Review of Leah’s Voice for Autism Awareness Month Coming in April

To anticipate Autism Awareness month coming in April, this issue of Connect features an abridged version of Mary Lavers’ review for Leah’s Voice, a fictional story inspired by two sisters, one of whom has autism. The Bellingham Public Library recently added the children's book to their collection of juvenile fiction.  The Seattle based organization, The Sibling Support Project, has also added the book to their recommended reading list and to their on-line resource store. 

“I like children's books that try to tackle difficult subjects, but ultimately they still need to be good children's literature. Lori DeMonia clearly agrees. Her book, Leah's Voice, isn't just a "difficult subject" book. It isn't just about Autism. And her goal isn't just to help kids "cope with" an Autistic sibling.

In the book, a little girl named Logan is excited for a play date with her new friend Abby. But when Abby doesn't want to play with Logan's older sister, Leah, because she talks differently and plays differently, Logan gets mad. Why can't Abby understand that Leah is different, but that they can all play together? Logan understands that her sister has Autism, but she doesn't know how to explain it to her friend. Eventually Abby comes around and realizes that she should be patient and take the time to get to know Leah.

What I like most about this book is that it is, first and foremost, a good children's book. The story is well-told - the characters' feelings are revealed through their actions and not just stated by the author. I read this book with my three-year-old daughter, Magda, and even though she is considerably younger than the target audience she found the book engaging and asked to read it over and over again. It also prompted a lot of discussion after.

At one point in the book, Leah is overwhelmed by a trip to the movie theatre and starts crying and trying to run away. Her mother and sister do not understand what is wrong, but they have to leave and go home without seeing the movie because Leah is so upset. When we read that page, Magda said that there were times that kids get frustrated with their siblings, like when her cousin wants to stay at the park but his mom says they have to go home to feed his baby sister. Then she said that maybe next time, the family in the book could make sure that both parents take the little girls to the movies so that if Leah had to go home, one of the parents could take her and the other could stay with Logan and watch the movie. I love that she took the story as an opportunity to find solutions to relatable problems.

We then talked about ways in which children are different, how some kids may not be able to express themselves as well as others and how some children are upset by things that others are not. Magda asked if Leah in the book was upset by the movie theatre because it was loud and I said I wasn't sure, but maybe. Then she asked me what sorts of things upset me when I was a little girl. I told her I hated getting up early to go places when I was little, which Magda thought was funny because she loves being the first one up in the morning.

To learn more about the author, the book and the real-life Leah, you can visit her website:”