Coming Up: Australian Book Tour (via American Blogs)
More Australia: Oscar's Half Birthday

"All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome" (One Shot World Tour*)


Move over, all you "Reading to Rover" canines; here come the cats.

First, a little background. In describing the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome, the Autism Society of America says, "The essential features of Asperger's Disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, and activity." The Society goes into some depth on the subject, and I urge you to read more there if you are so inclined.

In her 2006 picture book, Australian author Kathy Hoopmann uses a familiar and beloved subject for many children—cats—to explain a human neurological condition. Some behavior of children with Asperger's might seem unusual to others their age, but Hoopmann patiently demystifies it. Imagine: an enjoyable didactic book. It's a rare combination, but this creative approach pulls it off.

The illustrations consist of color photographs of cats and kittens, one photo to a page. Under a funny picture of a Persian playing with a ribbon, Hoopmann writes of a child "[caught up in a world of his own,] where small things fascinate him for hours." She notes quirky differences and points out strengths, such as, "In many ways his thinking is far ahead of his peers...[he] invents new ways to do old things." In the accompanying photo, an orange tabby leans over a sink, playing with a stream of water. An outside-the-box thinker!

It's likely that many readers know someone with Asperger Syndrome; my son has had a couple of sports teammates and fellow day-campers on the autistic spectrum. I'd recommend that school and public libraries buy the book—if you've spent time in a school library, you've seen the way the pet books fly out the door. Friends, siblings, and other relatives of children with Asperger Syndrome are the book's natural audience. Hoopmann, who currently lives in Dubai, has also written a series of chapter books (for ages 8+), including Blue Bottle Mystery, in which the protagonist is an Aspie.

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome made the short list in the nonfiction category for the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year. Winners will be announced on August 17th.

Details, details
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
by Kathy Hoopmann
Jessica Kingsley Publishers (London and Philadelphia), 2006
ISBN-13: 978 1-84310-481-0
for readers aged 5 and older

* This post is part of the One Shot World Tour: Australia, in which a number of bloggers are writing about Australian books and authors. You can find a list of all the participants at this Chicken Spaghetti entry. I can't wait to read about all the other great Aussie finds.


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Thanks for the review, Susan. This looks like a wonderful books. It has one of those titles that makes you think, "But, of course!"

This sounds excellent -- based on the title, I'd first thought it was a humorous book about cats, and not a serious attempt to explain autism using cats as a "neutral" medium. Your review really explained things well!

Good approach to writing about Asperger Syndrome. I'll have to keep my eye out for this one.

What a great concept! Thanks, Susan - I'll have to look for this one.

I thought it was kind of a joke -- but seriously, cats *do* kind of come in on that spectrum. Bizarre! And very, VERY cool. One of my students had Asperger Syndrome, and this would have been helpful for our class about ten years ago. What an awesome concept!

Hey, everybody. I really admire the creative approach that this author took to writing her book. So kid-friendly!

Thank you for this review. I have a daughter with Asperger's who does not yet know what it is that makes her different. This book might be the perfect introduction for the conversation.

Jenny, I'd be happy to send you the book. You could see if it's right for your daughter, and if not, pass it along to the library or something.

Send me an email at
c_spaghettiAT yahooDOTcom

Interesting, Susan. I have a friend who has a brother with Asperger's Syndrome. I think even as an adult that he might find the cat analogy apt.


I know a number of children who have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and autism. This sounds like a book that's been published at the right time. Does Hoopman include a bibliography in the book or a list of resources/experts consulted?

Jen, absolutely. I'd think an adult with A.S. might like the book, too.

Elaine, there is no bibliography. I have a feeling that her information came first-hand; I read that one of her children has Asperger's.

Really interesting--thanks!

Susan, We finally got this in, and I got to read it. What a wonderful book! Thank you so much for directing me to it. It's a great addition to the library collection; the staff's even been passing it around. We see more and more folks in wanting to learn more about Asperger's.

Adrienne, you are so welcome. It's such a positive presentation, isn't it?

The music critic Tim Page wrote about his Asperger's in The New Yorker this summer, and it's an excellent article. Your patrons might be interested:

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