As you know if you’ve read recent posts, two of my children have autism. One of the gifts of autism is the ability to think concretely about big, beautiful ideas. I had been pondering how much of my teaching style relies on that very gift, when I had the opportunity to review The Suitcase by Jane G. Meyer.
Thomas, the stories protagonist, has many of the hallmarks of a boy with autism: he enjoys spinning and lining up toys and a favorite quiet spot and talking at length about subjects he loves. I was immediately fond of Thomas, as he reminds me so much of many of the persons I love.
I love two things especially about this story:
- The parables about the Kingdom of God are represented in terms of the concrete thinking that is recognizable and accessible to people on the autism spectrum.
- Thomas is thoughtful about his faith and takes it seriously enough to fill a suitcase with items he’ll need to enter the Kingdom of God.
It’s rare to find a resource, much less a beautifully illustrated children’s book, that shows concrete thinking as a gift. It’s even rarer to find autistic children shown to be gifted with insights about faith.
I plan to use this book to supplement discussions with my children about the meaning of Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom of God. We will probably also read the book in our church’s children’s groups, HOPE & JOY. I like that Thomas’ family is multi-ethnic, and the group scene at the end of the book includes a diverse group of adults and children. It’s good for children to recognize themselves in books, especially when the children are concrete thinkers.
Families will enjoy finding references to each of the parables in Thomas’ suitcase. My favorite was the mustard seed. The seed is small, but Thomas went to great lengths to find it. The artwork, lovely throughout, is especially poignant here in conveying the earnest faith of a young boy who takes God at his word.
I received a reading copy of The Suitcase in exchange for an honest review. You can find The Suitcase now on Amazon (affiliate link). It makes an excellent Easter/Pascha gift for the children in your life.