Illustrated by Karen George
Published by Faber, Bloomsbury House, 2021
The title of this picture book caught my eye because it reminded of another book by the same title that was written earlier this year by Dr. Bruce Perry with Oprah Winfrey. Through in-depth conversations, they explore how childhood trauma and difficult experiences can inform and explain the way we behave as adults.
This picture book is written by James Catchpole who is an amputee himself, and there is a great photo of him at the very back of the book holding one of his daughters on a sunny day at the beach. James has one prosthetic leg, and in writing this picture book, he has given us all some sound advice about the do’s and don’t’s when it comes to asking, what happened to you?
In the story, we meet little Joe who has only one leg. He is having a great time imagining himself as a swash-buckling pirate on the high seas fighting off imaginary sharks and crocodiles. Some kids come along to join in the fun and instantly notice Joe’s missing leg.
They all want to know what happened, but for Joe, this is the last thing he wants to talk about, not today and probably not tomorrow either. So, Joe asks them to guess. The kids come up with some imaginative ideas, but not the real reason why Joe only has one leg. And after a while, it doesn’t seem to matter.
The pirate game begins again and before long, the missing leg is not important anymore, and neither is the reason as to why it’s not there.
We never do find out why Joe has one leg, because sometimes we just need to accept that we will not know the answer, that the question is not polite to ask and that maybe that person just does not want to explain it for the one hundredth time.
The illustrations perfectly complement the text, the children are endearing, their emotions are clearly expressed and, in the end, you applaud their maturity and good sense!
I can highly recommend this book for children 3-8 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the theme of disability, the sort you can see and the sort you can’t see:
And for the adults: