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New book helps children reach for the stars

Cambridge author, illustrator and educator Kelley Donner has published two more books in her Happy Heads series – a collection of children’s books dedicated to creating realistic characters with special needs and autism.

Author Kelley Donner. Picture: Keith Heppell
Author Kelley Donner. Picture: Keith Heppell

Following on from last year’s Ball! Ball! Ball! – the first book in the series and an Amazon bestseller – Little Jack Thomson’s Magnificent Brain is an inspiring story about a young boy with autism and dyslexia who discovers that his learning disabilities do not need to get in the way of him being magnificent.

To accompany the story is Little Jack Thomson’s Magnificent Brain Colouring Book, which has activities and colouring pages designed to help children to be imaginative and think outside the box.

Little Jack Thomson’s Magnificent Brain is the story of a gifted boy who dreams of flying rockets to Neptune and building trains between planets, and is unaware of how truly intelligent he is. He is convinced he is slow because he can’t read and write like everyone else he knows.

But following one awful day at school, Jack’s mother comforts him by relating some inspiring stories of history’s greatest minds and how they overcame learning disabilities.

Kelley, who is originally from Kansas, USA, said: “I think it’s important for parents to have literature available to them which encourages children to reach their potential. There are a lot of children out there with special needs and autism who find school difficult, or who have days that are really hard.”

Kelley continued: “I think Jack in the book is interesting because he has what is called a ‘spiky profile’. That means that although he’s very good in some areas at school, he finds others very challenging.

“This can be very frustrating for children like Jack because often teachers, parents and care-givers expect them to be good at everything and they oversee the difficulties that they may face.

“In Jack’s case, he’s very good at science and maths, but he has a horrible time with reading and spelling.”

Jack’s mum helps him realise that he can do what he wants – he just needs to find his own way and find out how he can reach his potential.

Kelley added: “I think that parents will really enjoy the fact that it’s a very encouraging book, it’s very uplifting.

“Although it begins with him having a hard day, I think children will really like that he gets very excited and very happy at the end – and you can see him dreaming about all of the fantastic things he wants to do.

“I think parents and children will enjoy looking at life the way Jack does, and I think parents will also really like the colouring book because children who like the book can then colour in all of the different pages and do the different activities.”

Kelley says she plans to write at least four or five books in the Happy Heads series, adding: “But if it’s possible, I’ll do as many as I can,” she said.

“The idea of the Happy Heads series is to give children with special needs and autism more realistic characters and better representation – meaning that it’s telling the stories from their point of view. But every character is different, every child is different.”

Little Jack Thomson’s Magnificent Brain and Little Jack Thomson’s Magnificent Brain Colouring Book are out now.

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