The author who wrote a children’s novel featuring a female protagonist with Down’s syndrome has been praised for its empowering representation.
Joseph Elliott, from Bristol, UK, wrote The Good Hawk while healing from an injury he endured while playing football. The broken foot left him unable to work his usual magic as ‘Cook’ in the CBeebies programme Swashbuckle.
He said the character of Agatha was inspired by young people he worked with while working as a teaching assistant at a special needs school. Elliott said he was “blown away” by the positive responses to the story, including endorsement from a young woman with Down’s syndrome.
Maya, who is 16 years old, read the book in two weeks and said it was “gripping”.
“I really liked Agatha and I think she is a good representation of someone who has Down’s syndrome, because she is brave and fierce,” she said. “Other people may think she’s slow, but I know that Agatha won’t let people think too little of her.”
Joseph Elliot (far left) on set of the CBeebies shows, Swashbuckle.
“She doesn’t see herself as being ‘different’ to others – she is who she is, brave and bold, kind and impulsive, and she’s confident in her own abilities,” said Mr Elliott.
The Down’s Syndrome Association has celebrated “the fact that although one of the main characters has Down’s syndrome, the novel is not ‘about’ Down’s syndrome”. A spokesperson said this fact allows the reader “to enjoy the character for the funny, kind, strong 15-year-old girl that she is”.
“I’ve had parents of children with Down’s syndrome telling me how grateful they are to have this heroine,” the author said. “They’ve never read a book with a heroine with a disability and really, what are we teaching our kids if they can’t see themselves represented?
“It’s mind-blowing to have that support – that’s really the best thing, it’s wonderful.”