Ellen Outside the Lines

Little, Brown. Mar. 2022. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780759556270.
Gr 3-7–Ellen Katz is an autistic, queer, Jewish 13-year-old who is spending two weeks on a class trip in Barcelona. She is excited to reconnect with her best friend Laurel, who she hasn’t seen much lately. Ellen has looked at the past itinerary for the course and planned out everything she and Laurel will do in Spain. But a surprise group scavenger hunt that puts them in separate groups throws off all her carefully detailed plans. Even with Abba as a parent chaperone, Ellen needs to face the changes that new friends and new adventures bring. As Ellen works with her new nonbinary classmate, Isa, and gets to know her other teammates, she realizes that maybe it is okay to make new friends and try new things. Even though she misses her time with Laurel, with the help of her new friends, who are supportive of her accommodations, Ellen learns a bit more about herself, her family, and her Jewish faith. Sass’s latest book gives readers insight into what it is like to be autistic, sharing how Ellen’s brain functions and the coping mechanisms that help her deal with things when they become overwhelming. The text thoughtfully deals with gender identity and fluidity at various levels.
VERDICT A heartwarming and inviting book about finding self that hits at the ever-changing (and challenging) world of middle school. Recommended for all middle grade shelves.

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