I was asked if I would like to review a book whose main character was on the autistic spectrum and I was intrigued. To be honest I have avoided any books that contain autism for a while as I have found it t hard to read about. This is a book aimed at a younger audience and knowing that Ethan is starting school I thought it was very positive subject to introduce to children.
I was also given the opportunity to ask the author some questions. I was interested to know what inspired Jane Elson to write a book where the main character is on the autistic spectrum?
I should not be on top of the school wall. I should be doing my homework. Mrs Hubert, my maths teacher has given me different homework from the rest of the class. They have to complete 10 equations. I have to make 2 friends.
My inspiration for Willem:
I hated school and I also was an easy target for bullies. I felt I just didn’t fit into the world – my elbows and knees knocking and scraping against its corners. Lessons puzzled me. Their way of doing things made no sense so I had to find my own way. I was diagnosed as dyslexic at 26 years old. I was working as an actor at the time and slipped into being a drama workshop leader. I was asked to do a few sessions at The Moat School, a wonderful creative school for dyslexia that also caters for A.D.H.D., Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Asperger’s Syndrome. Sixteen years later I am still there. I love it!
I did not know about Asperger’s Syndrome when I started at the Moat but I soon found that I had an instinct for helping these children find alternate ways to do things, just as I had always had to myself.
I find the wiring of different people’s brains fascinating: a 12-year-old boy being able to do maths way better than I will ever be able too, yet not being able to understand that someone can be angry and sad at the same time.
Through the years I have laughed with, argued with, despaired of and been proud to bursting, of so many Asperger’s boys. But none of them are like Willem in How to Fly with Broken Wings. Willem just leapt on to the page; the first chapter was written in a few minutes and my story began. I did not know what was going to happen – just that the starting point was Willem on top of a school wall.
On a personal level, my beautiful godson, Josh, has Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. He is also autistic. He is a beautiful, happy little boy and loves his school, Kilton Thorpe Academy, an amazing place that celebrates his every achievement. Josh loves his routine and gets quite grumpy in the school holidays. Josh flicked some sparkly paint on a black canvas and they framed it and I was given it for Christmas. It is my most precious possession. Everyone who knows Josh loves him and we all want to reach into his world, bring him into ours and hold him close.
Creating the character of Willem was a joy. He completes the first part of his homework and makes friend number 1 – Sasha, a sassy Camden girl. Together with Buster, a Staffie they reach out to, Willem and his world starts to transform. But it is in his quest for friend number 2 – Finn the local bad boy – when the trouble starts.
I will point out to Mrs Hubert that making friends with Finn should give me a lot of merit marks, as he used to hate me. I would like to win The Headmaster’s Cup For Excellence for the 2nd year running, for getting the most merit marks in the whole school.)
I hope you enjoy How to Fly with Broken Wings and reach into Willem’s world and enjoy his story.
‘If Finn Maison shouts jump you jump or you are dead.’
Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk – and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Bradley gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend?
Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. As he flies through the air he flaps his arms, wishing he could fly and escape into the clouds.
Instead he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle. Sasha, angry with herself for not stopping Finn and his Boyz, is determined to put things right. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.
And when Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying spitfires, he will change the lives of the kids on the Beckham Estate for ever. And perhaps find a way for Willem and Sasha to fly …
Touching on themes such as friendship and bullying, this is a charming tale about overcoming obstacles and finding friendship in unlikely places.