Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Review of My Kitty Catsberger

Photo: This is Pumba, age 13 and one of our own two "Kitty Catspergers" residing at our home. The other Kitty Catsperger is Simba, age 14, who is also a "tiger" cat. Like people with Asperger's Syndrome and people in general, our two cats have distinct personalities. Simba hides while Pumba is the social one who seems to like kids. He sleeps with my youngest son most nights.
This week's theme: Book Reviews!! Today's feature is a children's book. The next two that I'll review are for teens/adults and the last is a scholarly book more geared towards adults.

A Review: My Kitty Catsberger

Today I finally had the chance to browse through a friend's copy of My Kitty Catsberger by John Orlitz. A description of the book reveals that it is designed "to teach children (of ALL ages) how “being an Aspie” is, indeed, a “cool-as-cats” opportunity [...].

That description seems to reveal to me (as a reviewer) that this book is more for neurotypical children and their parents. I found the rhymes and pictures to be very cute and also sensitive in regard to individuals who have Asperger's Syndrome (AS). I can see myself reading this book to my neurotypical five year old who has a brother who is on the same end of the autism spectrum as those individuals with (AS). In general I found that Orlitz explains the traits of AS well explained and also found the pictures to be colorful and playful. I believe my little guy will like this book.

My biggest criticism of My Kitty Catsberger is that Orlitz addresses the connection he is making between cats and AS indirectly. The book does not mention individuals with AS at all. It only discusses the traits of cats. I'm not sure that readers who have no previous knowledge will be able to make the connection the author is trying to make. That is why I recommend that parents or adults with knowledge of AS read and then discuss this book with children.

While this book may be great for siblings of those with AS, I'm not convinced that this book is appropriate for all children who have this condition. While my younger son adores cats and kittens, my child on the spectrum is in denial about being on the spectrum and only has a passing interest in animals (he might pet one for a second if the animal is in front of him).

Although I have not read it yet, I think my child with ASD will probably benefit more from Orlitz's other book, The Gifts of Asperger, which is described as being filled with "positive and affirming" inspirational stories about children, teens and adults with AS. A lot of children on the spectrum seem to appreciate nonfiction books more than fictional books. Perhaps one reason is that nonfiction books contain concrete concepts rather than abstract ones like the connection between cats and individuals with AS that Orlitz's book contains.

To be direct I think that the abstract concept I just mentioned may make My Kitty Catsberger unsuitable for some children on the spectrum. The book is cute and has fun rhymes, but will the child grasp the idea that the author is trying to convey? I'm not so sure...

That said, some children with AS may love this book, especially if they have a specialized interest in cats or animals in general. Acceptance and knowledge of their condition might also indicate that a child may take an interest in My Kitty Catsberger.

Anyway, here is a more detailed description from the author's website (which also contains some potentially interesting information about pyschomusicology):
"Ever wonder which pets are the Aspies of the animal kingdom? Why, the cool ones of course! My Kitty Catsberger is a colorful, rhyming, illustrated story that depicts how cats, much like Aspies, are cool, sensory enhanced, ultra-focused, sharp as tacks, highly specialized, self-motivated, and creatively playful beings who march to the tune of “I’ll Do it My Way!”


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I have never heard of this one. I love this book...http://www.amazon.com/All-Cats-Have-Asperger-Syndrome/dp/1843104814/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215549537&sr=1-1

All Cat's Have Asperger Syndrome

J said...

I liked All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome too. : )

Maddy said...

Mine loved 'all cats have asperger syndrome.' I think it helped my daughter understand some aspects of autism but I think the boys just love cats. There again, you never can tell with them. Some day soon they may be able to offer an opinion.

Elissa said...

The "Gifts of Asperger" sounds great too. Thanks for the review!