Children living with disabilities should recognise aspects of their own lives in ‘Squishy Sand’. Realistically highlighting some of the everyday obstacles that children with limited mobility have to deal with, it gently acknowledges the frustration and limitations that they may experience in their own lives.
Friends Leigh, Cosmo and Tara are keen to take their dogs for a walk on the beach on a hot sunny day, but Leigh points out that his wheelchair won’t be able to get across the ‘squishy sand’. The trio dream up various inventive ways to overcome this challenge, and begin to gather together some discarded junk they find on the beach to make adaptations to Leigh’s wheelchair. Some of their early prototypes don’t perform as well as they had hoped, resulting in tips and wobbles, but they don’t give up.
Finally, old chunky car tyres placed over the wheels turns out to be the solution they are looking for: the wheelchair is transformed into a sand-friendly, seagull chasing ‘Monster Buggy’! The ‘racing crew’ launch Leigh from the top of the board walk. He is naturally apprehensive, but as he gathers speed across the sand he feels like he’s FLYING! The children take turns in the whizzy wheelchair, and see the funny side when Cosmo crash-lands, unharmed, into the soft sand. The friends have a brilliant, action-packed experience together, and Leigh is keen to come back the next day for even more fun.
As Duke Ellington once said, a problem is a chance for you to do your best. This delightful picture book is testamant to this. The ‘squishy sand’ referred to in the story begins as a restricting barrier for Leigh’s wheelchair and ends up as a soft landing for a fall, giving the friends confidence to try out some turbo-charged feats in their fantastic new invention.
Author Charlene McIver has created a story that retains its light-heartedness and sense of fun while at the same time delivering helpful and comforting messages. Leigh’s reliance on his friends is never understated, but he’s portrayed as being extremely capable (the story opens with a lovely double page spread showing Tara and Cosmo trailing behind him as he speeds along the road). Illustrator Caroline Keys has ably and naturally captured the moods and actions of the children, using beautiful delicate pencil drawings washed with watercolour.