The Same but Different
32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99
“I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much. I hated being different and, you know, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t… Whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me.” Dylan Alcott Australian of the Year 2022.
Nobody who heard Alcott’s words during his acceptance speech could have failed to have been moved by his passion for making a difference for those with disabilities and such was their power in lifting both his profile and his message, that two days later Channel 9 delayed their main nightly news bulletin so we could all witness his final appearance in the Australian Open in its entirety. And while the match’s result didn’t go to script, nevertheless his message was underlined as time and again the cameras focused on young wheelies in the crowd – all there to watch one who was already a hero and a voice, but one whose voice has just become infinitely louder!
Ever since the UN General Assembly declared 1981 to be the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) with a focus on “a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities”. slowly, slowly progress has been made and now, as libraries have a real focus on the diversity of their collections, children are seeing themselves in the books they read and the movies they watch.
So the release and review of this book is timely. It explores the ways in which we’re all unique as well as the similarities we share. Using everyday examples, clear explanations and colourful illustrations by Sarah Jennings, this book prompts children to broaden their perspectives and rejoice in their differences while accepting those of others as what makes them unique. Including double-page spreads that focus on how we look, where we live, the languages we speak, what our families are like and what we believe in, it can start important conversations with children about diversity and inclusion. Early Years expert Molly Potter also provides a glossary of terms and notes for parents and carers offering advice on tackling prejudice right from the start.
It took 62 years for the AOTY award to be given to a person with a disability, and Alcott says his purpose is “changing perceptions” – as educators we can start with our youngest students with books like this.