Puffin is to publish A Different Sort of Normal, written and illustrated by debut talent Abigail Balfe—the true story of one girl's journey growing up autistic.
The illustrated middle-grade title has been described as "full of humour and heart" and is set to be Puffin’s biggest non-fiction launch of 2021. Commissioning editors Tom Rawlinson and Emily Lunn bought world rights for two books from Emily Talbot at United Agents. It will publish in paperback on 15th July 2021 for readers aged nine and up, with a picture book following for younger readers in early 2022.
A Different Sort of Normal centres on Balfe, who explains: "Unfortunately for younger me, I didn't realise I was autistic until I was an adult. This is my story of growing up navigating the confusing 'normal' world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself."
In the book, readers are told about the highs and lows of her childhood as she discovers her different sort of normal. The synopsis says: "There are funny stories that include her fear of toilets, love of cats and an incident involving her dad and a tub of ice cream at the supermarket. And more serious stories: a very difficult experience at a swimming pool, coping with bullies and dealing with the overwhelming stimuli of a crowded train. Along the way there is also crucial information about autism, including commonly held misconceptions, and the way it can manifest differently across the gender spectrum."
Offering her experience of growing up autistic while providing comfort to any reader who may have ever felt out of place, the publisher has called the book "very important, very funny, and very informative".
Rawlinson said: "It is an absolute privilege to be publishing this book. Working with an exciting new talent such as Abigail would be an incredible thing in any case, but her very personal blueprint for how to understand and accept yourself – all delivered with her wonderful warmth and humour – is so very important. Her book is going to be amazing, and whilst it’s perfect for kids aged nine and up, it really is for everyone. You are going to fall in love with it."
Balfe said: "I am beyond delighted to have found a home for my real-life growing-up-autistic story with Puffin. This book started as a collection of notes and sketches following my autism diagnosis just over two years ago, while I was studying MA Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. Through scribbling my thoughts and anecdotes and posting a few on Instagram, I soon learned that there were many people out there who related to my story, and I began to see just how helpful a book like this could be for all children struggling to ‘fit in’. It would have helped me enormously to see myself on the pages of a book when I was growing up, and I really hope that this book does just that for young people (and not-so-young people) who are currently learning what it’s like to be a different sort of normal."