Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles
New Frontier, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Ava does not like wearing her spectacles at school so she finds it difficult to see the board and read her books. Her teacher understands this and knows she has to help Ava feel okay with wearing them so she begins to talk to Ava. “If only Little Red Riding Hood had put on her glasses the day she went to visit her grandmother…she would have seen the big teeth and big eyes.”
Ava stops crying and Mrs Cook continues, gradually getting Ava to understand that wearing glasses is helpful and a good thing, not a badge of shame.
Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Ava was me 60 years ago, right down to the red hair tied up in bunches. It’s as though illustrator Angela Perrini had been looking at my family photo albums (although we didn’t have coloured photos way back then!) And then six years ago, it was my granddaughter who was Ava and in the intervening time, hundreds of other kids too. No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class. As a teacher of 45 years, I’ve seen it over and over although luckily there is much greater acceptance these days. Oh, to have had a teacher as understanding and as smart as Mrs Cook.
This is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers but which should be actively promoted to both teachers and parents as a strategy for getting little ones to be comfortable with wearing their glasses rather than ashamed. While Mrs Cook sticks to well-known stories and rhymes where 20/20 vision would have been helpful there would be plenty of incidents, real and imaginary, that teachers and parents could draw on to play the what-if game.
So many children will see this book as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves, while others will see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Ava and others feel and how they can be more empathetic. They might even explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery.