Title: What Happened to You?
Author: James Catchpole
Illustrator: Karen George
Published: May 2021
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Readership: Children’s Picturebook
I received a copy of What Happened to You? from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
James’ story plays a vital role in conversations about visible disability, and is packed with fun and humour.
Imagine if it was a question that didn’t bring about the happiest of memories . . .
This is the experience of one-legged Joe, a child who just wants to have fun in the playground . . . Constantly seen first for his disability, Joe is fed up of only ever being asked about his leg. All he wants to do is play Pirates.
But as usual, one after the other, all the children ask him the same question they always ask, “What happened to you?”
Understandably Joe gets increasingly cross!
Until finally the penny drops and the children realise that it’s a question Joe just doesn’t want to answer . . . and that Joe is playing a rather good game . . . one that they can join in with if they can stop fixating on his missing leg . . .
Because children are children, after all.
This gorgeous picture book is one that encourages and teaches young children that just because someone is different to you doesn’t mean that they owe you an explanation for their difference.
Joe is a young boy with one leg who loves to play games, but when the other children start asking questions about his missing leg, he becomes increasingly more frustrated and upset. When the other children realise that, they begin to see past his difference and play with him just like any other child.
This book offers a great starting point for a conversation with children around people who have a disability. The author offers a fantastic note at the back of the book for adults that address some steps on how to have the conversation with kids, and acknowledges that kids are curious and often want to ask things often and loudly – and that as adults, we have the role of supporting them in understanding why someone won’t want those personal questions being asked all of the time.
For younger children, normalising disability and teaching them how to respect the privacy of others is important – educating them about disabilities, how they might occur and the kinds of aids people might use can give them enough understanding to help them make sense of what they see before they blurt out something that may come across as intrusive.
James Catchpole’s book is beautiful, sensitive and caring, and gorgeously illustrated by Karen George. It’s the perfect conversation starter for families and classrooms.