Friday, May 15, 2015

Captain Hook, That's Me (1982) by Ada B. Litchfield

again, I couldn't find a cover image of this book to steal, so here's my copy
Judy Johnson was born without a left hand, possibly due to medication her mother took while pregnant. Judy wears a hook to help her do a variety of things. She doesn't consider herself handicapped, and has a positive, can-do attitude. 
Judy tells us about all the things she can do with one hand, which include racing, singing, reading and roller skating.
Judy has a friend, Harry, who affectionately refers to her as "Captain Hook." He protects Judy from the taunts of the other kids who call her less flattering names like "Lobster Claw." The kids at school are used to Judy's disability and treat her like anyone else.
Judy confesses that having a hook is sometimes painful and her mother has to help her with it every morning. There are also things Judy would like to do that she can't. Her main dream is to play the piano like her sister Bunny.
Then one day Dad announces he has a new job and the family will be moving to another town. Judy flies into a rage and tears up her room. Her little brother comes in for his nightly bedtime story and Judy throws the book on the floor. (Fun fact: the illustrator, Sonia O. Lisker, also drew the pictures for a book called I Used To. If you squint you can see that this is the book Judy threw down).

Judy's mother comes in. "My mother is a pretty special person. But she gets angry if she catches me feeling sorry for myself." Judy's mother often reminds her that when she's done growing, she will get a prosthetic hand that will be much easier to deal with. But now, she makes Judy apologize to her brother and read him as many stories as he wants.
As all kids in books do, Judy quickly makes a new friend at her new school. She gets irritated when Tina butters her roll for her, but Tina doesn't stare at her and neither do the other kids. Judy surmises that the teacher told them not to.
Judy's teacher brings out musical instruments for the class to play. At first it looks like she intentionally left Judy out. Just as Judy is fighting back tears, the teacher brings out a special instrument, the marimba, for Judy to play. Judy is uncertain that she will be able to master the complicated instrument at first, but the teacher reads out the notes, and before she knows it, Judy is playing Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Judy no longer cares that she can't play the piano and resolves to be the best marimba player in the world.
This book feels at least ten years older than it is. Was it really a common thing in the 80's to make a kid wear a hook? Regardless, Judy is an inspirational character and I like the way her mother refused to allow her to feel sorry for herself. 

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