Book Review: Secret of the Songshell: Book One of the Spectraland Saga by Brian Tashima
Posted Sep 07 2012 9:39am
The secret of the Songshell is a young adult book with a difference. It's written with the intention of providing a fictional hero with Asperger's Syndrome that young people with Asperger's can look up to and call their own. At just over 300 pages, it's not a short book by children's standards but it's well within the reading range of most twelve year olds. My son's learning difficulties weren't entirely up to the task but most children should have no problems.
The story concerns a young boy named Joel, who has Asperger's syndrome and an interest in music. He is transported to a fantasy world where his music plays an important part in events. This is a fantasy with monsters and fantasy weaponry powered by musical instruments - and it's quite a good story.
The treatment of Asperger's syndrome in the book is mainly positive with just a single awkward moment when Joel is having a conversation which includes the word diagnosis. The character of Joel is well written and the book captures many of the frustrations he encounters when he has difficulty reading expressions and tone.
Although Joel is hard on himself at times and frequently shows irritation with "words" and expectations, he is never portrayed as a helpless character. In fact, he's easily the cleverest character in the book and many of his gifts and differences are essential to the plot.
I feel that Brian Tashima has succeeded in creating a great fictional "aspie" hero and I would recommend this book to people both on and off the autism spectrum, to teachers and librarians and carers and lovers of fantasy fiction. The book is suitable for children from about 12 years onwards.