Books For Young People with Disabilities & Silent Books (Lampedusa)

Thursday, November 19, 2015 12:08 PM | Lena Coakley

Books For Young People with Disabilities and Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 7:00 PM

Meeting notes taken by Saumiya B.

Our president, Sharon Jennings (dressed like a poppy) began by welcoming visitors and members.  She held out Linda Granfield’s In Flanders Fields—a story of the famous poem by John McCrae—and highlighted the growing statistic of increased children’s attendance and participation in Remembrance Day commemorations. Sharon rightly pointed out that we (as writers of children’s books) are doing a wonderful job of producing those books and living up to our mandate of ‘teach and delight.’

Helena Aalto announced that a couple (literally) of spots were available for registering for the upcoming PYI conference this weekend, November 14. She thanked the conference committee for their contributions to organizing this wonderful event: Lena Coakley (One-to-One Coordinat

or), Heather Camelot (Speaker Coordinator), Jean Mills (Communications), Melanie Fishbane (Social Media), Jenny Watson (website) and Nicole Winters for taking on the huge job of coordinating virtual PYI. Helena also thanked Humber College who host and provide support for the conference. Melanie Fishbane asks that PYI participants  tweet at #PYI2015.

Tied in to PYI is an amazing art show featuring over 20 great artists including Michael Martchenko, Holly Main, Barbara Reid, Ruth Ohi, and Oleg Lipchenko to name a few. Helping with the mountings is Jennifer (who writes under the nameJ M Filipowicz) and coordinating the art show is Holly Main. 


Caroline Pignat for The Gospel Truth

Sydney Smith and JonArno Lawson for Sidewalk Flowers


The Jock and the Fat Chick by Nicole Winters, a debut YA romance from HarperCollins

Speechless by Jennifer Mook-Sang, humorous middle grade from Scholastic


Theo Heras (retired children’s librarian from Toronto Public Library) introduced Leigh Turina, librarian for the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities and Mariella Bertelli, children’s librarian and storyteller. 

Leigh is a children’s librarian of over 25 years who now oversees the IBBY collection of books for young people with Disabilities. She said the IBBY collection (in over 40 languages) is open 7 days a week and is an excellent opportunity to see what amazing work people are doing in other countries.

From over 159 submissions (across 27 countries), an outstanding collection of over 50 books is summarized into a catalogue available online through the Toronto Public Library website.

Leigh talked about the 3 main categories and the wonderful books in each classification.

1) Specialized Formats (such as books in braille, specialized fonts, or pictograms)

These include wonderful books like Off  to the Park, My first Braille ABC, and Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads.

2) Universal Access (These books provide universal access to all young people, especially those with learning, intellectual or developmental disabilities.)

e.g The Great Big Book of Families

3) Portrayals of Disability (general books that portray young people with disabilities).

Leigh told us that the ALA once did a study and reported that most productions tackling disabilities were orthopedic or visual. 

She then went into more detail, recommending wonderful books in this third category, Portrayals of Disability. Teresa Toten’s The Unlikely Hero of room 13B tackles the mental issue of OCD in a way that sets tough issues in a realistic way. Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind is the must-read story of a brilliant girl who cannot speak or write. Wonder—an inspiring story of a boy who is born with a facial difference—proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. Maggot Moon is an unforgettable story of courage, friendship and rebellion. Mallko y Papa is a book about a father’s initial struggle and ultimate acceptance of his son’s Down’s syndrome. Writing with Grace is an inspiring and informative story that delves into what it takes to face one's own prejudice, and what it means to live a full and worthy life.

Our second speaker, Mariella Bertelli, is a children’s librarian, storyteller and a longtime member of IBBY who promotes Canadian children’s literature abroad—so much so she hosted a pancake party with Canadian maple syrup that she carried in her luggage to Lampedusa- a tiny island that looks like a stone in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea. 

We heard first-hand about IBBY Italia’s activities in Lampedusa. Mariella shared the stories of the many Africans who try to escape poverty, terrible work conditions, and wars who die at sea or as soon as they make it to the island. Although European laws welcomed refugees, the reality told a different story. But when bodies began to wash ashore on Lampedusa, the islanders (about 6000) of them wanted to help the surviving refugees.

Mariella and Deborah Soriah wanted to bring books to the locals and the refugees. A library would provide a wonderful public space for the wellbeing of all children living on the island. IBBY International supported the project, and many IBBY sections from around the world donated wordless picture books. The Silent Books Collection and Exhibit became a reality.

Mariella said that they hope to expand the project to build a special study center to further reach out to the refugee kids.

Theo Heras thanked Mariella and Leigh and urged CANSCAIP members to visit the IBBY website and join/support online for the work they do internationally.

Before we dispersed to walk down to the concourse level to view the exquisite collection, Sharon Jennings concluded the meeting by reminding us of the Seasonal Potluck meeting with speakers Werner Zimmerman, Lisa Dalrymple on December 9th. All are encouraged to bring in books and goodies for the December Party!