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What's Wrong with Timmy?    by Maria Shriver & Sandra Speidel order for
What's Wrong with Timmy?
by Maria Shriver
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2001 (2001)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kids are often intolerant of differences in other children - different clothes and hairstyle, weight or height, accent and color, or differences in physical and mental abilities. It is painful for us as parents when our children are not accepted by their peers for whatever reason, but especially heart wrenching for those whose kids have special needs - problems with attention, learning difficulties, or more severe disabilities. This is the topic that Maria Shriver addresses with a great deal of empathy in the picture book What's Wrong with Timmy?

Kate is curious about everything around her, especially about an eight-year-old little boy that she sees at the park. He looks different and makes her feel funny, so she asks her mom 'What's wrong with Timmy?' Her mother leads Kate and the reader through Timmy's birth with disabilities; the love his mother has for him; his different abilities and limitations; and his feelings and dreams, in which she tells Kate 'Timmy's a lot like you.' The mom shares her own first encounter with her best friend's sister who was in a wheelchair.

When her mom introduces her to Timmy, Kate discovers that he struggles with mathematics and loves recess, just as she does. She also finds out how strong he has to be to deal with the rejection of his peers. Then she does a brave thing, taking leadership by telling her own friends that Timmy is her new friend and inviting him to join them in a game of basketball. She has to be 'strong inside' to do this, and she learns from the experience, with her mom's subtle guidance to look at what others can do, not what they can't do. She also works out the answer to the title question of what is wrong with Timmy - 'Why nothing ... nothing at all!'

I would like to see a copy of What's Wrong with Timmy? in the library of every elementary school, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to encourage compassion and tolerance in their own children - but don't try to read it without some tissues handy; it's hard to get through without a tear or two.
Note: A Teacher's Guide is available to be downloaded for this book, and a Spanish version is also available.

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