Listen: Katrina Roe tells Emma Mullings the story behind her new book
A touching children’s book about disability and difference, is the latest offering of author and Hope 103.2 presenter Katrina Roe.
Titled Same, the book tells of a real-life encounter between Katrina’s daughter, Caillie, and her older brother, Charlie – who has severe cerebral palsy.
Charlie and his niece Caillie have a special bond today. But it wasn’t always that way. Caillie, who was only two years old at the time of the encounter portrayed in the book, used to be frightened of her uncle.
Daughter’s Fear ‘Broke Her Heart’
“Charlie is in a wheelchair, his speech is difficult to understand, and has almost no fine motor skills,” Katrina explained, “so he can drive his electric wheelchair but he can’t feed himself, even toilet himself, or anything that involves fine motor skills. But at the same time, he’s “all together” upstairs, he enjoys life, he’s good company.
“My daughter had trouble relating to him, which is not surprising really, because he’s in this massive wheelchair, she was a tiny little person, he’s hard to understand, he shakes unexpectedly — she was a bit scared of him.
“Her personality is to be a bit shy anyway, but she was particularly reclusive around my brother and it was really hard for me to see that. It kind of broke my heart, because I guess I was used to other people staring and treating him differently, but to have your own child doing that, it was really hard to take.”
How One Child’s Drawing Changed Everything
The moment that inspired Same, happened one day when Charlie came to visit.
“He’d been trying to get through to Caillie, and it just hadn’t been working,” Katrina said. “We went to the park and he wouldn’t really join in, and we read stories and he couldn’t really join in. Then my daughter wanted to draw. So she drew a picture, and I said to her very gently, “why don’t you give that picture to Uncle Charlie?”
“She very cautiously walked over to him and handed him the picture then turned around and walked off.
“Later that night, when she was in bed, Charlie said to me, “I want to draw a picture for Caillie”. Because of his jerky hand movements, and because of the way he holds the pencil, the drawing he did looked kind of like a two year old drawing – very similar, with those jerky lines.
“Then he said, “I want to write a message for her”, and he said “Dear Caillie, I did this drawing for you, I hope you like it, I love you. Love, Uncle Charlie,” which I wrote on the back for him.”
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At breakfast the next morning, Caillie saw the picture. It struck a chord.
“This smile came over her face,” Katrina said. “She picked it up and looked at it, then she turned it over and I read the message to her, and it just spoke to her.
“She walked over the fridge, where her drawings were, and she pointed and said “on there, mum, on there”. So I stuck the drawing up next to hers, and she stepped back, and looked at it, and said, “Same, Mum! Same!”
From The Mouths Of Babes: An Emotional Moment
Katrina said it was hard to hold back tears at that point.
“I just choked up because I [realised] he had found a way to speak to her that she understood. This person, whose speech is difficult to understand and who has, in a way, so little ability, had just broken through and met her where she was at. It changed everything. It was just a beautiful moment.”
Having grown up watching children cruelly mock her older brother for his disability, Katrina said it meant so much to see he and Caillie form a bond.
“I think when you love someone you kind of want everyone else to see them the way that you do,” she said. “Just to have that moment of connection was powerful for me, and I wanted to share it with others.”
Charlie’s Reaction To His ‘Own’ Book
When Same came back from the publishers’, the first thing Katrina did was to show her brother. His reaction was, according to Katrina, priceless.
“He beamed from ear to ear,” she said. “He’s proud of it, and apparently he’s been showing everyone, and he’s prepared a little speech on video for the launch. I’m grateful that my brother is actually happy and proud of the book because that was, in a way, the most important thing to me.”
Children’s Book Is A Gentle Encouragement For Adults Too
While the book is aimed at children, Katrina hopes it will also encourage adults who have ever felt awkward or shy around people with disabilities.
“I hope that on some kind of subconscious level, the adults reading it will recognise in themselves those same feelings that the child experiences in the book,” she said.
“And that any shame that they feel about their own fears or awkwardness will dissipate, as they just see that it’s normal to be a little bit scared and a little bit apprehensive over how to approach someone.“
She encouraged people to push past this kind of fear.
“See if you can overcome it with a small gesture of love,” she said. “If you persist, like in this story, then you will find a way to connect.”
The Book’s Heart-Warming Artwork
The illustrations in Same, by artist Jemima Trappel, have touched a chord with many readers.
“Every single person who picks up the book says “wow, the illustration is gorgeous”,” said Katrina.
“It’s not actually easy to draw somebody with cerebral palsy and to show that they’re “all there upstairs”, and show the way the body falls. And I needed that hand-drawn style, because it’s all about the drawing.
“Jemima Trappel has done an absolutely beautiful job, and it took a long time to find her but it was worth the wait. I think she’s done a magnificent job of capturing the spirit of what the book is about.”
- Same is available online through Wombat Books, or by ordering it in at any book store.
- Katrina’s other children’s books are Marty’s Nut Free Party about nut allergies, and Emily Eases Her Wheezes, about childhood asthma.
- Katrina gives talks at schools and preschools and can be contacted through her Facebook page.