On life, accidents and balance
FlaminGo! [FeLicottero]

When I bought this book, I honestly had no idea what it was about. The thing is, sometimes I research a lot before buying, while sometimes I see something floating on my feed or I catch a glimpse of a cover I like in my favourite bookstore and I buy it barely looking inside.
And there's this fact: my daughter loves flamingos. Is there a girl who doesn't lately?
Flamingos are just beautiful, elegant, pink (pink!) birds.

Flamingo was a flying champion, he used to dream big and he was admired by all the other birds, until one day he fell from the sky and broke his leg. It was not possible to fix it.
After his accident, his life changes: Flamingo spends his days without doing much, trying to stand in the water balancing on one leg,  missing his other leg as well as his medals and his old life.
As his friends start playing an unkind hide-and-seek and he is left alone, he ironically meets a very unhelpful millepede who will will finally push flamingo to respond to his new condition.
FlaminGo! was inspired by the story of Belgian triathlete Marc Herremans.
Marc was diagnosed with paraplegia in 2002, after a heavy fall during a training camp in Lanzarote.
Four years later he won the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, an incredibly hard competition that brings the world's best athletes together. He founded 'To Walk Again', a charity supporting people with a physical disability to be active and to continue to actively exercise with a minimal use or avoidance of the wheelchair. He continued racing alongside coaching, and he is now active worldwide as a motivational speaker.

A beautiful, intense story of strength, determination and fortitude that could have easily been translated with an overly sentimental tone of voice.
Kim Crabeels' take on it is delicate and humorous, and Marije Tolman goes for some cheerful brush strokes of pink and fuchsia on white background to draw the attention on the events.
The focus is on the process of overcoming fear and negativity and on the relationship between Flamingo and the others.
This is a very sweet story which is a delight to read to children and that gently encourages question making.

My daughter is almost four and she is only starting now to really notice disabled people in the street, making questions and then thinking with honest interest about my answers.
So in a way this book came with a perfect timing, helping us to talk about diversity and disability.
When you are blessed with health it's not really something you think much about. Children are naturally worry-free souls, they take health for granted as they lack the awareness of risks.
Grown ups do have awareness but they are short-sighted and and they forget, assuming that the marvellous machine that we call human body will always serve them at all times.

What I like the most of this story is that no one really helps Flamingo. A tiny bug does, in the only possible way, which is by refusing to help. Because the truth is when life injures us we are the only ones who can save ourselves overcoming depressing thoughts.
Flamingo's friends do eventually come back realising how cruel they were leaving him behind, and they will be an essential part of his life.
Much inspiration is held in this beautiful simple story, and I feel its importance is self-evident.
Let's tell children about diverse ways of living life and about accidents, big and small, that can happen. Let's teach them to love their body and to take care of it, always (by role modelling, of course:)
Let's tell them more stories like Marc's,  that are indeed stories of courage and strength. But ultimately, I feel they are stories about love for this single life that we have.

FlaminGo! has been translated from Dutch and published in Italian, Korean and Chinese.
We look forward to an English language edition.
FeLicottero [2018] - original title FlaminGo! [2016] available on Amazon Books
Words by Kim Crabeels
Illustrations by Marije Tolman
Italian edition published by Sinnos Editore
Reading age: 3+
Themes: Diversity, Health, Friendship, Self-development
Credits: marcherremans.com

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