A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
Published on December 23, 2021
Reviewed by Elizabeth DeVincenzo
Eleven-year-old Addie lives in the small village of Juniper in Scotland. Addie is autistic and is bullied by her classmate Emily, and her teacher Ms. Murphy who defends Emily whenever there is a conflict between Addie and Emily. Told in the first person, we learn of Addie’s struggles to understand neurotypical behavior and the “masking” she does to fit in with her classmates and when she is around people. Keedie, Addie’s older sister who is in college also has autism. She provides emotional support and guidance to Addie, while facing her own struggles in a university setting. Addie also has support from her new friend who moved to Juniper from London, Audrey and Mr. Allison, the school librarian. In school, Addie’s class is studying how women who were considered “different” were tried as witches in Juniper several centuries ago. Addie sees the parallels between the witch hunts and the bullying she endures from her classmates and teacher. This prompts Addie to start a petition to create a memorial plaque commemorating the women who were tried and convicted of witchcraft in Juniper. Elle McNicoll, a neurodivergent author, portrays the struggles, judgment, and frustrations that Addie endures in a sympathetic and reflective manner. McNicoll also debunks some myths about autism. I recommend this character-driven novel to children and adults to gain a better understanding of how people on the autism spectrum process and interact with the world around them.
Favorite quotes: “I think different is good. As long as you’re not hurting anyone. We need all kinds of difference in the world”. … When we meet someone and instantly think they’re strange or different, we should try instead to be kind”-Addie at the town council meeting petitioning for the memorial plaque for the women convicted of witchcraft in Juniper.
Target audience: Grades 4-6 and adults
School Library Journal- Starred Review