Book review of Jo’s Special Gifts

Jo is like other kids, but he’s also “unique in [his] own way.” He loves outer space and music, and sometimes shouts words he likes while reading or counting. He loves spinning objects, playing piano, and riding on his big, green bike. He knows he does some things differently from other kids, such as having trouble when a surprise changes his routine, but he’s also very observant: “My Mom says I have super-hearing— / and we both think that’s amazing! / I can spot a flying plane / from far away—the way I’m gazing!” Overall, Jo knows that he’s special and loved. Shapera’s rhyming verses emphasize Jo’s joy of discovery, showcasing mannerisms that may surprise neurotypical peers and placing them within Jo’s understanding of the world. The couplets have a mostly consistent rhythm, and the language is accessible, with only a few potentially difficult words (glitchspectrum). Jo is depicted with pale skin, and Humphreys’ cheerful, full-color cartoon illustrations depict a diverse cast with varying skin tones; one child uses a wheelchair, and another wears ear protection. The lively images are full of action, but the reuse of backgrounds for consecutive spreads can make pages feel repetitive.A joyful expression of enthusiasm for life.

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