By having a dyslexic voice at the core of her novel, Sally is tapping into a long-standing trend for exploring "otherness" in children's fiction. Consider, for instance, the use of autistic heroes in books like The London Eye Mystery or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Here are characters that allow the reader to experience the world through the eyes of someone utterly unlike themselves. Done well, this technique can transport the reader into a world more unusual and mysterious than any fantasy epic.
Sally has spent a lot of time collaborating with Hot Key to create a really striking electronic version of the novel for the iPad. This allows the text to be read as a linear e-book, and also with a whole host of media to enhance the story. Beautifully presented in a style that riffs on the illustrations from the print edition, the iBook allows the reader to take illustrative comprehension tests and view embedded videos that reproduce the way a dyslexic would see the book. Ever heard a dyslexic say that the text won't stay still on the page? Well here, it really doesn't!
|The iBook index|
|A test of memory|
(Click through to see larger versions of the screenshots)
Sally came across as being quite rebellious, and she wears her dyslexia as a badge of honour, even as she railed against the word itself (it's deeply ironic that dyslexia is such a difficult word for dyslexics to spell!). She certainly feels that being able to see the world in a different way is an advantage for her, and she has a visual imagination that I really envy. Although I have no trouble reading or writing, the pictures in my head are more like bad smartphone videos compared to the Full HD 3D extravaganza that she carries around with her. And this feels like the wider point of Dyslexia Awareness Week, to stress that we shouldn't feel sorry for dyslexics or to try to make them more like the rest of us. Who's to say, after all, that we are right and they are wrong? Instead, it should be about celebrating the diversity of viewpoints that conditions like dyslexia gives us, and improving the school environment so that dyslexic children are given the same opportunities as everyone else.