The Perfect People by Cathi D’Avignon is a wonderful children’s book about inclusion and acceptance. Princess Caitlin is sent out by her father, the king, to find the “perfect people” for a selection of jobs. First, she finds a man who tends a beautiful garden, but who’s deaf and fears that wouldn’t be the best person for the job. Princess Caitlin replies, “Please, sir. The fact that your son cannot hear has no bearing on his worthiness as a gardener.” From there Caitlin finds a group of people with unique abilities, but also disabilities, but they’re each, of course, the perfect people for the job.
It’s a great book with a positive message – not merely great for its message, but the prose and design as well. The illustrations, by Chiara Civati, are engaging and expressive, giving the momentum of the book a cinematic feel. D’Avignon is a gifted storyteller, and the two combined make the book very well-suited to be read out loud. It should be noted that the book comes from a very caring and sensitive place, which accounts both for its theme and why the book works so well: “Cathi DAvignon made a point of never denying her daughter, Caitlin, an opportunity, despite Caitlins cerebral palsy keeping her in a wheelchair. Determined to encourage other people not to limit themselves, Cathi wrote The Perfect People.”
A potential weakness in a book with this theme is to seem too message-driven, as if it’s hitting you over the head with an agenda. Though the book obviously has a deep and important message, it’s cloaked in a lively story, so kids will be just as enthralled by who Princess Caitlin meets next, and their unique talents, without necessarily realizing there’s such a strong message underneath – thereby making the message stronger. The surprise ending of the book makes the message even stronger emotionally.
The Perfect People would be an excellent book for a disabled child to feel a greater sense of acceptance, or for any child to have a better understanding and appreciation of people with disabilities. All in all, the book, and D’Avignon, are to be commended.