Illustrated by Karen George
For ages 3+
It is SATs day at school today, and as a result were chucked out of our lovely Wellbeing Room, the usual home for Book Club before school starts. A happy turn of events, as it was a beautiful morning, sun shining and we gathered by the pond in a quiet corner on the playground sitting upon our cosy cushions. The children and I instantly took a vote and approved the motion that whenever it is warm and sunny we shall take our book club outside. What a lovely start to the day today. Then one of them said how much they'd been vomiting this week and... well, that's the joy of working with children.
Joy of joys, I have been waiting so long for 'You're SO Amazing!' to publish! Co-authors, James and Lucy Catchpole (husband and wife team) are of the family-run The Catchpole Agency based in Oxford and represent some of my favourite children's creators. James Catchpole published 'What Happened to You?', the first picture book in this series about a little visibly disabled boy called Joe back in 2021, and I remember proactively hand selling and reading this brilliant book with customers at Moon Lane and in schools when I was a bookseller. It has really stayed with me.
About the book
James and Lucy are themselves visibly disabled and write from a place of authenticity sending a strong message to able bodied children and adults alike about how they tend to treat, view, regard the disabled community - whether it's conscious or unconscious. I love taking books just like 'You're SO Amazing!' to book clubs especially, as within a book club there is more scope for discussion, reflection and creativity than just a quick storytime.
As soon as the children saw the cover their faces betrayed their curiosity, which is precisely the reaction I had anticipated. Holding the book face out I then asked the children what they know about disability, and perhaps would they like to tell me any disabilities that come to mind. All answered in turn with vague interpretations of their perception of Joe's disability from the book cover. Interesting! I then pointed to my eyes, then my ears and asked whether they knew of any related disabilities. Yes, blind, deaf, I was getting somewhere. However, the awareness of visible (or invisible) disability in this particular group of children was fairly poor (for now).
Following our brief discussion (owing to time) I started to read the story, admiring the beautiful pastel illustrated end papers first of course! The story format is a mixture of text and speech bubbles complemented perfectly by Karen George's stunning illustrations, which lends to some expressive characterisation when reading out loud. The mixture of younger, older children and adults featuring throughout the story all in turn speaking (even shouting) at/towards Joe about how 'AMAZING' or 'INSPIRING' he is for going down the slide with his friends, or getting an ice cream from the ice cream van, or even traversing the monkey bars! Basically just being himself, doing what all the other children were doing with him, having lots of fun, except of course he's only got one leg...
Joe's best friend Simone does an amazing jump and yet Joe is told he's 'Amazing!' for merely standing still... it's all very CONFUSING and TIRESOME. It's 'AMAZING' how strangers feel they can just butt in and express their own ignorance, even to a young child. As an empathetic reader... these very feelings are starting to become all too much to bare as the pace of the story increases until 'Amazing Joe' or 'Poor Joe' is utterly fed up of being 'The Joe Show' and quietly moves away to kick some balls into the football net - which, actually he thinks to himself is quite amazing once he's managed to get some brilliant shots in!! GOAL!!
The book clubbers and I really got a lot from 'You're SO Amazing!' and after finishing the story we turned to the authors' photo and biography inside the back cover. The children 'met' James and Lucy Catchpole and chatted about why James wanted to write these stories and how they might represent some of his own experiences when he was a little boy. The children observed that James's wife, Lucy, is in a wheelchair and asked me why. Of course, I don't know why, and it's not my business to know why, I said. The children were certainly curious and I also reinforced the message that I don't know why James only has one leg, and I will never ask him why either - and how important it is not to stare at and be intrusive about disabled people as their disability is very personal to them, and definitely do not to ask 'What happened to you?'!!
Thank you for this super book series James & Lucy, and Karen. We need more disabled creator #ownvoices authentic high-quality picture books on our Primary School bookshelves! It's not enough to just have children's picture books that are 'inclusive' whereby you'll have the odd background character in a wheelchair or with a missing limb. We need more visibly (and non-visibly) disabled protagonists like Joe in new picture books relatable to today's social landscape and what it should better evolve into. As James and Lucy say, "disability is normal". I wonder whether James & Lucy might have any more adventures for Joe up their sleeves? I do hope so.
I really hope you enjoy this particular activity I have created for 'You're SO Amazing!'. I felt it important for the children to create a drawing to strengthen their auto-pilot brains to feature disabled people in their day-to-day creating thinking. In this activity the children are asked to draw themselves having fun with Joe and Simone in their own school playground. Rather sweetly, one of the children this morning asked permission to draw James and Lucy Catchpole, and their children instead - how delightful!
Download my FREE activity sheet
About the creators
James & Lucy Catchpole (authors)
James Catchpole was destined to be either an itinerant singer or an amputee footballer. He managed to get off the substitutes' bench a couple of times for the England Amputee Football Team, and also busked around Provence with a guitar (another profession where it actively helps to have one leg), but reached the limits of his talent in both fields by his mid-twenties, and so joined the family business of children's books. He now runs The Catchpole Agency with his wife Lucy, and represents authors and illustrators of children's picture books, non-fiction and novels, including Polly Dunbar, SF Said, Michelle Robinson and David Lucas.
Lucy Catchpole is an active voice in the disabled community and has appeared in the mainstream media talking about the paralympics and more. She co-runs The Catchpole Agency with her husband James. Lucy and James live in Oxford with their two young daughters, the eldest of whom is firmly convinced she will be joining the business too - but at five, she has plenty of time to recant.
Karen George (illustrator)
Karen George has spent A LOT of time drawing and painting. When she was small that's what she liked doing best.When she was a little older, Karen gained a first class honours degree in Fine Art followed by an MA from The Royal College of Art. Karen painted film sets for a while until, in 2009, she won Waterstone's 'Picture This' competition to illustrate Freddie and the Fairy for Julia Donaldson. This means Karen still joyfully spends lots of time drawing and painting . . . and now she writes too! Karen lives in Bristol with her family and Dr Calamari the cat.
disability is normal
unconscious or conscious bias
Grab a copy
Buy here through my affiliate link at Bookshop.org or purchase from your local independent bookshop...
Publication date: 4 May 2023
Format: Hardback (also available in Paperback)
The first book in this series is well worth you buying or borrowing too!! See below...
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