The Most Awesome Character in the World

Reycraft. Sept. 2020. 32p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781478868125.
PreS-Gr 3–A well-intentioned and truly empowering message is obscured by a confusing narrative and problematic illustrations. Philomena, a deaf girl with peach-colored skin and straight black hair, clashes with her father over wearing her hearing aids. “I can’t imagine things when I wear them,” she signs, but he insists and also hands her a book with a jacket picturing a sad-faced character, who is deaf, “just like you.” Philomena escapes to her room to draw, creating “the most awesome character in the world” to repudiate what she sees as her father’s unhelpful gesture. In familiar picture book fashion, the girl’s imagination draws from the visuals present in her room. Three robots, two furry monsters, two humans in wheelchairs and one pointy-eared animal in a wheelchair all emerge from Philomena’s wallpaper, which also incorporates a space motif into its hodge-podge Disappointingly, one of the humans is depicted as an Asian stereotype with slanted eyes and folded hands within a wide-sleeved robe. Next, Philomena conjures up her titular masterpiece—a colossal, turquoise, three-eyed superhero who initiates a talent competition with the girl and her wallpaper posse. The monsters burp a symphony and the “wheelchair heroes” perform acrobatics. The turquoise giant attacks and subdues the monsters, who have done nothing worse than burp and do not seem to need defeating. For her talent, Philomena creates a star—a nod to the space motif—and happily crashes out of her imagination session with a renewed sense of her own power.
VERDICT Pottle, who was born deaf in both ears, makes an energetic case for positive and imaginative representation of disability but it gets muddled by missteps.

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