I Am Not My Disability: Outstanding Books For and About Young People with Disabilities
Every two years, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) chooses outstanding books for and about young people with disabilities. This biennial selection draws attention to books published around the world that address special needs and situations and which encourage inclusion at every level. Outstanding titles, including the one below, become part of The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities. This one-of-a-kind collection is located in Canada at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system.
Here is one of the titles from the 2015 list, which also won a Newbery Honor Award in 2014 and appeared on numerous Best Book lists:
Reviewed by Debora Pearson*
After a little boy named Freddie rescues Bessie-Belle the fairy, she offers to grant all of Freddie’s wishes. But to Freddie’s dismay, none of the wishes turns out as expected. When Freddie asks for a dog, a frog appears; when he requests a cat, Bessie-Belle conjures up a bat instead. It takes the Fairy Queen to identify the problem: Freddie’s newfound friend is hard of hearing and cannot understand Freddie because he is not speaking clearly.
The Queen gives Freddie three rules to remember when speaking with Bessie-Belle: don’t mumble, don’t turn away and don’t cover your mouth. After that, communication between Freddie and the fairy rapidly improves. The message about how to help those with hearing loss is well-integrated into the storyline; the author uses a deft, light touch and the tone is never lecturing or heavy-handed. Bessie-Belle’s disability receives an equally understated treatment in the artwork. A tiny blue hearing aid behind her ear is sometimes visible, while at other times it appears simply as a smudge of colour.
*Debora Pearson is a children’s librarian at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system, where The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities is located. Debora works with Leigh Turina, the lead librarian for this collection, and helps promote the collection through social media. She also conducts IBBY collection visits for school classes and youth groups, provides reference support, and assists with the compilation of the collection’s biennial list of outstanding titles.
This review is © Toronto Public Library, 2016.
Read An Introduction to the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities by lead librarian Leigh Turina.
Read MWD’s monthly reviews of books from the Collection.