Princess Tilda does not demonstrate the need to “overcome” her clubfoot, that word many of us in the disability community have come to loathe. To me, Tilda represents a new kind of heroine, who is strong and doesn’t need saving, but also acknowledges and shows her vulnerability and insecurities.
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A princess with a clubfoot. Who can resist? We can’t, and apparently the Schneider Family Book Award jury couldn’t, either. Merrie Haskell’s 2014 win of the award was just one of the reasons we wanted to discuss her MG fantasy novel Handbook for Dragon Slayers with her.
What kind of tips do our contributors have for authors seeking to respectfully write disabled characters?
All too often, portrayals of disability in literature mirror the common assumption that disability signifies helplessness.
When characters with disabilities are portrayed as inspirational or overcoming obstacles just for living their daily lives, it sends a message that a life with a disability is a burden. What message does that send to young people?
Being autistic and also belonging to another minority might be one marginalization too many to sell children’s fiction informed by one’s own experience to a mainstream press, and that is a very sad thought.