"One day that winter, as [5 year old] Benjamin and [his father] Richard were standing in the parking lot of his nursery school listening to the fire alarm from a distance, Benj cried, 'Daddy, I am not afraid! Just like Frog and Toad!'—a reference to a story called 'Dragons and Giants,' in which Frog and Toad face down some scary experiences by telling themselves that 'they are not afraid.' "
from The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman (Harper, 2011)
This is a moving book written by a literary agent and former English professor and Wordsworth scholar. Gilman's older son, Benj, read early. By the time he was two and a half, he could fluently read a page from her dissertation. The precocity was unusual, but accepted as evidence of the boy's intelligence and the family's devotion to the written word; Gilman's husband, mother, and father also had careers concerned with literature. But Benj's sensitivities and intolerance to other stimuli worried Gilman, and eventually he was diagnosed with hyperlexia, defined by Merriam-Webster as "precocious reading ability accompanied by difficulties in acquiring language and social skills" and sometimes associated with autism.
I was curious if Gilman's work on The Anti-Romantic Child affected her interactions with her son's various schools and teachers over the years. She doesn't say. No matter. Her hopeful and well-written story, about Benj's struggles and triumphs—and the gradual shift of her own expectations—ought to appeal to parents and teachers of children of all abilities, not to mention anyone interested in reading. A number of poems by Wordsworth, to which Gilman turns for solace, are woven into the fabric of the book.