I took the kids to see "How to Train Your Dragon" today (in 3D), and all three of us loved it. It was one of the best kid movies I've seen in a long time. The writing was superb. The jokes were funny, the plot was intense, and the ending wrapped back to the beginning in a nice, but not cheesy way. What a wonderful treat (versus a certain guinea pig movie that shall forever enter my memory with the pain of a dull tack being repeatedly poked into my gray matter)!
The focus of the movie was not new: a misfit teenager who finds acceptance through his wit and determination. But there was a surprise twist at the ending, at least for me. (I had not read the book that the movie was based on.) After a mighty dragon duel at the end, the main character loses a foot (not on screen, mind you...he sports a prosthetic device in the final sequences).
I was surprised by my initial reaction to the footless character. An amputation...in a kid's movie?!? But then a wave of sentimental gushiness broke over me. Of course an amputation in a kid's movie! Why haven't we seen this before? We so often relegate deformities or illness to "special" children's literature. The type only read to your kid if they themselves have the handicap or illness which is the subject of the book, and typically published by the APA or a specialty house. We ourselves got a plethora of books about diabetes when our son was diagnosed with Type 1, but he was embarassed for us to read them to his classmates, because the books were not "cool." I kind of agree with him.
I'm sure there are some kid's lit characters with physical handicaps that escape my memory now, but by far we ignore the sheer numbers of these kids among us in our tales of normality. What if instead, they were the heroes in a few stories? How would normal kids start to perceive these "special" children? Maybe they would start to be "special" only in their courage, and not in their physical differences.