Since this is a press dedicated to focusing on inclusion of various abilities, it is important to look at books already out in the market. For this review, I examine eight books with a character in a wheelchair. Some of this feedback is based on my own personal experience as someone in a wheelchair, and the other is focused on the story and publishing aspects of these books.
A Very Special Critter (Look-Look) by Mercer Mayer (1993) 4/5 stars.
Aside from the title really bothering me and not having anything to do with the story, I liked it. But in the beginning, dad gives advice, which wasn’t the best solution. It would have been better if the main character, who said he’d never met anyone in a wheelchair before, came to the conclusion himself that the new critter wasn’t any different than him. Instead, the dad says on page 5: “’Just because he’s in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean he’s any different than the rest of you. He probably just needs some special help once in awhile.’ I thought that made sense.” Other than that, I liked the perspective angle of another student interacting with the character in the wheelchair, even though he’s the main story, he’s not the main character. I think this shift in storytelling from an able-bodied kid works and it really felt like a kid was experiencing first time interacting with someone in a wheelchair.
Arnie and the New Kid (Arnie) by Nancy Carlson (1992) 2/5 stars.
The feel of this story felt boring and sad. Really, it was more about the ability status and not the relationship/friendship aspect, and read like a lesson rather than a story for kids. The thing that bothered me the most was that someone can only be friends/understand someone in a wheelchair, only if you experience the same issues as the person in a wheelchair, and only include them after they know what it’s like being in a wheelchair. I prefer A Very Special Critter by Mayer over this one any day. This was so 90’s attitude of showing the interactions/world perspective of inclusion.
Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher (1995) 5/5 stars.
This was so fun and sweet and exciting to read. It was filled with fun stories that made me smile and inspire me to play with a kid. And the ending/overall message was super adorable! I’d probably get this for my kid when the time comes and then we’d create our own Mama zooms story. This is a cute family bonding time of a book.
Dad Has a Wheelchair by Ken Jasch (2014) 5/5 stars.
Told from a kid perspective and has an educational aspect to it, since it is ASL themed, but in a sweet way from the daughter’s eyes. It goes on to share all the things she does with her dad with rhymes that are cute. Definitely a family creation. I do like the disability aspect and not pushing it away but rather having the kid talk about it in her own way and how she loves the dad bond more than anything. This was just a sweet aspect of goodness.
Zoom! By Robert Munsch (2004) 3/5 stars.
This was a bit too passive for me and the mom seemed to do all of the action and leading the story forward, it would have been so much funner if the main character did all the action like, sorta in Goldilocks. For example, on page 10: Then Lauretta’s mother said, “Well, how about this? Look at this! A nice new 15-speed wheelchair. It’s fantastic. It’s purple, green, yellow. It costs lots and lots of money.” Even though the text was super weak, the illustrations are the best and made the book hilarious. I liked the concept because it is pretty relatable. The brother bothered me and just thrown in there for something to happen. The ending was not that satisfying and not fully developed; the main character should have led the story.
A Rainbow Of Friends by P.K. Hallinan (2005) 4/5 stars.
I really enjoyed this book and it had a fun rhyme book feel to it with a sweet story element to it with great inclusion aspects and diversity in friends that didn’t feel forced. My favorite part was the theme of friendship and illustrations that showed a great lesson of being a friend to anyone.