Jo's Special Gifts Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Friday, April 26, 2024


Jo’s Special Gifts
Written by Mariam Shapera
Illustrated by Lorna Humphreys
Ages 4+ | 39 Pages
Publisher: Mariam Shapera | ISBN-13: 979-8-9896337-0-8

Publisher’s Book Summary: Join Jo, an enthusiastic, curious and sensitive boy, as he shares his autistic joys and challenges with you. This is an emotional journey that celebrates neurodiversity and embracing one’s own gifts. This heartwarming rhyming story celebrates the unique gifts that each person can bring to the world. You will love entering this amazing autistic brain as we celebrate Jo’s special gifts.

Available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and


Mariam Shapera who is a family doctor and Autism advocate, was raised in the United Kingdom but now lives in California with her husband and three children. ‘Having to learn to advocate for my autistic son, Jo, I wanted to combine my love for writing children’s books with my goal of increasing autism acceptance. I have observed countless times the way Jo pursues his interests and passions and the autistic joy they bring him. So this book was born.’

For more information, visit the author's website, Facebook, and Instagram


Lorna Humphreys lives in the United Kingdom with her partner, her two daughters and her cat. She works with authors all over the world and, through her illustrations, helps bring many wonderful stories to life. ‘My eldest daughter, Olivia, is autistic and struggles with social interaction and emotional regulation. When Mariam asked if I would collaborate with her, I was delighted to have the opportunity to illustrate a book that would mean so much to children like Jo and Olivia, to remind them of how special and gifted they are!’ Follow the illustrator on Instagram, here.


Life Is What It's Called - What inspired you to write Jo’s Special Gifts?

Mariam Shapera - My inspiration behind this book is my 7-year-old autistic son, Jo. I wrote this book three years ago at the same time as my first one. It was put on hold as my first book was being released. I continued with it a couple of years ago and completed it. My autistic son has an amazing neurodivergent brain. He pursues his passions and interests, and I see how much joy they bring him. His enthusiasm for these interests inspired me. I am writing from his perspective. I also wanted to raise awareness of other aspects of autism, including autistic play, gestalt cognitive processing, and sensory processing differences. These were all things I saw in my son.

Life Is What It's Called - How has your career background helped you write this book?

Mariam Shapera -I am a family physician, so my career did not directly help me with writing this book. Writing children’s books has always been something I have wanted to do since I was a young teenager. It got put on hold as I went into medical school and started working. I was then inspired to write during the Covid pandemic when I also had a stillbirth and was in the midst of my son receiving an autism diagnosis.

Life Is What It's Called - What will readers like most about reading Jo’s Special Gifts?

Mariam Shapera -I believe the readers will enjoy this book as a joyful expression of life from the perspective of a main character who is autistic. Over the years, autism has been largely viewed as negative and deficit-based. We are just now starting to see how amazing the autistic brain can be and its many potentials—given the right accommodations and understanding. They will love Jo’s enthusiasm!

Life Is What It's Called - How does this book stand apart from the other books in the market?

Mariam Shapera -Firstly, this book has a main character who is autistic, and there are not many children’s books out there that have a main character who identifies as neurodivergent. Secondly, it represents autism positively and enthusiastically. This is how autism awareness and acceptance are shown in this book. Thirdly, there are even fewer children’s books in the market that normalize accommodations, such as the use of a wheelchair and noise- canceling headphones. Fourthly, the book highlights the use of the AAC device as a valid alternative form of communication for these individuals. Not many autism books illustrate the use of the AAC device.

Life Is What It's Called - Why is it important to you to celebrate neurodiversity and everyone's unique gifts?

Mariam Shapera -It is so important to celebrate neurodiversity because it is so misunderstood in the community. It is not a disease that needs curing. It is a different way of thinking, seeing, and feeling the world around us. Neurodivergent individuals can contribute SO much to society if they are given the right communication tools and accommodations. This is not just for children but also for autistic adults. Everyone, whether neurodivergent or not, has something to contribute to society. This message needs to go to the homes of non- autistic individuals and schools and libraries.

Life Is What It's Called - Do you have any tips for how parents can help children celebrate neurodiversity and be accepting of it?

Mariam Shapera -It all starts at home. Parents need to educate their children if they see another child, for example, flapping his hands, scripting loudly, or clapping excitedly to be accepting of them. They should be educated to realize these autistic children can show joy and excitement this way- which is the ‘not so typical behavior’.

Parents can read books on autism to their children, such as this one and others. They can watch documentaries on autism and read books written by autistic adults to better understand their perspective. We are getting better at spreading autism awareness and acceptance, but we still have a long way to go.


Enter for your chance to win a signed hardcover copy of Jo’s Special Gifts, a signed copy of Mariam’s first book, Up Up You Go, Jo!, and a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Jo's Special Gifts: Book Giveaway 

This post is sponsored by Mariam Shapera. The review and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

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