Mia’s Magic Uncle
Mia loves nothing better than spending time with Uncle Robbie. He has an infinite knack for coming up with fun things to do. He builds her a puppet theatre, creates treasure hunts and even entertains her by making an egg appear from her ear and handkerchiefs change colour. And it is Robbie’s flair as a conjurer which proves invaluable when Mia wants to learn a new skill for the school end of year talent show.
Then Mia doesn’t hear from him for a while. She misses her uncle and writes to ask him to come and perform a magic show at her birthday party. It is this successful event which not only reignites their friendship but also leads to a further string of local 'gigs' for Mr Spaghetti Legs, as he becomes known in the local neighbourhood.
Why spaghetti legs? It is only once the characters have been firmly established that we are told Uncle Robbie uses a wheelchair. As the story progresses, we also learn that he sometimes feels sad about being disabled, is often tired and unwell and wishes he could ‘magic’ his legs into action.
Lindsay McLeod depicts the very special relationship between the two relatives in a delightful and hugely touching way. The subject of disability is also sensitively handled and it is unsurprising to learn that the author based much of the book on first-hand experience. Particularly convincing are the descriptions of children asking their embarrassed parents ‘what is wrong’ with Robbie's legs.
There is most definitely a place for a book like this, which adeptly describes someone trying to ‘deal with’ their disability, but alongside this we also need more books in which the disabled character is strong, healthy and happy - and indeed more books which do not even refer directly to the disability at all.