An autistic illustrator works with a children’s book author on an ‘Awesome About Autism’ book series to give autistic children a mascot and help others learn about autistic coping strategies.
Will Hawkes was diagnosed with autism at age 6. He has always enjoyed drawing, but struggled with reading, especially finding books that he could relate to and that captures his imagination. At 17, he wanted to produce a book to help other children like him to feel more included. He partnered with children’s book author, Jude Lennon, who brought his stories and ideas to life. Successfully funded through Kickstarter, their collaboration has turned into a series of 3 stories. First up: Hal and the End Street.
Tell us about “Hal and the End Street.”
Hal and the End Street is about a 13yr old boy called Hal, and Hal has autism. Hal lives on End Street with his Mum, his older sister Ann, his older brother Bertie and his dog Jenny. The book is set in 1974, a period when autism was being diagnosed, but was not very well known or understood. Hal copes with different scenarios in the book and at the end of each chapter there is the option for the reader to choose the ending. One scenario ends more positively for Hal when he puts his autistic coping strategies into play and the other doesn’t end so positively.
Hal is helped by his sister Ann and his Mum, and sometimes by his brother Bertie. It gives the reader an insight into the world of an autistic person and how they cope with everyday things in different ways.
What inspired you to write it?
Hal and the End Street came about from a chance meeting with children’s author, Jude Lennon who has written the book with Will’s input. Jude usually writes for a younger audience but was inspired by Will’s story and his ideas for a book about an autistic character.
Will illustrated Hal and the End Street, being autistic he had the best idea of how Hal would be feeling in the illustrations. He enjoyed doing a bit of research about hairstyles and fashion in the 70s.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
The book is aimed at ages 9 – 12 and the idea was that other autistic children would have a main character in a book just like them. It’s also for neurotypical children who know other autistic children in their class at school. It will help them understand more about the condition and how they can be more helpful to their friends.
It is also hoped that teachers will use the book in lessons about inclusion and understanding disability.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
We would really like to raise awareness of autism and to show others how to help autistic people if they are feeling anxious whilst out and about. Also, for other autistic children to have a mascot that they can relate to in a book.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the book?
Hal and the End Street is the first in a series of books about Hal and is an Awesome About Autism book.
The idea is that the Awesome About Autism logo can be used on other publications that are written or illustrated by an autistic person or contain a character with autism.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
So many proud moments! Will’s confidence has soared with the launch of the book and it has been incredibly successful, getting to the no1 Bestseller slot in Amazon in its category. We have had feedback from children and adults alike. Parents of children with autism have written to say that it’s the first time their child has engaged with a book, some saying they have read and re-read it, enjoying choosing the chapter endings.
One of my favourite reviews from Amazon is as follows;
“This handy sized book addresses autism written from the perspective of someone who is on the autistic spectrum. It conveys well the emotional impact of the condition and provides an excellent approach when Hal can choose one of two options. By recounting Hal’s experiences in different contexts we have an enlightening sense of the challenges that people with autism face. This should not only be reading for every school, it should also be in every library.”
Discover more about Hals Books:
- Hal’s Books Website
- Hal’s Books on Facebook
- Purchase “Hal and the End Street” on Amazon UK
- Purchase on Amazon US
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