A young autistic girl overcomes her fear of getting up on stage to sing in the children’s picture book Bold & Brave.
Lily is supposed to sing a solo in her school’s choir show. But she’s autistic, and the sights, sounds, and sensations of the world sometimes overwhelm her. Wearing her red polka dot shirt makes her feel brave, but she can’t wear it for the show, so her parents present her with polka dot socks instead. Between bouts of nerves, her mind wanders, and she thinks of packs of yaks and parades of elephants. When it’s time for her solo, bad feelings creep in again, until Lily sees her parents in the audience, with polka dot socks on their hands. Reassured, Lily sings with a big smile.
An author’s note reveals that author K.A. Cummins is autistic herself, and her first-hand experience helps Lily’s story ring true. From the way Lily rubs the soft fabric of the socks before unfolding them, to how loud, harsh sounds disturb her and the explorations of her unfettered imagination, Lily’s story will be relatable to autistic children, but perhaps more importantly, will allow non-autistic people to understand, in part, what living with autism is like.
The book is written simply and effectively, with words chosen for their impact: “stomping, squeaking, and clacking” to describe the noises in the school gym, for example. The art, too, instills a deeper sense of Lily’s experience, with the faces of audience members shown much larger than life when Lily is feeling nervous and small. Similarly, color drains away when she feels “gloomy grey,” and reappears when her mood brightens. The book includes a page of discussion questions for young readers at the end, to help them relate to the story they’ve just read.
With its determined and likeable main character, Bold & Brave is a sweet and enjoyable story that provides a valuable window into the perceptions of an autistic child.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.