On an ordinary day, in an ordinary park, a little boy called Joe is playing pirates. As he leans over the edge of his ship and waves his trusty sword in the faces of imaginary (moustached!) sharks, he is interrupted by a shout from another child. “YOU’VE ONLY GOT ONE LEG!” she yells – and just like that, Joe’s game is ruined.
It’s clear that the girl hasn’t seen anyone with a missing limb before and she has a lot of questions. She wants to know where the leg is and she’s determined to get some answers. Soon other children join in and they each try to guess what has happened to Joe. Did his leg fall off? Was it stolen by a burglar? Was it eaten by a lion?
For the group of children, the fact that Joe has one leg seems extraordinary, but for Joe this is his everyday reality. He’s perfectly aware he only has one leg but he doesn’t want to talk about it all the time and he certainly doesn’t want to talk about it in the middle of a game of pirates. There are sharks to defeat and crocodiles to vanquish!
Joe becomes increasingly frustrated as the children continue to interrogate him. Why can’t they all just play pirates together?
I genuinely don’t have the words to tell you how wonderful and how important this book is. I’ve even been a little bit nervous of writing this review as I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it justice! Written by James Catchpole (who shares Joe’s disability), this deeply personal story is the first ever children’s book to address how a disabled child might want to be spoken to.
The book, which has been beautifully illustrated by Karen George, allows disabled children to see themselves represented and also reassures them that their bodies are their own and it’s not their job to educate others.
There is also huge value here for able-bodied children. It teaches empathy and underlines the fact that Joe’s right to privacy is more important than their own curiosity. Imagine being asked to explain something personal and potentially traumatic to total strangers every day?
There’s also a fantastic section at the back which advises parents on how best to answer any questions your child might have when they see a disabled person.
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Disclosure: The publisher provided us with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.