This award winning book offers kids an authentic depiction of selective mutism and a story of the experience of middle school interactions and mental illness.
Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can't be taken back. Five tally marks isn't so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.
But now months have passed, and Elise isn't sure she could speak even if she wanted to--not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away--or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher's stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she's ever hoped for...
A 2019 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts (NCTE)
A 2018 Cybils Nominee
A Texas Lone Star Reading List title
"Powerful and poetic."--John David Anderson, author of Posted and Ms. Bixby's Last Day
"This tender and truthful book stays with you long after the words have gone."--Patricia Forde, author of The List
"A must read. After Zero reminds us of so many loved ones of those suffering from anxiety or depressive disorders. It is a story that will hopefully foster empathy and maybe even communication with our 'quiet' peers."--Wesley King, author of OCDaniel
Age Level: 8 and up Grade Level: 3 to 7
Great for parents and educators looking for:
- A story that addresses middle school social interactions, grief, loss and mental illness
- A story that depicts selective mutism authentically
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About the Author
Christina Collins grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Northern Ireland, where she's always on the lookout for castle ruins and secret gardens. She holds a PhD from Queen's University Belfast and an MFA from George Mason University, both in creative writing. Her debut novel, After Zero, was a 2019 NCTE/CLA Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts. Visit her website at www.christinacollinsbooks.com.
"After Zero takes us into the world of selective mutism and helps us find a story in the silence. For an interconnected generation that can sometimes assume silence is ignorance or a personal slight, this is a must read. Readers will take to Elise right away: she is smart and earnest, and like many of us, social norms can elude her. The story moves along quickly to broach themes of forgiveness and friendship. But most importantly, it reminds us of so many loved ones of those suffering from anxiety or depressive disorders who want to shout, 'Just speak! Just say something! Just be normal!' Now we get to walk with Elise and understand her struggles. It is a story that will hopefully foster empathy and maybe even communication with all our 'quiet' peers." - Wesley King, author of OCDaniel
"An eloquent journey through the pain of growing up, this tender and truthful book stays with you long after the words have gone." - Patricia Forde, author of The List
"A gripping debut novel about a girl struggling to find her voice and discover her past." - Carol Weston, author of Speed of Life and Girltalk
"It's easy to root for Elise, an empathetic narrator in unfortunate circumstances... at its heart, this is a story about a family
coming together after trauma, and the healing and understanding that comes when people pay attention. A
solid addition to a growing list of middle-grade books dealing with mental health." - Booklist
"Give this to readers interested in the ways that anxiety can shape lives and also how young people can healthily negotiate it." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A series of social missteps convinces eighth-grader Elise that remaining silent is preferable to saying the wrong thing and looking foolish... Elise's social isolation and pain are realistically portrayed" - Kirkus
"This is a thoughtful book that sheds light on a little known anxiety disorder called selective mutism. Middle school students and staff would benefit from reading Elise's story. Recommended." - School Library Connection