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Remember Dippy

Kirkus Reviews
Invites readers to question assumptions about what young people are capable of, and [Vernick] shows how willing they often are to view the world from a new perspective. An enjoyable and provocative exploration of the clash between “normal” and “different” and how similar the two really are.
Summer is supposed to be about lazy days, but for Johnny, summer doesn’t quite turn out the way he expects.
When his mother gets a job in upstate New York, too far from Hull, Vt., for commuting, rising freshman Johnny is sent to live with his aunt and her son for the summer. This wouldn’t be so bad except that his cousin, Remember Dippy, isn’t like other kids—his name is just the start. He likes his days to follow a certain order, and the introduction of excitement often has disastrous results. Johnny, on the other hand, enjoys the occasional adventure, especially when a certain pretty girl is a part of it. Despite Remember’s reluctance, risky escapades seem to find the two cousins: A pet ferret goes missing, a close friend suffers a fall, and a new love interest might change Remember’s life in ways he doesn’t even suspect. Author of the Sydney Taylor Honor–winning The Blood Lie (2011), Vernick displays both tenderness and humor in her story about an unusual relationship. By throwing challenges in the way of authentic, fully-formed characters, she invites readers to question assumptions about what young people are capable of, and she shows how willing they often are to view the world from a new perspective.
An enjoyable and provocative exploration of the clash between “normal” and “different” and how similar the two really are. (Fiction. 12-15)
- April 15, 2013 
Shelf-employed
"A fast-paced book with humor, drama, and a keen understanding of the challenges and benefits of autism ... Short, sweet, fast-moving, and informative, give Remember Dippy a try for its positive look at autism."

Just recently, I was thinking that despite its prevalence in the US, it's been quite some time since I've seen a children's novel that featured a character with autism (I am not counting Wild Boy, since his autism is speculative and not the focus of that most wonderful book). Not since The London Eye Mystery have I encountered a great character with autism, so I was pleased to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Remember Dippy from author Shirley Reva Vernick.

Vernick, Shirley Reva. 2013. Remember Dippy. El Paso: Cinco Puntos.


It is difficult to believe how much Shirley Reva Vernick has packed into a slim, 156-page novel. Ostensibly a story about how Johnny, a teenaged boy, adapts when he is forced to watch his autistic cousin, Remember (Mem, for short), during much of his summer vacation, Vernick has also added budding romances, a local mystery, a neighborhood bully, a "new girl," and several small-scale disastrous events. The many subplots tie nicely together to create a fast-paced book with humor, drama, and a keen understanding of the challenges and benefits of autism. If you don't believe there are benefits to autism, I direct you immediately to Sy Montgomery's Temple Grandin.

While Aunt Collette toils at 7-11, Johnny soon learns that unkept promises or changes to Mem's routine are likely to spark a tantrum, but he also learns, with some amount of envy, that Remember is supremely happy in his life. He speaks without a social filter, saying whatever he thinks; he has a gift for excellence at video games; and generally, he truly enjoys his life and the people and animals within it.

Unlike Siobhan Dowd's The London Eye Mystery (Random 2008), which is narrated by its autistic protagonist, Remember Dippy's narrator is Johnny. Mem, however, plays a major part in Remember Dippy and has a well-developed character that eventually assists Johnny in developing one of his own,
The guys and I ate ourselves silly on shortcake - well, Mem only ate the whipped cream part, the same way he eats Twinkies. In between mouthfuls, he sang along with the band at the top of his lungs, even though he didn't know the lyrics, even though he couldn't carry a tune. ...
At first, I pretended I didn't know him, but that was pretty impossible since he was either right next to me or calling me every other minute. So I decided to ignore the people who were looking at us funny and just have fun tossing around the Frisbee Mo had brought. It's a free country, after all - Mem could sing if he wanted. And he did want. Finally, when it got too buggy for comfort, we called it a night.

Short, sweet, fast-moving, and informative, give Remember Dippy a try for its positive look at autism.
- May 15, 2013 
Tennessee Libraries
Shirley Vernick takes a familiar story and reworks it into something entertaining, refreshing, and worthwhile. Remember Dippy, her second book, is highly recommended for school, public, and academic libraries that maintain a juvenile collection.
- July 12, 2013  Visit Website
Middle Grade Mafioso
"Endearing…Middle Graders will find the attitudes and experiences of the novel ring very true to life."
What I liked:

I pretty much say it about all the books I like: VOICE. By this I mean that the voice (the outlook, the word choices) of the main character, Johnny, is spot on. Johnny would much rather hang with his friends, Mo and Reed, than with his cousin Remember ("Yes, that's right, his name is Remember--straight out of some New Age baby-naming book.") Remember (or Mem, as Johnny calls him) is on the autistic spectrum and does indeed have several habits that would exasperate a neurotypical teen. Mem repeats parts of what others say; he throws tantrums when he feels he can't control what's happening in the world around him. But he is also sweet. Therefore, while Johnny views his neighbor, Mr. Boots, as a "cranky old man," Mem calls him his best friend. Mem also doesn't get rattled by the boy whom Johnny can't stand, Dirk Dempster. In the end, it's Mem who teaches Johnny acceptance.

Cast of Characters: There's actually a lot going on in this novel. Johnny's Aunt Collette, who is Mem's mom, and with whom Johnny's spending the summer, has a suitor. Niko, who owns the pizza parlor in town, has lost the engagement ring he wanted to present his girlfriend. There's a girl, Leesha, visiting from Chicago who actually likes it in Hull and doesn't want to return home. (Mem, of course, befriends her.) Dirk Dempster has a rotten home life, but he and Johnny come to an uneasy truce. There are rescue ferrets. And Johnny and his pals end up helping (and growing to appreciate) Mr. Boots after he falls and breaks a leg.

Humor: Yup, there's a lot to laugh about. Middle school boys playing mini golf with... hard boiled eggs?! "So that's how we invented a new sport called Egg Whack. Mo actually wanted to call it Egg Roll, but Reed and I vetoed it on the grounds that it sounded like Chinese take-out." There are haircut disasters: "Who was this alien with the spikes and poufs staring back at me...? I looked like a rock star on a bad hair day, only worse."
But I think my favorite line is near the end, when the kids have pulled off something major and Johnny says "For a terrifying moment, I thought we were going to have a group hug. Leesha put both arms out, and Mem started leaning in--but I was saved by the bell. The doorbell, that is." See what I mean about voice?!

In conclusion, REMEMBER DIPPY doesn't have a huge promotional budget. It's being published by a small press (more on that later). But it was definitely one of the more endearing novels I've read in a while, and I would encourage you to seek it out. Middle Graders will find the attitudes and experiences of the novel ring very true to life.
- May 13, 2013  Visit Website
Chris Grabenstein, NYT #1 bestselling author of I Funny
"Remember Dippy is full of characters and a summer you won't soon forget."
- July 18, 2013 
School Library Journal
[Vernick] captures an important part of growing up–that time when young people first start to see beyond their own perspectives and really understand the people around them.
School is out for summer and Johnny can’t wait to enjoy pizza lunches, trips to the lake, and video-game marathons with his friends. Then his mother drops the news: she’ll be spending the summer in New York for work and Johnny will be staying with his aunt, taking care of his older, autistic cousin. Remember is different from other teenagers–he doesn’t like to be touched, he loves to watch the Weather Channel, he often doesn’t know what’s socially appropriate. While Remember’s mom is at work at the local 7-11, it falls to Johnny to keep an eye on him (and his two ferrets, Jumbalaya and Linguini). Several adventures ensue, and what starts out as a burden ends up being an opportunity for Johnny to learn how to beat previously unbeatable game levels (turns out that Remember is a video-game genius), and how to look for the good in others. Vernick populates Johnny and Remember’s town with quirky versions of classic characters, from bullies to curmudgeons with hearts of gold. The author captures an important part of growing up–that time when young people first start to see beyond their own perspectives and really understand the people around them.
- Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR, 
Laurisa White Reyes, author of The Rock of Ivanore
“A sweet, touching tale about learning to look beyond first impressions and outer appearances … I couldn't put this little book down.”
- September 29, 2013 

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