Today, I was browsing Bookshare’s children’s book category. It used to be hard for me to browse books by category on the Bookshare website, because somehow my Internet browser would crash each time I tried. Today though, I succeeded. At first, books were automatically sorted by title and I didn’t know how to change the sort order. Eventually, I figured this out and sorted books by copyright date, because I like to read books that are relatively new. I found A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold on the first page, because the book was published in 2017 and the book title starts with a B according to Bookshare. Looking back, I must’ve come across this book a few times before when searching for the keyword “autism”. However, for whatever reason, I never decided to download, let alone read it. Now I did.
From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum.
For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.
But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.
I adored Bat from almost the very beginning. He sounds a bit spoiled at first, but in a very relatable kind of way for me as an autistic person. For example, in the first chapter, Bat berates his sister Janie for having eaten the last vanilla yogurt, because it’s all he likes. I can tell though that Bat is really kind-hearted. Janie on the other hand sounds like a bossy big sister. I could see some things in her that reminded me of my own sister when we were growing up. Though she is my younger sister, she also had some “big sister complex” due to interacting with me. In the end though, I got to like Janie too. In fact, there are no mean characters in this book. The only negative about the characters I found is that all except for Bat are pretty flat. You get to see Bat’s perspecitve only.
I liked the way the story progresses. I must say here that I hadn’t read the summary before downloading the book so only knew the book is about a little boy with autism. Normally, I badly want to know what a book is about, but this time, I liked not knowing. The book follows a pretty predictable story line, but still there are some cool surprises in it too. It truly is a heartfelt little read. I liked the fact that the chapters are short, so even though there are 26 chapters, I, a slow reader, could finish the book within an afternoon.
As for the portrayal of Bat as an autistic character, some things are no doubt stereotypical. In this light, it’s a positive that we get to follow Bat’s perspective only. There is absolutely no judgment of Bat’s oddness except sometimes from Janie. Then again, Bat thinks Janie is weird too. Don’t all siblings? I definitely related to many of Bat’s idiosyncrasies.
This is not an inspirational read or even much of an informaitonal book about autism. In fact, I did not see the word “autism” in the book. This is mostly just a book about a boy who cares a lot about animals and wants to keep the baby skunk his mother found, because they bond so well. Of course, it’s a stereotype that autistic people are tuned into animals. However, I didn’t get the idea from this book that it was the author’s intention to perpetuate this stereotype. Don”t most kids love animals, after all?
Rating: five stars.
Title: A Boy Called Bat
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (an imprint of HarperCollins)
Publication Date: March 2017