wheelchairs in the media

  • My favorite books of 2021 so far

    straw beach bag with books, a picnic blanket and a hat, spread out on a green lawn

    Affiliate links are used in this post. As an Amazon affiliate I may earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

    Guys, I’m writing this from the library – THE LIBRARY! If that’s not a sign that things are returning to normal, than I don’t know what is!

    Anyway, today I’m going to be discussing books, specifically my five favorite books of 2021 so far. There’s quite a range of tones here, but honestly hasn’t this year been an emotional rollercoaster anyway? It makes sense that the books I’ve read would match (or counteract) that same unpredictability.

    Here are my favorite books from the first half of 2021.

    Favorite novel: Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (also available through Book of the Month

    Hockey. Suspense. YA romance. A socioeconomic examination of the opioid crisis on Native reservations in the early 2000s. While these may not all be genres/topics you are necessarily looking for in a book, the combination is what makes The Fire Keeper’s Daughter my favorite fiction read of 2021 so far. The plot is intricately woven and complicated, to say the least, but know three things. First, Daunis, the protagonist, is one of the strongest, best-written main characters I’ve encountered in years. Second, trigger warnings abound, so proceed with caution and do your research before reading if you have certain topics you need to avoid. And third, Barack and Michelle Obama will be adapting this book into a Netflix TV show!

    Favorite children’s book: What is God Like? by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner
    I spoke about this book a little bit a few weeks ago in my post about switching churches. I didn’t learn about Rachel Held Evans until after she died in 2019, but I wish I had known her. When she passed away, her friend Matthew Paul Turner (one of my favorite children’s book authors) was asked to finish this story she had started. This book they co-created is an incredible, inspiring celebration of the concept of God, especially for young children. Throughout the story, we meet characters of different ethnicities and races, a child with a wheelchair, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The story switches pronouns for God along the way – sometimes God is He, sometimes She, sometimes They. I love this book so very much, and if you are a friend of mine with a young child, I’m probably going to talk your ear off about this book at least once in the next few months!

    Favorite poetry book: What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
    I’m as shocked as you are that I’m listing a poetry book here. I normally don’t “do” poetry. Heck, one of the main reasons I wasn’t an English major was that, despite my love of writing, I didn’t want to have to study poetry! Kate Baer’s work is different, however. Her poetry tackles motherhood, body image, feminism, mental health and more in a raw, powerful way. Her “Erasure” series of poems is my favorite. In these, she takes online comments she’s received and blacks out select words, using the words remaining to form uplifting messages out of the hate. Baer’s second book, I Hope This Finds You Well, comes out this fall, and I’ve already preordered it!

    Favorite nonfiction book: Getting It Done When You’re Depressed (Second Edition) by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston (also available on Zulily)
    How much do I love this book? So much that I bought it twice, in e-book and paperback formats, so it’s always with me. I’m currently rereading it, and I’m getting even more out of it the second time around. The authors have an incredible talent for putting in words different aspects of depression that I always assumed were just my own unique weaknesses. I feel seen and understood in a way no other book has ever made me feel. My favorite feature of this book is that each chapter also has a script portion for you to share with loved ones when you are depressed and don’t know how to put your specific experience into words.

    Favorite cookbook: Everyday Dinners by Jessica Merchant
    Confession: I own the hardcover and e-book copies of this book, too. Jessica Merchant is the Pittsburgh-based founder of my favorite cooking blog, How Sweet Eats. In her latest cookbook, she focuses on easy weeknight meals that you can (but don’t have to) prep for in advance. Because let’s be real – I’m never going to prepare a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday. It just isn’t my style, although I admire all you folks who swear by it. Like Merchant, I would much rather preparing components of a meal here and there in pockets of free time throughout the week. So far, my favorite recipes are the Cajun-Lime Sweet Potato Salad and the Chicken Romano Meatballs. Seriously, I dream about both of these dishes. I’m planning on making several more recipes from this book over these next few days during the holiday weekend!

    What has your favorite book been so far in 2021? I’d love to hear from you! Also, if you want to expand your family’s summer reading selection, I’ll be sharing recommendations for young readers in the next week or two, including some FREE printables! (Admit it, you love free stuff!)


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  • Demystifying disabilities

    (Please note: This post was written before I knew about author/activist Emily Ladau’s incredible book Demystifying Disability. The similar post title is a complete coincidence. I highly recommend reading her book and following her on social media!)

    A few weeks ago, a college friend reached out to me on Facebook with the sweetest message. She wanted to know if I had any recommendations for how she and her young children should best engage with kids with disabilities in a way that is respectful and supportive.

    First of all, I’d just like to thank this friend, and others who have asked me similar questions. Seriously, though, the fact that parents want their children to know about and celebrate differences is absolutely reassuring to me, as I prepare to send JB off to preschool next month. It gives me hope that kids are becoming more accepting of and comfortable with people not exactly like them.

    As for what to say when meeting someone with a disability, (child or adult), I’m quickly learning everyone is different at what they appreciate or don’t appreciate. But so far, I’ve been amazed by how well my friends and their kids have come to accept and embrace JB!

    It’s funny, but there are two different – and totally appropriate – reactions kids typically have to learning about JB, whether it’s his wheelchair, his feeding tube, his hand and head movements, or his lack of talking:

    1. The kid shrugs and says “Oh,” and moves on to another topic or walks away.
    2. The kid says, “Oh,” and then asks an amazing follow-up question like “Does he drink Magic Formula like Boss Baby?” (In case you were wondering this same question: Yes, JB gets formula, and I guess it’s kind of magic in the fact that it gives him all of his nutrition. No, he doesn’t drink it. And no, fortunately JB – unlike Boss Baby – doesn’t sound like Alec Baldwin!)

    I find my friends and I have the best luck explaining it in the terms of showing what’s different between the children but what also is the same. So if the child asks why JB doesn’t walk, we answer, “His legs aren’t strong enough yet to walk like you do, but he has this cool chair that helps him get around. Isn’t it cool how many ways there are to move and explore?”

    Or if they point to JB’s feeding tube, we’ll say, “That’s how he gets his food in his belly. It’s like how you’re eating your sandwich by mouth and it goes into your stomach. Isn’t it amazing how many ways there are to eat?”

    This way they see what’s different but also what they have in common.

    The main thing is to explain there’s nothing to be afraid of – kids with disabilities are still just that – KIDS. They enjoy dinosaurs, Disney movies, hockey, stickers, iPads and other things just like other children.

    I promised my friend I’d compile a list of some of my favorite children’s picture books that explain disabilities in easy, approachable language. I also thought I’d share this list on the blog, as it is holiday shopping season and people are looking for great gift ideas. Enjoy!

    1. Daniel’s New Friend by Becky Friedman: This story recaps the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episode of the same name. It introduces Chrissie, a new character who uses leg braces and crutches. I love this book and TV episode because they show Daniel and his friends showing curiosity in their friend’s equipment, then moving on to get back to playing. They don’t completely ignore the difference, but rather it’s acknowledged, and then accepted. (Side note: This story is also included in the collection Daniel Tiger’s 5 Minute Stories.)
    2. Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor: “Why would a Supreme Court Justice write about kids with disabilities?” I know that was my first thought when I heard about this book. It turns out that Justice Sotomayor had diabetes starting at a young age, but her classmates never asked her questions about it. She wanted children to know that curiosity and questions are good, and that disabilities and chronic health issues can be respected and talked about. There are a variety of disabilities and differences mentioned in this book, such as asthma, blindness, deafness, autism, food allergies and dyslexia. Also, the illustrations are incredibly beautiful.
    3. We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio: This book is a spinoff of the New York Times Bestseller Wonder. It follows Auggie, a young boy with facial differences, and his dog, Daisy, as they go on adventures. The message of the entire Wonder collection is to “Choose Kind”, and frankly we could all use that reminder. If you want to hear a sample of We’re All Wonders, check out this video of Luis from Sesame Street reading it aloud.
    4. We’re Different, We’re the Same and We’re Wonderful by Bobbi Jane Kates: This Sesame Street book first published in 1992 discusses differences of all kinds, without ever using words like nationality, race, gender, religion or disability. Are the illustrations a little dated and cheesy? Yup, but that’s part of its charm!

    I’d love to hear your favorite books for helping explain differences – whether disabilities, gender, religion, race, etc. – to children. Feel free to share your recommendations!

    Please note: These opinions are all entirely my own, and I have not been compensated to review any of these books. That being said, there are Amazon affiliate links in the above post. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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