Book review: Adiba Nelson’s “Meet ClaraBelle Blue”

Cover for "Meet Clarabelle Blue" with a girl, her wheelchair and stuffed animals. Clarabelle is singing and wearing a pink tutu.I cut my hand pretty severely last month. Since then, any time I try to wash my hair or make dinner, I hear a line from the children’s book Meet ClaraBelle Blue ringing in my head:

Surprise my dear, surprise indeed! Those are little, tiny things called special needs!

“Special Needs? Special Needs? What does that mean?”

It means it takes her a little bit longer to do every day things.

ClaraBelle Blue’s story reminds young children (ages six to eight) that people with special needs are not all that different except for minor things. The charming main character may have trouble walking, but she still laughs, sings, screams and wins at duck duck goose. That sunny smile, eagerness to play and learn is still there, and having a disability doesn’t hinder it one bit. At the end of the day, ClaraBelle Blue is still ClaraBelle Blue.

This book was written by Adiba Nelson, and it came to be as a personal expression and token of love for her own special needs daughter. You can feel that love on every page. It’s a sweet story with the right amount of silliness (I’m not sure I would ever dine on a sardine and orange marmalade sandwich myself) and seriousness to convey the importance of acceptance of people that may look different, but are really the same mostly.

Indeed, the message seems to be so important to the author that the main characters look similar to her daughter and her, but in a very Disney-style way. The book is illustrated by Elvira Morando and was designed by Ilene Serna. I grew up on the whole princess fad, so their artwork made the book that much more enjoyable.

Pretty art always did lure me into reading certain books as a child. Physically reading it now is a different story. It’s been difficult to do every day simple things since I hurt my hand. Taking a shower has become harder, reaching for things is debatable, and even putting on a sweater takes extra steps. I’m typing this blog post in a different way than I used to do it, too. None of these things are impossible to do, I just do them differently.

You know what, though? I’m still very much the same as before: I can still sing, do dishes, walk and fight the good fight. Something changed with how I live (if only temporarily), but it didn’t alter who I am as a person. Just how I do things versus the way others do them.

The problems I’ve had using my hand lately have helped me appreciate the everyday struggle people with disabilities go through each and every day. Reading this book in addition to my injury helped me also to gain an even greater appreciation for those who look at their disability and carry on doing everyday tasks. They might do them a little differently, but they get things done all the same

A disability may not go away like the injury on my hand will, but living with the injury while reading this book makes me feel I have a better idea of what living with a disability might be like. Not completely — never completely — but more than before. And now I have a wicked cool scar in the making, too.


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