To celebrate World Book Day yesterday (1 March) , we got in touch with writer and blogger, Emily Davison to talk books. Emily recently graduated with an Masters in Children’s Literature and was keen to tell us about some of her favourite disabled characters in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.
World Book Day one of my favourite days of the year. Many of you might be dressing up as your favourite storybook character today, but ask yourself this question; how many characters can you think of that have a disability?
Admittedly there is not a huge deal of authentic disabled characters represented in children’s literature, however that certainly doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t any at all. There are a number of authors who have created authentic, relatable and positive disabled characters in their books and today I wanted to acknowledge their efforts.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
Charlie Ashanti from Lionboy by Zizou Corder
The Lionboy trilogy is a series about a young cat-speaking boy Charlie Ashanti who embarks on a journey across the world to rescue his kidnapped scientist parents. Charlie is an incredibly interesting character alongside being mixed raced and growing up in a bi-cultural background, he also lives with an invisible disability. Charlie has asthma and throughout the series has to deal with the task of managing his health condition, alongside being the hero of story.
The series is an example of a book that features a disabled character without pigeonholing it as the main aspect of the book. Charlie is an empathetic, clever, competent and incredibly brave character and one that no one could help but admire. This book remains one of my absolute favourite stories.
William Trundle from The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher
The Christmasaurus tells the magical story of William Trundle who forges a very special friendship with a dinosaur. As a wheelchair user, William knows what it feels like to be different but that doesn’t stop him from having the journey of a lifetime when he and the Christmasaurus embark on a journey to return to the North Pole.
Tom Fletcher doesn’t scrimp on the important details that come along with being a disabled child, like when William gets bullied for his disability and experiences feelings of isolation or when William can’t use stairs due to his wheelchair. Past all the twinkling lights, singing elves and the magical dinosaur the story tackles serious issues of bullying, loss and overcoming internal ableism.
Linh Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles is a dystopian fairy-tale centered around the young cyborg mechanic Linh Cinder. Cinder is an amputee, having lost a hand and foot as a result of being caught in a fire accident as a child. However thanks to the advances of future technology, she becomes a cyborg fitted with computerised prosthetic limbs which enable her to regain her mobility.
Alongside her battles against the evil Lunar, Queen Cinder also battles prejudice and discrimination as a Cyborg, something that I as a disabled woman could relate to. Sometimes where disability is concerned especially in the fantasy or sci-fi genre there are more disabled characters than you might imagine, you just need to try looking at it another way.
Vanez Blane from The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan
Now although Vanez Blane is a minor supporting character in the series, his story is certainly one worth mentioning. Vanez is the robust Games Master of Vampire Mountain, responsible for training the Vampire Generals.
He’s strong, skilled and and a highly respected Vampire in the community. Vanez is also partially sighted, having lost an eye in a fight with a mountain lion .Despite losing his sight, he continues to train the would-be Vampire Generals and can still put up a good fight in any duel!
Ms. Elwyn from Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman
Moses Goes to a Concert is a fascinating depiction of deafness with its illustrations of sign language and its inclusion of a large cast of deaf characters, including Moses the protagonist. However, the character I want to draw your attention to the Ms. Elywn, a Percussionist who also happens to be deaf. On a visit to a concert she inspires Moses to one day become a percussionist like herself.
Her presence in the book is incredibly empowering to readers and reminds us all not to presume a disabled persons capability.
So those are a few of my favourite disabled characters that I have come across in Children’s Literature. Do you have any to add to my list? Comment below with your favourite disabled characters from literature.