The Book That Made Me: James Mayhew 17/07/19
Max the Champion
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Could this be the perfect inclusive book?
Max the Champion is emphatically not about disability. It’s about a boy who loves sport, his friends and school. A boy with a vivid imagination…
From the moment he wakes up, sport is on his mind. As we follow him through his day, the bouncy illustrations show us Max’s parallel imaginative life. As he dives into his cereal, Max imagines participating in a diving competition, cycling to school is the chance to dream of a bobsleigh race, handwriting practice turns into javelin practice… there is no limit to Max’s imagination.
Throughout the story, we are shown a diverse cast of characters. From people signing, a guide dog user to, a judge with a foreshortened arm, and a crowd member who has Cherubism and another who is oxygen dependent. Even amongst Max’s classmates we can see a child with Down syndrome, one with an eye patch, another wears a leg orthotic... and Max’s best friend is a wheelchair user. We even discover part way through the book that Max wears a hearing aid and uses an asthma inhaler. Even Max’s dream sequences are inclusive, with adaptive skiing and cycling equipment imagine – equipment which we’re much more familiar with following the 2012 Paralympic Games.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I must stress again that this books is not about disability. We’re also shown people of varying heritage and culture, active older characters, girls and boys, men and women, all in equal roles. These characters are not commented on, pointed out, or discussed. They’re just part of the landscape, part of Max’s everyday (and not so everyday) life.
What this book is, is a celebration of fun activity, showing us how a diverse mix of people make Max’s reality (and his dreams) all the more vibrant and interesting, and it sends out the message that the same is true for all of us.
Guest review by Beth Cox, freelance editor and inclusion advisor