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

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book #12 Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor

The main emphasis of this story is the genuine friendship between two boys and their desire to do nice things for each other. Carlos' disability is secondary. This is the only picture book I could find with a Christmas theme that also portrays a character with a disability. It was published in 2002. Writers, take up your pens (or keyboards). We need more holiday stories that portray characters with disabilities--Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and others!
Related Information
Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor
Chris Soentpiet
Philomel Books
A division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
Year of Pub:
ISBN:     (ISBN-13)
Age range
Type of Disability
Spinal cord injury
Partial paralysis; need for a wheelchair
Fiction or Nonfiction
Category:  C, D

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 whose focus is not necessarily the 
Annotation:  Carlos has been rather “down” since the accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He used to dream about becoming a basketball star, but now he doesn't even bounce the ball. Christmas is 
coming, and Willy, Carlos’ best friend, emails Santa with a personal request to come to the 19th floor of the apartment building in their rough neighborhood to cheer up Carlos.  Carlos himself has similar ideas, but when Santa arrives, the elevators aren't working. With Willy’s encouragement, Santa climbs nineteen flights of stairs to surprise Carlos (and Willy) and give both boys their gifts—and a sense of hope.
Link to publisher:
(You may need to copy and paste the link into your browser.) http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/publishers/yr/philomel.html
Links to professional reviews:
(If you cannot click on the following link, copy and paste into your browser.)  http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Santa-Please-Come-Floor/dp/0142419311/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360017261&sr=1-1&keywords=Santa%2C+Please+come+to+the+19th+Floor (scroll down to "Editorial Reviews" to see reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal)


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
Not really
We know Carlos was successful at basketball before the accident, but we do not see any new successes in the story.
4. Promotes positive images of persons with disabilities or illness
Yes (mainly through the illustrations)
Carlos is genuinely excited by Santa’s visit and grateful for his friend’s actions. This we can tell by looking at the vivid illustrations.
5. Assists children in gaining accurate understanding of the disability or illness
This is not the goal of the story. Although we know Carlos has a spinal cord injury and needs a wheelchair to get around, we don’t know any other details about his disability.
6. Demonstrates respect for persons with disabilities or illness

7. Promotes attitude of “one of us” not “one of them.”
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
The illustrations are portrait-like and show a true friendship between Carlos and Willy.
11. Shows peoples’ strengths and abilities along with their disabilities
Carlos’ strengths and abilities are not emphasized.
12. Represents characters as strong, independent people who others can admire or learn from
Not really
We have an impression of Carlos from before the accident of a boy who loved to play basketball and was carefree and happy. However, since the accident, Carlos has been sad. But Santa’s visit really cheers him up.
13. Represents people with disabilities from different racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations
Yes, the characters are Hispanic
The story takes place in a poor, rough neighborhood. The residents of the building are hard-working people, many of them people of color. Other, kinds of people are shown as well, including an alcoholic who lives in the building.
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
 Carlos and Willy are best friends.
17. Main character develops and grows emotionally as a result of what happens in the story
Not really, but he certainly looks happier as a result of what happens.
We do see Carlos thinking of his friend, and we understand at the end that Carlos has asked Santa to come for the sake of his friend.

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