Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure

About Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure

Open is a 10-year-old boy with a curiosity for life and the things that happen around him. He is on the autism spectrum and loves to draw. He is especially good at drawing monkeys. When his class is selected to perform in a Chinese Opera based on the Monkey King and the Journey to the West, Open must find it in himself to overcome his obstacles and boldly step on stage. A heartwarming story about friendship beyond barriers, Open is a gift calling to the largeness of our hearts.

Tagline: To a more open and inclusive society.

Book Info:

Publisher: Ethos Books

Author: Eva Wong Nava

Cover Art: Elizabeth Lim

ISBN: 978-981-11-5028-9
Published: 2018
Dimensions: 130mm x 200mm
Extent: 112
Finish: Paperback

Rating: Middle School but good for ages 4 – 65+

Awards: The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, 2018, Bronze medal for General Fiction category.

Nomination: National Library Board Suggested Reading for grade 5

Praise for Book:

✭✭✭✭✭ Open offers the reader a convincing and an unadulterated insight into the world of a special child. The intellect of the 10-year-old protagonist, interspersed with his struggles to interact with others around him and to express his innermost feelings and thoughts, draws the reader in at every juncture. It is a book that has to be read by everyone–adults, parents, children, teenagers and educators alike. — Claudine Fernandez, Ed.M, Founder of Artistic Strategies Academy

✭✭✭✭✭ Wonderfully crafted. An eyeopening insight into the world of Autism Spectrum Disorders through the eyes of a child.  — Edna McKinstry, MD

✭✭✭✭✭ Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure is an interesting depiction of Benjamin, a boy with autism and his journey discovering the joy of the Chinese performing art, wayang. At a deeper level, the story reflects how Benjamin’s parents care for and support him as they too embark on their life journeys of self discovery. […] I congratulate the writer and the publisher for the production of this book. — Denise Phua, President, Autism Resource Centre Singapore, and Special Needs Advocate 

✭✭✭✭✭ In a concise and readable work, the author has brought together a meeting of two worlds. The rich and yet historical world of Chinese opera in the setting of a Singapore public school, the thoughts, feelings and interaction of a special needs individual meets that of a neurotypical world. The negativity and prejudices of some so called normal individuals are balanced by the understanding and sympathy of others. This story, though fictional, portrays some of the trials and tribulations of a special needs individual and debunks the misconception that such individuals usually lack knowledge acquisition or feelings. A commendable effort.”Dong, mother of a child on the autism spectrum

✭✭✭✭✭ Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure is a beautiful and fun story about a young boy, nicknamed Open, on a journey of self-discovery, set amidst the backdrop of a school production of The Monkey King.

I enjoyed hearing the story from Open’s perspective. This immediately drew me in, just as it would young readers. Open’s limits are tested as the story develops with the result of him gaining some lovely, new friendships.

As a qualified SEN teacher (and author), I felt that the story was a genuine reflection of what life can be like for some young people with autism. Eva has managed to capture insightful nuances of the struggles and joys of someone on the spectrum. She has clearly researched the subject very well. — Evelyn Bookless (Children’s Author)

✭✭✭✭✭ Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure by Eva Wong Nava is a sweet and endearing story, beautifully written for readers from 4th to 6th grade, a book with powerful lessons on friendship and self-transcendence. Meet ten-year-old Benjamin Oh, “aka” Open, a boy who loves to read a lot, who enjoys drawing as well, and who loves drawing monkeys to the point that his friend, Bei Bei, tells him he is obsessed with monkeys. Born to a Chinese father and a Singaporean mother, Open is autistic. His life changes when his class is selected to do a Chinese Opera based on the Monkey King and the Journey to the West. This experience will test his inner strength and will allow him to go beyond his limitations, discovering new strength and a friendship that will bring a lot of light and inspiration into his life. 

I loved this story and the author allows the perspective of the young protagonist to come out beautifully. Told in a strong first person narrative voice, Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure is a story that teaches readers the power of determination, the beauty of friendship, and how a young boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder could beat the odds to achieve his goal. Eva Wong Nava is a good writer and I enjoyed the simplicity of the prose and how the language conveys the thoughts of the protagonist. While this book is written for children, it has great lessons for adult readers, including the thought that we can always overcome our limitations and achieve more if we focus on reaching a better place in life. The second thing is what defines real friendship — empathy, acceptance, and compassion. One feels connected to the protagonist. He is flawed, a small boy with so much to worry about, but he discovers the tools to transcend himself when challenged to do something he is passionate about. Great narrative voice, beautiful prose, and a lot of fun! — Christian Sia for Readers’ Favorite

For someone who does not have an autistic child/not work with autistic children but simply using her powers of observation of her friend’s child who has autism, I am amazed at author Eva’s sharp observations which cement the characteristics of Open.
Many descriptions about Open as an autistic child are spot-on. Such as the use of visual cue cards by Open’s father, as well as the sensations brought on by food for an autistic child.
I am very touched by some moving lines that Eva uses, such as that to describe how Open’s father teaches eye contact (“Papa tells me that my eyes shine with light too and that I must remember to look people in the eye so that they can see my light.” – pp. 22).” — Chen Wei Teng, Special Educational Needs Teacher and Author of Murphy, See How You Shine!: A Story That Celebrates the Gifts Within Us

Excerpt #1:

My name is Benjamin Oh. People call me Open. I think it is because my Papa calls me Open and then everyone just copies him. I like to copy too so I can see why the kids copy my Papa. 

The day I was born was the happiest day of my Papa’s life. It was a magical moment. I know this because he tells me this every day. The day I was born was also the happiest day of my Mama’s life. I don’t know this because she doesn’t tell me this every day but if it is the happiest day of my Papa’s life, it must also be the happiest day of my Mama’s life.

Excerpt #2:

There is nothing more I like doing than to draw. Drawing is my favourite thing to do. I love to draw monkeys. Bei Bei says that I am obsessed with monkeys. That’s alright because Bei Bei is obsessed with being a princess. We all have our obsessions. 

“You’re crazy, Open!” Bei Bei tells me often. “You’re obsessed with monkeys! All you ever draw are monkeys. Look guys, another monkey drawing.”

Guys are Ali and Raja. They’re both my classmates. 

Excerpt #3:

Mama hasn’t been coming home for dinner lately. She doesn’t eat with Papa and me often but she does try to pop in for dinner every once in a while. 

I guess it must be very busy outside these days.

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