Updated: Aug 4, 2022
"A charming and gentle story about how life isn't one size fits all."
Everything is changing for eleven-year-old Alex and, as an autistic person, change can be scary. With the first day of high school just around the corner, Alex knows he needs a proper friend by his side. His chance to succeed rests on the furry shoulders of Kevin, his beloved pet cockapoo.
Kevin needs to win a trophy at the PAWS dog show. But will Alex’s foolproof friend-making plan really work?
Set on the Australian Gold Coast, Paws is a warm, comfy hug of a book. Kate Foster has crafted a charming and heart-warming story following eleven-year-old Alex as he navigates the world of friendships while he and his beloved cockapoo Kevin prepare for the PAWS dog show. This book is perfect for fans of R. J. Palacio (Wonder), Carlie Sorosiak (I, Cosmo) and J. C. Clarke (Spellboda).
… most of all I’m afraid of never having a real-life friend.
Right from the outset of this story we feel Alex’s frustration and discomfort with his daily life. It’s clear that friendships don’t come easy to him, yet we can feel just how much Alex wants a friend. So much so, that Alex devises a plan to help him do just that … make a friend.
But it isn’t as simple as he might hope. In a world where Alex struggles to understand and interpret those around him, ‘fitting in’ is quite a challenge. Determined to prove himself to the children in his class, Alex pins his hopes on making it to districts as part of popular-boy Jared’s relay team, or winning the coveted trophy in the PAWS dog show.
Will Alex succeed in his mission of impressing Jared and his friends, or will he realise that what he needs has been right in front of him the whole time?
Friends are what happen when you’re making other plans.
Paws shows us how the simplest of interactions can be profoundly challenging for Alex, who is autistic. Seeing life through Alex’s eyes is a real privilege, allowing the reader to experience a little of his world and giving us an insight into his frustration when things aren't going his way.
Although Alex’s brother and mum attended the Be Aware classes to help each of them understand his autism and how to make adjustments, there are still moments where Alex feels extremely isolated, unable to understand the words, gestures and reactions of those around him. All except his faithful cockapoo Kevin. Of course. There’s nothing quite like a canine best friend, and Kevin is one of the very best.
While Foster has written a wonderfully autistic protagonist, she skilfully captures the challenges that all children face (whether neurodivergent or neurotypical) when trying to understand the adults around them and navigating the ups and downs of friendships and change. Not only does this book give children the opportunity to explore their own experiences and emotions, it also gives us grown-ups a chance to understand the children around us a little better.
Kate Foster is a great lover of dogs – and therefore a human we can trust – and she has crafted an uplifting story showing readers that we don’t need to work to impress people around us – our true friends will accept us just as we are.
Grab a hot chocolate, your fluffiest furry friend, and settle in for a delightful read.
We must also give a shout out to Ayesha L. Rubio for the gorgeous cover illustration.