HOMEPAGE www.danieljvance.com

 

 

DISABILITIES

By Daniel J. Vance

 

  A little suggestion can make a big difference.

  Rather spontaneously, last year in an email I asked famous children's author Ron Roy to include a child with a disability as a character in one of his best-selling "A to Z Mysteries" books for children ages 7-9. He didn't know me from Adam.

  But Roy not only responded promptly, he also in time would use my daughter Abigail as the inspiration for his "Abbi," a character in what would become The White Wolf, which Random House just released November 23. Like my daughter, "Abbi" uses a wheelchair and has spina bifida, a permanent birth defect affecting the spinal development of about 70,000 Americans.

  I could try here, but I can't thank Ron Roy enough for his positive portrayal of a child with a disability in a book to be read by millions of children around the world. His sensitivity toward disability will help pave the way for other authors following.

  As for Roy's series, few people know that "A to Z Mysteries" mirrors his humble upbringing.

  "I grew up poor," he said recently over the telephone from his Connecticut home. "We had nothing. My dad was a laborer/carpenter. What little he brought home, my mother used for paying rent on our little apartment. If you notice, the characters in my books come from middle- to lower-middle class homes. And they don't own bicycles."

  In fact, his books seem right out of the "Norman Rockwell" era. "That was planned on my part," he said. "My dad went to work and my mom stayed home. That's the way it is in my series. I've had lots of positive responses from teachers, parents, and librarians about the simpler life that Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose lead. They say it's refreshing. My books never have fights, bad words or weapons. These are just good mysteries that intrigue my readers."

  The Vances first became acquainted with Roy through his 1984 book, Move Over Wheelchairs Coming Through. While living in Manhattan and volunteering at a local hospital, Roy befriended a number of children using wheelchairs. For his book, he wrote real-life stories on eight children, including one with spina bifida. The book won awards and is still used in schools.

  So my email last year helped in small part to rekindle in Ron Roy an awareness of children with disabilities.

  For more, see www.danieljvance.com or www.ronroy.com