Jane Elson’s second book doesn’t disappoint and raises the profile Asperger’s in this heart felt tale of friendship, fear and flying.
When I first started reading this book, after the first couple of pages I thought I knew what sort of story this was going to be. My first impressions were so wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional roller coaster I was about to embark upon.
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Twelve-year-old Willem has Asperger’s Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk – and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Barton gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend?
Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. As he flies through the air, he flaps his arms, wishing he could fly and escape into the clouds. Instead, he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle.
Sasha, angry with herself for not stopping Finn and his Boyz, is determined to put things right. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.
When Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying Spitfires, he will change the lives of the kids on the Beckham Estate for ever.
Willem is one of the loveliest characters that I have ever read. Considering he is only 12, I felt like he understood life more than I do. His black and white approach to everyday situations is refreshing and he gave me a real glimpse into the thought processes of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.
While the character of Sasha while does not have Asperger’s, she still has a complicated life and the parallels between the two characters shows the reader, Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t make you that different. The book also highlights the positive aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome. At one point Willem is told, ‘only you could restore order in such chaos.’ Order being a coping strategy that Willem needs to get through life.
I love that the author hasn’t let Willem’s Asperger’s Syndrome, define him, instead, what stands out about him the most is his compassion, honesty and bravery. At first look this book may appear to be about one boy’s struggle with Asperger’s Syndrome. But it is much more than that.
Many themes weave through this book, but I particularly found the life described on the ‘estate’ captivating. The author has created a community that was lasting and vivid in my imagination. I got to know the key players and the ups and downs, it was somewhere I could actually picture existing; something rarely achieved in many of the books I read.
This book looks at and comments on so many issues, it really is a job well done. I feel that I have more I want to say about it the more I ruminate on it. It has so much depth due to the diverse elements included like Buster the dog and the women spitfire pilots in the War. Touching on themes such as friendship and bullying, this is a lovely tale about overcoming obstacles and finding friendship in unlikely places. This is a great read, with a story that I think everyone can take something from.
The Author of How to Fly with Broken Wings – Jane Elson
After performing as an actress and comedy improviser for many years, Jane fell into writing stories and plays. A Room Full of Chocolate was her first book for children and won Peters’ Book of the Year and the Leeds Book Award as well as being long-listed for the Branford Boase and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. When she is not writing, Jane spends her time running creative writing and comedy improvisation workshops for children with special educational needs. She is also a guest practitioner at Soho Theatre’s Writer’s Lab. Selected as a New Voice in the Guardian’s guide to The Best New Children’s Books 2014, Jane is described as ‘a new author to watch’.
Jane struggled with school, especially for her spelling. She was ridiculed and given no support for her struggles with literacy. ‘I am actually dyslexic but this was not spotted at school so I was always in trouble for my messy spelling and writing! This made me hate school but I always loved stories.’
Despite this, she now has written two books. She uses her writing struggles as motivation and if you look on her website you can see that she is trying to give children the support she didn’t have. Whilst looking for information about Jane I automatically went to her website and was thrilled with it.