“You see only with your heart, because your eyes miss what matters.”
― Kochka, The Boy Who Ate Stars
Twelve year old Lucy has just moved into her new apartment in Paris with her parents. Though she doesn’t know anyone, her theme for the year is “global encounters”; she is determined to get to know her neighbours, and gets a great start getting to know the Marottes and their fashion accessory of a dog, François, until the day she meets Marie, her autistic son, Matthew, and his nanny, Maougo.
This short novel is largely about Lucy and her friend Theo trying to make sense of autism, and Lucy’s persistent efforts to draw the four-year-old Matthew out, all the while teaching François to get in touch with his “proper dog” instincts. Autism can be difficult to explain, but Lucy’s twelve-year-old perspective helps to make the disorder more accessible. Matthew’s mother Marie explains it well: “Life on earth is about looking at each other, in the same way that the earth moves round the sun… But autistic people are like small independent planets that have landed here by chance, and instead of looking at the other earthlings as they move around them, they spin inside themselves.” Manipulating a pre-existing definition, Lucy adds her own definition: “Autism: unusual withdrawal into an interior world resulting from such a strong contact with reality that people can become objects.”
Perhaps because it was originally written in French and then translated, there were some parts of the story that were hard to understand. However, it does help to explain much about the way that people with autism act and think. This charming and lyrically written story was a delight to read and is strongly recommended for readers with an interest in autism.
To learn more about autism, take a look at the Parentbooks’ Autism Memoirs and Personal stories book list.