King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan and Christiane Kromer

This gorgeous book with an impressive array of awards was published by Lee & Low Books, which prides itself on being the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country. King For A Day is a rare find, a beautiful story with a disabled main character where the disability not only has nothing to do with the plot, it’s not even mentioned in the text. It is the festival of Basant and Malik spends the day on his rooftop doing battle with his specially built kite Falcon to prove himself as the best kite fighter and win the title, King of Basant. He most especially wants to take down the bully who has hit him and insulted his sister, and has multiple expensive kites to Malik’s single hand-made one.

Kite flying is not a traditional athletic activity, and so it avoids the common trope in childhood literature of the disabled child being accepted only after they prove themself in some form of physical competition or form of prowess. Malik has a close, loving relationship with his siblings, the bully is cruel to everyone and doesn’t single him out because of his limitations, and in the book Malik is judged only on the merits of his kite and his flying abilities.

Some books about disability are great for the way they handle the topic, explain someone’s condition, or introduce the reader to something new and perhaps uncomfortable. King for a Day is great because it does nothing of the sort. Malik is simply there, in his wheelchair, a full, fleshed-out character with a plan and a project and ambition and excitement that has nothing to do with his legs. He is allowed to simply exist and be portrayed on the page just like anybody else. It feels like this is the true end-goal of greater representation of disability- characters that don’t need to teach or  inspire or explain or overcome or center their stories on their disability- they’re just there.

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