Jul 14

Susan Laughs

Posted by Soliloquy in Children's Books | Physically Disabled

Susan laughs, she sings. she rides, she swings.
She gets angry, she gets sad, she is good, she is bad…

Told in rhyme, this story follows Susan through a series of familiar activities. She swims with her father, works hard in school, plays with her friends — and even rides a horse. Lively, thoughtfully drawn illustrations reveal a portrait of a busy, happy little girl with whom younger readers will identify. Not until the end of the story is it revealed that Susan uses a wheelchair.

Susan Laughs

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5 Responses

  • KeeptheGhost says:

    Review by KeeptheGhost for Susan Laughs
    I have cerebral palsy and almost cried after reading this book. I wish it had been around when I was in elementary school. Things might have been much easier and less painful. There are scores of books out there that aim to educate about people/children with disabilities, but they haven’t achieved this with such simple clarity as _Susan Laughs_ reveals. Most of these other books, while they certainly educate about the disabilities and may make them less intimidating for children, never really tell us about the CHILD. There are always words like “special” in the title or the end message of the book, and I’ve always been careful about that word. “Special” in this context just seems to highlight the fact that someone uses a wheelchair or crutches or the like, and such overuse of the word may impart to other children that the way disabled children do things is so far from theirs that they can’t relate. Also, some of these books portray disabilities as curiosities. I’m all for perceiving a disability as a unique *trait* of an individual, but too often, what these books give is an image of someone to *help*, rather than someone to befriend spontaneously. As an example, I’ve read reviewers of other books who stated that after a class read the book, the kids argued over who would get to help her child. This just seems a little distancing to me, as if the child is a project rather than a true friend._Susan Laughs_, on the other hand, really introduces a delightful little girl. (When I read picture books to kids, I treat the characters as people for them to meet.) It tells about her interests and personality, offset by vivid and quirky illustrations, and NOT ABOUT HER DISABILITY! Her disability is part of her, as they see on the last page, but it is not a separate *strangeness*, as books with “Special” in the titles seem to imply. They really liked Susan because she did the things they did–and the kids knew this because they met Susan first, and not her wheelchair.This book flawlessly presents proof that children with disabilities are, in personality, sense of humor, and soul, just like other children. I can’t imagine why no one presented this theme in such a manner before–if you’re going to say a disabled child is just like you, put her seamlessly in fun, everyday situations. That *proves* it–that speaks so much better than explaining a disability and then having to *convince* readers of their similarity. “Special” books risk implying that the disability is a foreign thing or something wrong that must be given charity.I can’t stress enough how important _Susan Laughs_ is. Every parent of small children and every school librarian should read this book aloud to their kids at the earliest age possible, before the prejudice seeps in. Children do not know that something is “wrong” with another child unless adults present it that way. If children meet Susan, they hopefully will understand that they truly can make friends with disabled children–that they all have things in common to talk and joke about, and they don’t have to be awkward around each other. I know you can’t reach all kids and there’s still teasing and worse, but I really think the concept this book espouses is vital and could have a tremendous effect on the self-esteem of kids with disabilities if this book is taught early enough.Please–if you are a parent or a librarian or anyone interested in working with kids, buy this book and read it to them. There are so many teenagers and adults who have not yet grasped this concept. While they may or may not change their minds after reading this, I am confident that young children will come away with a vastly different view of disabilities than the one I suffered under, and maybe there won’t be such a struggle to *prove* equality as there once was. Please really think about this book.

  • loce_the_wizard says:

    Review by loce_the_wizard for Susan Laughs
    The author and illustrator have done a wonderful job with this show-and-tell story that details all the ways Susan is just like anyone else—until her “difference” is confirmed at the very end. Obviously aimed at the younger readers, the book’s subtle message could be lost on some of the small fry unless an adult spends a moment explaining to them what the real message of the story. I would love to know, too, how many adults can guess the ending. I suspect that unless they are the parents or caretakers of a disabled child, that they too may be surprised. I especially liked the pages showing Susan dancing with her granddad, getting in trouble, and playing with other kids.Though concepts such as diversity and inclusion are relentlessly idolized today, the truth is children—and adults—with physical disabilities remain needlessly excluded through both physical and social barriers. In that regard, this gentle book, which can only help open doors for the disabled, is recommended reading for every person with a heart and mind. The best part is that it may change how you react next time you meet a child in a wheelchair.

  • S. J. Meyer says:

    Review by S. J. Meyer for Susan Laughs
    This is a wonderful Book! I have taken this book with me to every family I babysit for – Every child has asked me to read it again. The pictures are great – very expressive. This book is great for all children. What is great is that each child I babysit for has had a different reaction to the final picture (The only picture of Susan in a wheelchair). Some older children have told me about a kid in their grade who uses a wheelchair, some of the younger kids show no surprise whatsever – to them Susan really is no different anyway!

  • Library Gaga says:

    Review by Library Gaga for Susan Laughs
    The perfect marriage of art and words, Susan Laughs blends pastel crayon illustrations and two-words-a-page text into a delightful read. With such meager text, the book relies on the illustrations. Somehow the pictures seem European, and when one discovers that the author and illustrator are both from England, it confirms the impression. Susan’s piquant face and the idyllic landscapes remind me of the Madeline series, with softer colors.

    The plotless `story’ follows Susan through school days, home days, park visits and pony rides: “Susan trots, Susan rows, Susan paints, Susan throws”. Only on the last page do we discover why this is a special needs book – Susan uses a wheelchair. The message is brought home, “That is Susan through and through – just like me, just like you.” I was compelled to backtrack through the book looking for pictures of Susan doing all these things. In none of them is she standing unassisted, but the reader doesn’t notice any of this until it’s brought into focus in the final panel. Does one’s opinion of Susan’s abilities change after learning this? Not really, and that’s why the book succeeds.

  • Melissa K. Muir says:

    Review by Melissa K. Muir for Susan Laughs
    I personally found Susan Laughs to be a wonderful book and an excellent addition to any classroom. The book itself is fun to read with rhyming words and expressive pictures. Children would easily be engaged by the rhythm of the text and the interest created by the illustrations.

    The purpose of this book is to show that the character, Susan, is like all children, she is good, she is bad, she is strong, she is weak. I appreciate the perspective of her that is developed of her leading up the last page. Of course, the last page of the book reveals that Susan actually had a wheelchair.

    I think this book could be used as an excellent tool to facilitate conversations in a classroom about a child that may be coming to your classroom that uses a wheelchair. The book could also be easily tailored to talk specifically about a particular child by simply changing the name as your read the story.

    I would encourage all teachers to include books such as Susan Laughs in their classroom library regardless of whether they have a student in their class that uses a wheelchair or not.

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