Talking to Angels

Esther Watson, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-201077-5
Billed as a tribute to Watson's autistic sister, this debut work is unlikely to strike a chord with young readers. Its minimal text consists of a dozen or so statements about the narrator's sister Christa: ""When she puts her hands on my cheeks and looks in my eyes, I repeat every word she says. That makes her laugh. She hears what I say, only she answers back in her head. She doesn't speak to me out loud."" Christa, whom the narrator hears ""softly talking to angels,"" is meant to seem very special, and only on the penultimate spread is the term ""autistic"" introduced (it is never defined). The art, however, suggests a more disturbing story. Disembodied heads float on abstract backgrounds. Eyes are ringed with huge spiky eyelashes; a nose appears where an ear might be; tears leave tracks like snails. The artist simulates the unformed draftsmanship of a child, but her work doesn't show much appreciation of children's sensibilities. While Watson may hope to teach respect for people who are ""different,"" neither the text nor the pictures give kids the information or insight they need to build understanding. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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