In a wonderfully body-positive step forward, a new children’s book about a girl with one hand is hitting the shelves. Growing up with storybook role models who are invariably thin, beautiful, and flawless presents a distorted version of reality, and for children who don’t fit the mould (which, let’s face it, is almost all of them), it can be disheartening and isolating. Children’s books suffer from a massive under-representation of diverse ethnicities or a more all-encompassing spectrum of sexuality. Thankfully, some much-needed progress is being made in that direction, but representation is still massively skewed towards able-bodied people — which is why a more inclusive children’s book is such welcome news.
Little Miss Jessica Goes To School is based in part on the experiences of author Jessica Smith, who grew up with crippling low self-esteem in a society that forced impossible beauty standards upon her through books and TV. Smith was born without a left arm, and after an accident caused by her struggling to adapt to a prosthetic limb, she ended up with severe burns on 15 percent of her body. Incredibly, Smith made it to the Paralympics, but the eating disorders brought on by her lack of self-confidence as a teenager caused her to underperform, left her in the hospital, and ruined her swimming career. So, yes, Jessica Smith understands your body insecurities.
Smith is now pregnant with her first child and, as she told The Huffington Post, is adamant that her child will grow up with the sense of self-worth that Smith herself lacked. Little Miss Jessica Goes To School is the first in a series of books that will celebrate children’s differences, and encourage a positive body image no matter what you look like. With such an inspiring mother, I have no doubt that Smith’s child will have buckets of self-confidence — and these books may just change children's lives.
Image: Claire Joines/Bustle