Book Review : I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall

I first read I Can Jump Puddles in my childhood, but if asked, I couldn’t honestly tell you what it was about other than the autobiography of a child who had survived polio.

Challenge 6 in the Aussies Rule Reading Challenge, from Sue over on Doddyaboutbooks calls for a book which features a character with a chronic illness or disability, and as I’m looking at expanding my school’s collection of Australia classics, it seemed the ideal time to revisit I Can Jump Puddles.

My first surprise was the innuendo between the men and the nurses in the hospital when Alan was in hospital awaiting his operation. What was clearly a peek show is dismissed by the nurse as nothing but a ‘freckle’, but at the time it had clearly sailed well over my head.

Much more of a surprise was the connection I felt to Alan in this second reading. A connection that hadn’t been apparent as a child, mostly likely because I had not yet experienced the social stigmatism of disability.

I too, can recount many times that society has disabled me more than my own body has. That the weight of words, the “You can’t do this” and the “You shouldn’t do that” was often the catalyst to achieve more than had been expected of me. And like many disabled people, I overcompensate. I work harder to be considered an equal.

During Chapter Twenty-eight, in the midst of a sing-along, a character called Prince sings, “Will the Angels Let Me Play?” a row ensues, where Arthur gives Prince a mouthful for singing a song about a crippled child. Alan, he points out, does not know he is crippled and the song should never have been sung in front of him. That’s when the irony hit home for me – just like Alan had not connected himself to the child in the song, I had not connected myself with Alan as a child. I Can Jump Puddles was a book about a boy with Polio and as far as I was concerned, it was a book about a life that was very different to mine.

As an adult these universal connections between disabled people are crystal clear to me, and while every disabled or chronically ill person travels a different path, we face many of the same challenges.

I Can Jump Puddles isn’t merely a snapshot of the times, or the journey of a boy determined to live fully, it’s a message that deserves to be heard and remembered. It’s a cry of defiance against the social model of disability and a reminder of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

Book Review: Westy the Western Swamp Tortoise by Cathy Levett

Last Wednesday I attended  the launch of a fabulous (and important!) book.

Westy the Western Swamp Tortoise by Cathy Levett is a picture book with a nonfiction narrative detailing the journey of a Western Swamp Tortoise from birth at the Perth Zoo to his release into wetlands at Ellenbrook.

Westy the Western Swamp Tortoise by Cathy Levett

There is so much to love about this book. Not only does the story flow naturally, its also filled with factual information about Westy’s journey.

The stunning photography includes the growth stages of a Western Swamp Tortoise along with their habitat.

As a bonus for teachers and school libraries it has multiple links to the West Australian Curriculum which includes; endangered animals, habitats, environments and animal adaptations.
(Under the ‘Educators‘ tab  on the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise you can find lots of information including worksheets to compliment this fabulous book.)

Westy the Western Swamp Tortoise is published by Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise with help from The Book Incubator with all proceeds from the sale of the book going towards education programs.


The Fluidity of Expiry Dates

After an ultrasound, the niggling pain in my upper arm now has a diagnosis.

I have degenerative calcification in my shoulder. As the name suggests, the degenerative part is due to age. Specifically middle-age.

I am officially middle-aged.

To some, middle age is seen as the start of end. The loss of youth. A thing to be feared.

“But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There’s no fun now, you’re Just a sour-dumpling. What’s wrong? What’s changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you’re PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it’s all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.” – George Carlin

George Carlin’s views on aging are funny because for many people they speak the truth. Always one to march to the beat of my own drum, including the occasions when I’m out of time with myself, I’m delighted with middle age.

Because I’ve outlived my expiry date. I was not supposed to get ‘old’.

My expiry dates have been flexible and fluid, but nonetheless real. My mother was told that my chances of seeing thirteen were 50%. The median life expectancy of a person born with Cystic Fibrosis in the early 70’s was seven.

As medical technologies advanced, statistical probabilities changed as did median life expectancies. I saw the median life expectancy raised to fourteen, to twenty-one. Currently thirty-seven is the ‘doomsday’ number. Ironically, at thirty-seven I found myself in respiratory failure, with the clock ticking down in real time.

A transplant saw me cheat my way past that expiry date. A life-saving transplant which heralds a new set of statistical probabilities and expiry dates.

Yet, despite these facts and figures, here I am.

Still standing.

Still breathing.

So yes, I’m delighted to be middle-aged – even if that means I’m bringing a degenerative shoulder along to my party.

Ultrasound Images of my Degenerative Shoulder