Fuse 8 n’ Kate: My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson & Ryan Elizabeth Peete, ill. Shane W. Evans
I can say with complete confidence that this was the first picture book about a Black kid on the autism spectrum I had ever seen when the book was first published in 2010. Recently Kate saw a list from Black Education Matters listing several books that featured Black children with disabilities and she asked if any were possible for our podcast. And lo and behold, My Brother Charlie is ten years old this year. That’s ten years younger than we usually permit for a podcast, but when the topic is as important as this, we make exceptions to the rules.
This is something that has always kind of baffled me. There is an insistence that for a character to be female, they must sport eyelashes. Boys cannot have any. To give a boy eyelashes in a book is to project that he is female. I have never ascribed any validity to this belief, but there you go. Another example:
We are entranced with the dog in this book. Harriet is her name. We want to see a Harriet vs. Clifford dog-off. Who will win?
If anything dates this book, it may be this inclusion of The Big Yellow Book. Kate actually had to explain to me what it was.
We are offering a number of extra points for not making the doctor in this book an old white man.
Not sure what’s going on with this one. Is Charlie mere moments from falling and the other kids are trying to catch him?
As a puzzle lover, Kate is just floored by the sheer levels of difficulty going on with this.
To my mind this is a particularly well worded part of the book.
Harriet’s eyes, man. You could get lost in those eyes.
If you have a chance, please consider reading the AERA (American Educational Research Association) April-June 2017 edition article Understanding the Puzzle Behind the Pictures: A Content Analysis of Children’s Picture Books About Autism. The article is a good encapsulation of some of the issues with this particular book.
I mentioned A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey, which is a more contemporary picture book of an ASD kid who isn’t white that is worth looking at.
Now as I mentioned on the show, I thought it might be a good idea to include a video of the authors talking about this book. What I did not expect to encounter in literally the first second was a quote from a man who makes it INFINITELY clear that 2010 was not 10 years ago. It was 10 million years ago. See what I mean:
If you would like to read the full text of Stephanie Lucianovic’s Zoom of the Flies tweets, you can find them here, including the coda.
Here is Yes, I’m Hot in This by Huda Fahmy which I may have to buy for myself now. I did buy it (and its sequel That Can Be Arranged) for my library and they have both proved VERY popular.
Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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