Max the Champion by Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick, illustrated by Ros Asquith is truly and joyfully inclusive. I love it for being a fun story that children will really be able to identify with. On top of that, it is filled to the brim with inclusive images.
Max is a little boy who is mad about sport. He thinks about sport all day, everyday. As he goes through his daily activities his imagination takes over and he becomes a sporting superstar. Every element of his day is transformed in his mind into a major sporting event. Handwriting practice becomes a javelin tournament with giant pens, diving into his cereal becomes diving into a swimming pool. He dreams of becoming a world class athlete and a fun sports tournament with another school is the perfect place for him to start.
Sports-mad children will love identifying with Max’s passion. All children will laugh as Max confuses a bowl of fruit with a bowl of balls during art class. And, importantly, all children will be able to see themselves in this book. Because this is the first ever children’s book to include so many images of disability and inclusion. This isn’t your usual token child in a wheelchair. The writers and illustrator have thought carefully about every area of life and have included images of tactile paving, makaton signs on the classroom wall, a child with cherubism, someone with an oxygen tube, Max’s hearing aid and inhaler.
The beauty of this book is that the story is fun and positive and the inclusive images feel natural, not forced. No other book has achieved this with so many children able to see themselves in the same book. A sad fact, but a wonderful achievement by the authors, illustrator, and publisher; Frances Lincoln. Hurrah to them!
Max the Champion belongs in every classroom and school library. Government statistics suggest that every child will come into contact with a range of different special educational needs in their classroom. 1 in 20 children in the UK are disabled and 1 in 5 children in a typical British classroom will have some form of special educational needs. And yet there are still so few books that show these children and allow them to see themselves. Every child deserves the right to see themselves and a true reflection of their community in their books. And that is why this copy of Max the Champion is heading to a school library where it can be enjoyed by every child.
Fancy buying a copy for you or your school library? Of course you do! The lovely Letterbox Library can help with that here.
As a side note, The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is now accepting nominations and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see this on the short list. The Award website says:
‘For the purposes of this award, a ‘radical fiction’ book is defined as a story which-
*is informed by any of the following: anti-discriminatory, environmental, socialist, anarchist, feminist concerns
*promotes social equality or challenges stereotypes and/or the status quo or builds children’s awareness of issues in society
*promotes social justice and a more peaceful and fairer world.’
Tick, tick, tick! Although this book is certainly an inclusive book rather than a radical book, it certainly fits the requirements for the award in my mind. Watch this space!
Source: kindly sent for review by Francis Lincoln Children’s Books