Before I review Sarah Yates’ latest book, I feel I have to declare my bias. I have been friends with Sarah ever since the early 1980s, when we both lived in Toronto and were members of the Periodical Writers’ Association of Canada (PWAC). I met Sarah when I was a new member, when she delivered PWAC papers to me. I have a vivid memory of her appearing at my door on a hot pink girl’s bicycle, wearing a hot pink helmet, her lovely long fingernails likely painted hot pink to match. She was impressive at first sight.
Moving about 25 years ahead, we’re still friends although we have both moved away from Toronto. Sarah hired me to do some media relations for her previous children’s books, and she hired me again this year when she published her latest work of fiction. So my review of her book can hardly be objective. But I can give an idea of what it’s about, and give my response to it.
Lucky Lou Gets Game is a young adult novel about a teenaged girl who has cerebral palsy (cp), gets around in a wheelchair, communicates vocally with a “cp drawl,” and through a computer or by means of alphabet board, both used with one foot.
If it seems that this girl, Lou, is severely restricted by her physical circumstances, this book shows how this isn’t true. Without denying the limits and challenges faces by Lou, Sarah shows just how ordinary her life is. Yet of course a book about ordinary life wouldn’t make very interesting reading.
Sarah has written about one dramatic summer in the life of a teenager with a disability. This is the summer when Lou gets involved in community activism over the right to have a wheelchair ramp built up to her house despite opposing neighbours who fear the loss of property values. This is the summer when Lou gets to play baseball with her peers and a group of able-bodied helpers. And this is the summer when Lou gets to experience the company of boys, and one special boy in particular.
I started to read the book out of obligation to a friend. I soon became eager to read on to find out what happens next. While almost any young girl could enjoy this book, anyone with a disability or concerned about disability issues will likely devour it. There are just not that many books published featuring protagonists with disabilities. And having a protagonist with a disability who plays a leading, active role in her own life and in her community is rare.
This is the very reason that Sarah has written a total of four books with young main characters who have a disability. As the mother of a child with cp, Sarah couldn’t find books that mirrored her daughter Gemma’s situation, so she began writing them.
The book focuses on what Lou can do and achieve and not on what could hold her back. This has been Sarah’s attitude througout Gemma’s life. Ironically, instead of creating a role model for her daughter to follow, in Lucky Lou Gets Game Sarah has written a character based very much on Gemma’s leading example of a role model.
Whatever your level of ability, this is a fun YA novel to enjoy. For how to get a copy, check out Gemma B. Publishing.