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, September 20, 2013

Book # 20 In Jesse's Shoes

I really liked this story—I read it three times and teared-up each time. I think it would be better for older children, ages 6-12, mainly because it has a sophisticated, symbolic premise (walking in someone else’s shoes). Also, it is a bit on the long side for a picture book. The illustrations are realistic, colorful, and show a lot of emotion on the character’s faces.

I am very sensitive to references to religion or God in children’s books and generally prefer to read children’s books that do not contain such references (unless the subject matter is directly related to religion or a belief in God). This story is not about religion, and I don’t see the main premise (accepting a child with special needs and learning to see him or her as a person similar to us) as being connected to God or religion. But the references to God in this story did not bother me in the least. Children of all religions may speak to God privately, asking for help or clarification. Since the character of Jesse’s sister could be of any religion, I found this to be neither offensive nor distracting.
Related Information
In Jesse’s Shoes
Appreciating Kids With Special Needs
Beverly Lewis
Laura Nikiel
Bethany Backyard
Bethany House Publishers is a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI
Year of Pub:
ISBN:     (ISBN-13)
Age range
This age-range is my opinion.
Type of Disability
Autism and/or intellectual disability
Neither of these “diagnoses” is ever mentioned in the book.
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 whose focus is not necessarily the disability
Annotation:  Jesse’s sister is embarrassed by her older brother though she loves him very much. She is not sure how to handle the other kids’ teasing of him, but she knows it makes her feel bad. She is frustrated and feels guilty for not standing up for her brother. Her father tells her that she does not understand Jesse because she has not walked in his shoes. Jesse hears this and a day or two later, takes off his shoes and asks his sister (“Sisser” as he calls her) if she would like to walk in them. She puts them on, and Jesse shows her how to see, hear, and feel nature in ways she has never experienced before. She gains the courage to stand up to the other kids and explains that Jesse is really much more like them than different from them. The teasing stops, and Jesse’s and Allie’s relationship is strengthened.
Link to publisher:
Links to professional reviews:
I could not locate any professional reviews.
If you know of any awards this book has received, please let me know.

Standards for Quality Portrayal of Characters with a disability
1. Promotes empathy not pity
The whole premise, walking in someone else’s shoes, is really what empathy is all about.
2. Promotes acceptance, not ridicule
Jesse’s sister endures the other kids teasing her brother and finally, after literally walking in Jesse’s shoes, finds the courage to stand up to them.  She and another character explain why Jesse is different and demand respect from the other children.
3. Emphasizes success rather than, or in addition to failure
4. Promotes positive images of persons with disabilities or illness
5. Assists children in gaining accurate understanding of the disability or illness
Some of Jesse’s characteristics are highlighted, but the story does not attempt to portray all of the behaviors a child with autism or another neuro-developmental disability could exhibit.
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
There is a whole paragraph in which Jesse’s sister describes to the other kids how Jesse is a lot like they are.
11. Shows peoples’ strengths and abilities along with their disabilities
One of Jesse’s strengths is his strong connection to his senses. He connects to nature because of his developed senses of vision, hearing, smell, and touch.
12. Represents characters as strong, independent people who others can admire or learn from
This point is emphasized in the book.  Jesse’s sister Allie learns a lot from Jesse.
13. Represents people with disabilities from different racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations
Characters are white.
14. Shows people with disabilities in integrated settings and activities
Jesse is on a separate bus; it is unclear whether he goes to a different school from the others.
15. Shows people with disabilities in valued occupations and diverse roles.
16. Shows people with disabilities in reciprocal relationships
But only with his sister.
17. Main character develops and grows emotionally as a result of what happens in the story
The main character is Jesse’s sister, Allie, and she certainly grows emotionally as a result of the story’s progression. Jesse also grows emotionally and finally calls his sister by her real name.

1 comment:

  1. How cool, I didn't know that Beverly Lewis had written a children's book. Thanks for the highlight. =)