Young illustrator publishes first book to raise awareness of autism

A young creative artist from Ellesmere Port has illustrated his first book in the hope of raising greater awareness about the challenges faced by people with autism.

Sixteen-year- old Will Hawkes from Little Sutton , will launch his book ‘Hal and the End Street’ at an event on March 27 at Concept Corner in New Brighton to coincide with World Autism Awareness Week (March 26 to April 2).

Written with the help and support of Liverpool-based children’s author Jude Lennon, the book fulfills one of Will’s life-long dreams and it’s hoped it will form the first in a series of many.

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Set in the 1970s the story follows the adventures of 13-year- old Hal, who has autism, and the difficulties he faces on a day to day basis.

Having being diagnosed himself with autism at the age of six, Will grew up learning to read and write with books he says he struggled to ‘relate’ to.

Will has collaborated with Liverpool author Jude Lennon

Will said: “There were no books with heroes or lead characters that were like me.

“This made it really difficult for me to relate and identify with characters in books. For a long time I’ve wanted to address this issue and publish my own book which will help other children with autism feel more included.”

Will, a student at Greenbank School in Northwich developed the concept for the book some time ago but only set to work last year on bringing it to life, using his creative flair to generate a range of illustrations and teaming up with author Jude to refine ideas for the storyline.

Jude has written books on many topics including mindfulness, dragons, astronauts, football, dancing flamingos and road safety but this is the first book she has written for a slightly older audience.

She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be involved with this project and delighted Will chose to work with me. The characters, characters names and most of the ideas have come from Will but we’ve worked together to create a really engaging book.

“The reader gets to choose how the story unfolds for Hal and I think many children but especially those with autism will relate to the challenges faced by Hal.”

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Will’s mum Jane Hawkes is the founder of the Awesome About Autism campaign and over the years has attempted to raise greater awareness of autism.

In the UK alone there are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum and although nowadays autism is a familiar term to most people, Jane says there is still a need for better understanding of the difficulties individuals and families face.

Jane, who set up an online business called Seashore No 4 in 2015 with the aim of providing work experience and employment opportunities for Will when he leaves school, said: “The real challenge for this book is to increase awareness and understanding of autism.

“Things have improved over the years but there is still a long way to go. Hopefully, this book will highlight some of the daily challenges, experiences and emotions that those with autism go through.

“Without understanding, autistic people and families are at risk of being isolated and developing mental health problems.”

A Kickstarter campaign launched by Will and Jude raised more than £700 in less than a week to help fund printing costs of the book, which has been published by independent publisher Team Author UK.

Those backing the campaign with a financial pledge will have their name added to a list of supporters in the book.

A further £200 grant was awarded to Will by the Richard Alport’s School Foundation which is a charity related to his former school – Malpas Alport Primary School in Cheshire.

It’s hoped the launch on March 27, which will start at 5pm, will attract a number of high profile people and organisations also championing greater awareness of autism. There will also be a pre-launch event at Write Blend Bookshop in Liverpool, on March 24, at 2pm.

For more information about Hal’s Books visit the website www.halsbooks.co.uk . Will and Jude’s progress with the book can also be followed on Twitter @HalsBooks and Facebook @halsbooks. #AwesomeAboutAutism.

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