Thursday, 20 July 2017

In my World: ‘Wheels of Fire’ and ‘The Basketball Tree’

In my World: ‘Wheels of Fire’ and ‘The Basketball Tree’ by Carole Lander, 
(Checkword Publications 2016)

Reviewed by Lucinda Gifford

All children whether they live with a disability or not encounter disabled people through school, family and friends. The list of books featuring relatable disabled characters is slowly growing, but we still need more and more children's books where people with disabilities take the lead.  In my World contains two stories where the characters do just that: 'Wheels of Fire' and 'The Basketball Tree'. In both stories, the protagonist is a normal person in a normal situation who just happens to live with a disability – and who overcomes common prejudice and perceived physical issues to achieve their potential.

In 'Wheels of Fire,' the main character Bec describes her alter ego – Rebecca. 'Rebecca' is all the things Bec isn't. She's popular at school and good at sport; her parents aren't divorced and she lives in a big house. Meanwhile, the 'real' Bec is just the 'girl in the wheelchair', overlooked at school and sidelined by her peers.

Despite this, 'Wheels of Fire' is not a 'problem' book. Told with insight and without sentimentality, it is an optimistic story about making friends, being thoughtful, taking time to accommodate difference – and catching thieves! And it adds to the valuable (but still too short) list of books where the main character, while not being defined by their disability, is in a wheelchair.

In 'The Basketball Tree', Sam is a 'little person' who just happens to love basketball, a sport normally reserved for more lanky humans. Sam is no victim. He's a strong-willed and lively boy with loyal friends and a loving family. During the story we meet a 'bully' who turns out to have a few physical challenges of his own, and Sam learns that he's not the only one living with difference.

Both 'Wheels of Fire' and 'The Basketball Tree' are valuable stories about children with disabilities dealing with common events and also having a positive impact on their community.

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