What Happened to You?

Little, Brown. Apr. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316506472.
PreS-Gr 3–George’s cover illustration tells readers nothing and everything in Catchpole’s exuberant book about abilities and how to talk about them. Two smiling children each stand on simple wooden swings, boards attached with ropes; she is Black with two puffs of dark hair, and he is white with flyaway blond hair. She has two legs, he has one. Within the pages, readers learn he is Joe, and he is a pirate, dealing with a shark. Kid One, the girl with the puffs, wants to know what has happened to Joe’s leg. Other children join in with questions about where his leg went, ruining Joe’s pirate quest as well as his day. He deflects all questions, becoming moody and even angry, until Simone, who was “Kid One,” asks, “Is that a crocodile down there?” and Joe lets her in. Soon all the kids have names and roles in Joe’s game and the question of his leg is forgotten. Most of the story unfolds in conversation; the brevity of narrative moves the action along and George’s cheerful illustrations capture in monotones pictures of the potential absurd answers to the children’s impulsive questions. Catchpole, shown in a family photograph with one leg and a prosthetic, includes an author’s note to explain how any person with a physical difference may not want to be interrupted (or become a so-called teachable moment) for questions about that difference, and ways to address such matters openly.
VERDICT A rare perspective that removes pity, dissolves differences or impediments, and welcomes everyone into the game unquestioningly.

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