Book review of Jo’s Special Gifts

Jo’s Special Gifts by Mariam Shapera, illustrated by Lorna Humphreys, is a heartwarming and vibrant picture book that celebrates the unique gifts and perspectives of an autistic child.

Through vivid, rhyming verse, readers are invited into the world of the enthusiastic and sensitive Jo, who shares his joys, challenges, and talents through his love of spinning objects and reciting numbers to his need for routine and his struggle with changes and surprises. Shapera’s narrative skillfully navigates the nuances of Jo’s autistic experience, sensitively exploring his spectrum of emotions from the excitement of his special interests to the anxiety caused by sensory overload, all while emphasizing the inherent value of his “super-special gifts.” 

This book will bring great comfort and validation to children on the autism spectrum and their families, who will see themselves reflected in Jo’s story. At the same time, it provides valuable insight and empathy for those who may not be familiar with the autistic experience, helping to foster understanding and acceptance. Jo’s Special Gifts is a beautiful celebration of neurodiversity, gently guiding readers to embrace the diversity of human experiences and the profound contributions individuals with autism can make.

Mariam Shapera’s narrative is written in a poetic, rhyming format, giving the story a whimsical, sing-song quality. With a warm, conversational tone that directly addresses the reader, inviting them into Jo’s world, the use of first-person narration from Jo’s perspective makes the story feel intimate, personal, and age-appropriate for a young audience. Organically interspersed throughout the narrative are explanations and insights into the autistic experience, providing readers with a greater understanding of Jo’s sensory needs, routines, and challenges.

The illustrations by Lorna Humphreys beautifully complement the text, capturing the warmth and energy of Jo’s character. The vibrant colors and playful, expressive images bring Jo’s story to life, highlighting the richness of his unique experiences and the support of his loving family. A rainbow motif weaves through the pages, acting as a metaphor for the spectrum of Jo’s experiences and the diverse range of abilities that individuals on the autism spectrum possess.

With its themes of inclusivity, understanding, and the celebration of neurodiversity, Jo’s Special Gifts strikes a balance between poetic artistry and relatable, accessible storytelling, making it an engaging and informative read for children and their families.

Here is the full review:


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