FICTION

A Boy Called Bat

illus. by Charles Santoso. 208p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062445827.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3–6—Bixby Alexander Tam, or Bat, has autism. He has a high need for structure; anything out of the ordinary causes him anxiety. When his mother, a vet, is late coming home from work one day, Bat is panicked. His mother explains she has a good reason, and tells him about the baby skunk she has brought home. The mother skunk did not survive a car accident, but Bat's mom was able to save the kit, and they will raise him at home for a month until he is old enough to be released to a wild animal shelter. Bat, who wants to be a vet himself someday, is fascinated by the kit, named Thor by his sister. Feeling that no one will be able to care for Thor as well as he can, Bat tries to find a way to convince his mother to keep the kit as a pet. This tender novel starts out slowly, focusing on Bat's frequent frustration. Arnold shows more than tells, crafting a nuanced character. Readers learn that Bat goes to a school that values his uniqueness and works with him on interpersonal dynamics like developing an awareness of other people's feelings, empathy, and friendship. Midway through the book, the pacing picks up. Bat's relationships with his teacher and a vet at his mother's clinic are particularly enjoyable and add humor to the novel. Santoso's illustrations, appearing about once a chapter, add warmth. Short chapters and a straightforward plot make this a good candidate for reluctant readers.
VERDICT The challenges facedby kids like Bat are often underrepresented in children's literature; this is a refreshing depiction. Readers will appreciate this funny and thoughtful novel.

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