WEST ORANGE, NJ — Gregory Elementary School held several Autism Awareness assemblies on April 17 featuring West Orange resident and children’s author Kristy Gray and her book, “The Magically Brilliant Boy,” written about her 19-year-old son, Zachary.
“My inspiration for the book was Zachary and the wonder that is his life and I wanted there to be a book in the world for families that have children with ‘different abilities’ to relate to,” Kristy Gray said. “I wanted to give just a little insight into the world of a child with autism.”
Zachary Gray is autistic and attends a school in Livingston. According to Kristy Gray, “Zachary is doing really well. He attends a private school for children with autism called Academy360 Upper School, which falls under the Spectrum360 Schools. He is simply thriving there. He will always have challenges and will have to work harder than most in everyday life.
“However, he is all things pure and innocent in the world and has a heart of gold. He is so smart and has this incredible witty sense of humor that just makes you smile. Zachary loves the fact that I wrote a book about him and is really proud of it,” she continued.
“The Magically Brilliant Boy” is a snapshot of Zachary Gray when he was in elementary school. It makes note of his sensitivity to sound and sight, and Kristy Gray told students that he wears headphones to block out loud and jarring noises when they are in public.
“We have always told Zachary that he is magic in our lives and that he is brilliant, so when coming up with a title, it came quite organically,” she said. “‘The Magically Brilliant Boy’ just seemed perfect.”
It took Kristy Gray almost a year to craft the book from start to finish. The illustrations by Deborah Burow are stunning and add to words that clearly convey the mind of a child with autism, according to the author.
The response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People have commented that it truly has helped them understand what a child with autism goes through each day and how the child relates to the world around them. That to me, is the highest compliment. For someone to gain a clearer picture and a more educated perspective, that is what it’s all about,” Kristy Gray said. “The book is about spreading kindness, awareness and acceptance for any child that is seemingly different in any way.
“I would like the main takeaway from the book to be that all children are magic and brilliant and important. I’m hoping for the book to open people’s eyes, start conversations, and with any luck bring a little joy and encouragement to other families,” she continued. “My dream is for ‘The Magically Brilliant Boy’ to be a small series of books. I would love to show ‘The Magically Brilliant Boy’ on different adventures and show how he navigates through them.”
Zachary Gray provides the last line in “The Magically Brilliant Boy,” saying, “The moon makes the tide go in and out but love makes the world go ’round.”
That love was evident as Gregory students enjoyed the book and asked questions.
Photos Courtesy of WOSD