All the Small Wonderful Things by Kate Foster
About the Book:
In an endearing story about an autistic boy and his steadfast furry pal, Alex is convinced that winning a trophy at the dog show will help him make a real friend at last.
Eleven-year-old Alex knows that starting middle school will be a big change, and for an autistic person, change can be terrifying. He is sure that having a friend by his side will help. But how can he make one? Alex devises a plan to impress the kids at school by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his trusty sidekick, Kevin the Cockapoo. This should be a walk in the park, right? If only. It turns out that finding a friend is harder than Alex thought—unless, maybe, friendship is about something more than popularity.
This charming story, told through Alex’s clear and honest voice, navigates relationships of all stripes between classmates, new neighbors, family, and, of course, a kid and his dog. After all, friendship isn’t one-size-fits-all—maybe it’s found in the small things where you least expect it.
Guest post by Kate Foster: What started your love for books and your current projects?
I honestly don’t know what started my love for books, mainly because I was a booklover way back when I was a teeny tiny person (and that was so very many years ago!). Throughout my whole childhood, I don’t think a day went by without my father reading a newspaper or wildlife magazine cover to cover, and my mother was, and still is, a big reader of novels. I vividly remember bent and buckled paperbacks stacked haphazardly on the floor and shelves all around our small house. She would also take me to the local library often, not only to borrow books, but also simply to spend time there.
So, I guess reading was part of my natural environment from the moment I was born.
The children’s section of our library was quite a magical place, as I remember it, with beanbags and colourful chairs and building blocks and soft toys. But the best part – and perhaps most significant part too – was that I was allowed to take from the shelves whatever I wanted. I’m sure my mother would have suggested books for me as well, and I know she sat with me and we’d look through the books together, but for the most part, I was in control of my reading journey, regardless of whether the books were considered “too young for me” or if I’d read them before.
Maybe, I’m evidence of how letting kids read for pleasure creates lifelong readers.
Growing up books were always important to me, even though there were stages when I was preoccupied with other demands and I didn’t devour one after the other. But I returned to them, always. They were a way to escape, to feed my wild imagination, and, what I’ve come to realise now, a place to find acceptance – not for who I tried to be, but for the real me who always felt a little lost and overwhelmed by life.
Books really do make great friends!
The stories and the characters didn’t have confusing expectations of me, nor did they require me to adjust my personality to fit in with them. I was able to be a part of the adventure and the journey however I wanted and felt comfortable to.
And this leads perfectly into why I now write the books I do. I put autistic kids in books that are not about autism or the child’s struggles or how they must change to be accepted by their peers. That’s because my characters are fine just as they are, their family and friends already adore them just as they are, and everyone else must adjust their way of thinking to fit in with them just as they are.
This is the reality we should be striving for, moving beyond autism awareness and onto autism acceptance.
Of course I don’t shy away from showing how day-to-day life as an autistic person can be exhausting, nor from challenging my characters to dig deep and understand themselves better, as all characters must, but that won’t involve changing their autistic selves to make others accept them.
Animals (mostly dogs!) also play a huge role in many of my books. We see most animal species as primitive, yet I reject this notion. Wild animals have mostly figured humans out and the dangers we pose them, but dogs have taken it a step further. As a result, by manipulating us with their evolved cuteness and loyalty, they offer uncomplicated and unmatchable friendship. I believe many autistic people are far more tuned into this and as a result prefer the company of animals.
About the Author:
Kate Foster is a children’s author writing about friends, family, and dogs. Originally from a small town in the southeast of England, she now lives on the stunning Gold Coast in Australia with her family and second-hand dogs. She is passionate about encouraging and teaching a wider understanding of autism and mental illness via a positive approach and representation in both her books as well as her presentations and talks.
For more information, visit www.kfosterbooks.com.