Autism ~ a booksellers guide (children’s and teen books)

‘This is for the souls, Who never quite fit in, The odd ones out, The misfits – Told to grow a thicker skin.

This is for the ones, Who feel alien, weird and wrong – Like everybody knows The Rules, While they’re left to tag along.’

~ A Different Sort of Normal, Abigail Balfe.


The Kids Guide: Understanding Autism by Vicky Martin and illustrated by Scott Garrett (part of The Kids Guide series)

Simple yet informative, inclusive and accessible, this brilliant guide to understanding autism is great for children who are newly diagnosed as well as their family, peers and friends. Covering many important topics such as the key symptoms, sensory issues, challenges in communication and social interaction, hyper focus on special interests and the need for routine as well as stimming, meltdowns, shutdowns and the effect autism can have on mental health. The guide gives compassionate and honest information about autistic experiences as well as including examples of how an autistic individuals may struggle in certain situations in daily life such as school, and offers advice to help elevate the strain that such circumstances may bring. 

The book is written by Vicky Martin who has worked alongside the students of Limpsfield Grange, the only school in the UK for neurodiverse girls on their book M is for Autism. With its simple colour pallet and effective illustrations by Scott Garrett, this guide to autism is wonderful and one that I hope will someday be on school bookshelves everywhere! 

‘Being autistic may mean you’ll need some extra support at times. It may mean you’ll need more time to prepare for events. Autistic people are as entitled as everyone to a rich, interesting and fair life. Everyone deserves kindness, respect and understanding’ The Kids Guide: Understanding Autism page 45


I See Things Differently by Pat Thomas and Claire Keay (part of the A First Look At…series)

This picture book is generally aimed at helping children who have an autistic sibling, friend or peer to better understand their condition. With child-friendly language and lovely, gentle illustrations, the authors explain how an autistic child might interact with others and the world around them. They also explain how an autistic person might feel in certain situations and what others can do to help them feel safe, happy and content. The authors ask the reader questions throughout the book making it a great aid for starting conversations. It’s not always easy, for young siblings in particular, to understand what autism is – it can be a confusing old thing, and so this picture book is a really good starting point for children to better understand what autism is, helping make for a happier time for both parties and leading to a greater acceptance, understanding and tolerance for some of the trickier times. A compassionate book great for both families and schools. 

If you know someone with autism, what are some of the habits that make them feel safe? Do you have habits that make you feel safe too? I See Things Differently page 19


Amazing Me, Amazing You by Christine McGuinness & illustrated by Hannah Jayne Lewin

Christine McGuinness who is an autistic mother of three neurodivergent children has massively helped bring awareness to autism through the two documentaries she filmed with the BBC – Our Family & Autism and Unmasking My Autism which aired earlier this month. She has now bought out this vibrantly illustrated rhyming picture book about different autistic experiences. The characters are seen in different real-life scenarios and the story shines with kindness. It includes some lovely representations of the diversity of autistic experiences for a young audience. It’s inclusive, engaging and is a good picture book for both neurodiverse children and neurotypical. Amazing Me, Amazing You is a celebration of difference and friendship, all wrapped up in fun and colourful illustrations.

‘Think of the sky, it’s not always blue, sometimes it’s pink, grey and orange too. So keep an open mind, we are not all the same. Everyone is different and so is my brain.’ Amazing Me,Amazing You


Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival

Meesha is wonderfully creative, a whizz at making things and is full of imagination but she struggles to make friends and finds social interactions baffling. One day at a children’s party she finds herself getting overwhelmed from all the noise and hubbub going on around her, so she finds herself a quiet spot where she can loose herself in her magical making skills. But then a kind boy called Josh comes along and is intrigued by Meesha’s creative skills and would like to learn more, but can Meesha find the courage to let him play too?

Part of his Big Bright Feelings series, Tom Percival brings to life such an empathetic and compassionate storybook about learning how to make and be a friend. Told alongside his characteristic illustrations, Meesha Makes Friends is an accessible, inclusive and joyous book perfect for helping young ones, showing them that the best way to make friends is by being yourself and sharing what you enjoy!

[Tom Percival also writes chapter books for young readers too which also deal with overcoming challenges and dealing with emotions, all with fun adventure at the heart of the story. A brilliant author and illustrator]

‘Meesha LOVED making things. She could make pictures out of numbers and pictures out of sounds. Sometimes she made pictures out of both. But there was one thing that Meesha found hard to make…friends.’ ~ Meesha Makes Friends


Perfectly Weird, Perfectly You by Dr Camilla Pang

Dr Camilla ‘Millie’ Pang is a scientist and author. She’s also autistic. From an early age she felt different from everyone around her and often felt lost and confused by peoples actions. It wasn’t until she discovered science that she could start to make sense of the world around her. She has since grown up to become a scientist and she uses her love of science to help explain things in life which can often feel confusing or overwhelming, through the understanding of scientific theory. Her children’s book (adapted from her awesome adults book titled Explaining Humans) is just wonderful and just like her book for adults, Perfectly Weird, Perfectly You isn’t just for neurodiverse readers but for everyone. She brings awareness to neurodiversity and does an excellent job of explaining it, but the topics she writes about are universal for every kid growing up such as dealing with emotions and coping with change. She’s also very inclusive which is brilliant to see, as it’s so important for children to see themselves represented. Her book is fully illustrated throughout by Laurene Boglio which makes it interactive, eye-catching and fun. Not only do kids learn how to cope with life’s challenges, but they also learn some other pretty cool things along the way too. Her enthusiasm is contagious and I think a lot of kids will absolutely thrive with this book accompanying them as they grow. Simply put, I can’t recommend her books enough!

‘That’s what this book is about. I’ve written it to help you believe in yourself, cope with things that make you afraid, stand up to peer pressure, pursue your passions and find true friends’ Perfectly Weird, Perfectly You page 22


A Different Sort of Normal by Abigail Balfe

Completely immersive, inclusive and engaging, Abigail Balfe’s book about autism and growing up is brilliant. Having only been diagnosed a few years ago as an adult, she’s made this awesome guide to growing up autistic (albeit unknowingly), combining her experiences, anecdotes and research to make one heck of an awesome book. She delves into the signs of her early childhood and as she grew, and includes chapters on many areas of children’s lives such as school, friendships and more neurodiverse topics including special interests and social communication. She doesn’t shy away from topics that sometimes us adults think are too much for kids to contemplate but are actually rather important, and she does so in a caring way resulting in the information being there for kids to talk about if they want to or leave if they don’t, but nevertheless encouraging the acceptance of the beauty of diversity. Her poem that starts her book off (and is quoted at the beginning of my blog) says it all, her book is for everyone.

Abigail has illustrated the whole book with her doodle-style art which is just so effective, colourful and fun and makes the book so engaging for children to pick up and read. But her book doesn’t just look great aesthetically speaking, it’s bursting with knowledge and kindness and offers a safe place for children to discover more about their neurodiversity and themselves. A brilliant book for explaining and understanding autism, perfect for older Primary School children up to Secondary School students.

[Abigail’s book is also available as an audiobook. Although you don’t get the visuals that are in the physical book, she has written and composed several pieces of music that she plays which I’ve heard are fantastic. She also has 2 more children’s books coming out later this year and next which you can find out more about here. If you’d like to hear more about Abigail herself, I’d highly recommend listing to Sara Gibbs’ podcasted Aut-Hour where she features on an episode.]

‘This is a collection of doodles and thoughts about my experiences growing up as an autistic child. An autistic child who didn’t know she was an autistic child. Because if someone had told me when I was younger that it was ok to no be like everybody else, that it was not my job to try and be ‘normal’ and to ‘fit in’, that my way of seeing the world was just as valid and important as everybody else’s, then I think I would have found growing up a lot easier.’ A Different Sort of Normal page 11


The Autism Detective by Elaine Brownless and illustrated by Mai-Ann Burns

In this interactive story about autism, siblings Kit and Scully of Mission Not-Quite-Impossible headquarters take on a case to learn more about autism. They interview 6 children and by doing some good research into this neurological developmental condition, they do their best to work out who, out of the children they interviewed, are on the spectrum.

The book is  cleverly formatted in a graphic novel style which is great for readers who prefer visual information rather than lots of words, and it also means it’s easier to share if it’s being read in a classroom or group setting. With lots of great information and inclusivity, this book is a really good aid in helping autistic children to better understand their condition (especially when newly diagnosed), as well as educating their peers, siblings and friends as to what autism is and how it can present itself. With a glossary at the back alongside several activities, this book is perfect for sharing and learning from.

Written by Elaine Brownless who has worked within the autism community for 20 years The Autism Detective is a unique way of getting children to interact with the topic of autism. She has also created a detective game which her book is based on, which she has used and developed for and with autistic children.  

‘An autism brain can be capable of incredible levels of attention and perceive details that others miss. There are scientists, engineers. designers, artists, writers, musicians, teachers, parents and more who are on something called the autism spectrum.’ Autism Detective, page 15


The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism by Debby Elley and Tori Houghton, illustrated by J.C. Perry

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism is a great visual book to help children (both autistic and non-autistic) to get to grips with what autism is and how it affects everyone differently. By using the analogy of an ice-cream sundae, the authors skilfully use the metaphors of different sundae ingredients to explain the fundamentals of autism. The Neapolitan 3 scoop of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavours represent difficulties with speech and language, social skills and rigidity of thought with extra ingredients representing areas such as sensory differences, meltdowns, emotions and the added celebratory sprinkles of the unique strengths and positives that autistic people have to offer.  The book also includes examples of the challenges and strengths that many autistic children face and have a few activities for the reader to take part in, including picture scenarios and even the opportunity to draw their own ice-cream sundae! It also includes advice for parents on how to best help their autistic child and has activities for teachers to include in the classroom. 

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism is a celebration of neurodiversity and a great aid in helping all children to understand autism better. 

[This book was created by two co-founders of the UK magazine AuKids, alongside the magazines illustrator. AuKids ran for 5 years and even won awards. Debby Elley has two autistic children and has written two other books on autism. Tori Houghton has had 21 years of experience with working within the autism community as a speech and language therapist. Even though their magazine is no longer in print, you can read all the archived issues on the website]

‘When autistic people are feeling nervous, worried or angry, those ice-cream scoops may look larger…but when people on the autism spectrum feel comfortable and calm, those ice-cream scoops may look smaller…What kinds of things do you think would make those ice-cream scoops bigger for you or someone you know? What kinds of things might make them smaller?’ The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism


Autism and Me: Expert tips and mindful activities for autistic people by Haia Ironside

This is a brilliant activity books for all autistic children to help them better understand their condition as well as finding ways to cope with difficulties and celebrate their strengths. Filled to the brim with activities, games and colouring author Haia Ironside explores different themes that affect most autistic peoples lives. Fun, interactive and extremely helpful, I would definitely recommend this book to any parent or caregiver to have for their autistic child. It even has a helpful glossary at the back alongside advice and resource pages for parents and caregivers. 

‘This book is structured around two autistic symptoms, namely difficulties with social communication and interaction, and tendency towards restricted and repetitive behaviour and interests and sensory needs.‘ Autism and Me.


Frankie’s World by Aoife Dooley

Frankie isn’t like the other kids at school and with the added pressure of the mean bullies in her class, she feels even more of an outsider. Her mum isn’t very well and she’s starting to have questions about her biological father, hoping that he might be able to help her answer why she feels the way she does. So with her two friends by her side she thinks she might be able to work out her place in the world. A funny, quirky and adventurous graphic novel that deals with friendships, family, belonging and autism with care, honesty and humour.

The second instalment in Frankie’s story (Finding my Voice) will be out soon where we get to see how Frankie and her best-friend Sam deal with the transition into Secondary school.

‘I felt like an outsider for most of my life until I realised one day that it doesn’t matter what people think of me. If they don’t like me because I’m a bit different, then that’s their loss.’ Frankie’s World


Maria and Me by Maria and Miguel Gallardo

This graphic novel tells the story of Maria and her father who enjoy their annual summer holidays together each year. Told from her father’s voice, he takes us on their holiday to experience all the joys of a sunny escape together. Being a non-speaking autistic individual, Maria faces challenges and experiences utter joys that many people will never experience, and within the pages of this short book we have the privilege of being invited into her world to see life through her eyes. Told through sketch-like illustrations and writings, Maria and her fathers tale is a beautiful one. One where their bond is greater than words can explain. A lovely and unique reflection of their relationship. 

[Miguel also includes some pictograms at the back of the graphic novel on how to perform daily tasks which are great for people who have difficulties with communication]

‘Before we went to sleep yesterday, after our escapade to the great Mandarin Chinese restaurant to stuff ourselves with fried rice and shrimp, Maria snuggled up to me and said ‘you and me…’ as simple as that. I had never heard words of affection so beautiful and so simple.’ Maria & Me


The Infinite by Patience Agbabi

Raised by her loving Nigerian Grandmother, Elle (short for Elle Bíbi-Imbelé ) isn’t your average 12-year-old. She’s a Leapling thanks to being born on 29th February, but not only that, Elle also has the very rare ability of The Gift, meaning she can jump through time. Elle also happens to be autistic meaning she has a pretty unique experience of the world yet at her school for Gifted Leaplings (The Intercalary International) she can sometimes struggle to fit in and can get overwhelmed by change and sensory input from her surroundings. But she has her fellow friend Big Ben (who’s also autistic) and together on Elle’s twelfth birthday, they find themselves in a rush to the future where something alarming has occurred leading Leaplings to disappear in time.

Elle’s story brings a wonderfully diverse tapestry of culture and experiences to the story which is so important to see represented in literature, and especially in children’s books! The cast of characters include a mixture of neurodiversities (ASD, ADHD and dyslexia) as well as many neurotypical characters too. The author Patience Agbabi wanted to tell a story that included both, ‘reflecting the world as I see it’ which I think is wonderful and very much needed!

This is a great time-hopping mystery of an adventure book with awesome characters and storylines. And good news, the series is only just beginning – The Infinite has two more instalments in Elle’s adventures in The Time-Thief and The Circle Breakers which is out now!

[Click here to read an interview with Patience Agbabi from The National Autistic Society]

‘Elle is unique, she doesn’t represent all autistic girls. And she’s a fictional character. But I hope her existence inspires all readers and challenges stereotypes. I also hope the reader will question how we treat the planet, the impact of the present on the future.’ Patience Agbabi


How to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M. Martin

This is a story about a young girl named Rose. Rose lives with her father who rarely understands her, goes to school where people treat her differently just because she’s unique in the way she sees the world and whom loves learning all things to do with words, especially homophones. The only two living beings in the world that seem to understand and love her for being herself is her Uncle Weldon and her dog called Rain. But on one fateful night, Rose’s father lets Rain out during a storm and so in an instant, half of Roses world is missing. So with fierce determination she sets out to find her dog and bring her home. 

It’s been a good few years since I read this book so some of the finer details are now a little foggy in my memory, but what I do recall of this tale is one that I thoroughly enjoyed and couldn’t put down. It’s lesser known compared to the authors famous Babysitters Club series but as the quote from The New York Times says on the cover “If you can read, you’ll love this book” and it was certainly true for me. 

‘When Rain and I are at home alone together, we sit inside or on the front porch and Rain puts one (won) of her front feet (feat) in (inn) my lap. I rub her toes (tows), and she gazes into my blue (blew) eyes with her eyes, which are the colour of a chocolate bar. After a while, she starts to fall asleep.’ How To Look for a Lost Dog


A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020, autistic author Elle McNicoll brings to life the story of 10-year-old Addie. Addie is different from the other kids in her class and suddenly her only friend seems to have given up their friendship in exchange for being more ‘popular’. So now school (which was already hard thanks to her teacher and peers) has doubled in it’s challenges. Not only does Addie have to get use her friend diverging from their friendship but her school history project has her in a tizz. Studying their Scottish towns history of the witch trials, Addie seems to be the only person in her village that sees the injustices that these women faced. So she takes it upon herself to do all she can to create a memorial in honour of their villages so called ‘witches’ who suffered just for being different. With the help of her sister Keedie (who is also autistic) and the arrival of a new student who seems to like Addie and accepts her quirks rather than shun her for them, Addie starts to learn that maybe she isn’t as alone as she thought and that sometimes the magic of courage is lying closer to the surface of ourselves than we think. 

[Be sure to catch the CBBC adaptation of ‘A Kind of Sparkwhich is airing in April 2023!]

‘People aren’t like books. A familiar book is always the same, always comforting and full of the same words and pictures. A familiar person can be new and challenging, no matter how many times you try to read them.’ A Kind of Spark


The Asparagus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte

Meet Leon John Crothers, an insistently routine-based teenager and expert in confectionary identification (as well as their history) who’s now about to start at his 7th school. But starting school again, alongside the reputation of having an ‘attitude problem’ comes with its fair share of annoyances to say the least. All Leon wants is his routine, to not get mixed up in the stupidity of others and to own as much sweet memorabilia and confectionaries as is humanly possible. But as we all know, life does’t always go to plan. So when his mum (or Caroline as Leon likes to call her) sends him to his new school, he doesn’t bet on making any friends and from the first day it doesn’t seem likely. However several socially stumbling interactions later, Leon finds himself quite surprisingly, friends with Tanya, a dyslexic young black girl whose artistic creations, bubbly personality, kindness and sometimes frank talking, is just what Leon needs. Alongside Lawrence, a fellow autistic boy, the three of them make for quite the trio – all a little different, all absolutely awesome. Together they have to face some turbulent teenage times, but with mates by your side, things can’t go too wrong…right?

A very funny, neurodiverse, adolescent romp of a book The Asparagus Bunch (which has a hilarious story to it’s title itself) is a whole lot of fun at the same time as addressing some important themes. Leon faces challenges that a lot of autistic people who are classed as ‘higher functioning’ can face daily – he can be, at times, painfully truthful, confused by non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, body language and tone, doesn’t fully understand social norms and finds friendships difficult to attain. His friend Tanya is dyslexic and so also deals with many hurdles, especially in school life, and their friend Lawrence who also has ASD like Leon finds difficulties in life abundant but who’s optimistic character sweetens his friends lives. I love that all the characters are neurodiverse and all different from one another, representing some of the diversity of neurological developmental disorders. Their relationship and interactions with one another are often hilarious with a constant undercurrent of what true friendship means. All together, it’s a great book whether your reading it as a neurodiverse person or a neurotypical person – and what’s more, there’s a sequel soon to come!

“The Asparagus Bunch. Just do it. Differently.”


Geek Girl series by Holly Smale

Harriet Manners likes facts, is very clumsy, socially awkward, sometimes rather to the point and has somehow just found herself in the world of fashion and she has absolutely no idea what to do. Bamboozled by much of what is happening around her, Harriet is hoping that being swept into the world of modelling will help her feel less like a fish out of water and make the bullies at school finally get off her back, but as we all know, life doesn’t always go to plan. 

This bestselling series who’s main character is closely based on the author herself, has been one that I’ve seen countless teenagers at the bookshop rush to get the next instalment in Harriet’s misadventures, but it wasn’t until recently that I picked up a copy after watching an interview with the author of the series Holly Smale, alongside fellow author Sara Gibbs. Both authors have been diagnosed with ASD as adults and with this revelation, Holly Smale realised that after years of people (including the National Autistic Society themselves) saying that Harriet is a great neurodiverse role-model, that yes, she and Harriet are both indeed definitely autistic. So I decided to pick up a copy from work and delved right into the world of Geek Girl and all I can say is that I wish these books had be out when I was a teenager. Harriet is a great protagonist, the stories are funny and easy to read yet deal with some important topics too. Although the series is now finished, here’s hoping for more Harriet adventures in the future, but in the mean time we have the Netflix series of Geek Girl to look forward to!

[Holly Smale’s first adult fiction book ‘The Cassandra Complex’ is coming out later this year in May 2023 which follows the life of an autistic adult who’s having not only one of her worst days ever, but re-living it it again and again. It’s safe to say I can’t wait to read it! I’d also recommend watching the interview Holly and Sara did together by clicking here and also listening to Sara Gibbs’s podcast Aut-Hour’ which features Holly for one episode. They give a great insight into late diagnosis and a look at autism in females.]

‘You need to stop caring what people who don’t matter think of you. Be who you are and let everybody else be who they are. Differences are a good thing.’ Geek Girl


The Spectrum Girls Survival Guide ~ How to Grow up Awesome and Autistic by Siena Castellon 

This was the first guidebook written for autistic teenager girls by an autistic teenager girl that I had come across. This is a great book about all things growing up from the perspective of an autistic individual. Growing up is difficult for anyone and when you add autism into the mix, things which are already pretty confusing are likely to be ranked up a notch! Siena tackles many topics at the forefront of everyone’s mind whilst growing up, all with the insight from someone who’s either been there and is living it.

She covers topics ranging from understanding friendships, grappling with the changes in puberty, working out who you are and bullying; dealing with peer pressure, crushes and dating, taking care of yourself, personal hygiene and finding your style; understanding your emotions, living with co-occuring conditions linked with ASD, how best to navigate school and the online world as well as understanding your gender and sexuality, including exploring non-binary and trans experiences – which is so important and a breath of fresh air to see included. She also talks about the added complications that autistic individuals often have to tackle on a daily basis such as sensory overload, information processing, difficulties with social interaction and executive functioning, let alone dealing with the reality of meltdowns and shutdowns. She includes comic strips in much of her chapters which I loved as I think many of us find visual information very handy indeed, and the comic strips also invite situations to be shown as to when, and how, difficulties might occur as well as visually exploring how things such as sensory overload may feel and look.

Siena’s book is amazing to say the least. It’s relatable, inclusive, well written and a real treasure trove of information for girls growing up. It’s a vital book that I wish I had had when I was younger and I think it’s one that will continue to help many autistic teenagers for generations to come. 

[Siena has also done a journal that goes alongside her book which I haven’t seen but I image would be very helpful for teenagers going through their adolescent years. You can find out more about Siena by visiting her Instagram page here]

‘Never be ashamed of being different: it is this difference that makes you extraordinary and unique.’ Siena Castellon


The Asperger Teen’s Toolkit by Francis Musgrave

Teenage years are hard for everyone, and with the added complexities of being autistic, the ever-changing life of a teenager can be a hard one to navigate. In The Asperger Teen’s Toolkit the author Francis Musgrave lends a helping hand with their guidebook for aiding those adolescent years. Easy to read and digest, they cover lots of important topics such as self image, relationships, gender, sexual identity and self-expression; social media, peer pressure and bullying; mental health, dealing with emotions, looking after your health and dealing with medication and substances, as well as lifestyle aspects such as interests, pets and how to learn to deal with money. It’s a great book and the support it has the potential to give, and knowledge it could equip young autistic individuals with, is rather great. The chapters aren’t long but manage to cover all the necessary elements, and at the end of each chapter there’s a ‘Toolkit Tips’ consisting of six elements of understanding – Inner Power, Positive Attitude, Emotional Control, Bouncing Back (Resilience), Human Connection and Self Care. Alongside practical advice about how to deal with life’s unique ups and downs, this informative and compassionate guidebook will be invaluable to many teens out there.

‘There are lots of new and exciting challenges ahead. Whilst it’s perfectly normal to be apprehensive, there is no reason to be scared. People often describe life as a bit of a roller coaster, with its ups and downs, twists and turns. This book will help you stay safe and enjoy the ride.’ The Asperger Teen’s Toolkit


Other books I didn’t get round to rambling about…

Can You See Me? series by Libby Scott & Rebecca Westcott (middle-grade fiction)

Paws by Kate Foster (middle-grade fiction)

M is for Autism by the student of Limpsfield Grange (non-fiction)

The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas (teen fiction)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon(YA fiction)

Queerly Autistic by Erin Ekins (YA non-fiction)

Shake it Up! by Quincy Hansen (YA non-fiction)


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog about autistic books for children and teenagers, I hope you enjoyed it. For more recommendations on books, tv, film and podcasts that deal with the topic of autism, please click here. I hope you have a lovely day, and as ever, happy reading 🙂

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