What inspired you to write I Am Sheriauna?
Sherylee: As a young child with a disability, my daughter Sheriauna experienced a lot of curiosity regarding her limb loss, which was at times invasive and very overwhelming for her as a 4-year-old. There were a lot of emotions from her and frustration when children and even adults would stare, point, whisper, and ask questions openly. As a mother, I wanted to help Sheriauna and realized I could not educate every single person, every time, so I thought of a way I could help parents and children understand who Sheriauna was and what it meant from her perspective to be an amputee.
Sheriauna, how did you feel when your mom first showed you some of the words and artwork for the book?
Sheriauna: I was so surprised and so excited to see someone that looked like me in a book. Then I realized it was me, and that made it even better. It was cool to know that I was going to be featured in a book and that other kids would see someone that looks like them.
What was it like to see the final printed book?
Sherylee: It was such a feeling of pride, completion, and accomplishment to see a thought that I had and put on paper become a real tangible message that others could access.
Sheriauna:It was joyful and such a happy moment.
What are your hopes for this book and additional books about Sheriauna?
Sherylee: I hope it will persist in helping educate others, both adults and children. I have a second installment in the I Am Sheriauna series in the works, and I anticipate that it will continue to further the conversation about disability, diversity, and inclusion. It is important to me that my daughter and other children with disabilities and children of color see themselves represented in literature—that the next generation of children create a new idea of what “normal” looks like.
Sheriauna: My hope is that as my mom expands the series, it will reach more people. When children read these books, I hope they learn that we are all different, but we are all the same.
Have any amputees or their parents said anything about the book and its impact on them?
Sherylee: Since the first book was published, it has been a resource to a lot of families who have children with amputations. Parents have shared that once their child reads the book, they want to share it with their friends and classmates because they see themselves in Sheriauna. Parents of children who do not have amputations or other visible disabilities were also able to discuss the overall theme of being kind to others and learning to ask questions without being hurtful. Child amputees feel happy and proud that there is a book with a main character that reflects who they are and what they experience every day.
What else should we know?
Sherylee: In Book 2, Sheriauna returns with another great experience to share with readers. We actually had a young child ask Sheriauna a question about the thing I share in Book 2, so I believe it is even more relevant now. Those who are interested in the books can learn more at iamsheriauna.ca and instagram.com/iamsheriauna.
Images courtesy of Sherylee Honeyghan.