I have always loved reading, and consequently, I’ve always loved books. However, as I’ve written about before, media generally does not do a great job of accurately portraying characters with limb loss/difference (with the exception being Harry Potter, at least in my opinion). I think this starts with media geared towards young ages, such as picture books.
According to 1 list, there are less than 60 books and stories for children who have characters with limb loss/difference that have been published since 1993 (although the list includes the Hunger Games and leaves Harry Potter off the list, so I cannot guaranty the accuracy of this list). That being said, even assuming there are some books left off this list, this equates to an average of less than 3 books published per year that include a character with limb loss/difference.
According to the American Library Association, there were over 20,000 children’s books published in 2009 alone! THREE OUT OF TWENTY THOUSAND?! I know the limb loss/difference community is small (and even smaller when just considering children who have limb loss/difference) but the importance of children seeing characters in books that look like them from an early age cannot be discounted! Furthermore, many of the books that are out there are directed specifically towards an audience of children with limb loss/difference. It is imperative that children who don’t have physical disabilities also see children with physical disabilities in their books because it normalizes being “different.”
For this reason, I am swinging for the fences (as my friend Jason Romero would say)… Importantly, I have enlisted the help of my mom, Sheryl, because she has an extensive background in early childhood education and knows what makes good children’s books. My grandiose idea is to have a series of books called The Girl with the Robot Leg that tell different stories about a little girl who wears a prosthetic leg. Naturally, we would weave life lessons into the stories (because that’s what I like to do) that would be applicable not just to children with limb loss/difference, but to any child who feels “different,” as well as all children who can benefit from the normalization of differences.
Together, my mom and I have drafted a manuscript for the first book to start pitching to publishers. The first story’s theme is about being brave, and tells about a time when the main character has to be brave because of an incident with another kid making her cry. Importantly, the message is important not just for children like the main character who feel different, it is also important for children like the little boy who do not have the experience of interacting with children who look different.
I have no idea if this is going to go anywhere with my random submissions to publishers who will actually accept submissions from “regular” people rather than agents (and who probably get a TON of submission), but I’m taking a risk and hoping for the best because I am feeling called to do this.