Faber Children’s editorial director Alice Swan has snapped up a picture book aimed at challenging people’s behaviour towards disability by agent-turned-debut author James Catchpole (pictured) and illustrator Karen George, based on Catchpole’s own childhood experiences.
What Happened to You? tells the story of one-legged Joe, a child who just wants to have fun in the playground. Constantly seen first for his disability, Joe is fed up of only ever being asked about his leg.
The author is an agent at the Catchpole Agency, the Oxford-based children’s and YA specialist founded by his mother Celia Catchpole in 1995. George’s illustration work includes two Julia Donaldson titles: Freddie and the Fairy and Wake Up Do, Lydia Lou! (Macmillan Children’s), both written by Julia Donaldson, and her own story, Hugh Shampoo (OUP).
Catchpole, who had a leg amputated when he was four months old, said that he hoped the book would help readers “walk a mile in Joe’s shoe”. He added: “There’s a real need for books that genuinely reflect a disabled person’s perspective, for both disabled and able-bodied readers. I hope my book can give an insider’s perspective and speak to the experience of being a visibly disabled child. The reality for those children is often that of continually being made to feel different from everyone else, by the question ‘What happened to you?’”
Swan bought world rights directly from the author. She said: “It seems impossible that a book with this message has previously failed to exist, making this publication feel somewhat urgent. James’ story plays a vital role in conversations about visible disability and is packed with fun and humour. Never patronising, young readers will feel empowered to act with empathy.”