"There are books that bring tears to your eyes - not because they are tear-jerkers but by making you feel instantly seen and understood. Wiggles, Stomps and Squeezes is exactly such a book. I’d been impatiently waiting for it to reach UK stores ever since I came across a video of its author - Lindsey Rowe Parker - reading it on YouTube.
Built around the unique experience of children with heightened sensory perception, the story follows a simple day of routine activities – eating, dressing, going to the playground – and depicts in sound, image, and emotion the events and impressions that can make or break the child’s day; the food squishes, the label itches, the sand crunches … the need to wiggle, zoom, run, “touching every wall.”
"There are books that bring tears to your eyes - not because they are tear-jerkers but by making you feel instantly seen and understood. Wiggles, Stomps and Squeezes is exactly such a book.
Sentences like “everything is loud, my tears are loud too” capture an emotional-sensory meltdown with rare and moving accuracy. However, the book is not a lament but a celebration of sensory sensation: “I need to swing – I need to fly,” “my shoes sparkle as they speed towards the sky”, “I smile and stomp stomp stomp”. The pages are bursting with the joy of searching and finding sensory stimulation – that right feeling.
It is a far cry from other children’s books that try to offer a glimpse into the so-called “autistic world”. Rowe Parker, a mother of an autistic child and herself diagnosed with ADHD, has created a story that makes us empathise without pity, and promotes understanding without being condescending. It’s hard to believe that this is her debut book, and hopefully more will follow.
Autistic illustrator Rebecca Burgess’s pictures complement the text with depth, freedom and originality words fail to describe, but I’ll try: the size of various objects is determined by their momentary presence and weight in the child’s subjective experience, thus the sand pebbles in the sandpit are wonderfully gigantic, while at dinnertime, the oppressive smell of the mush gathers into a green jagged frame enclosing the child’s head. Moving objects and characters are drawn several times on the page to convey their quick motion, so we literally see the whooshing, tapping and hopping in every detail.
Another major plus point: the protagonist Burgess has drawn is delightfully and effortlessly gender-neutral. Although the blurb on the back refers to “a young girl,” nothing in the illustrations prevented my two sons from assuming it was a boy and referring to “him”. This, along with the relatable experiences in the story, helped to naturally facilitate a conversation between me and them about why one of them needs more wiggles, stomps and squeezes than the other, and that calmed everybody’s jitters down."
Review by Eleanor Cantor for Sheffield Parent Carer Forum