The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp (Paul Russell & Nicky Johnston, EK Books)
The title of this picture book is a bit of a mouthful, but it is rather apt because there is a lot going on in the mind of young Bowen Bartholomew Crisp. He doesn’t think in a straight line but rather in offshoots that deviate from the straightforward thinking of his peers. When his teacher asks five-year-old Bowen what might be considered a simple question regarding the colour of the ocean, he is unable to respond quickly because the answer, he knows, depends on many factors, like the effects of algae, coral reefs and storms. Bowen’s grandmother is not patient enough to listen to why Bowen, aged nine, has strapped a homemade cola-powered rocket to his pet turtle. Only our protagonist’s mother seems to understand his constant need to question, and Bowen finds solace in a game in which they ponder life’s profundities, such as ‘I wonder if a zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes?’ As Bowen grows older and continues to navigate life, ‘The more different from me the world seemed to get.’ Until one day he realises that his way of thinking is not wrong, it’s just different and, more to the point, it can be useful to think in ways that other people don’t. Best for primary schoolers, this book offers a gentle look at neurodiversity and, eventually, finding one’s place in the world. It’s about accepting that everyone is unique and that standing apart from whatever is considered ‘normal’ has its own rewards.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer, and the books editor of the Big Issue.