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Book club: Boy with challenges finds calm in the kitchen

Main character in “Honestly Elliott” deals with ADHD, parents’ divorce and an incident too embarrassing to talk about.

(Allison Colpoys For The Washington Post)
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Honestly Elliott

By Gillian McDunn

Ages 8 to 11

Elliott is having a tough year. His ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) makes it hard for him to pay attention in school, and he sometimes forgets to do his homework. His best friend is away for a year, and Elliott is so sloppy and disorganized that no one wants to team up with him on school projects.

Fortunately, Elliott has a happy place: the kitchen. He’s super-focused there and whips up delicious, complicated dishes. Elliott hopes to be a chef someday, like his favorite food-channel star. His mother is enthusiastically supportive, but his intense, ambitious father and stepmother, Kate … not so much. They won’t even let him cook in their spotless kitchen.

To complicate matters, Dad and Kate are expecting a baby boy. Elliott is sure this baby will be the son his father wishes he got the first time: athletic, smart, organized. Everything Elliott is not.

Click here to join the Summer Book Club

There’s also tension between Elliott and his father because of “The Incident.” This is something Elliott did a few months before that Dad keeps harping on. It’s so bad that Elliott refuses to talk about it. Not to his divorced parents, not to his two pet guinea pigs, not to his therapist. What Elliott will say: “The Incident” occurred at Dad and Kate’s big, beautifully decorated home, during a weekend visit.

Things start to pick up, though, when funny, messy Elliott partners with Maribel on a school business project. Maribel is smart, popular and interested in cooking. Together they plan to create an incredible low-budget pie. As they become friends, Maribel talks freely about the health challenges that led to her involvement with this project, and Elliott begins to think differently about his ADHD. But when it comes to “The Incident,” he still feels the same. With something so shameful, so awful, how can he ever speak the truth about what happened and why?

An emergency — and the discovery that his father has been guarding a secret — shift Elliott’s view of himself and his family. Life holds many surprises, and a good pie is one of the sweetest.

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Here are two books with main characters who, like Elliott, learn and process information differently from most people.

In “Focused” (ages 9 to 13), by Alyson Gerber, Clea is in danger of failing seventh grade. Her scattered thoughts cause her schoolwork, friendships and chess game to suffer. When she’s diagnosed with ADHD, she has to figure out how this impacts her life and learn to advocate for herself. A Mighty Girl’s Book of the Year in 2019.

Younger readers should look for “Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, Or Does It?” (ages 7 to 11), by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, the first book in the funny series. Winkler, an actor, drew on his childhood experiences with dyslexia to write about Hank and his fourth-grade high jinks and trouble with reading and writing.

Next time in book club

A Duet for Home

By Karina Yan Glaser

Ages 8 to 12

June is not happy about moving to Huey House. An accident led to her family losing their home and relocating to a homeless shelter. Even worse, the sixth-grader can’t bring her beloved viola. But June meets Tyrell, who has been at Huey House for three years and shows her that it isn’t so bad. When a government policy threatens families at the shelter, will June and Tyrell be able to work together to stop it?

Join the club

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at kidspostbookclublaunch2022.) The first 600 kids registered will receive a notebook and pen. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian. To register, that adult must fill out our form at kidspostbookclub2022. If you have questions, contact kidspost@washpost.com.

Do you have a book suggestion?

The 2022 KidsPost Summer Book Club has the theme “Speaking Truth,” and we would like to know your favorite books that relate to the theme. Kids ages 6 to 14 are eligible to participate; one entry per person. Have a parent or guardian fill out the top part of the form at wapo.st/kidspostYMAL and then share your suggestions by July 28. We may include your favorites in KidsPost. At the end of the summer, we will send a selection of books to three randomly selected kids who sent in suggestions. Winners will be notified by August 30.

To our commenters

A reminder from the KidsPost team: Our stories are geared to 7- to 13-year-olds. We welcome discussion from readers of all ages, but please follow our community rules and make comments appropriate for that age group.