There’s something so special about a childhood crew. Friends that are so close to you, in every moment of discovery, that they’re essentially family. After school, on the weekends, all summer long - the lives of these friends are intertwined. You’re always just a quick bicycle ride away from the next grand adventure…
I grew up with a go-to group like this. (That’s me above, with the huge pant cuff and giddy shoulder shrug.) Most evenings, we ran around the grade school playground until the streetlights came on. In the summer, the pool was our meeting place. These wonderful people are bonded to me and my sisters in a forever-sort-of-way. So many of our memories were made in their company – playing kickball, playing pretend.
Our girls have been blessed with a similar neighborhood ensemble. The text chain of plan-making is never ending:
Wanna hit the park in 10 mins? Warning, we’re bringing sand toys…
We have zero plans this weekend. Grill and chill Saturday night?
What time are we trick-or-treating?
It warms my heart through-and-through that our family is so warmly embraced by these awesome families and that our daughter with limited mobility is growing up as part of a great group. And I’m also thrilled that more and more often, this same diversity of life experience is being reflected in movies, television and books.
We are presently obsessed with Julie Andrews’ new Netflix show Julie’s Greenroom. The cast of characters learning about the performing arts includes Hank, a boy who uses a wheelchair for mobility. Hank’s unique life perspective is incorporated so thoughtfully into the show. For instance, when Hank wonders if dancing is something he can do (Episode 105: Barre None), the “Greenies” get a virtual visit from Infinity Dance Theater, a dance troupe comprised of adults with disabilities.
Hank isn’t in the background of the show, but instead gets equal time on screen and has his own textural storyline. His gifts and challenges are celebrated and explored, just like all of the other characters.
Limited mobility and disability are being represented more and more in kidlit, too. New counting picture book TEN CLEVER NINJAS by Sarah Floyd, illustrated by Marcin Bruchnalski (Clear Fork) features a diverse cast of characters, including a boy who uses a wheelchair.
Not only is the boy prominently seen as part of the crew, but he also contributes to the narrative, rolling to the rescue as ninja number eight. There are quite a few picture books in which you can spot a kiddo in a wheelchair. But it’s extra refreshing to see a child with mobility challenges as an active part of the core story, as in Floyd’s book. (PS: I love these illustrations, which have a retro feel that reminds me of books I read as a kid.)
Being accepted and included as part of a crew means so much to all children. I’m very grateful to creators out there who have made representation of disability a priority and are crafting narratives with care, enthusiasm and heart.
TEN CLEVER NINJAS author Sarah Floyd is giving one lucky blog reader a signed copy of her book! Simply comment below to enter to win! (US only) Gotta share that my youngest (age 4) LOVES this book. If you have a new reader, who is also learning to count, it would be a good addition to your home library!
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