Tag Archives: Disability

Mama’s Chickens – Michelle Worthington & Nicky Johnston

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EK Books

March 2023

ISBN: 9781922539458

RRP: $24.99

When the news about Bruce Willis’ aphasia condition first came out, my family and friends will attest to the fact that I was devastated – given that I freely admit, and have done for years, that he is my ‘Oh yeahhhhhh’ guy and always has been. But more than that, I was so terribly sorry that someone who has made his living with speaking/acting would be faced with such a loss. Now, with recent news we understand that his condition is frontal temporal dementia.

This has been a catalyst not only for this progressive disease to become wider known but for sharing to the general public that dementia is not just an ‘old people’ disease. When you get to my age, sadly you are well acquainted with the terrible-ness of dementia, with perhaps parents, older relatives and now even friends, but not so many people are aware that dementia is not confined to younger people. I know someone who, over a decade ago, was in her early 40s when she was diagnosed but, in general, it has not been so commonly known.

I’ve also been aware for some time that Michelle Worthington was diagnosed in 2021.In fact, when I heard the latest revelations about Bruce’s diagnosis, I thought – oh same as Michelle šŸ˜¦ … [plus three other friends]. Since that time, her own mission became to share more information and understanding around this condition in younger people. And Michelle is one of our own – that is, she’s a Brisbane creator, whom I have met and admired for a long time. I know how immensely talented she is, and how passionate she is about sharing a love of reading and writing, encouraging learning and education, and working towards ensuring that all young people have the power to make changes in their lives.

Essentially this is a simple story. Mama is not keen on chickens but accepts them into her family life, and, of course, grows to love them. As time goes on, she doesn’t always remember the chookies’ names, or sometimes she gets cross with them but each knows the other is still there, and still loving, and will always do their best in caring.

It is a story of acceptance of disability in the sure knowledge that even when a loved one can’t always respond in the way we expect or are used to, we know they still love us and we love them.

Michelle is a remarkable woman whose example to us all is, that while misfortune comes upon many of us, it is our choice whether to crumble beneath it or rise above it. I have long had admiration for her talent and creativity as an award-winning author. Now I have the utmost regard for her as a strong, resilient woman who does her best to share valuable insight to others. It takes a special kind of courage to put aside your own feelings for the good of others. How fortunate are we to have one such in our local area who will do her best to share information, understanding and empathy with her young audience.

Of course, as with any picture book the illustrator’s sensitive interpretation of the content adds volumes and Nicky Johnston has done just that. Look for yourself at the clever juxtaposition of chooks/children as the story progresses and the gentle grace of the characters.

Michelle Worthington – you are one in a million.

Highly recommended for your readers – and discussions- from around Prep upwards.

Sticky McStickStick: the Friend who Helped me Walk Again – Michael Rosen

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Walker Books

February 2022

ISBN: 9781529502404
Imprint: Walker

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

When I first read about Michael Rosen’s near-death Covid episode, I found it incredibly moving as this man is one of my most admired creators of children’s literature. Then I read, and shared, his article thanking Sticky McStickStick, and knew for certain that this was a not-to-be-missed book. And here it is, at last, and so very much worth waiting a while.

This, as with so many of Michael’s books, will touch the heart of many but, perhaps more importantly, will help children and their families come to grips with the struggle is the recovery from extreme and debilitating illnesses. One of the oft-repeated phrases two years into the pandemic is ‘long Covid’ and many accounts are emerging as people describe their ongoing difficulties along the road to a true recovery. Realistically, though our scientists have achieved great things with regards to vaccines and testing and so on, the lasting effects of the virus, in all its permutations, will continue to be a focus for research for years to come.

Michael couches his illness and subsequent rehabilitation in terms that will be readily understood by young readers, and offers an opportunity for important, indeed vital, discussion around the ‘afterwards’ of being infected or seriously ill. In typical Rosen fashion he manages to even make light of what must have been Herculean efforts in making those painful steps towards resuming a normal kind of life. The natural pairing with Tony Ross is, as always, inspired, as the illustrations so beautifully support the text with a full gamut of emotions.

I foresee this being a hugely significant book in primary classrooms and library as 2022 continues to unfold in a continuation of the difficulties of the past two years, and I would strongly suggest you put this on your order list and share it will all your primary students – and really, even secondary students as a conversation starter. Our kiddos need to know that hope is not extinguished, and that though recovery may be fraught, it is possible, more often than not.

Highly recommended for students from around Year 1 upwards.

The Curiosities – Zana Frallion/Phil Lesnie

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2021Ā |Ā 9780734417848Ā |Ā RRP $26.99

Imprint: Lothian Books

I think I am right in saying that this is the first picture book I have reviewed inspired by a child with Tourette’s Syndrome and while that is not explicit in either text or illustrations, the underlying theme of recognising, accepting and celebrating differences is tremendously important.

This is a sophisticated book in all senses so my inclination is that it is more suitable for sharing with older children, with whom one would be able to fully explore and unpack the subtleties both written and visual. Indeed, the teachers’ resources file is full of splendid suggestions for doing this providing a very handy guideline for either library or classroom.

The narrative blends the idea of divergent neurological behaviour with Filipino mythology, creating the ‘curiosities’ based on figures from this folklore. The illustrations have a very ethereal/other worldly feel to them, easily conveying the sense of the ‘invisibility’ of some disabilities (something with which I am well acquainted. They are very beautifully rendered (I think this might be my first encounter with Phil’s work and I will definitely be looking out for more).

Miri wakes one morning to discover things around him are now somehow different. It seems the Curiosities have chosen him and lead him to all kinds of discoveries and marvels although sometimes the make him feel very along. From one connection with an Elder, others unravelled and soon, Miri does not feel quite so isolated – and at times, the Curiosities leave him altogether for a while.

This is definitely a multi-layered text and if in a library collection, there will be children, no doubt, who will pick it up and read it at face value, but I believe it’s greater value is in sharing with students and leading them to a greater understanding of diversity, and ways in which they might connect with others.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 4 upwards and certainly for classroom enrichment experiences.