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What's Wrong with Timmy? Hardcover – October 16, 2001

3.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When 8-year-old Kate meets a boy who seems somehow different, she feels funny inside. After talking with her mom, though, Kate begins to understand that Timmy is just like her in many ways. Timmy has special needs; he takes longer to learn than Kate, and can't walk or run as well. But he also "loves his family, he wants friends, he goes to school, and he dreams about what he wants to be when he grows up." Kate and Timmy meet, and the seeds of a friendship are planted.

For all those children who ask their parents why someone looks or acts "different," author and journalist Maria Shriver's What's Wrong with Timmy? provides a base for discussion. Kate's mother models appropriate behavior, speaking to her daughter calmly and directly, and providing examples from her own life to help Kate understand about Timmy. Illustrator Sandra Speidel's soft, intentionally hazy pastels are lovely; bold, enlarged phrases on the opposite pages of text act as captions. Shriver and Speidel collaborated previously on the tremendously popular What's Heaven?, also starring Kate and her mother. (Ages 4 to 8) --Emilie Coulter

From School Library Journal

Gr 3-5-This brief book tells of the meeting in the park between an eight-year-old girl and the "mentally retarded" son of her mother's friend. The writer describes Timmy as someone who "looked different" and has a face that seems "flatter" than other children's. Kate asks her mother about the boy and learns that he is her age and was born with disabilities. The children discover that they like the same things at school, recess and sports, and don't like math. After a game of basketball with her friends, Timmy and Kate make a play date. The warm pastel illustrations support the theme of acceptance of all people no matter their differences. However, the little girl's questions and actions are quite mature for her age. The lack of paragraphs might be a bit confusing to young readers, and the intermittent use of bold-faced, larger-sized type is a bit disruptive, although its purpose seems to be to highlight the theme. The book reads well, though, and would be a good introduction for youngsters welcoming a disabled child into their school or neighborhood.

Margaret C. Howell, West Springfield Elementary School, VA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 1
  • Lexile Measure: 570L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316155489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316233378
  • ASIN: 0316233374
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a writer who gets around in a wheelchair and conducts disability-awareness workshops for school children, I've been a longtime collector of books that acquaint kids with people who have disabilities. This book is among the most disappointing I've ever seen. Here's why:
1. The book centers on a mother-daughter dialogue (actually, more of a mother monologue) *about* a kid who has Down Syndrome. How easy it would have been to transform the manuscript into a dialogue *with* a kid who has Down Syndrome!
2. The choice to change the font to big and bold whenever a disability-related word is introduced is counterproductive. Take a sentence like "And then I saw that she was in a WHEELCHAIR." [This may not be Ms. Shriver's exact wording, but it's close.] The large, dark letters send a danger signal to readers young and old: "Whoa! Being in a wheelchair is cause for alarm, fear, panic." This is the very opposite of what disability rights activists have been striving to convey in books, film and television for decades.
Ms. Shriver is to be commended for her work on behalf of people with disabilities. Although well intentioned, this book does not further the cause she champions.
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Format: Hardcover
I was very curious to read this title from Maria Shriver knowing her family background with people with special needs.
My brother has Down's Syndrome, so I know what it is to be on the receiving end of other children looking at my brother and wondering (sometimes outloud and sometimes in facial expression, stares and body language) wondering "What's wrong with him?" Recently one little girl asked my daughter, "Why is your uncle so freaky?"
These are truths: that people "in the world" don't always use politically correct terms... not by a long shot... and as fellow citizens we can educate those who have not yet learned some of the simple truths this book teaches.
One warning (to those who do not share this view) the book takes a very spiritual stance in its explanations.
Another shortcoming is overcome very simply. Each page has quite a bit of text and I thought, "This is way too much on a page to teach the very littlest children who really need the lessons the most" and then I saw the bolded, larger words on each page could be the only words read. Those words would be enough for the littlest ones to understand the message of the book.
It would be tough to write a perfect book on this subject that pleases everyone.
This book makes a sincere effort and will be helpful for many who read it.
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Format: Hardcover
I just read What's Wrong with Timmy? It was a pleasure to read, especially having my own son, Craig, 13 years old, who has Down syndrome. It really hit home with me how other children sometimes view Craig. I am recommending that our school district order copies so teachers can read with their students. It was a very positive story focusing on the strengths of children with special needs and how much alike we all are. Kudos to Ms. Shriver for a touching book that I hope gets widely read and helps to de-stigmatize our children! This is a very hopeful book that should be read by every elementary and middle school student, and discussed in class with their teachers...
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Format: Hardcover
I am sure Ms. Shriver has the goal of helping to making life easier on kids with disabilities, but she glosses over a really complex set of circumstances.
This book highlights the fact that others stare at the handicapped. A "normal" little girl is attempting to find out why Timmy looks and acts differently. Her mother attempts to explain carefully the similarities she shares with Timmy instead of the differences. The mother shares a story from her own childhood in which she was uncomfortable the first time she actually met a child in a wheelchair.
The little girl has difficulty understanding what "disabled" means and her mother tries to make it as simple as possible, yet complete. The mother decided the best way to explain was for the girl to actually meet and talk with Timmy. Kate is surprised to hear Timmy say his feelings are hurt when people call him "retarded" because she never thought of that before. Kate decides to invite Timmy to play ball with her and her other friends. The other children stare at Timmy at first, but one by one they all accept him with his disability and the game is started - (this part of the book was a little too fairy tale and certainly not realistic, unfortunately).
It was encouraging to me the reader, when Katie's Mom tried to explain that God makes lots of different kinds of people and that friendship with others less "able" can be a very positive experience.
The end of the book has the little girl deciding that there is nothing at all wrong with Timmy.
Being the parent of a mentally retarded daughter, I felt this book was a nice attempt at a very complex subject. However, real life just does NOT deal out many pleasant experiences to most of our handicapped children. Unfortunately, it is a long, hard uphill battle for them to become even marginally accepted. Rarely does a "normal" child so quickly end up with the perception that there is "nothing, - nothing at all" wrong with "Timmy."
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By A Customer on November 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book. Maria Shriver did a good job in making a little boy with Down Syndrome come to life, and it is a book that is certainly worth reading with your child aged 4-10. Still, there were things that I would do differently. For openers, many books like this tend to over-idealize the disabled person who is the main character. Timmy is no exception. Yes, there are many children with Down Syndrome who can play basketball and have the vocabulary that Timmy has. But there are also many children (including my own non-verbal son) who do not. I thought that Ms. Shriver could have at least mentioned that there are people with more severe cognitive/speech disabilities even if Timmy is not one of them. I DID appreciate the fact that she noted that "there were tears when Timmy was born." But at the end she decides that there is nothing wrong with Timmy afterall, and that was a little too corny for my taste. Also, in one part of the book she talks about how kids at school tease Timmy and call him "stupid" or "retard." Perhaps I am being naive, but many schools have moved way beyond treating disabled students like this. I would like to invite Ms. Shriver to my child's own elementary school, where the kids with disabilities are mainstreamed into regular recess and lunch and sometimes other subjects. The non-disabled kids actually FIGHT over who will "get to be" the disabled student's "buddy" that day. And when the boys are playing football with one 10 year old boy with Down syndrome, they are incredibly protective of him and seem to really enjoy the "joy" he gets from being out there with them. The book also squeezes in a child who is physically disabled (she is in a wheelchair) but has no cognitive disabilities.Read more ›
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