'A Kind of Spark' by Elle McNicoll is simply outstanding. It is an authentic and emotionally astute study in autism, written with a seeming simplicity that conveys so much heart, truth and understanding which is utterly remarkable. With its message of accepting and celebrating difference, this is a timely and important work of children's fiction - and one I cannot recommend enough! There are so many wonderful books out there but I think this is probably set to be my favourite book of 2020.
11-year-old Addie loves her thesaurus, loves reading about sharks and aces her maths tests. But when she discovers about the witch trials in her village, Addie is determined to commemorate them by campaigning for a memorial. Will she be able to let her voice be heard as an autistic child also treated differently and with suspicion in her school and community?
'A Kind of Spark' is the kind of book that should be read and discussed in many classrooms. Elle McNicoll's portrayal of an autistic girl is brilliantly realised - truthful and compassionate and full of empathy. As a teacher myself there are many events in this story which ring true. While many teachers are kind and nurturing and would never dare to act like the cruel Miss Murphy, there are still many misconceptions about autistic children, particularly in girls, which need challenging. It can go unnoticed as well. This book then expertly reminds us - as Addie says herself so well - to approach people with kindness first, and in doing so accepting and celebrating their differences. This is wonderfully dramatised by the contrasting attitudes shown towards Addie: the difference between Audrey's compassion and Emily's bullying, and between the librarian and Miss Murphy. Keedie, her fabulous autistic older sister, serves as a wise and strong counterpoint, a mentor, offering deeper insights for both Addie and us as a reader. Again the language is deceptively simple, conveying so much heart and wisdom that it feels like every word rings a bell of understanding - each word dazzling with a kind of spark.
By the end, with a confrontation with Miss Murphy and a rousing speech by Addie, I was welling with tears. There are few books which can open your eyes and melt your heart with such seeming simplicity, 'A Kind of Spark' is one of them. Elle McNicoll's debut is a little masterpiece, and one I'd like to see recognised by winning some awards. It deserves all the accolades.
I could champion this book all day. Go out and get yourself a copy and sing its praises too!