What happened to you? by James Catchpole and Karen George

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Joe is playing pirates on the playground equipment and a loud voice calls, ‘You’ve only got one leg!’ Joe and the girl go on to examine the possible reasons for Joe having one leg, and others join in. Perhaps it was bitten off by a shark, perhaps it fell off, or was burgled, or a lion took it. Each time the expression on Joe’s face tells the reader how exasperating these questions can be, especially when they have been heard so many times before. The girl begins to understand.

Using his own experience, Catchpole captures the reality of questions in the playground and a child’s reponses to them.

The next day Joe is playing on the equipment again and this time the girl comes along and joins him in his game.  They introduce themselves and she wants to know what he is playing. 'Pirates' he replies, and that is so cool, that Simone joins in, as do the others. This time, no one asks about his leg, and Simone has developed an understanding that perhaps he gets quite bored with people asking about his leg, and decides not to.

This is a very concise, apt and funny look at a problem some disabled people have: that of curiosity. Some people cannot separate the person from the disability, blurting out the obvious, without quietly reflecting that there might be a better way of talking to that person.

Simone develops empathy towards Joe, understanding that he is still Joe, no matter what has happened to him, and deciding it makes no difference anyway.

A very neat solution to a perennial problem: Catchpole reiterates some ways of tackling the issue in the endpaper, where he gives advice to an adult of how to deal with a curious child.

Themes: Disability, Curiosity, Playground, Humour, Children.

Fran Knight