National Book Tokens asked James for a short version of our KidLitCripCrit list – there’s an extract below, and you can read it here: 7 illustrated children’s books about disability (They’re not actually all about disability, but they do all feature disabled characters.)
“Disability has a chequered history in children’s books, to say the least. However fond we may be of Heidi and The Secret Garden, their take on the subject has…not aged well. More recently, there have been efforts to include incidentally disabled characters in the background and the foreground of stories – characters who just happen to be disabled – and that can be a valid route to representation, of a kind. And the rise of illustrated biographies for children has given us some excellent disabled role-models, albeit adults. But picture books that try to reflect the reality and particularity of a young disabled child’s experience are still few and far between, perhaps largely because it takes a disabled author to write them (it must not be impossible for a non-disabled author to do this well…but we’ve read so many who’ve tried and…)” Click here to read on.
– James Catchpole
Incidentally, book tokens are a national institution here in the UK, but when we put this in Instagram stories we realised the rest of the world had no idea what we were talking about. Which is hard to imagine – a childhood birthday without at least one book token? Anyway, I dug out this Guardian article from the 80th anniversary of book tokens. It includes some vintage gems, like this from 1944:
Book tokens in a POW camp?! Hard to imagine how that works – I mean, it’s not potted meat or a file in a cake, is it?
Anyway book tokens are still a thing, redeemable in bookshops all over the country. They’re gift cards now.