Words by Smiley Team
A man from the Greater Manchester area has spent his inheritance creating a children’s book that celebrates our differences, and encourages people to be more kind and understanding.
The book, called Joe and Dusty Save The World, is written by Rob Martin, and tells the tale of a young disabled boy called Joe and his trusty sidekick and support dog, Dusty, an English bull terrier.
It features forewords by actor and activist Julie Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Gordy MBE, a TV and stage actor who has Down's Syndrome.
"What a beautiful idea this is to put a child with learning differences and his dog companion at the centre of the action," said Julie, who is best known for her role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, and who recently set up her fundraising group 500 Acts of Kindness.
The book is 100 pages long, and tells the story of Joe and Dusty as they fight against alien invaders, and teach them that kindness, love and laughter are the way forward.
"Heroes come in all shapes and sizes,” said Sarah. “We need different people to make the world better in lots of different ways."
Rob, who already had the idea for the book in mind, was inspired to complete it in verse at his mother’s funeral, where his sister read a poem. For Rob, who grew up on the Wirral, the decision to write a book starring a disabled character was very personal. Aged just six, Rob lost his disabled sister Pauline, who lived with multiple conditions and spent much of her life in hospital, and was just a teenager when she died.
The loss had a huge impact on the rest of the family, including Rob and middle sister Carol, and he says he is still affected by it today, 50 years later.
The book became even more personal for Rob when, just a week after Joe and Dusty Save the World was published, he was diagnosed with autism.
"Suddenly everything started to make sense," said Rob. "Even I could spot that I shared many traits in common with Joe, and when I asked my sister and my husband if they had ever suspected I was autistic, they both said that they had."
"Joe and Dusty is a book about a young boy who just happens to be disabled. I deliberately don't name Joe's disability because it is not a book about what he finds difficult or can't do. The story's happy ending relies entirely upon Joe's strengths.
"Joe and Dusty shines a light on the positive contributions disabled and neurodivergent people make to their families and to wider society," he said.
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