Talking to Angels

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Christa can't explain her world, and most people don't try to understand it. But Esther Watson's powerful picture book gives readers a profound view of Christa's reality. Full color.
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Overview

Christa can't explain her world, and most people don't try to understand it. But Esther Watson's powerful picture book gives readers a profound view of Christa's reality. Full color.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Billed as a tribute to Watson's autistic sister, this debut work is unlikely to strike a chord with young readers. Its minimal text consists of a dozen or so statements about the narrator's sister Christa: "When she puts her hands on my cheeks and looks in my eyes, I repeat every word she says. That makes her laugh. She hears what I say, only she answers back in her head. She doesn't speak to me out loud." Christa, whom the narrator hears "softly talking to angels," is meant to seem very special, and only on the penultimate spread is the term "autistic" introduced (it is never defined). The art, however, suggests a more disturbing story. Disembodied heads float on abstract backgrounds. Eyes are ringed with huge spiky eyelashes; a nose appears where an ear might be; tears leave tracks like snails. The artist simulates the unformed draftsmanship of a child, but her work doesn't show much appreciation of children's sensibilities. While Watson may hope to teach respect for people who are "different," neither the text nor the pictures give kids the information or insight they need to build understanding. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
Christa is autistic and her unique view and reaction to events in everyday life are depicted in the child-like yet emotionally charged paintings and empathic text by her grown-up sister. Understanding without pity is conveyed and solicited. A sensitive and loving look at the world of an autistic child through the eyes of her sister.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4This personal, tender depiction of the author/artist's young autistic sister treats the girl as a person with a rich, responsive inner life despite her inability to behave and communicate "normally." Christa loves to copy Esther's words and actions, feel a kitten's softness on her cheek, and play in water. She cringes from loud noises and cries when others cry. She seems to hear and see things within her head and murmurs as if talking softly to angels. The large-print text is simple, with only a sentence or two per page. Opposite it are full-page, mixed-media illustrations done in an unusual style that's half childlike and half Picassolike. Mouths are huge and full of teeth, spiky-lashed eyes are unmatched, hands have abnormally large numbers of fingers, arms are long and snaky, and colors are mostly primary. Yet the pictures are moving, dynamic, and expressive, reflecting how Christa might see the world. This artistic, loving tribute to a child who is sensitive and joyful despite her disability truly helps dispel some misunderstandings about autism.Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA
Stephanie Zvirin
Sophisticated in design, with illustrations that combine the innocent look of children's sketches with the pull of abstract expressionism, this book is one of the few picture books that tackles the subject of autism. There is no story in the traditional sense. Rather, in minimal text, Watson introduces her autistic sister, Christa, and the circumscribed world of sensations in which the child seems to live. Autism is not sharply defined. In fact, young children may find many of Christa's feelings ("Christa loves the way water looks. She also likes the way kittens feel on her cheek" ) difficult to distinguish from their own. It's the naive-style, mixed-media artwork that indirectly conveys the rest. Scattered across the pages are an assortment of faces, serene and affectionate, fierce and terrible, that add a compelling dimension to the unusual portrait. A subtle book best shared with grown-ups.
Kirkus Reviews
A book of beautiful mixed-media illustrations, with the look of children's scribbles: painted and repainted, scratched and drawn-over. The characters in the pictures are arms attached to heads, with six and seven fingers per hand. Watson's sense of color, shape, and composition is perfect; the first impulse is to hang the pictures on the wall. The text is about the author's sister, one hand-lettered sentence per page that describes the younger girl's favorite things, from the way kittens feel on her cheek to her talk with the angels. Plain, well-aimed one-liners tell readers exactly what they need to know about this sublime pageant, brought down to earth by the penultimate sentence: "My sister Christa is autistic." Suddenly, the book is reduced to a specific tribute rather than a universal celebration of a unique perspective. To be sure, the tribute is a fine one, but some will want to skip that sentence and allow Watson's first book to remain aloft. A debut of uncommon, nearly perfect grace.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152010775
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/1/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.31 (w) x 11.33 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2002

    This is a beautiful book!

    This is a great book for older audiences! Autism is described marvelously and simply by this young author. The love and emotion felt by children with autism and their family is exquisitely portrayed for readers. Very touching book for readers who are privileged to know a child with autism!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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