Charlottetown-based author Marlene Bryenton said she’s thrilled to write storybooks about her grandkids, who include a pair of young Cloverdale-area girls who are the subject of her latest creation, Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair.
The 24-page book explores how kids in wheelchairs are excluded because they are different, Bryenton says.
“Able-bodied children sometimes take their mobility for granted,” she explained. “I believe children can learn from another child’s life. I am hoping that Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair will create a whole new perspective for children who perhaps do not understand what it means for a child not to be able to walk and participate in all activities.”
Featured in Bryenton’s new book is 11-year-old Jaya Garner, a student at Hazelgrove Elementary, her younger sister Brynn, 3, and a talking wheelchair named Sparkle.
A genetic disorder prevents Jaya from being able to speak, but she can walk with assistance, Bryenton notes.
The author had her own wheelchair experience this summer after a hip replacement.
“I discovered that people looked at me differently,” Bryenton recalled. “Some people would wave hello and smile while others turn away. I do believe that people are uncomfortable with someone in a wheelchair. I know I certainly have more empathy now after my own wheelchair adventure. Life became much more difficult when I had to navigate in my wheelchair, as not everywhere is accessible.”
When released this month, Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair will feature special illustrations of Jaya celebrating her 10th birthday with her two longtime school friends.
“Jaya’s mommy and daddy asked the children to bring a little money instead of a gift for Jaya. The money was donated, so that other little girls and boys could have a wheelchair. This story was published in your newspaper,” Bryenton said.
Bryenton said she has visited Jaya and her family many times, but not this year, due to her hip issues and also the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have observed all the fun things Jaya is able to do, in spite of being in a wheelchair,” the author says. “This includes Jaya riding her favourite therapeutic horse, Lady Bug, playing the drum, going to the library, playing baseball and riding through the fountain in her wheelchair getting soaking wet. Jaya loves being outside and she loves water. Leanne (Bowlan, illustrator) brought to life all the things Jaya loves to do in her beautiful bright illustrations. Judy Parsons is our editor and Mark Bowlan is the formatter. The storybook is being printed at KKP in Charlottetown.”
Bryenton aimed to launch Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair on her 70th birthday Monday (Sept. 21), with copies available for sale on her website (marlenebryenton.com).
“Jaya doesn’t really understand the whole concept, but what she will understand is when she receives the custom board book,” Bryenton said. “She’ll be able to flip the pages of a board book, made of cardboard. It’s more durable and it will last, one just for her.”
The B.C. Physiotherapy Association is sponsoring 100 copies of Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair to Hazelgrove School, and Bryenton is still looking for a business or charity in the Surrey area to sponsor more storybooks for the school Jaya attends.
“It’s been a thrill of a lifetime to do this, really,” the author added.