Addressing disability, this ground-breaking story will develop empathy and understanding around how it might feel to live a different normal.
Everyone has a theory as to what happened to Joe’s leg. It fell off. It was stolen by a burglar. It was eaten by a lion. Joe is hiding it. Every time he goes out, it is the same. What Joe really wants is to just play pirates and to do battle with sharks and crocodiles. And what he would especially like is to not have to answer the question, ‘What happened to you?’…
With a clear message, James Catchpole’s beautifully illustrated picture book tackles an important topic and helps young children understand one of the biggest and infuriating challenges that disabled people have to deal with, the question ‘What Happened to You?’. Told with humour and a lightness of touch, Catchpole invites the reader to step into the shoe of one-legged boy Joe and to share in his experiences. And what an important shoe it is to walk in.
It must be incredibly challenging for a child, who is aware that they have a different normal, to be constantly reminded of this by their peers. It also must be difficult for curious children to understand why sometimes certain behaviours and wonderings are inappropriate, especially as they are constantly encouraged to ask if they are unsure of something. Even well intentioned comments and questions can be harmful rather than helpful and the constant questioning makes Joe increasingly frustrated and angry.
Catchpole helps readers to understand that Joe has a right to privacy and that sometimes the questions that they have are not always appropriate to ask and that sometimes curiosity must give way to kindness and manners. Having lived the life of the character he writes about, Catchpole offers up amazing practical advice for adults about how to handle those times when children’s curiosity about differently abled people arises at the back of the book.
What I love most is that we never find out what happened to Joe’s leg - we don’t need to, what we do need is for children to understand that it is OK not to know. Whilst the disability is the initial focus of conversations, the children quickly move on to other things. Children have a wonderful way of looking for their similarities rather than focusing on the differences and what shines at the end is kids being kids and playing and laughing together. After all, playing games and making friends is what childhood is all about.
A brilliant and important picture book.
Recommended for 4+.