- A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244582-7 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244584-1 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4
Third-grader Bixby Alexander Tam doesn’t really mind his nickname Bat, even if it might come from not just from his initials but from the fact that he flaps his hands when he’s feeling overwhelmed and he’s supersensitive to sound. A bat is an animal, after all, and animals are Bat’s very favorite thing, so much so that when his veterinarian mom brings home an orphaned baby skunk Bat jumps at the chance to care for it. Now he just has to convince his mom that Thor would be better off under Bat’s care than with the staff at the wildlife refuge center. The word “autistic” is never used here, and its absence is effective: Bat’s tendencies are treated as characteristic and not diagnostic, and Arnold seamlessly weaves in Bat’s and his family’s adaptations to his behaviors. The situation brings plenty of humor: if you’re looking to keep a skunk as a pet, of course you’re going to email a renowned skunk expert named (real-life biologist Dr. Jerry Dragoo) to ask him to tell your mom it’s totally cool for you to have a skunk pet. Compassionate, warm, and funny, Bat’s story may leave some kids eyeing the forest for their next animal pal. Chipper monochromatic black and white illustrations bring out the appeal of both skunk and boy.