Maria and Me: A Father, A Daughter (and Autism)

Maria and Me

Maria and Me is a short illustrated scrapbook capturing a father’s trip with his 12-year-old autistic daughter on a beach vacation. The content is slight in terms of events, but the significance comes in attempting to build understanding about how it feels to take care of a child with autism.

The upscale hardcover packaging and simple images make this a lovely gift for anyone interested in learning more about the condition as it affects day-to-day life, particularly since it doesn’t demand much involvement from the reader. Personally, I’d hoped for more depth and insight. Although the book is supposedly a trip diary and much of the content is about Miguel Gallardo’s thoughts and observations, I feel as though I know almost as much about the Germans populating the resort they’re visiting as I do about Maria.

Maria and Me

I suspect that’s part of the point, to make the case that although we can’t understand her, we can not be afraid to observe her. Gallardo’s strongest moment in the book for me was a small set of expressions titled “faces I don’t like to see when people look at Maria”, including shock and embarrassment. That was a moment when I felt like he was being honest about a real emotion, while much of the rest of the book is more superficial.

A short epilogue explains that using clear images is helpful in teaching children with autism, placing this book into that context because Gallardo “is used to communicating visually” with Maria. I wish there had been a greater reliance on art; many of the pages have little more than a doodled cartoon, with little sense of setting.

Much of the same information is in this animated video, also made by Miguel Gallardo about Maria, which I enjoyed more.

(The publisher provided a review copy.)

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