George J. and the Miserable Monday
Author and illustrator: Sivan Hong
One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book is that it portrays neurodiversity. It is a 26-page illustrated children’s book that is written from the perspective of a young, neurodivergent child. The main character George J. is also the narrator. The lighthearted story is cleverly written as if George J. is having a conversation with us. He is talking directly to us, which makes me feel as if I’m his friend and he’s opening up to me about his anxiety.
As a reader, I can feel the love and support that surrounds George J. as he faces anxieties about going back to school on a Monday. Neurodivergent children will relate to the type of worries George J. feels about Mondays. Neurotypical children will understand and empathize with him.
The illustration is bright, charming and straightforward. A child will easily understand it and follow it along with the story. The vivid colors caught my eyes right away, and they will certainly catch a child’s attention.
This story will absolutely inspire children to help a friend or classmate who is having a miserable day.
But did George J. get through his miserable Monday? Read the book to find out!
My interview with the author, Sivan Hong:
1. Who is the ideal readership for this book? Who would benefit from this book?
This book is designed for any young child (ages 4-7) with school anxiety. Particularly now, there is an increase in school anxiety/avoidance even at the elementary school level.
George J. is part of a larger book series called the Super Fun Day Books, which focuses on neurodiverse (autism, ADHD, dyslexia, etc.) children. Many neurodiverse kid have a hard time with change and experience varying levels of school anxiety. In addition to having neurodiverse characters, these books have deliberately simple pictures (so that the child stays focused on the story), dyslexic friendly font, and are all available as audiobooks (to be accessible for different types of learners). They are also structured based on “social stories” - with a clear list of child centered concerns and then the overcoming of a challenge. I find that most kids this age, and particularly neurodiverse kids, find the list structure in the books appealing.
2. Who or what inspired you to write this story?
In addition to raising two neurodiverse kids, I myself am neurodiverse. I found there to be very few books for this younger age group that depicted neurodiverse kids. Some of my books show kids wearing headphones, playing with fidget toys, and thriving with schedules. I love having parents tell me that their child recognizes themselves in the pages of my stories. All of my books are based on true stories with real feelings.
3. What are you hoping a reader will learn or take away from this story?
I am hoping that George J and the Miserable Monday open up a conversation between child and adult about feelings and concerns; children realize that their worries happen to other kids as well. With all my books, I want neurodiverse kids to have mirrors of themselves and for neurotypical kids to understand the difference they see among their peers, talk to their parents/teachers about them and accept those difference as just that, differences.