Tonight’s book review is of Ade’s Amazing Ade-ventures: Battle of the Cyborg Cat, by Ade Adepitan, illustrated by David M Buisan, and published by Studio Press.
What it’s about
Ade is the new kid on his street. That’s not easy when you look different to everyone else. Then he meets the Parsons Road Gang and everything changes.
This will be perfect for the children in our library who particularly love sport, funny books and those we have who might have joined us quite recently from other countries and cultures. It was my book of the week last week, and I am preparing to talk a lot about it with the children, who are already picking it up and asking questions. I look forward to reading more in the series.
In Ade’s introduction, he explains that he moved to the UK from Nigeria in the 1980s with his family. They settled in London and their first experiences were not always very warm or welcoming. Ade talks about how difficult it is to move to a new country, let alone a new city, and I was totally there with him! I moved from Canada to Exeter to be with family and, while I am white and not a wheelchair user, I still found it hard, with some people telling me that I was a ‘seal basher’ and that I was ‘too North American’. If young Ade’s experiences in this book are based on real events, he had a really awful time of it – his family mocked for being black, he was called ‘peg leg’ as a result of the caliper he wore on his left leg for support because of his polio. A group of particularly nasty men in a local market shout at Ade and his family: “Oi, why don’t you got back to your own country and take the little cripple with you?” – a horrible thing to hear on your journey from the airport to your new home. I think and hope that the situation is better for immigrants nowadays – society does seem more multicultural although of course there will always be those with closed minds, who reject anyone who looks or sounds different.
Anyway, on to the review! At first Ade worries about fitting into life in the UK. The local kids are unkind and all Ade wants to do is hide his heritage and his leg. However, at a party his mother throws to celebrate their arrival in the UK, he becomes friendly with a group of boys who call themselves the Parsons Road Gang, and things change for the better. They tell Ade that he is a cyborg because he’s ‘a human with mechanical enhancements that give them super-strength’. They see his caliper as a strength, a benefit, rather than something to be ashamed of. Ade joins in their football games, and gains another addition to his nickname ‘Cat’ – ie Cyborg Cat. This is down to his quick reflexes. He’s an essential part of their football team and he feels nearly invincible, until his caliper breaks and he faces a long wait for the new one to be ready.
At this point, Ade introduces another interesting meditation on how people view those with physical disabilities. In the UK, the solution is a wheelchair to get around in until he can have the new caliper fitted. It’s not viewed with any shame whereas in Nigeria, his home country, those who rely on wheelchairs, for example, are only people who beg in the street. It is viewed as something to be ashamed about, not celebrated. So Ade’s mother puts him in a buggy instead, which of course attracts many negative and derisive comments. It is only at school, when Ade and his friends see a boy using an impressive-looking wheelchair, that Ade starts to change his own preconceptions, commenting: He’d always thought using a wheelchair meant that a person was helpless. But that boy wasn’t helpless.’
I think this final realisation sums up the messages behind this book perfectly. Society has some pretty rubbish ideas about people who appear different to others and Ade exposes how incorrect they are, and how they affect the individuals at whom the unkindness is directed. However, Ade and his family also look at their own ideas too, so that this is less a book condemning narrow-mindedness and more one that challenges set ideas in a positive way. This isn’t done in a holier-than-thou, preachy way; rather Ade uses humour and action to raise issues within a fast-moving story where everyone has something to learn.