By Leslie Lindsay
Delightful read for children and their caregivers about a little girl with special needs and how other children react.
I have always, always been a fan of children’s picture books and find that they teach empathy in such simple, wholesome ways. WHEN CHARLEY MET EMMA is no exception. I love the the simple watercolor illustrations, but also the sentiment.
When Charley goes to the playground with his mother, he sees Emma, a little girl with limb differences; she doesn’t have hands and is in a wheelchair. At first, Charley’s not sure how to react. Charley remembers what his mother taught him:
“Different isn’t bad, sad, or strange–different is just different and different is okay!”
This is the message I absolutely love! WHEN CHARLEY MET EMMA is about friendship, kindness, being differently-abled, but still able to do many things others enjoy.It’s a fabulous message for children and their caregivers as we navigate a more diverse world where disability is more ‘in the open.’ I enjoyed the backmatter of this book–designed for caregivers and teachers when guiding a child through what to say and how to say it to someone who may have a physical disability.
MARCH IS DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES AWARENESS MONTH
I appreciated the “strange feelings inside Charley’s tummy”and how relatable it can be to be in the company of young child(ren) and have them blurt out something not-so-kind within earshot of someone who may feel badly at the words used.
A great companion read with any child of any ability–and especially for those with a physical, communicative, or intellectual difference. WHEN CHARLEY MET EMMA is a must-read and share for school social workers, pediatricians, therapists, and more–teaching kindness, tact, and compassion.
Please join me in welcoming Amy Webb to the author interview series.
I always want to know the ‘why now’ for each book. Can you tell us why you wanted to write WHEN CHARLEY MET EMMA?
There are a couple different reasons I wrote this book. The first is that the interaction portrayed in the book–a typical child meeting a child with special needs–is something we’ve experienced a lot in our daughter’s 8 years of life. I’ve seen a lot of parents wince at their child asking questions and either shushing their child and walking away, or trying to pretend their child didn’t just ask an embarrassing-to-them question. So I wanted to have a book that both introduced children to disability–what it might look like, answers to some of their questions–while at the same time modeling how parents and caregivers can handle a meeting like this in a positive way for both parties. The other main reason was to have a beautiful children’s book out in the world where my daughter and other kids like her would see a character who looked like them. In other words, it was about representation, for my daughter and for typical kids. Because the more we see people with disabilities in the world around us–on
TV, in ads, in children’s books–the less strange it will be when a child sees a person with a disability in real life. Some children have had really strong reactions to seeing my daughter in public, and I can’t help but wonder how different their reactions would be if disability weren’t so foreign to them.
There are so many good points in WHEN CHARLEY MET EMMA. It’s touching and topical in so many ways. What are you hoping is the main takeaway for children?
More than anything, I hope this book will help children see their disabled peers as their equals; as friends, as playmates, as kids they can hang out and play with, not as kids they only want to “help” once in a while or have limited interactions with.
I love the simple, watercolor illustrations. I think they add so much to the text. What was your involvement in that–did you have any say in who the illustrator was?
Yes! The illustrations were extremely important to me as I really wanted this book to be beautiful. Too often I see disability and design/style/art at opposite ends of the spectrum. I see this in accessible spaces and adaptive equipment where things are usually designed with function over form in mind. So yes, I wanted this book to be beautiful, I wanted it to be a book that ALL families would want on their children’s book shelves for both the important message and beautiful illustrations. When I first got the idea for the book I was at a conference where Merrliee Liddiard (the illustrator) was at as well. I remember meeting her–I already knew her work–and having the distinct impression that she needs to be the person to illustrate my book. And here we are, I still can’t believe it worked out and actually happened!
I’ve always thought it would be fun to write a children’s book. In fact, as a kid, that was one (of my many!) career aspirations. Did you always want to write a children’s book?
No–it really came out of the blue. I had the idea very suddenly, but very forcefully. Like I just knew this is what I needed to do even though I had no idea how I was actually going to do it. But now I’m excited at the prospect of writing other books, so we’ll see where this takes me.
I’ve always loved children’s literature. I think I have a really great elementary school librarian to thank for that. I loved the Frances series and the Berenstain Bears and…well, I could go on. What are some of your favorite children’s books?
Of course I have to say Where the Wild Things Are, right? I mean it’s like asking someone if they like the Beatles. Of course I loved that book as a kid and it continues to hold up. The books I could read to my children over and over again are Each Peach Pear Plum, Goodnight Moon, Extra Yarn, Leonardo the Terrible Monster, A’int Gonna Paint, and Oh! I just remembered Miss Nelson is Missing and I need to order that for my kids ASAP!
Amy, it’s been a delight chatting children’s books with you. Thanks for joining us!
Thank you for having me!
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of WHEN CHARLEY MET EMMA, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Webb is a wife, mother, artist, writer and disability advocate. Amy and her husband Bracken have been married for 13 years and they have 3 beautiful daughters and one boy dog. Amy spent her formative years in Nebraska and then Colorado where she graduated high school. She moved to Utah for college where she would spend the next 10 years of her life–except for one magical and transformative year in Hawaii–until she married and her husband who promptly whisked her away to New York City. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting. Amy, known online as Miggy, has been blogging at This Little Miggy Stayed Home for over 12 years. She blogs about everything from parenting and home decor to crafts and DIY. When Amy’s middle daughter, whose pseudonym on the blog is Lamp, was born with physical disabilities, she started a series on her blog called the Special Needs Spotlight where she interviews special needs families and individuals with disabilities. To date, she has conducted over 200 interviews and undoubtedly this series has become the heart of her blog.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
- Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1
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[Cover and author image courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission.]