Paws (Kate Foster, Walker Books)
Kate Foster is a literary agent and now, with her middle-grade novel Paws, a published children’s author. Eleven-year-old Alex loves dogs, sketching and computer games. But he doesn’t have any medals and he can’t even finish Tunnels of Disaster and Doom map five, so why would anyone be his friend? With the annual PAWS dog show coming to town, Alex decides that he and his beloved cockapoo Kevin will win a trophy to parade around to his classmates so that he can finally find a ‘real-life friend’ before high school starts. In the process, Alex learns that true friendship doesn’t necessarily depend on accolades or high achievement. The first-person perspective lends an immediate depth to the novel, as we struggle through difficult social encounters with Alex, and cheer as he deploys his learned coping mechanisms. His autism is rarely the direct focus of the book and Foster skilfully creates a character whose neurodivergence is but one facet of a rounded whole. She brings a weight of experience to the task as a neurodivergent author herself, with an autistic child who has benefitted greatly from the companionship of the clever dog upon whom Kevin is modelled. Kindness, acceptance and honesty are the values championed here, for readers who previously enjoyed I, Cosmo or Wonder.
Annie Waters sells books, writes about books and podcasts about books.