To mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we’re highlighting Emily Dodd’s novella for 8 to 12 year-olds, Surfing the Moon, which was published last year by HarperCollins in their Collins Big Cat imprint.
In the story, illustrated by Omar Aranda and Ilias Arahovitas, Jack memorises the shape of the moon in the sky every night. He’s fascinated by it, and dedicated to the routine of recording what he sees in the top right hand corner of his jotter the following day. He’s also fascinated by the way the moon’s gravity pulls on Earth’s oceans, and decides to learn to surf, so that he can experience the pull of the moon himself.
As with all the best stories, our main character’s progress is not straightforward, and we see Jack struggling with his fears, rejecting help offered, often discouraged, hurt by the dismissive way people respond to some of his ideas. But as with all the best stories, we see Jack overcoming the barriers he faces – both internal and external – and triumphing.
Although it’s not specified in the text, Jack is a boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder – and Emily explains why it was so important to write this story in the blog she wrote on publication. ‘I want children who think differently to be able to read about someone like them, it might help them to feel less alone and to feel more confident in who they are. And I’d like the children around them to be able to understand what it’s like to be neurodiverse.’
Emily was diagnosed with ADHD in her late 30s, and describes the way in which that recognition of her neurodiversity has changed the way she thinks about herself.
‘It was and is a positive thing for me, to get a diagnosis. It’s helped me to understand why I struggle with some things, that others don’t and it’s helped me to be kinder to myself about that.
It’s also helped me to like and appreciate the way I think and feel and to be more myself. I’d got used to hiding my enthusiasm and other thoughts and feelings because of a lifetime of having my reactions rejected, even if it’s just by an eye roll – I noticed and I tried to change to try to fit in. It was exhausting.
But now I know different can be good – for example I can come up with lots of creative ideas because my brain leaps around and joins things up in a way that other people don’t. And it’s okay if people think I’m too this or too that – because I don’t need to be friends with those people.
I’ve always had friends who like me as I am, so I’m not sure why I’ve spent so many years trying to gain approval from people who treat me as if there’s something wrong with me. I’m grateful though, that the majority of people treat me as if I’m valuable and have something good to contribute.‘
You can buy a copy of Surfing the Moon at your local bookshop and borrow it from your local library, or order it online here.