Heroes one and all

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIELLE STREET

A NEW book is aim­ing to teach kids that true su­per­heroes can be found close to home.

My Friend is a Su­per­hero was writ­ten by friends Bar­bara Pike and Philip Pat­ston to drive chil­dren and their par­ents away from neg­a­tive stereo­types about peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

The 32-page book fol­lows an ‘‘am­bigu­ous gen­der char­ac­ter’’ whose friend Jack is in a wheel­chair, ex­plains first-time au­thor Ms Pike.

‘‘In­stead of see­ing it as some­thing strange and dif­fer­ent, they imag­ine Jack is a su­per­hero be­cause he is do­ing all this amaz­ing stuff. Like go­ing up hills really fast, play­ing bas­ket­ball and do­ing tricks at the skatepark,’’ the Mt Al­bert res­i­dent says.

Co-au­thor Mr Pat­ston was born with cere­bal palsy and has been a wheel­chair user for much of his life.

He says the story is in­tended to re­frame the no­tion that be­ing in a wheel­chair is a lim­i­ta­tion and in­stead present it as a pos­i­tive.

‘‘There is a page where Jack is do­ing su­per­hero train­ing and that is really a ref­er­ence to kids of­ten go­ing out of class to do ther­apy, so it’s re­fram­ing ther­apy into some­thing cool,’’ the West­mere res­i­dent says.

The book is pub­lished by Diver­si­ty­works Trust, which was es­tab­lished in 2005 by Mr Pat­ston as a ve­hi­cle to cre­ate so­cial change.

The two au­thors say the book en­cour­ages chil­dren’s nat­u­ral cu­rios­ity and por­trays the di­verse as­pects of peo­ple.

‘‘You get that thing where a lit­tle kid will see some­one in a wheel­chair and point or stare, or ask a ques­tion, and the par­ents will tell them that it’s rude,’’ Ms Pike says.

‘‘It’s like a fear re­ac­tion, so we are try­ing to get rid of that.’’

Mr Pat­ston says the key mes­sage of the book is that ‘‘it’s OK to be friends with some­body dif­fer­ent’’.

‘‘Be­ing in a wheel­chair isn’t bad, it can have ben­e­fits. Kids in wheel­chairs can be part of a school com­mu­nity and ac­tu­ally add some­thing,’’ Mr Pat­ston says.

‘‘We are all su­per­heroes, we are all unique and we all have strengths and weak­nesses, they just man­i­fest in dif­fer­ent ways.’’

My Friend is a Su­per­hero is il­lus­trated with brightly coloured draw­ings by comic artist Sam Or­chard.

He says the book pre­sented its own chal­lenges.

‘‘It was a new thing draw­ing a wheel­chair and work­ing out what that would look like, there was lots of Google im­age searches,’’ Mr Or­chard says.

A PledgeMe cam­paign has been set up to raise the $3500 needed to print 1000 copies of My Friend is a Su­per­hero.

The money will only be re­ceived by Diver­si­ty­works if the fi­nan­cial tar­get is met by the March 31 dead­line.

Duffy Books in Homes has agreed to dis­trib­ute 500 of the books to decile 1 to 3 schools if the PledgeMe cam­paign is suc­cess­ful.

Some of the books will be sent to pledgers who have do­nated more than $20 to the scheme.

Any books left over will be sold, with prof­its go­ing to­wards a re­print.


Ev­ery­day heroes: Sam Or­chard, left, Philip Pat­ston and Bar­bara Pike are try­ing to raise money via PledgeMe to have their new book printed for distri­bu­tion to low-decile schools.

Re­fram­ing: My Friend is a Su­per­hero aims to re­frame dis­abil­ity through the lens of di­ver­sity.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click Lat­est Edi­tion to see a video about My Friend is a Su­per­hero.

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