Welcome to Picture Books for All

Children of all abilities should see themselves in the books they read. That's what makes reading fun. There are many picture books that include characters with disabilities; some are excellent in terms of their portrayal of these characters, some are pretty good, and some miss the mark. This blog features these picture books and evaluates them based on standards for quality in children's books that portray characters with disabilities. For more information, see the first post entitled "Welcome to Picture Books for All." (Click here) Welcome to Picture Books For All

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book #8 Since We're Friends

While this book is an enjoyable read and valuable because it shows the power
of friendship, it falls short with regard to some of the standards for good literature
that portrays characters with disabilities (see second table below).
Related Information
Name of Book:
Since We’re Friends
An Autism Picture Book
Foreward by Alison Singer, Executive V.P. Autism Speaks
Celeste Shally
David Harrington
First published by Awaken Specialty Press, 2007

Skyhorse Publishing (Sky Pony Press); 2012
Year of Pub:
ISBN:     (ISBN-13)
Age range
Type of Disability

Fiction or Nonfiction
Category:  B

A) books that provide factual information about a disability

B) books that provide information about a disability in a story format in which the character with a disability is integral to the plot

C) books that provide stories that have a character with a disability who may or may not be integral to the storyline and who has been added to the story to achieve diversity and reflect reality

D) books that include a main character with a disability, but the focus of the book is not necessarily the disability

Annotation:  The narrator is a good friend of Matt, who has autism. The two boys do everything together. When Matt has trouble understanding the coach’s directions, the narrator shows him what to do. When Matt wants to talk about animals all the time, the narrator is happy to do so. When Matt gets frustrated because other kids take his toys at the pool, the narrator figures out a way for all the boys to play together. When Matt is very disappointed because the pool is closed for repairs, the narrator invites Matt to run through the sprinkler at his house. The narrator shows understanding, empathy, and maturity.  He wants Matt to feel good (since they’re friends) and goes out of his way to make sure Matt is included, calm, and happy.
Link to publisher:
Links to professional reviews:
School Library Journal: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/since-were-friends-celeste-shally/1110930656 (scroll down to ‘Editorial Reviews’)

Standards for Quality Portrayal of Characters with a disability
1. Promotes empathy not pity

2. Promotes acceptance, not ridicule

3. Emphasizes success rather than, or in addition to failure
“Matt is good at scoring, and I’m good at dribbling and passing.”
4. Promotes positive images of persons with disabilities or illness
Shows Matt having fun and smiling and also portrays Matt’s difficulties and frustration.
5. Assists children in gaining accurate understanding of the disability or illness
Provides concrete examples of Matt’s behavior and emotions that are attributable to his autism; however some of the examples are too simplified.
6. Demonstrates respect for persons with disabilities or illness

7. Promotes attitude of “one of us” not “one of them.”
Yes and No
Yet since Matt is the only character with a disability in this book, there is a clear impression that he is “different.”
8. Uses people-first language
9. Describes the disability or person with disabilities or illness as realistic (not subhuman or superhuman)
10. Depicts people with disabilities as more similar to than different from other people
11. Shows peoples’ strengths and abilities along with their disabilities
12. Represents characters as strong, independent people who others can admire or learn from
No examples in this book of how other children admire or learn from Matt.
13. Represents people with disabilities from different racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations
Matt is African American. Narrator is white.
14. Shows people with disabilities in integrated settings and activities

15. Shows people with disabilities in valued occupations and diverse roles.

16. Shows people with disabilities in reciprocal relationships
Reciprocal but nevertheless, slightly unbalanced
The boys are good friends, which is emphasized on every page. However, the reader gets the impression that the narrator “takes care” of his friend Matt who has autism.
17. Main character develops and grows emotionally as a result of what happens in the story
Matt does not develop or grow emotionally over the course of the story. He is portrayed as a child who needs a good friend like the narrator but cannot be an exact equal partner in the friendship. Due to his autism, Matt is needier and less emotionally regulated.

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