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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
In many ways, this is Carissa’s story. The oldest of three, Carissa had a younger brother confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. At the age of nine, Carissa created The Everybody Club, an all-inclusive club where everyone could belong and everyone was equal. She wanted her younger brother with cerebral palsy to feel important, loved, and in a world where he belonged. She wanted the same inclusive vision for all people regardless of race, beliefs, ethnic differences and so much more. Until she died tragically in a car accident (she was only a teenager), Carissa stood up for these beliefs.
Carissa’s mother, Linda Hayen, along with co-author Nancy Loewen, wrote a beautiful children’s picture book story in honor of Carissa’s life goals of “making things better” for everyone. This brightly illustrated story will appeal to young readers, helping them to see the world as one union, without disparity, inequalities, and violence. The story begins with a list of questions, asking the reader to define some of their unique qualities: “Are you big? Are you small? … Do you smile? Do you dream?” Told mostly in rhyming verse, the story then leads the reader through the process of sharing the positive benefits of The Everybody Club: “The Everybody Club is BENEFICIAL!” and how we can all participate and spread the word.
At the end of the story, Linda shares the story of her daughter, Carissa, and her Everybody Club, as well as some charming photographs. And, of course, no club would be complete without a badge – there’s one of those, too, at the very end. This is definitely a feel-good type of book, one with a powerful message about acceptance and working together with everyone, not just a chosen few. Absolutely beautiful and touching! Loved it!