Austin’s amazing adventures

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Austin’s amazing adventures

Those of you who may have met me at one of my events at the Florida lighthouses would have heard me speak about my latest book series Austin’s amazing adventures and why it’s so important not just to me but to anyone with children.

I’ll never forget the night just over 2 years ago when I came up with the idea for the series. It was a Saturday night and I was getting ready to go to the movies with a friend when I stumbled across an article online in which my favourite children’s author Julia Donaldson was talking about how there needs to be more children living with disabilities featured in Children’s stories. So that children all over the world with addictions needs see themselves represented by the characters in those stories and others who aren’t affected by disabilities understand that these children are no different from them.

The moment I read the article I felt the fire inside me light. I thought about my children and specifically my son Austin who has a one in two chance of developing Retinitis Pigmentosa just like me when he’s older. Every poem I write is intended to help others but also acts as a legacy for my children when they are older. But I knew I wanted to write books specifically for children out there living with disabilities. I decided to write a poem that would be the first story in a new series. Austin my 9 year old son would be the main character. But in these stories he would be a young visually impaired boy going to a mainstream school and living with all the challenges that brings. Lots of children with additional needs in mainstream schools experience problems fitting in, many can feel isolated and left out because of their differences. I wanted to give these children a voice through the poetry and Austin would be that voice. Once I started to write the words began to flow out of me and they wouldn’t stop. Even on the way to the cinema in my friends car I was still writing, trying to get all of the words out whilst I felt inspired. By the time I went to bed that night I’d written the first 6 books.

I then set myself the task of finding an illustrator who understood the value and importance of this project and was introduced to Sue Green by a mutual friend. Sue is an extremely talented artist and also a school teacher. It was clear from our very first phone call that she got the importance of what I was trying to achieve. Sue set to work on bringing the stories to life and bring them to life she did. She captured Austin so perfectly, his smile his personality. We then started to look at the layout of the book and how we could ensure it was accessible as well as different from other books out there. Giving every illustration an image description, a free audio version with every book and a section of open ended questions to encourage the conversation around inclusion were just some of the things put in to the first book.

Austin’s amazing adventures was released in December 2021 and gained press and tv coverage both in the U.K. and America. The books received support from the education system both sides of the Atlantic and have been used as part of lessons around disability.

So what’s next for the series. These stories and the world they are set in will hopefully continue to grow and develop. The introduction of characters living with additional needs and challenges I hope to bring more understanding and normalise things like Autism, wheelchair use, Asperger’s and many other conditions you will see children living with in every school around the world.

Austin’s amazing adventures is just the beginning and I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve got in store.