This book was selected as a 2021 Outstanding Book for Young People with Disabilities by International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). This year it’s being published in three other bilingual editions.
Jeremy is starting a new school. He is a bit nervous and a lot worried. ‘Normal’ the reader thinks but turning the page reveals a bigger reason: Jeremy uses a wheelchair and thinks he can’t participate but the recurring refrain from his new classmates is, ‘Of course you can!’ And they do indeed adjust things to accommodate Jeremy. He plays a board game on the floor by using a long ruler, he is goalie for the soccer team using a cricket bat and he is pushed by friends in the cross-country race.
The tables are turned when his friends worry about him going swimming and they tell him he can’t swim. He says, ‘Course I can!’ and jumps in.
The story involves progressions with Jeremy’s inclusion in activities getting more complex and when his mum asks how his day went, it starts with ‘all right’ and by the end of the week it’s ‘awesome’.
Jeremy’s classmates are inspirational and their attitude is one of inclusion and kindness.
The cost is high for a paperback picture book but the fact that it’s bilingual makes it value for money. It’s available in four different bilingual editions now Te reo Māori, Tongan, Niuean and Samoan. The layout is easy to follow with English on one side and the translation on the other of a double-page spread.
This story is not for just the differently-abled but for every child starting somewhere new.
Title: Of Course You Can! / Se e Te Mafaia!
Author: Karen Hinge
Illustrator: Nicky Sievert
Translators: Ngaere Roberts (te reo Māori), Filipo Motulalo (lea faka-Tonga), Dahlia Naepi (vagahau Niue), Nicole Maynard (gagana Sāmoa)
Publisher: OneTree House
ISBN: 9780473421854 (te reo Māori); 9781990035173 (lea faka-Tonga); 9781990035180 (vagahau Niue); 9781990035111 (gagana Sāmoa)
Publication: First published in te reo Māori/Pākehā (2018) new language editions were released in May 2022
Ages: 4-8 years
Themes: resilience, inclusion
Reviewer: Nova Gibson, Librarian, Massey Primary School, Auckland
How are you recommending this book? Highly Recommended
Opening sentence: Jeremy felt very nervous about starting at his new school. Ua lagona e Jeremy le popole ae lei amata lana aoga fou.