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What's Wrong with Timmy?

What's Wrong with Timmy?

by Sandra Speidel (Artist), Maria Shriver

What is the response when a child points out that a disabled child or adult looks 'different'? Shriver tells the story of Kate, who finds that making friends with a mentally retarded boy helps her learn that the two of them have a lot in common.


What is the response when a child points out that a disabled child or adult looks 'different'? Shriver tells the story of Kate, who finds that making friends with a mentally retarded boy helps her learn that the two of them have a lot in common.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Maria Shriver offers a compassionate platform for discussion with this well-written story about disabilities. Influenced and inspired by her parent's involvement with the Special Olympics, as well as her husband's devotion to the cause, Shriver writes a tender tale about accepting others for who they are.

Kate is a young a curious girl, always inquiring about those things she does not understand. When she meets a boy in the park who looks and acts differently, she asks her mom, "What's wrong with Timmy?" Her mom calmly and clearly tells her that people are different: "Timmy is a child with special needs, and he takes longer to learn than you." But Kate's mom emphasizes that the two kids have more in common that people might think. Kate and Timmy are formally introduced, and while Kate initially feels uncomfortable, she realizes that they can be friends. Including Timmy in a basketball game with some leery friends, Kate shows her true colors as a friend. She vows that if anybody asks, "What's wrong with Timmy?" she'll simply tell them, "Why, nothing...nothing at all!"

Shriver's gentle language evokes the style of her first children's book, "What's Heaven?" Words are carefully chosen and should offer parents a guideline for how to deal with Kate's tough questions. A phrase on each page, usually summing up the corresponding illustration, appears in bold, large, type, perfectly sized for young readers.

Pastel illustrations by Sandra Speidel add a warm and dreamy element to the story, providing a cozy environment in which to foster discussion. Speidel also illustrated What's Heaven? and the Shriver/Speidel team seems to work wonderfully.

Maria Shriver is a well-known media personality, poised and professional, with a large dose of spirit and a big heart. Following the initial success of her first children's book, this endearing story promises us that we are sure to see more from this talented mother and author in the future. (Amy Barkat)

Editor's Note: This title is also available in a Spanish-language edition, ¿Qué le pasa a Timmy?

Christopher Reeve
...a book that parents should read and discuss with their kids....Maria Shriver's simple narrative makes a valuable contribution.
Bernie Siegel
Disabilities are not irredeemable and may in the long run enable since from them may come individual works of art and beauty such as this book...
Harold Kushner
This book will help special needs children by making their world a kinder place, but it will help "normal" children even more by expanding their souls...
Bob Costas
... a wonderful book that parents and children should read together.
Publishers Weekly
Young Kate (now eight years old) and her mother, who first appeared in What's Heaven? return in this companion volume as Kate questions her mother about Timmy, a boy at the park who is mentally disabled and looks and acts differently from the other kids. Once again, journalist Shriver uses the narrative to model a difficult conversation between parent and child. In a calm tone Kate's mother delivers information, insight rooted in her Christian faith ("We all have to realize that God loves us just as we are") and anecdotes about children with disabilities and why it's "so important to treat Timmy like any other kid." Kate's uneasiness and curiosity allayed, she begins to build a friendship with Timmy and subtly invites her other pals to be equally accepting of him. Shriver's message perhaps a natural choice considering her family's founding and support of the Special Olympics is to be lauded. But the dense text, delivered with a heavier hand than its predecessor, never quite achieves the connection with the reader needed to make an impact. Speidel's hazy, soft-edged pastels suggest a spiritual quality and universality that match the book's theme. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This brief book tells of the meeting in the park between an eight-year-old girl and the "mentally retarded" son of her mother's friend. The writer describes Timmy as someone who "looked different" and has a face that seems "flatter" than other children's. Kate asks her mother about the boy and learns that he is her age and was born with disabilities. The children discover that they like the same things at school, recess and sports, and don't like math. After a game of basketball with her friends, Timmy and Kate make a play date. The warm pastel illustrations support the theme of acceptance of all people no matter their differences. However, the little girl's questions and actions are quite mature for her age. The lack of paragraphs might be a bit confusing to young readers, and the intermittent use of bold-faced, larger-sized type is a bit disruptive, although its purpose seems to be to highlight the theme. The book reads well, though, and would be a good introduction for youngsters welcoming a disabled child into their school or neighborhood.-Margaret C. Howell, West Springfield Elementary School, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.75(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.50(d)
570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Read an Excerpt

Once upon a time there was a girl named Kate who was very curious. Curious about everything. Ever since she was little, she'd been asking her mom and dad about everything that interested her- from "How are babies born?" to "What's Heaven?" She wanted the answer to every question, and when she got it, she couldn't wait to share her new knowledge with her friends.

One day Kate and her mom went to the park, where Kate noticed someone she'd never seen before. She couldn't stop staring. She felt funny inside as she looked at a boy standing near her on the playground. He had brown hair like hers, freckles on his nose, and wore a T-shirt and shorts just like her brothers, but he somehow looked different.

His face seemed flatter than other kids', and he wore glasses that sat crookedly on his face. His foot turned inward, and he walked with a slight limp. When he bounced his ball-as he was doing over and over - he just didn't do it as well as the other kids she knew.

A pretty woman sat close by on a park bench and joyfully watched the boy. Kate guessed the lady must be his mom because when the boy finished, she clapped and gave him a big hug. - The boy laughed and said proudly in a loud voice, "I can do it, I can do it, Mom!" Then he went back to bouncing his ball.

The boy's excitement fascinated Kate. She grew even more interested when her mother walked over to talk to the boy and his mom. The two women chatted for what seemed like hours. When her mother returned, Kate's words spilled out in a rush.

"Mom," she asked, "who's that boy?"

"That's my friend Anne Potter and her son, Timmy," replied Kate's mother. "Timmy and you were born one month apart in the same hospital. The Potters moved away after you were born and just moved back last week."

Kate couldn't contain herself "Why does he seem so different? What's wrong with Timmy? Kate's mother realized this was a very important question. So she sat her daughter down on the park bench and spoke to her the way she always did when she had something important to say- slowly, clearly, and calmly. "When Timmy's mom was pregnant, everyone was so excited. But when he was born, there were a lot of tears."

"Why?" asked Kate.

"Because Timmy was born different from you. The doctor told his parents that their little boy was going to have disabilities and that he wouldn't be able to do all the things you and other kids can do. At first, Timmy's mom was so sad and overwhelmed. She felt like the dreams she'd had for her child would never come true. But as soon as she held Timmy in her arms and looked into his eyes, she fell in love with him just the way he was! She knew right then and there that if she loved him, he'd be the most wonderful child in the world, and that if she worked with him, together they'd build new dreams.

Text Copyright (c) by Maria Shriver

Meet the Author

Maria Shriver is one of television's most respected anchorwomen, the recipient of television awards, and the bestselling author of What's Heaven?, What's Wrong with Timmy?, and Ten Things I Wish I Known Before I Went Out Into the Real World. She and her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger have four children.

Sandra Speidel has won awards from the San Francisco and New York Society of Illustators, and most recently, from the Pastel Society of the West Coast. She illustrated What's Heaven?, What's Wrong with Timmy?, and a dozen other children's books.

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