Written by Lavanya Karthik
Illustrated by Habib Ali
Neel on Wheels by Duckbill Publication is a beautifully illustrated picture book about two brothers. The elder of the two, Neel, is a differently-abled boy. The story is narrated by the younger brother as a series of incidents where he on every occasion that he feels fearful, his brother Neel’s presence makes him but feels safe even though Neel is on a wheelchair. He imagines that the wheelchair can transform and his elder brother can protect him from every danger.
The younger brother sees shadows in the dark but says that there is no need to panic because Neel is there as a
guiding light. He is not scared of the wild beasts because Neel’s wheelchair can produce hands with boxing gloves and fight off the animals. Even if dragons come or someone tries to sneak in when they are playing in the garden, Neel’s wheelchair can just drive them off. Even when they go swimming and aquatic animals attack them, the wheelchair can transform itself and float them off to safety. You name the danger, Neel and his wheelchair become the super-hero!
The book is a wonderful attempt to imbibe a sense of empathy in the minds of young readers towards differently-abled people. The book, through its beautiful illustrations, shows that the wheelchair is not to be thought of as an impediment, rather it is to be seen as an instrument that fills you with hope and trust that you can achieve whatever you wish despite your physical limitations.
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The book also depicts the beautiful relationship of love and trust between the two brothers. The younger brother completely trusts the elder brother, Neel, for his safety. The book packs in a lot of fun element by showing the wheelchair in various innovative avatars – a guiding light, a chariot with a dragon drawing it further, a car which produces boxing gloves, a hot air balloon with wings to fly and finally like a speedboat which floats away in the water.
The book can be used as a good medium to teach children of the age group between 4-6 about interactions with differently-abled people and bring out the difference between sympathy and empathy. They can also be taught that if there is a problem, there is always a solution to it.