Congratulations to Deborah Kelly for The Thing about Oliver being shortlised in the Speech Pathologist Awards.

From the Speech Pathologist website:

Books are awarded for “Best Book for Language and Literacy Development”.

Each book is judged on its appeal to children, interactive quality and ability to assist speech pathologists and parents in communication and literacy development.

Congratulations to all the book shortlisted. Find out more here.

The Thing About Oliver has a strong narrative format. From the beginning the reader is drawn into Tilly's life - how will she overcome the challenges of having a sibling with a severe disability? Will she find a way to learn to swim so she can have a chance of achieving her dream of becoming a marine biologist? Will her brother adjust to the major change in their lives? Will he improve? How will her relationships with her mother, brother and aunt continue to grow and develop? The journey is fascinating, even gripping, and the resolution provides a good conclusion to the story.

The main character is identifiable: she reacts in realistic ways and has a strong character. The reader can identify with her feelings, although only a few will have experienced the precise nature of her challenges. As a child from a single parent family, with a sibling with a disability, Tilly certainly represents an important element in Australia's diverse social context: the 'glass children' as the author, Deborah Kelly, identifies them. Those children who feel invisible as society focuses on the more obvious needs of their disabled siblings. Through this story, hopefully readers will be able to empathise more easily with the 'glass children' and their disabled siblings.

This is definitely a book that explores new ideas and concepts. Children are forced to contemplate a life very different from the norm; they will wonder how they would cope, or react, if presented with the same challenges. The child reading this book may have many questions about disability, and autism in particular, after reading this relatable account.

The language used will be familiar to the 8-10 year olds who are the intended audience, and the voice of the pre-teen narrator rings true. It is a book that will appeal to adults and children alike as they look at the world through the eyes of the young narrator, reacting with honesty to all that she experiences.

The length and font size of this book make it an achievable read for most children in the target audience.

It is not surprising that this unusual book has been shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards in 2020.

The Thing About Oliver grabs you from the first page. The stark reality of life as a sibling of a child with a disability is depicted with sensitivity by Deborah Kelly. The main character, Tilly, is both a typical preteen and an amazing human being who has adjusted to this unusual life, accepting her brother and all of his challenges. 

Highly recommended as a must-read for anyone who wants to gain greater insight into life in a family that has a person with a disability.

Frances Prentice, B SpPath, B Ed (Early Childhood)