Recommended for ages 12+
The world has been pretty horrifying lately. As I was straightening up my TBR pile, I found this book; it had fallen behind the stack and was passed over for a couple of months. Having finished it, I think that it was less of a mistake and more fortuitous timing: I needed this book at the moment I found it.
Reasons to Smile compiles 56 short profiles, celebrating people living with Down sydrome. Most are written by family and friends, and a few are written by those living with Down syndrome. Each profile features a picture, usually of the person spotlighted.
I’m not going to lie: you will well up reading some of these stories, but it will be a joyful welling up. The love, courage, and guidance coming from these writers made me feel just a little bit better about our world. I love that Andrea Knauss and Elizabeth Martins compiled this book out of love for their daughter and sister, Anna. Andrea writes that she’s “Anna’s Mom”; I’ve been “Will’s Mom”, “Alex’s Mom”, and now, “Gabe’s Mom”, and that little sentence connected this mom and I. We love our children. We fight for our kids. Knowing each other’s challenges brings us together just a little bit more.
Also included in the book is the renowned essay, “Welcome to Holland”, by Emily Perl Kingsley, which makes things so much easier to grasp. Another mom suggests giving this book as a baby shower gift to moms who may need it. I agree, but I’d take it one step further and put this on middle school reading lists. I see you raising an eyebrow, but stay with me. There are some great nonfiction works on summer reading lists, I see them. And disability in tween and teen lit is finally recognized and encouraged. A beautiful book on inspirational essays, featuring stories about families working with Down syndrome would be a smart move, to show the joy that comes hand in hand with the challenges; to show the smiles and read about the optimism and affection these families bring to the world.
I loved reading Reasons to Smile. It made me want to be a better person and a better mom. You can visit Andrea Knauss’ website, The Mighty, and find resources on parenting, Down syndrome, autism, and more.