Kids With and Without Disabilities Solve Mysteries Together in This Dad’s Awesome Book Series

Richard O’Brien always worried his son’s appearance would deter other children from wanting to get to know him. Connor, 11, has cerebral palsy; he uses a wheelchair and speaks through a communication device. So to help teach his son’s peers about disability, O’Brien created “CJ and the Angel Kids,” a children’s book series where kids with and without disabilities play together uninhibitedly.

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Connor and Richard O’Brien, courtesy of Richard O’Brien

O’Brien, a chemistry professor who lives in Semmes, Alabama, says he can trace the moment the book series was born to one specific day in 2006. He was sitting in church with his family when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, but there was no one there behind him.

“I knew I was being called to do something, though I didn’t know what it was at the time,” he told The Mighty. He later came up with the idea to develop a mystery series, drawing inspiration from from his and his family’s lives.

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Courtesy of Richard O’Brien
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Courtesy of Richard O’Brien

“CJ and the Angel Kids” is a collection centering on five kids who each live with a disability. The main character, CJ, has cerebral palsy, like Connor. Dee Dee has Down syndrome, Andy has autism, Stu has dyslexia and Rosie has a stutter. Each book finds the kids at a different summer camp.

“The camps bring together all kinds of kids. Some have disabilities and some don’t,” O’Brien told The Mighty. “The kids who have disabilities have a mystery to solve in each book, and they work with the typically-developing kids to solve it. The bottom line is acceptance and inclusion. They’re all just kids. They all want to be included and they all want to do the same things.”

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Via “CJ and the Angel Kids” Facebook Page

The first installment, “The Case of the Missing Cookies,” was published February 2014 and is all about how differently-abled children interact with other kids. “The Tale of the Talker,” which deals with bullying and jealousy, was released in November 2014. A third book, “Mystery of the Medals,” centers on body shaming and is slated to be published this spring. O’Brien says there are three additional books in the works for later this year and next.

Each book is cowritten by Andrea Pointer, Connor’s speech therapist, and illustrated by Morgan Mabry, a high school student at Mary G. Montgomery High School, reported. The series is published by Eagle Printing, and all proceeds go to United Cerebral Palsy of Mobile.

“The purpose of the books is to increase awareness, but also, I think, to make sure differently-abled kids are approachable by other kids. I see when we go out that they’re afraid, they’re nervous, and we don’t want them to be nervous,” O’Brien says in the video below. “They’re all kids, we just want them to be able to interact.”

Hear more about O’Brien’s inspired project in the video below.

For more information about the “CJ and the Angel Kids” book series, visit the project’s Facebook page.

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