Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book series brings Madi to life

I LOVED Sarah Leal's first children's book -- So Don't! And See What Happens. She just released a third -- The Cottage Tooth Fairy -- and is working on a fourth. One of the main characters in this series is Madi -- a girl with cerebral palsy who uses a voice device. Madi is based on Sarah's daughter Madi, now 15, who lives with Sarah and her husband Luis in Guelph, Ontario. I asked Sarah why she started this series and why it would be of interest to families of children with disabilities. Here's what she had to say:

I started writing this series when my daughter Madi was little. She had SO MANY appointments and we had to wait in many a waiting room so we would bring a ton of books and read and read and read. After reading the same stories over and over I started to change up the character names to match Madi's friends and family. Then I started to change the stories too. As Madi got older I looked to buy books with a main character with a disability who was hopefully non-verbal -- but had no luck. The only books that I found seemed rather "educational" and that was not what I wanted. I decided that there was a spot for me in the writing world, and that was how I got started writing my books.

All of my stories come from a part of our real life. Then I shape them and sprinkle in some fun. The Cottage Tooth Fairy comes from a real toboggan ride that my husband Luis and Madi took. It resulted in the loss of Madi's first molar and Luis being scolded for not holding on tight enough. LOL! This story has Madi and her fictitious brother Colin finding out what happens when you lose a tooth at the cottage. Childhood hijinks to trick the Tooth Fairy result in a whopper of a problem, and some rather angry cottage wildlife.

My books give an opportunity for a child with a disability to relate to the story without being centred out. Peers can enjoy a story that supports acceptance -- again without being told explicitly.

My books can be shared with peers and educators who are involved in your child's life. Other students may look at their classmate differently when they realize that people with disabilities live lives just like theirs.

One day when Madi was about four a little girl in the park asked me about why Madi uses a wheelchair. I gave my usual response: "Some people are born and need to wear glasses to see. Madi was born and needs to use a wheelchair to get around." The girl said "like a fancy accessory." I just about fell over with laughter. To this little girl the chair was a fancy accessory. Love it! Disability in my stories is an "accessory."

I have sold my books in Canada, the U.S., England, Hong Kong, Australia, Argentina, Dubai, South Africa and New Zealand. I have the best job in the world. My next venture is to get into the school boards and be a guest author. Eventually, perhaps my daughter Madi would like to take this over. It would be amazing for her to go into a class and read to children.


It would be great, too, if these books were available as apps on an iPad!

I am actually working on this :) you are a mind reader. I have it as a pdf file & am talking with Dynavox about making it an e-book. So please check back.

I am actually working on this, you are a mind reader :) I have it available in a pdf file for those customers who request it. Also Dynavox was mentioning making it available as an e-book. Please check back.

This is amazing! I love that you wrote this book. Our daughter Katie is 7, has CP, uses a wheelchair and a Vantage Speech Machine to communicate. I told her about your book and she was very excited. I'm about to check Indigo to see if I can get it for her Christmas Stocking. If you ever want to start speaking in some classes in Toronto please let me know, the transition from Holland Bloorview to Public School has been difficult for Katie and we'd love to have someone read this kind of story to her class.

Sarah Nixon-Suggitt

Hi Sarah -- I'm pretty sure we have the book in the Holland Bloorview library if you'd like to borrow. You can also order online here:

I'm not sure if the books are on Indigo.

I hope Sarah can visit Katie's school because I'm sure she would be a WONDERFUL speaker. Tell Katie I said Hi! Louise