Aaron Slater, Illustrator
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers
It’s such a joy to see a child whose neurodiversity is celebrated in the latest of the Questioneers series.
The titular Aaron D. Slater, of this rhyming picture book, is based on Aaron Douglas, the African American painter, muralist, and graphic artist, who was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement.
As a very young child there’s nothing Aaron loves more than to sit in the old garden swing and listen to others reading to him, and he aspires to be a writer of stories in the future.
First though he has to learn to read and to write, both of which on account of his dyslexia,
he finds challenging. ‘the words are just squiggles, and try as he might, even with help Aaron can’t get it right.’
Once he starts school, Aaron who also loves to draw, decides that rather than show his feelings, the best thing to do is to try to blend in with his classmates.
In his second year at school Aaron has a new teacher and she sets the class a story writing assignment. That night the boy spends all night attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” as his teacher has said.
Filled with fear the following morning, at Miss Greer’s behest he stands before his classmates and suddenly Aaron finds his voice: ‘beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.’
So it is that he begins to find his own way of using visual images to create stories: ‘His art makes the difference. His art leads the way and helps him discover what he wants to say.’
This superb tale of creativity, acceptance and finding your own way to transcend insecurities and challenges, will be an inspiration to all youngsters, in particular those who like Aaron, struggle with reading and spelling. (The book is set in Dyslexie, a dyslexia-friendly typeface and David Roberts, creator of the stylish illustrations, tells in a final note how he himself has struggled with reading and spelling, making those superb spreads wherein Aaron’s images literally take flight, all the more powerful.)