From inside the front cover: "The story of a strange, shy, small boy who is isolated by his differences from the other children in the school. The setting is, of course, a Japanese village school, but the situation is repeated in schools everywhere."
This first came out in 1955. This had a great influence on my life when I read it as an 8 year old. It's very much about appreciating those that are differently abled. I assume this guy would be in special ed in our culture.