on the autism spectrum, but this is not labeled--rather, just part of his character.

Bat knows more than anyone in his class about animals. He loves reading his animal encyclopedia and wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up, just like his mom. He is observant and notices a lot of details. He is great at a lot of things, but Bat is not great at making friends.

When his mom brings home a newborn skunk, Bat immediately connects to the kit and eagerly takes care of it. Soon, he's determined to prove that he's responsible enough to keep it as a pet.
"A nose peeked out--a tiny pink nose--and then two slanted-closed eyes, a forehead covered in downy fuzz, little ears still curled tight against its head.... 'It's a kit,' Bat said, enchanted by the tiny creature, wanting so badly to hold it. 'A baby skunk.'"
Bat struggles at home, especially with his parents divorce. The disruption in his routine when he has to spend the weekend at his dad's is very hard for Bat, especially being away from his new pet. And he struggles making friends at school. Elana Arnold develops his character in a sensitive, thoughtful way--helping readers see the nuances without labels or stereotypes.

A Boy Called Bat would make a terrific read-aloud at home or school. It would lead to some heart-felt conversations about how people react to things differently. An excellent educator's guide is available to download for free. Elizabeth Bartmess, a writer and autistic advocate, reviewed this guide. I especially like the way it helps readers think about Bat's character.
from the educator's guide for A Boy Called Bat
I have already purchased several copies as gifts for friends. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Walden Pond Press / HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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