Cover Image: A Kind of Spark

A Kind of Spark

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Member Reviews

This book had me feeling all sorts of ways, but anger definitely topped the list a few of the times. To see the plight of the main character - from teachers no less - was blood boiling. I loved the comparison of how we treat autism and how the witches were once burned. Things aren't so different now and it was an excellent commentary.
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A wonderfully moving, emotional book that shines a light into the experience of living with autism . . . not to mention it was hard not to root for Addie honoring the women of the witch trial when she learns about them. 

I would caution that there is a lot of realistic things that happen to Addie and her sister that might be hard to believe in terms of how they're treated. It's 100% realistic, but it's a bitter pill to swallow, and you may be tempted to throw the book out of righteous indignation and fury. Don't. I promise, the people who deserve it won't feel it (UNLESS you throw it at their heads, and in that case, I might support your cause).

This is one I'll continue to highly recommend!
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A Kind of Spark is about Addie. Addie is autistic and faces some bullying at school, including from her teacher. (Note: One student does use the "r" word in writing to describe Addie at one point, but it is made evident that this is not okay.) Addie stands up for herself, which I really admired. Addie has a loving and supportive family family, especially her big sister Keedie who is also autistic. Keedie and her twin often butt heads. The two older sisters are college-age.

Addie learns more about the witch trials that took place in her hometown and wants to create a memorial for these women. She recognizes that they were misunderstood and outsiders, and that were she to live hundreds of years ago, she may have been labeled a witch too. Her town disagrees since it's ugly history, but Addie is passionate about her project and receives support from a friend and family.

One quote I loved from this story is:

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 and read them.

I will note that I felt some of what happened in this book wasn't how things would happen (or at least are supposed to happen) in the United States. However, I don't know much about the government or school system in Scotland so I can't speak for the authenticity.

Elle McNicoll offers a strong, memorable voice in this novel. I'm so glad I got the chance to read in in 2021 and rate it 5 stars.
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This book is an important book to have. Addy, the main character, is autistic. She demonstrates how someone with autism can succeed and that even though they are different it doesn't mean there is something wrong with her. It is important for people with autism to be able to see themselves in books. it is also important for those who do not have autism to understand what it means to be autistic and understand.
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What a charming middle grade novel! I can’t wait to add it to our bookshelf. Thanks for the opportunity to read it!
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I bet most of us have never considered the role that most accused witches played in their communities, the causes of their existing outsider status. That idea is at the center of this book and is used as the framework to consider the role of current outsiders. McNicoll is asking us to consider the difference between being accepted and being expected to fit in.These characters feel the need to assimilate to a degree without losing their true selves. At the same time, we're considering community responsibility. This is a place having to come to terms with the ugly parts of their history without covering it up. A solid read for our times though probably not one with a lot of staying power.
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What I Liked:

I loved the tie in with autism and the witch trials.  My daughter, who is not autistic but has anxiety, has often said she would have been accused as a witch if she had lived back then.  This was a powerful punch in the book.  I also liked the talk about "masking" - anther thing that I think the world at large is still coming to terms with as far as people who are differently wired trying to "fit in" and to feel that they have to.

What I Didn't Like:

As an educator anytime a teacher is just that awful it makes me cringe.  Especially the scene after the fight.  The fact that the teacher was alone with Addie and was threatening her with suspension or expulsion without a principal around isn't realistic from my experiences in schools for over 20 years.  That doesn't mean it has never happened and I know the author is writing from her own experiences...  I hope that never happened to her and I pray that the world and the education system will continue to improve in understanding and valuing the ways we are different and the ways that all humanity is also the same.
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Addie is autistic. This just means that she feels things differently then people who are wired differently than she is. She is not dumb. She has a little bit of trouble reading emotions in people, but she is whip smart, and when she wants to know something, she studies it.

So, when her bully of a teacher starts talking about the women who were killed because they were witches, in her small town of Juniper, she feels as though these women were like her, misunderstood, bullied, until they confessed to being witches just to get it all over with. Addie feels that there should be a memorial plaque for these women, but no one else does. It was in the past. It is over and done with. Things are better now.

But Addie knows, because she sees how she is treated, that things are not all that different.

Great story. The author really got into the way that Addie felt and thought, to show how different it was from what we normally perceive. She herself is neurologically different so she gets how Addie thinks.

Excellent book to show children who are autistic, and those who are not, so they can see the other side. 

<em>Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.</em>
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What a phenomenal book! Addie's story was awe inspiring and heart felt. I really appreciated the own voices (from the author) perspective on autism and how it is viewed in the schools and through adulthood as well. This is just such a poignant story for our time about acceptance and support and how we can lift others up instead of tearing them down. It is also a book about how we can learn from our past mistakes individually and as a society. All the stars to this one. I will most definitely be having my own kids read it as well.
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An award-winning debut middle grade novel that debuted in the UK last year, A Kind of Spark is the kind of book the educators, parents and caregivers, and kids need to read and discuss together.

Addie is an autistic girl with a teacher who loves reading and learning, but she's stuck with a teacher who sees her neurodivergence as being rebellious and lazy. She's verbally abusive to Addie, as she was to Addie's older sister, Keedie. Addie is targeted by both Mrs. Murphy, her teacher, and by Emily, a fellow student; her fellow students, including her former friend, all look the other way during these painful bullying sessions, but new girl Audrey arrives and befriends Addie, enjoying her for who she is. When the class learns that their small Scottish town once tried and executed a number of young women as witches, it sparks a visceral reaction in Addie. What if these women were misunderstood? What if they were like her? The lesson becomes a personal crusade for Addie, who campaigns for the town to install a memorial to these misunderstood women, with Keedie and Audrey providing the support she needs.

There is so much in this book. At times painful and enraging, it remains a book that needs reading and discussing. Told from the point of view of a neurodivergent character, written by a neurodivergent author, A Kind of Spark encourages empathy and understanding by providing a first-person perspective. It addresses the bullying and abuse that neurodivergent people are susceptible to, but it also points the finger at bystanders who don't speak out and takes on those who should be there to support and protect students - like caregivers and educators - who are lacking. The bond between Keedie and Addie is heart-warming, and their discussions on "masking" - acting neurotypical in order to fit in - are thought-provoking and a wake-up call. An incredible book that is a must-add, must-read, to all collections.
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This book broke my heart and put it back together again. It tells the story of Addie, an autistic girl who tries to convince her Scottish village to create a memorial to the women wrongfully killed for witchcraft simply for behaving differently from other villagers. It was fascinating to read about perspectives of autism in another country and I loved Addie's defense of the "witches" and her fight for the town to do what's right. I'll admit this was a hard read for me to get through, as several portions hit close to home, but what kept me going was Addie's support system, from her family to Audrey to the handful of local adults who tell her it's okay to be different and that those who try to punish her for it are actually the ones in the wrong. The book touches on everything from stimming to meltdowns to misconceptions about autistic people and empathy. I have been looking for more titles that have autistic protagonists beyond the traditional (male) stereotypes and this one really works. Not that there aren't those who relate to those depictions, but I personally do not and I would have benefited tremendously from having a book like this as a kid to be some fictional solidarity as I figured things out. I'm grateful it's out in the world for readers who need it to find and I highly recommend it. TW: bullying, ableism, r-word
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Beautifully written account of how an Asperger's girl navigates her world, interacts with peers. A peek into one version of what Asperger's is like without going into clinical details.
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A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll is about a girl named Adeline who is autistic. She thinks differently from the people around her, including her sister Nina. Addie’s other sister, Nina's twin, Keedie, is autistic, too, so Keedie and Addie often get along well. Keedie is Addie's biggest advocate. Addie often spends her time at school trying to avoid conversations with her teacher, Ms. Murphy, but when Addie learns about the witch trials that happened in her town, Juniper, she can't stay silent anymore.

I liked this book because there are a lot of conversations about what autism looks like for girls as well as what it looks like to be an advocate for autistic girls in the classroom. Oftentimes, autistic girls are diagnosed much later in life than boys are because there's not much that people know about the differences in autistic boys and girls yet (as a result of autistic males being the first studies of autism). I had read the book Frankie and Amelia not too long ago which was also about the differences in autistic boys and girls, but this story showed the diversity that can even show up in the spectrum. For example, Keedie just shows one example of an autistic woman. Addie often learns from her sister Keedie about how her brain works. Amelia in Frankie and Amelia, on the other hand, didn't necessarily have that guide, even though Frankie tries to be that guide from an animal's perspective, so Amelia has her cat, her doctor, and her mom as the best advocates she has.
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A Kind of Spark is about an autistic girl named Addie who becomes interested in the witch trials that took place centuries ago in her town and wants to put up a memorial for the women unjustly executed but runs into resistance from the adults in charge. Addie is a charming, relatable protagonist.  This is a great book for 4-6th graders, especially for starting discussions on neurodivergence and how society treats those who are different.
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This is a great story. The characters are well written and even the secondary characters feel well rounded. I appreciated the dynamic this brought to the story. It was also wonderful to see the ways Addie's family and friends supported her. Even when they didn't fully understand what she was experiencing they still tried their best to support her and her mission to build a memorial for the witches. I also thought the parallels between how non-neurotypical people are treated in modern times and during the witch trials was well written. All around this is a great book.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read and review the digital ARC of A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll.  I have read several books with characters who are neurodiverse but from my knowledge none have been written by an author who was neurodiverse as well.  So I was interested in reading this #ownvoice perspective.  This book gives excellent insight into how much "more" being autistic can seem.  

Addie, the main character, is autistic.  She is bullied relentlessly at school for her differences by her classmates, receiving no help from her teacher who targets her as well.  At one point Addie learns that in the past, women from her village were burned as witches simply because they were different. She connects to this deeply.  She campaigns the village board to somehow commemorate these women and is met with disdain.  In a side storyline, her older sister, who is also autistic and in college, is dealing with her own issues pertaining to masking and burnout.    

All in all, a very great book.
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After learning about the women who were once accused of witchcraft in her Scottish town just because they were different, an autistic girl takes on a hateful teacher and a bigoted town council to get a memorial plaque in their memory.

From the feeling of electricity that comes with sensory overload to the exhaustion of masking to the sense of pride and identity and unique strengths of being autistic--this middle grade novel captures the reality of one autistic girl's voice in a way that was entirely relatable to me as an autistic reader and (I believe) accessible to neurotypical readers as well. Although it is in many ways a book about what it is like to be autistic, it is never overly explanatory, making it as much a story for autistic children as about them. I felt an enormous sense of connection with this text--I felt seen--and I'm an adult; I can only imagine that the experience is more poignant for those neurodivergent readers at the same stage of life as the protagonist. Add to this wonderful autistic representation the compelling plot, horrifying villain (the bullying teacher), and underdog heroine you can't help but fall in love with, and you have a perfect title for any middle grade contemporary collection or book club. I'm so glad this novel finally made it over to the US. I highly recommend it!
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Being different is hard enough in any setting, but for a resident of the small town of Juniper, Scotland, it can be even worse. Eleven-year-old Addie is autistic, and she must mask in order to fit in with her classmates as best she can. But for a girl who is hyper aware of the physical and neurological sensations around her, this can be incredibly fatiguing. A school project about witch trials in Juniper captivates Addie’s attention, and she begins to recognize parallels between this past intolerance and her present reality. Inspired into action, Addie uses her tenacity and fortitude to speak out and encourage her town to atone for their town’s history while forging a brighter future together.

Heartfelt in its delivery, this story focuses on Addie and her experience as an autistic girl in a town that does not always look favorably upon differences. While she encounters difficulties with both peers and adults in her life, Addie is well adjusted to behaving in ways that make her seem more neurotypical. From educating others about the innate nature of her brain to learning how to behave in public, Addie must stretch a great deal in an effort to make others more comfortable. Sadly, this is a reality for many neurodivergent people, and this book places it squarely in the spotlight.

Excellent writing couples with recognizable characters to draw readers into this important story. Not only are bullies depicted in stomach churning detail, so too is the bravery of those willing to stand up for what is right, choosing to be good and not just nice. Readers get up close and personal with Addie’s story, seeing first-hand the moments that are not always public knowledge. This approach humanizes autistic people and encourages empathy from readers of all backgrounds.

The clever way this story unfolds gives readers pause, especially as the unjust judgement of neurodivergent people is compared to the historical treatment of supposed witches. Written by a neurodivergent author, Addie’s emotions and experiences are powerful, and this book gives a voice to many who might not otherwise have one in popular literature. This is a critical addition to library collections for middle grade readers, and it serves as a mirror to reflect how silence can be just as destructive as words.
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I was more pleased with the concept of this book than the book itself.  Addie is a very sweet and likeable character, as are her sisters.  I really thought the idea of this book - autistic middle schooler faces bullying and changing friendships -- would be more interesting.  I would recommend this to readers who are looking for a very lite middle grades read.
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A Kind of Spark is an amazing middle grade debut by Elle McNicoll.  It follows the story of Addie, an autistic young lady, as she navigates the hurtles of friendship and social relationships.  Addie is on a mission to make sure that the women in her small Scottish town who were killed for being "witches" hundreds of years ago are remembered.  She understands what it is liked to be treated as an outcast simply for being different.  This book is perfect for fourth and fifth graders.  Neurodiverse kids will see themselves in the hero Addie.  Neurotypical kids will learn of the struggles of autism, such as masking, bullying, and burnout.  Hopefully everyone will walk away with the knowledge that intolerance is unacceptable.  I especially love that this is written by a neurodivergent author and is an own voices book.  McNicholl does a great job of explaining what the life of an autistic girl can be like.  A Kind of Spark will be out on October 19th and would make a great addition to any classroom or library
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