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22 October 2015

Reading With John (with a ramble from mom): Andrew Chilton's The Goblin's Puzzle

Tuesday afternoon John and I finished reading Andrew Chilton's The Goblin's Puzzle thanks to Random House, Knopf & NetGalley. It's set for release here in the US on January 19th. You can pre-order it from Amazon by clicking HERE or on the cover (and, as always, it's an affiliate link so if you do buy it we'll get a little smidgen of money in our account which will likely go towards more books. Or laundry detergent. Whatever.)

What a wonderful book this was! It was funny and exciting and oh-so-thoughtful. We haven't read very many middle-grade books together that I would consider "deep" but there were definitely some pretty deep and profound messages in this one. I wasn't really sure that John would pick up on them as he's only nine, but after he gave me his "Top Five Things" about the book I was pleasantly surprised that he seemed to get it.

Without further ado, the John part of today's Reading With John:

Now it's my turn to do my mom-ramble.

The third thing on John's list was the one that really struck me. Without giving too much away, a great deal of this story is about just that -- overcoming pre-conceived notions about who you are. Sometimes those notions are held by others. Sometimes those notions are held by yourself. You know that when you're told enough that you're this or that you start to believe it. When the things that you're told aren't necessarily positive they can really put a damper on, well, everything.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here, but John is a "special needs kid." He's been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and is on the Autism Spectrum. He gets therapy in school to help with expressing himself in social situations. He sometimes breaks down or freaks out or acts up over things that normal kids probably wouldn't. He'll opt out of certain field trips or school assemblies that normal kids get excited about.

(I despise the word "normal," by the way.)

John's also an amazing artist. He builds amazing structures and models out of Legos or clay or whatever else he can get his hands on. He's absolutely brilliant with math (he says he has a calculator brain thanks to his "wiring" being different). He loves to read and make up stories and songs. BUT, because his wiring is different and because of the sometimes abnormal reactions to things he's sometimes conceived to be "odd" or "strange" or "goofy." Because he DOES have ADD and Autism he's sometimes conceived to be "less than" that dreaded "normal." We try incredibly hard to make sure that those conceptions don't sink in.

When I requested The Goblin's Puzzle from NetGalley, I admit I had a pre-conceived notion about what I was going to get. I imagined a "normal" fantasy tale to be enjoyed by young (and, maybe, not-so-young) readers. We certainly got the "normal" fantasy tale aspects with kings and queens and sorcerers and ogres and so on and so on. We also got puzzles to help solve and adventures to get excited about and, most of all, life lessons about fate and conceptions and confidence.

The ditz can be a brilliant leader.
The loser can be a champion.
The monster can be a good friend.

and the unwritten but still felt:

The "special needs kid" can be absolutely anything.

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