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Episodes: My Life As I See It, by Blaze Ginsberg

9781596434615 In 2002 I read Debra Ginsberg's Raising Blaze, a single mom's memoir about her son, who was eventually diagnosed with high-functioning autism. In kindergarten Blaze, while knowledgeable about the music of Miles Davis, couldn't sit still at circle time, and by fourth grade D. Ginsberg served as his in-class aide. Meanwhile, the two were surrounded by a very loving family—the author's parents, three sisters, and brother. As Blaze might say it, I became a fan of Blaze during that book.

Episodes is Blaze's memoir; he's only in his early twenties. He has organized his high-school and early college years as if they were episodes of a long-running TV program listed at the Internet Movie Database, including a cast, guest stars, summary, and soundtrack. Thanksgiving with the large family is presented as a holiday special. B. Ginsberg has come upon a very clever, appealing way to present material both typical of teenage years (wanting a girlfriend, going to the movies) and not-so-typical (an obsessive interest in garbage trucks and buses, a deep dislike of balloons). 

I have no idea whether other people with high-functioning autism see the world this way; the viewpoint is the young author's own, and I found the book, published for the young adult market, consistently funny and heart-rending. The writing itself is straightforward: "Summary[:] Courtney was at my house yesterday. Today she tells me she wants to do it again, and this time we include Amber in the plan because I discover that Amber is all bitter about not being included." The cumulative effect of this long-running show is what's important because ultimately Blaze is telling a universal story: we all want friends and love. We all want to be successful at whatever it is we choose to do.

Episodes will be my nomination for the Cybils award in the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction category—unless someone beats me to it. 

For more nonfiction books for children and young adults, see the collection of Nonfiction Monday links at the blog Moms Inspire Learning

The Books

Ginsberg, Debra. Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World. Harper Collins, 2002. 

Ginsberg, Blaze. Episodes: My Life as I See It. Roaring Brook Press, 2009. 

I borrowed Raising Blaze from the library some years ago (and returned it!), and Episodes is from my home library.

2009 Cybils: The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

The Cybils website is open and taking nominations for the best children's books of 2009. The public is invited to nominate titles. Come one, come all! But do it soon; nominations close on October 15th.

Volunteer panelist/bloggers in many different categories (Easy Readers, Young Adult Fiction, etc.) will read the nominated books and pare down each long list into a group of five (or so).

Those short lists will be announced on January 1, 2010. Then a second posse of volunteer panelist/bloggers will read those books and choose the winner in each category. In mid-February the winners will be announced.