Once a month Playing By the Book has a call for books with a specific theme, and this month, in line with the Paralympics, the theme was books with characters who had a disability. It was quite a challenge to find books that didn’t have a token wheel chair in the illustrations or worse children that were miraculously cured, especially if they “wished” hard enough. So we found it a bit of a challenge to find books that were neither condescending or patronising. The point is I really want my kids to see folks with a disability as just another kid on the block, special because all kids are special… needing help because we all need help. That being said, I also want them to understand the struggle that living with a disability can be and how to be sensitive and considerate to people they meet and interact with.
This post would be the most appropriate place to share one of our favourite anecdotes from a friend in a wheelchair. Don’t you hate folk that park in a parking spots specifically for folk with a disability… Well he approached a couple of students, who had parked in a disabled parking spot. And he asked them why they had done that… and they said to him, “It was after office hours.” He replied from his wheelchair: “And I can walk after hours?” Good point… there is a relentlessness about life in a wheel chair and a certain tenacity and perseverance is required for day to day living.
So here you go: Se7en + 1 Books Featuring a Character with some sort of Disability:
Let’s begin with the Mother Person: I read Fair Game years ago when I was at university, I remember a friend lending it to me when I should have been studying for my finals… and being totally unable to put it down. The story of a retarded girl who was sexually attacked by a group of high school boys. It is a hard story but a very real read. Gripping. The young girl so wants to be part of the normal crowd, and the high school boys unconscionable. The book raises so many questions and so many issues, and will leave you shocked at how oblivious we can be to what goes on right in front of us.
And now for the kids:
Hood #1: My class teacher read the book Emma and I to us when I was in Junior High School and I remember loving it so much that I had to read everything I could find about Guide Dogs. This book is an emotional one – you will laugh and cry as you follow the journey of the author. You will read about everyday life with a guide-dog, where no day is that ordinary… This book is very much a “real life” book and I would highly recommend it.
Hood #2: The book, Follow my Leader, is a reader from our school library and one that my children all return to again and again. It is about a boy, Jimmy, who is not unlike our Hood #2. A young boy full of life, who loves nothing more than to hang out with his friends. Turns out one afternoon with his friends and a terrible accident with a firecracker leaves Jimmy blind. The book is really about how he comes to terms with his blindness, not just practically how he has to learn braille and so on, but emotionally too. He has a lot of anger pertaining to the accident and you see Jimmy maturing as the book progresses. A great read and lots to talk about.
Hood #3: Miss Spitfire, was the nickname given to the very tenacious tutor of the well known Hellen Keller. Annie Sullivan was the first person to break through into Helen Keller’s private world. Helen Keller was a fairly uncivilised young gal and while most books tell about her and her life, this book is a great read because it gives you a very deep insight and understanding of the life of her very special tutor.
Hood #4: Loves fact books and it turns out this one is a good one. It is a biography of Louis Braille. Just a little bit more than an easy reader, so great for someone who is venturing into chapter books. It tells the story of how he became blind and about how Braille was developed. This book really is inspiring, a young boy develops something that can literally change lives of thousands of people, enabling blind people to read… Hood #4 really took this book to heart and we had to go on another adventure, exploring the Braille Trail at Kirstenbosch.
Hood #5: Has the Door in the Wall on his bed right now, when I asked him if he had read a book with a disabled character in it he picked it up straight away… This is a story set in the Middle Ages and is about about Robin, the son of a nobleman… who finds himself unable to use his legs after an illness. His life will never be the same again, it takes a completely different turn to the one he anticipated and he has a lot to readjust too. He has to master a number of skills and himself really. This book is a great read if you are looking for a character with a disability, simply because of the attitude of Robin, who has to cope adjusting to his new abilities, which are not those that he would have given a thought too before his illness.
Hood #6: Will read absolutely anything with a princess on the cover, so the Princess Pearl was the perfect book for her!!! Princess Pearl lives in a magnificent castle under the sea, only she is unable to see and so is not overly impressed by all the grandeur. Her parents want to her to marry some glorious princes – with names like Prince Maverick!!! Princess Pearl however loves the servant who is her constant companion… this is really a book about genuine love being far more important than glamorous love.
Hood #7: We enjoyed the book about a young girl, whose mom tells her to Be Good to Eddie Lee. Eddie Lee is a neighbourhood child with Down Syndrome, and honestly Christy doesn’t really want to be friends with him. Who can be friends when they are told to be friends. It turns out that they can be firm friends when she gets to know him better and he shows her a secret place in the park where he has discovered frogs and water lilies. The thing about this book is the realistic and beautiful artwork, this book opens up lots of topics to talk about.
And the se7en + 1th Book:
Hood #8: This is a beautiful picture book about a young boy, who can both hear the sounds of this world. The beautiful and magical Moonbird teaches him how to “hear” with his eyes and to speak with his hands. My younger children were transfixed by the illustrations in this book, for them it was all about the magical illustrations as the story wandered through them.
Thanks Playing by the Book for another great resource post… We will be sure to be checking back to your site for more book inspiration…