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Book Review – Naughty Auty by Jo Rohann

Naughty Auty is a delightful short story of an autistic little boy who could not cope with nursery school and who then finds happiness and contentment in home education.

Naughty Auty is beautifully, but simplistically presented. The illustrations based on figures consistent with a young child’s first attempts at drawing people are charmingly attractive. This approach is perfectly aligned with a child centred approach to home education, as the very essence is the child as the subject.

The language used in Naughty Auty is relevant and an easy ‘read aloud’ for a parent with a younger child. For the most part, the gentle lilting tone is a little reminiscent of Julia Donaldson’s early works. However, there is a feel toward the end of the book that the author has lost some of the simplicity of the earlier lines and along with that, the engaging lilt. This is a first book written from the heart and every author starts with a not quite perfect first book, so this should not be seen as unduly critical.

What is not obvious to the reviewer is who the intended audience is. The language is mostly designed to appeal to young children, but the story itself may not be a very comfortable read for children yet to develop beyond the ego centric stage of early childhood. It talks of ‘naughty’ things that Auty is criticised for and that criticism could be internalised by a younger child. Conversely, the happy little ‘Auty’ toward the end of the book sends a very positive message to special needs children that they are, indeed, special and valuable.

This issue of audience continues with a visual presentation which will appeal to small children and parents alike, but the message is one for parents: ‘if your child is not coping in nursery (or presumably school) then home education could be your answer,’ giving a sense of confusion as to intended recipient.

The emotive, loving mum base which brought us Naughty Auty will resonate with parents of special needs children everywhere, lifting their spirits with its relevant and insightful illustrations. Will it be a useful addition to the bookshelf for an adult? That is unlikely. Will it appeal as a purchase to read to a young child? Yes, it may well do, but as always, dependent upon the individual child and their ability to empathise with poor ‘Naughty Auty’ whilst not internalising the criticism he receives throughout the first part of the book.

Would we recommend Naughty Auty to home educating families? Possibly, on the basis of its beautiful presentation and its ability to provide emotional confirmation to parents in respect of the benefits of home education.