Three children’s books, one an ode to Temple Grandin and two by Temple Grandin

Three children’s books that would be fabulous additions to any school or home library are “I Am Temple Grandin” by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos, “The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World” by Temple Grandin, and “Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor” by Temple Grandin. The first book is engaging and explains how being different is not a bad thing, and actually can be very special. The other two books are for exploration and activities that kids might want to do. Not a bad choice with summer vacations coming up because they are filled with information and ideas for great projects!

The first book is part of the wonderful and informative series “Ordinary People Change the World,” written in simple but powerful first person narrative. Brad Meltzer somehow manages to write the book so that we really feel as if Grandin is talking directly to us. The engaging illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos continue his formula of having the main character, in this case Temple Grandin, be drawn with a child’s outsize head. The face never changes even as the narrative shows the person is growing up. To contrast, all the other characters are drawn with heads commensurate with body size. So it’s easy to see who the main character is. Temple reveals that she is autistic, and she explains, in simple language, what that means for her. She is different from other children, but as we learn, “It’s good to be weird—in fact, it can be fantastic!” In college, she found her purpose, “To build things that would help everyone be more gentle and caring.” This book might just be one of the most powerful of the books in this series, because it demonstrates how being different isn’t something bad. As she explains, being different means seeing things in a new way, seeing beauty that others miss, and having a different perspective than others. We read that “1 in 59 US children has been identified as being on the autism spectrum.” So chances are that those reading this book know someone on the spectrum. It can only help for children to realize that different isn’t bad, it’s special. (Rocky Pond Books)

“The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World” is a fascinating conglomeration of memoir, projects, and biographical bits about important scientists. For example, Chapter Five, The Night Skies, begins with Grandin narrating how she remembers going outside after dinner one night to try to look for “the famous Russian satellite orbiting Earth.” Sputnik. She relates, “I was ten years old when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite made by humans to orbit the earth.” The first project in that chapter is “Spotting Satellites in the Sky,” with information about how to find where the satellites are in our night sky. Then, in a section titled, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” she informs readers about Katherine Johnson, who “was wired for math since she was very young. But growing up in her town in West Virginia in the 1920s meant that education was not available to Black People past the eighth grade.” She goes on to relate that even though this brilliant woman attended graduate school in mathematics, “the only mathematics career open to Black women was that of schoolteacher.” Her abilities were such that in spite of the segregation that limited the rights of Black people, she was promoted again and again. In fact, astronaut John Glenn relied on her abilities, asking for her to “check the numbers” before his famous space flight. Note that in Florida, this book will probably be banned because of its reference to segregation. (Philomel)

In “Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor” by Temple Grandin, there are chapters on “Things Made of Paper” and “Levers and Pulleys.” Others cover “Things that Fly” and “Things Made of Wood.” In the Introduction, she writes about her diagnosis of autism and what that means. She explains about inventing and patents. The first activity is making paper. That’s an activity that kids love to do. She explains about typewriters and the “qwerty” keyboard.

There is narrative about the different topics, there are parts about inventors, and there are projects for the readers to build themselves. She writes about a snowboard she built at school with friends. This book will be appreciated by older kids, probably 5th graders and older children because of the lack of color, the content, and the volume of information presented. It’s filled with useful information that will appeal to kids interested in science. (Puffin Books)

Please note: This review is based on the final editions of these books provided by the publisher for review purposes.