Sunday, October 26, 2008

Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley

Around the end of July I received an email from Debra Shirley, author and former Administrative Director of Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League (PHAMALy). Debra asked that I consider including her new book, Best Friend on Wheels (Albert Whitman & Company, 2008), on the Can Do! list of Disability-related books for kids. I read the information Debra sent about her book, as well as looked up info about it on the web. It looked like a great book, yet I couldn't add it to the Can Do! site as a recommended book until I read it. Well, I'm happy to report that this week I finally put my hands on a copy of Best Friends on Wheels, and it is a book I highly recommend. It's a wonderful picture book - fun, lively illustrations, and a very positive story about how one girl overcame her apprehension about meeting the new girl at school... someone who happened to need the use of a wheelchair. The story acknowledges the somewhat awkwardness (i.e what to say, what not to say, etc) some people have when they meet someone with a physical disability:

"When I saw she was using a wheelchair, I froze,
I fidgeted, twisted, and stared at my toes.
I was so nervous , I stammered, and stuttered.

I might say the wrong thing, I thought, so I muttered."

However, the book hits home with the realization that there is a lot more to a person than his or her disability or challenges, and that if you get to know the person, you'll most likely find you have a lot in common. The girls in the story become fast friends as they get to know each other, and in the end, though the disability isn't ignored, it doesn't define who Sarah is, nor does it define their friendship:

"I still think her wheelchair's a pretty neat tool,

but now I see Sarah first - and she's cool!"

Not only do I think this would be a great book to help kids understand how to approach and interact with others who have a physical disability, but it's a great book to use with kids to learn how to make connections and get to know any potential friend - to get to know their likes and dislikes, and who they are on the inside, rather than focusing about what they see on the outside. The girls in this story demonstrate how kids can make a new friend - regardless of whether the friend has a disability or not. I'll definitely be adding Best Friend on Wheels to the Can Do! list of recommended books, and will also be adding it to our guidance library at school!

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