Ade Adepitan on the joy of his children's book: 'This generation can dare to dream'

Published on: 02 May 2018 Author: Alex Strick

International Paralympic athlete and TV presenter Ade Adepitan talks about the first in his three-book series for children, which tells the story of his childhood in the 1980s after his family moved from Nigeria to London.

Has a book been in the pipeline for a long time?

Friends and family were always asking me if I was going to write an autobiography. And I wanted to write about my childhood before I forgot it all - to document it as much as anything. So yes, I have been thinking about it for a long time, although I hadn’t specifically thought of writing for children.

So how did it develop into a children’s book?

It was actually the publisher who suggested that my story would translate well as a children’s book. We agreed that few children’s books – if any – feature a black disabled protagonist.

As someone who grew up never seeing himself in a book, this is something that is really important to me. I rarely saw a disabled character, and where I did, it was a negative one. I realised I could do something really valuable.

Was the process challenging?

Yes, it was daunting. And I was worried about jumping on the bandwagon – another celebrity trying to cash in on children’s books! So I got lots of advice, to help the book achieve its potential. I learned how much I could actually cover in a book for kids. For example, originally I thought I should play down the negatives. But the consultation helped me realise that acknowledging the discrimination I faced was important. I hope it can be a real conversation-opener.

The book paints a vivid picture of the challenges you faced when your family first moved from Lagos to London. How hard was it?

Basically I just wanted to fit in, to be one of the cool kids. But there I was with my callipers and hospital boots. I spoke different, I walked different, I looked different.

It took me quite a while to understand that until you become comfortable in your own skin, you can’t go on to address some of the bigger things like discrimination.

In what ways do you think things are different for wheelchair-users growing up today?

It’s so exciting to think what opportunities there are now! This generation can dare to dream. They have amazing role models like Sarah Storey and David Weir.

Disabled kids can do anything, but in order to believe it, you need to see it.

Nobody talked about disability sport when I was a child. Disabled kids were still hidden away. My parents thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to be a wheelchair athlete. In the 1980s, that was almost unthinkable. People saw wheelchairs as a negative thing, and it was the same picture in books. That’s why I’m so excited about this series.

What sort of things do you want the books to say to children?

I want children to realise that it’s OK to be an outsider and not do things the conventional way. You can still be successful. You can find your own way.

You sound really excited!

Yes, I really can’t wait to see the books out there. There’s nothing more exciting than going to library or bookshop and picking up a new book. I feel really emotional knowing that my first book will be hitting those shelves.

Ade's Amazing Ade-ventures: Battle of the Cyborg Cat is published on 17 May by Bonnier 

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