These questions are answered to the best ability of the reader, so the quality remains subjective. However, it is an ideal method for parents who want to ensure that their children are exposed to books that they, as parents, perceive to be appropriate for their children. In order to determine how children’s literature has developed in terms of disability representation, in particular for children with autism, I have analyzed and determined the quality of the following four texts by adopting Blaska’s criteria for each of these texts.
Janine. Janine. s the story of a girl, who is “One of a kind”, who does things differently than her peers and follows a storyline of acceptance from her classmates (Cocca-Leffler). The story never explicitly states the story is about autism, but Janine has similar characteristics, and the author has stated that the character does have a form of ASD. Janine has a less severe form, and is therefore able to be in the same class as the “normal” students and promotes inclusion of Janine, though the things that identify her autism are evident and create separation between the students.
She has different actions and reactions, like talking to an imaginary friend, her excellent memory, and preferring to spend time alone, as demonstrated by the illustrations (CoccaLeffler). However, these are each portrayed as positive traits to have, because Janine is proud of these things and happy with who she is as depicted by her smiles, thus promoting positive self-esteem for children (Cocca-Leffler). While it does not describe the disability, the portrayals are accurate and realistic.
The ASD Janine has is not made into a caricature, nor made out to be focus of Janine as a character. The illustrations also show Janine’s peers behind her making fun of her, whispering to each other, while laughing and pointing. Janine also looks different, her clothes are mismatched, and her hair is in disarray compared to the other children in the images. The story comes to a head when Janine wants to be invited to a party, but the ‘popular’ girl states that it is only for “cool” kids, and is adamant that Janine does not meet this requirement (Cocca-Leffler).
Janine is certain, however, that she is a cool kid, because she uses big words, and her friends include children with glasses and one in a wheelchair. As a result of her concluding that the differences she has makes her cool, the other children decide that they would like to go to a party with Janine, rather than the popular girl’s party. The story ends with the acceptance of Janine into the “normal” children group, though the ‘popular’ girl still refuses. When her peers accept Janine, it emphasizes the acceptance of the outsider if said person is true to him or herself.
When it comes to Blaska’s criteria, Janine. meets majority of the list: it promotes empathy, depicts acceptance not only of self but from peers as well, and it emphasizes success. Yet, part of Blaska’s notes is that is it will help a child understand the disability, and while the disability doesn’t have to be the center of focus, in Janine. it would be hard for a child to understand the implications of Janine’s actions and reactions, as well as why she is the way she is. Janine. lso ignores the difficulties children have because of their disability, the story makes it seem easy and that there are no hardships when it comes to disability. Ignoring hardships is not realistic, because no matter how adapted someone is, there will be difficulties, and to ignore those is denying they exist. It would be an important piece of the puzzle to have an educated adult reading this book with a child, in order to explain why Janine acts a certain way and why the book is relevant for them to read and understand. My Brother Daniel
In My Brother Daniel by Jenny Berger, the story is told from the point of view of the younger brother, who is telling the story of his brother, Daniel who has autism. Daniel, unlike Janine, has a more sever form of ASD. The narrator takes time to describe Daniel: he cannot speak, but he makes sounds, he doesn’t like bright lights or loud sounds (Berger). The story is all about pointing out the differences between the narrator and the brother, which emphasizes the distinction between what would be considered typical, and what would be considered abnormal.
At the beginning of the text, the narrator states the things he can do: “I can DRESS myself and poo in the toilet… and play with TOYS… ” (Berger 4). The use of capital letters with words like “DRESS” and “TOYS” insinuates that what he can do is the right and normal, but what Daniel can do is not. When the author uses capital letters involving Daniel, they typically describe what the narrator is doing with his brother: “I have to look EVERYWHERE because he doesn’t come when I call” (Berger 14).
This seems to promote empathy for the brother, not necessarily for Daniel. Yet, at the end of the story they do love one another, and the narrator states that: “But I also know that Didi [Daniel] is happy to see me and would miss us if we weren’t around. And I would miss him too” (Berger 28-29). The narrator accepts his brother for all of his eccentricities, and therefore the book would be a great assistance in helping children and families understand their autistic siblings.
In My Brother Daniel, ASD defines who Daniel is. Though the word “autism” is never mentioned on the page, Daniel is his disability. The narrator explains the different things that Daniel can do like “He eats crazy stuff like soap and leaves and toilet paper” (Berger 16). The book, as well as the illustrations, are accurate demonstrations of a child with a more acute form of autism, i. e. Daniel doesn’t speak, doesn’t like the feel of fabric, and doesn’t like loud noises or bright colors (Berger).
The illustrations depict Daniel refusing clothing, and attempts to get into his mindset by showing images of what thoughts may be going through his head as he does activities that he enjoys, like looking at dust in sunlight (Berger 13). However, the overall thoughts of My Brother Daniel is against Blaska’s criteria that there is a “one of us” mentality over “one of them”. Yes, Daniel is a part of the family and they love him, but he is depicted as separate from his brother. They love each other, and have a few similarities, but instead the text is more inclined to point out the differences.
If a child with ASD were to look at this book, it would promote the idea of separation, because of the dissimilarities, instead of perhaps the intended message of loving someone because of his or her differences. The book is less effective because it could have made a bigger impact if the author had decided to show more of the relationship between the narrator and Daniel: how they came together to play a game they could both enjoy, or how Daniel helped his brother, or vice versa, instead of sticking to how the two boys are different.