Joy Berry Talks About Physical Disabilities

FAQ Physical Disabilities coverGood Answers to Tough Questions
About Physical Disabilities

I feel like we’ve featured a lot of books by Joy Berry on this site over the years, and we should give her a category, like we did with Doris Sandford. Actually, I think Joy Berry’s books are pretty good and simply a victim of time. This one is no exception.

The illustrations are cute, the characters are culturally diverse, and the question-and-answer format is helpful.

What I think is weird about this book is that there is a bored-looking kid on every page! There they are, head in hands, rolling eyes, barely interested in what’s going on.

I’m a little surprised to see a Polio example in a book from 1990, actually. Most kids in 1990 (who are now in their 30’s if they were already kids in 1990, by the way…) would only know about Polio from a history lesson or a parent/grandparent’s experience.

Lastly, I don’t think the word “cripple” belongs in any children’s book. Clearly it is being used derogatorily here, but the child who said it was not corrected. The text is about ignorance, but it doesn’t point out specific words and phrases that should be used.


Veteran amputee


Short arms

Surprised they let her teach


  1. I work in an orthopedic shoe store and we still have clients who had polio as a child. In 1990, it would have been fairly likely that a 10 year old could have had a relative who contracted polio in the early 1950s.

    1. I really enjoy this site, its may favourite blog! However, I really don’t think this book is really awful at all.

  2. I remember polio being used as an example at my school for disabilities, and I think that would of been around the same time as this book.

  3. I think the polio example works, especially with post-polio syndrome cropping up in the 80’s and 90’s. The handling of the word “cripple” could have been better, but it’s clear that the other person in the picture was not happy with the use of that word.

  4. I was 12 in 1990, when my father had a church friend who was a polio victim. She was a lovely old dear, and I remember my father telling me sadly that she never married due to her disability. She would have been in her 70s, so would have caught it sometime in the 30s, when she was a primary school child.

  5. I think Holly has confused the kid with the “thought bubble” in each picture with a bored kid. They are thinking about the image that the words evoke for them, which is why they are looking up at the image.

  6. Also, polio may not be as much of a thing in the developed world, but it’s still not eradicated. Children who come to the US or Canada as immigrants could have had it.

  7. Considering anti-vaxxers are bringing diseases like polio back I think having it in a book is a good idea so people can see it’s not “a harmless, childhood illness.”

    That being said, the book didn’t age very well. Time for a new one.

  8. As someone diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome I wish there was a vaccine to protect me from anti-vaxxers. I’d also like to see some early books about autism, they’re definitely worth a snarky comment or two.

  9. I am an elementary librarian, K-4, and our school has a fair amount of special needs children, with a wide variety of diagnoses. My students wouldn’t be interested in this book because to them, a child or adult of different needs and abilities is commonplace. I doubt the teachers or counselor would use it either.

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