A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability is by Shane Burcaw, a young man in his 20s who uses a wheelchair due to spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a progressive neuromuscular disease. In 2014, he wrote a longer young adult memoir, Laughing at My Nightmare, that grew out of his popular blog, but this picture book is geared for younger readers. Illustrated with photos, the text answers questions kids might want to ask, such as "What’s wrong with you?" and "Why is your head so much bigger than the rest of your body?" and "How do you play with your friends?" Burcaw has a lively sense of humor that makes him relatable and the text unexpectedly fun as well as informative. The book combats ignorance about the disease and disability, and the message -- that people with disabilities have much in common with people who don't -- comes through clearly.
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What's the story?
In NOT SO DIFFERENT: WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO ASK ABOUT HAVING A DISABILITY, author Shane Burcaw answers common questions kids might ask about his disease and disability, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Starting with "What is wrong with you?" he answers, "Absolutely nothing is wrong with me. I'm just a little different." He then provides an overview of the disease -- it makes his muscles weak, he gets weaker as he gets older, and though his body's stayed small, his head's not affected. Some of the questions address logistical questions. He can't go up and down stairs, he showers using a special bathtub chair, his family lifts him onto the toilet. Other questions touch on the emotional -- "Do people ever make fun of you?" -- underscoring his message that "if they knew me a little better, they would see that I'm not so different."
Is it any good?
This book deals directly and honestly with the challenging disease of SMA, providing answers to frank questions kids might blurt out, and offering solid information with good-spirited humor. Author Shane Burcaw is a naturally likable guide to the disease and the impact it has on his daily routines, and he's remarkably able to find the fun in life. On a page about his motorized wheelchair, he labels not only the joystick and leg braces, but also the "tattoo" on his neck. He claims, "I can pop a wheelie with my brother's help." And proving himself a game physical comedian, he illustrates a story about accidentally flipping out of his wheelchair with a close-up of his face, wide-eyed after being upturned in the grass.
Because Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability is illustrated with photos, by Matt Carr, readers get a true sense of what Burcaw and others with SMA look like. Kids with disabilities will be happy to see themselves represented in a no-nonsense, positive light, and other kids will get honest, candid information from a narrator who comes across as a fun friend. The whole book is inviting, closing with, "I love making new friends, so if you see me out and about, don't be afraid to come up and say hello!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Shane's disease in Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability. Do you know anyone who has SMA? Anyone who uses a wheelchair? Or who has a different disability?
What things can Shane do on his own that you do, too? What things does he need help with?
How does Shane's sense of humor help him enjoy his life? How does being funny in his writing help him tell readers facts about his disease?
- Author: Shane Burcaw
- Illustrator: Matt Carr
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
- Publication date: November 7, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 6 - 9
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: December 27, 2017
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