Since writing edition one of Strong and Mighty Max, it soon became clear that there was a need to publish a second edition. Online retailers quickly sold out (Amazon and Waterstones) and with interest from primary schools and libraries the market for the book was proving successful.
Beyond the market reach, the most rewarding thing for me as an author has been the lovely letters I have received and correspondence through social media from parents of children who have been born with achondroplasia. Like myself they too are keen to educate their children’s peers and explain to family members and friends what makes their child unique. I have had the pleasure of receiving encouraging feedback from all over the world. The distance may be thousands of miles and yet the shared vision as mothers and educators gives us a common goal- to help inspire others to be more accepting and understanding of differences.
Dwarfism is just that-a difference that makes children stand out from their peers because physically their arms and legs are shorter. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, whether they are tall or short, have darker skin, speak with a stammer or have a facial disfigurement. With this in mind edition two of Strong and Mighty Max teaches kindness towards others who are different. It challenges young minds to accept, respect and be inclusive of others. The original story around the character Max stays the same, however a new character is introduced. Katy, a trainee teacher, also born with achondroplasia, weaves through the pages of the book key lessons for children to learn from the story. She emphasises the importance of kindness and directs the reader to educational activities that feature in the back of the story for further learning. These learning activities are ideal for primary school aged children and help to facilitate discussion through games, role-plays and further research.
What I love about edition two is that it is applicable to every child to help them to relate to others and to also encourage them to be confident about what makes them unique. Whether it be autism, dyslexia, skin colour, height, visible or invisible differences- the children are encouraged to learn from one another.
Through this second edition I will continue to visit schools, take assemblies and classroom sessions to answer questions around being an author and what motivated me to write this story. To make a booking and check availability click here
To download some of the educational activity sheets that are included in the book, visit the learn section of the website.
We quickly learned when our son was born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, that perhaps his biggest challenge in life wasn’t going to be his physical limitations with shorter limbs than his peers, but the prejudices he might face because he’d look different and stand out from the crowd. He wouldn’t be the typical tall, dark and handsome image of a man so often portrayed in the media. In fact, Disney characters (the seven dwarves) and mythical images of people with dwarfism have led some members of society to believe such people aren’t real; not so long ago, they might’ve been considered “freaks” by some.
After our son was born, at his six-week check-up, the doctor told me he would probably get a job in the entertainment industry or circus. Wow, was I really hearing this? My son might be shorter than his peers, but he can achieve anything he puts his mind to. I quickly answered her with, “Or a job as a doctor, teacher, accountant or whatever he chooses to do.” It was hard to believe educated people still had such ignorant views. Quite early on, I learned part of my journey as a new mum to a child born with a disability would be to educate and advocate on his behalf. I was determined not to react in anger but to positively challenge people to think about the words they speak about my son.
It’s funny how comments can happen when you least expect them to. One day I was enjoying time with my son, wandering around a large cash and carry store. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time and life was happy. Suddenly, I was taken by surprise as a middle-aged man with his wife made this comment: “Where are his six brothers? You should have brought them with you and you would have got some bargains.” I got his joke right away, but I didn’t find it funny. My son was 2 at the time and thankfully didn’t understand the label being placed on him. Again I had to challenge this man and move on.
Such comments hurt when you’re a new parent coming to terms with the fact that your child is going to have to face ignorance you never had to face growing up. Thankfully this middle-aged man found me in the carpark and apologised to me profusely, explaining he hadn’t thought before he spoke. I was grateful for the apology. Had I not challenged this situation, maybe he would have continued his day believing what he said to my toddler was just fine.
My son is now 4, and I can honestly say far more positives have outweighed the negatives.
I’ve had so many opportunities to educate, such as explaining to a child who asked if my son was a “dwarf” that my son was born with a form of dwarfism, which means his arms and legs are shorter, but his name his Samuel and that’s what we call him. I’ve learned the labels we place on people who are different aren’t always helpful; rather than integrate and normalize differences, sometimes they have the opposite effect.
If only we could all see each other as humans first and foremost, people with feelings. I teach all of my children the importance of kindness and sometimes people are not kind, and maybe that’s because they have unhappiness in their hearts.
My son may be short in stature, but he’s much more than that. He has a name, he’s handsome, his presence fills the room and he’s kind. Because of him, I was inspired to write a children’s story (“Strong and Mighty Max”) to encourage young children and their parents reading to them that everyone is born different, but what really matters is the size of your heart.
“Strong and Mighty Max” is short in stature, but his heart is big and his dreams are bigger.
This post was first published on the Disability Blog Website The Mighty in 2015.
As an author I am delighted to partner with the Restricted Growth Association Charity who launched their Spread the word campaign in 2017.
Have you noticed how dwarfism is presented in fiction, through books and Hollywood movies? I guess before my son was born with dwarfism I had never considered this, why should I?
Cartoon characters with restricted growth are often the villains, history and circus shows commonly presented people with dwarfism as ‘freaks’ to be viewed for entertainment purposes. Characters in Disney are often one dimensional, personified as ‘lazy’, ‘dopey’, ‘grumpy’ and figures of fun to be laughed at during pantomime performances. Have you ever picked up a Roald Dahl story and read his descriptive of ‘dwarf’ characters. Probably one of the most celebrated authors in history and yet his narrative dehumanizes and often looks on the fictionalized characters with disdain.
For most people their perception of someone with dwarfism has been created by celebrated authors and blockbuster presentations- what we read and what we see has the power to influence our worldview. It is for this reason that I often feel compelled to challenge the negative and will always seek to educate people within my community space.
Many people may feel that I am overreacting and perhaps a little sensitive. However since my son was born, I have met adults with his condition who have described to me the lack of respect they have felt growing up- the comedians’ puns have been used verbally at them in the street and the unhelpful stereotype of pantomime is something that they cannot escape.
Advocacy is something I feel strongly about as an author and a mother. From when my son was months old and I challenged the comedy Life’s Too Short – Guardian article »
To a few years ago on a trip to the local museum when the language on an exhibit, caused me to challenge the prejudiced wording that I felt was humiliating and demeaning towards people with restricted growth. Thankfully the museum agreed to change the wording.
More recently I have contacted Tim Minchin about the lyrics in one of his songs that features in Matilda the musical, again surprisingly enough he apologised and said if he had his time again he would not have written the same lyrics.
Only the other week I went to watch ‘The Greatest Showman’ with my daughters, knowing that the topic it dealt with was likely to make me cringe. Despite the great praise from many of my respected friends on facebook, I left the movie theatre with a different interpretation. Great music and feel good songs and yet the truth behind the history was left distorted. Did the ‘freak show’ of history really liberate these people or in fact were they mocked and taken advantage of? The twist of emancipation which Hollywood delivered left me feeling yet again the public is not educated or made to empathise with a history that took advantage of disability and difference- people not treated as equals as the production led everyone to believe. Looking through someone elses’s lense helps us to understand a different perspective. Before my son was born my worldview may well have continued to be tinted and less challenged.
I write from my perspective as a mother and a children’s author, I post an array of interesting articles around this topic of challenging stereotypes on my campaign Facebook page »
Keep in touch, I would love to learn from your perspective. Perhaps you have challenged a stereotype, educated a child or changed policy for the betterment of others.