REAL by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard

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Book Review of REAL by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard

As a teacher, I have taught a few students over the years who are higher-functioning students with autism. As a community member, I have friends with autistic children. As a member of my family, I have relatives with autistic children. I’m just one person. As prevalent as autism is in our society, the general public still does not know much about it. I’m an educator. I work with all children, including those with special needs, in my classroom, and I don’t know much about autism or how best to teach autistic children. That is a failing on my part and I will do my best to fix that. What I do know, though, is that children with autism are real. They have real–feelings, strengths, weaknesses, needs, wants, desires, and knowledge. These children (and adults) need to be treated with kindness, patience, and understanding. They need to be treated like real people. And now to the real reason we’re here: REAL by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard.


My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.

Charity may have mad math skills and a near-perfect memory, but with a mouth that can’t speak and a body that jumps, rocks, and howls unpredictably, most people incorrectly assume she cannot learn. Charity’s brain works differently from most people’s because of her autism, but she’s still funny, determined, and kind. So why do people treat her like a disease or ignore her like she’s invisible?

When Charity’s parents enroll her in a public junior high school, she faces her greatest fears. Will kids make fun of her? Will her behavior get her kicked out? Will her million thoughts stay locked in her head forever? With the support of teachers and newfound friends, Charity will have to fight to be treated like a real student.

Inspired by a true story, Real speaks to all those who’ve ever felt they didn’t belong and reminds readers that all people are worthy of being included.”

My Book Review:

I absolutely LOVED this book! Wow. What an amazing story of resilience, determination, heart, and innovation. I loved the main character. Charity’s voice in the book is so relatable, real, honest, and humorous. The thing I loved most about it was being able to see the inside of a mind that most people would probably not listen to. Unfortunately, it’s easy to brush off people with disabilities and think that they aren’t smart or capable. This story smashes that theory to pieces. I loved how Charity was able to prove herself and her abilities. I loved her strength, her work ethic, her resolve, and her empathy.

I also liked many of the other characters. Each character in this story is well-crafted, well-developed, and unique. Each has his or her own voice and place in the story. Charity’s parents were two of my favorite characters. One of my sons has had severe anxiety and I needed to step up at school and make sure there was a support system for him (the school stepped up and was amazing!). Even though the situations are different, I saw that same momma-bear come out in Charity’s mom. She had to fight a lot harder than I did, but when you have a child who needs help you realize that if you don’t stand up for your child then no one will. I admired Charity’s parents and their love, patience, and determination.

Not only are the characters in this story great, but the story itself is great. I loved the focus on family, friendship, courage, standing up for the vulnerable, doing the right thing even when it’s hard, and not judging people by their looks or apparent abilities (or non-abilities). The story is engaging, fun, sad, heartbreaking, silly, serious, and eye-opening. I loved the writing style and was hooked from the first page. Every school-age child (and their parents) should read this book. It would make a fabulous school or home read-aloud or silent read.

I LOVED this book and highly recommend it! This book does an amazing job showing that people with disabilities are real people and should be treated as such. It’s a great read!

Here’s a little about the authors. Peyton is such an inspiration!

About the Authors:

Carol Cujec REAL

Carol Cujec, PhD, has worked as a writer and educator for more than two decades. Her own teaching and parenting experiences have given her welcomed insights into celebrating neurodiversity. Carol lives in San Diego with her husband, three children, and a mischievous orange tabby.

Peyton Goddard REAL

Peyton Goddard knows how it feels to be labeled as incapable of learning. For twenty-two years, her unpredictable body and inability to speak led people to assume she was mentally challenged. Once she gained a dependable mode of communication, not only did she learn, she graduated from college as valedictorian. Today, she is an advocate for inclusion who writes and presents about valuing all people and protecting those most vulnerable from abuse. Her message centers on “changing this worrisome world” through compassionate understanding and support for all. Peyton lives with support in her own apartment, adjacent to her parents’ home in San Diego.

Content Rating PGContent Rating: PG (It’s clean, but a few difficult things are discussed, including abuse and neglect. There are some bully situations as well.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th) and up

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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