Extra meaning in children's book

Cody Knox with his rough drawing of the characters in new children's book My Grandpa's Jars and the final rendering. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Cody Knox with his rough drawing of the characters in new children's book My Grandpa's Jars and the final rendering. Photo: Peter McIntosh
The main character in a new Dunedin-penned children's book is smart, savvy, and has a sharp sense of humour.

Emily, the star of My Grandpa's Jars, is also autistic - although that is not explicitly spelled out.

Autism New Zealand is backing authors Cody Knox and Koba Fern, and hopes to send a copy of the book - and subsequent adventures featuring Emily - to schools throughout New Zealand as an educational tool.

''We are very glad to have Autism NZ's support and they have been very helpful,'' Mr Knox said.

''We wanted to create characters who were nice, friendly and I guess challenged the stereotypes about autism.

''It's about setting the record straight and expressing our own personal feelings about the subject.''

Both Mr Fern and Mr Knox have forms of autism, and wanted to create a story their younger selves would have been able to identify with.

Emily's initial adventure takes her to Paris with her grandfather, and further adventures could have her travelling through time or space with other members of her family, Mr Knox said.

''I think she's a cool, funky kind of character with a good personality.''

Mr Knox matched his draft drawings to Mr Fern's words, and illustrator Hannah Scott brought Emily and her grandpa to life.

Mr Fern said he met Mr Knox through Autism Otago, and felt his collaborator had skills which were not being fully utilised.

''We looked at what was available in children's books about autism and everything read like a description of symptoms.

''We struggled with that and wanted to do something about it.''

Mr Fern based Emily on himself - she has high-functioning autism which is revealed by quirks and mannerisms you would only spot if you knew what to look out for.

Autism NZ Otago outreach co-ordinator Sharon Oliver said the book showed a different view of the world in a bright, charming and colourful way.

''It shows the fun side of having autism - it's adventurous,'' she said.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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