Quentin Blake has written a new book featuring children with additional needs as the heroes of the story. The Five of Us follows friends Angie, Ollie, Simona, Mario and Eric on a bus trip to the countryside. When disaster occurs, the group use their unusual abilities to work together to save the day. Disability is never mentioned in the book, but the illustrations and text hint of additional needs and challenges including a wheelchair, glasses, and hearing and communication problems. The focus is instead on what the characters can do and the story is a great story in its own right without being labelled as a ‘disability book’. Quentin Blake said of The Five of Us:
‘Of course this isn’t a book just for children with problems. If it is going to work it has to be a book for everyone; and I thought it was important not to mention their disadvantages – just their amazing abilities.’
The idea for the book arose from a series of Booktrust workshops exploring disability and books where, with children, Blake redrew images from his books to incorporate disabled characters. Booktrust have also produced a report arising from the workshops called Making Exclusion a Thing of the Past: Children’s Views on Disability in Books . The report gives a voice to children with additional needs and shares their opinions on the representation of disability in children’s books.