I Am Odd, I Am New
I Am Odd, I Am New
I worry what others might think
I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink
Written as a school assignment, the text of this picture book is a poem that was written by the author when he was 10-years-old. In the poem, Giroux attempts to explain what it is like living with autism. The poem went viral after his parents shared it with friends and family, and it led to many opportunities for Giroux who has worked with the National Autism Association’s anti-bullying campaign and has been appointed the poet laureate of Plattsburgh, New York.
Written in the first person with the lines from the title repeating throughout, Giroux’s poem shows a child who feels like he does not belong. He writes about feeling apart from his peers, of feeling worried and sad. However, the text ends on a hopeful note: Giroux realizes that everyone has qualities that make them unique, and he imagines a future where he fits in.
The illustrations by Roz MacLean need to do a lot of heavy-lifting in order to accompany the sparse text. Often literal translations of the words in the poem, the pictures are colourful and confident. When Giroux describes feeling blue, the accompanying illustration shows a boy in a room awash in tones of that colour. When Giroux describes feeling like he’s in outer space, MacLean depicts a boy floating among the stars.
The simple words and rhyming scheme, as well as the literal illustrations, mean this is a book that can be enjoyed by younger audiences, though the themes are more suited to the recommended 5-9 age range. A foreword by the National Autism Association reiterates these themes and provides useful context about autism.
With an inspirational author and a hopeful message, I Am Odd, I Am New aims to inspire empathy in its readers who may walk away with a new understanding of neurodivergence.
Toby Cygman is a librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.