________________ CM . . . . Volume xxi Number 25 . . . . March 6, 2015


Gina’s Wheels.

Mary Harelkin Bishop. Illustrated by Diane L. Greenhorn.
Regina, SK: DriverWorks Ink, 2014.
32 pp., pbk., $13.95.
ISBN 978-1-927570-12-8.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Kerri Hutchinson.

** /4


For the next several weeks, Gina did everything from her wheelchair/stroller. She brushed her teeth from her stroller; she helped set the table from her stroller; she played from her stroller.

Whenever her mother tried to convince Gina to use her legs, Gina would reply "This is what some people have to do to get around. You have legs and I'm using wheels."


Based on a true story, Gina's Wheels tells the story of a precocious four-year-old girl who meets Canadian Paralympic athlete Colette Bourgonje during a shopping trip to the mall. Mary Harelkin Bishop also authored a biography of Bourgonje, and it is from her research that she learned of the story that is the inspiration for this picture book.

     Gina is as uncensored as many four-year-olds are, and when she meets Colette, she asks her about her wheelchair. Colette describes her accomplishments at the Paralympics, and Gina is inspired by her story. When Gina and her mother return home from their trip, Gina pulls her old stroller out of the garage and uses it to mimic Colette. Throughout the summer, Gina continues using her stroller cum wheelchair around the house, and her mother worries she will continue the behaviour at school. When Kindergarten arrives, Gina puts the stroller away, but when she’s at school, she is thrilled to see that a girl in her class uses a wheelchair, and she makes her feel welcome.

     Gina's Wheels is a story about inclusion and understanding. Gina mimics Colette Bourgonje, and she learns what life in a wheelchair might be like for people like Colette. The message the story is able to convey is that different physical abilities are not an obstacle or limitation but a part of life.

     The illustrations were drawn by a local Saskatchewan artist, Diane Greenhorn. They are full page colour pastel illustrations with the text often appearing overlaid. The illustrations repeat the text without adding any new content. The images are not as bright or crisp as they could have been for this format. There is a lot of text in this story that makes it more suitable for an older age group, but the format is more appropriate for younger children. With the length of the text, the story would benefit from more white space on the pages.

     Different abilities are not widely covered in children's books, and that the story is told from a child's perspective is key to the message of inclusion. Overall, Gina's Wheels is a refreshing story, and children will be able to relate to Gina’s curiosity and inquisitiveness.


Kerri Hutchinson is a library technician with the Region of Waterloo in Waterloo, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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