Why I Include Special Needs Representation In My Children’s Books

Children’s book author Michelle Dumont is continuing her adorable young reader’s series with ‘Phoebe Cakes and Friends: An Alphabet Tail’ (released Sept. 13th, 2022, Susan Schadt Press). With illustrations done by architect Jennifer Taylor, Dumont’s new release is sure to capture the attention of curious children. This is the perfect book for dog-loving children ready to learn the alphabet in an amusing way.

This board book is especially designed and crafted to stimulate and entertain little learners as they begin their A-Z learning journey. In the guest post below, Michelle shares about why it was important for her to include special needs representation in her book, and how her own personal family journey became the inspiration and motivation for doing so.

I was inspired to write the Phoebe Cakes book series after adopting a tiny special needs bulldog that my daughter, Lauren, named Phoebe Cakes.

My professional background is in healthcare. As a Respiratory Therapist and Clinical Research Coordinator, I work with patients who have a wide variety of medical needs. Which translates well when caring for breeds like bulldogs who are often surrendered to rescues due to overwhelming medical issues. 

When I applied for Phoebe’s adoption at the New Orleans Bulldog Rescue, I was informed there was a long list of families ahead of me. The odds were not in my favor but for some reason I knew Phoebe would soon be mine. The day I signed Phoebe’s adoption paperwork I was told I was the twenty-first person to apply for her adoption! That was the day I became lucky #21 and a spark of an idea for a children’s book began to take shape.

As a parent, I wanted to raise my children to be inclusive and not be afraid of someone because they are perceived as different or have a disability. I remember playground hierarchy all too well and it can be a tough place for a child to navigate for a myriad of reasons.

In my first book, ‘A Mardi Gras Tail’, I didn’t think twice about featuring Phoebe in her wheelchair as she searched for a Mardi Gras parade for dogs. I wanted Phoebe’s story to be one of happiness, hope and inclusivity. Good friend and illustrator, Jennifer Taylor, captured Phoebe and the spirit of Mardi Gras on each page.

Here are a few of my favorite lines from A Mardi Gras Tail.

Come one, come all

                      Big and Small

                                    Oodles of Poodles…

                                                       Schnauzers, Hounds and Terriers

                                                                                            The more the merrier

From Uptown, to the Mid-City and through the Marigny 

                        Come and see

                                        There’s a parade for everyone

                                                  Even a tiny bulldog named Phoebe!

When writing ‘Phoebe Cakes and Friends, An Alphabet Tail’ and ‘Phoebe Cakes, A Christmas Tail’, I continue the same theme of inclusivity, happiness, and hope along with a dose of whimsical fun in each book.

Michelle Dumont lives in New Orleans with her family and four furry friends. A licensed Respiratory Therapist and Asthma Educator, she began writing following the advice of a friend. Like Phoebe, she loves long car rides, peanut butter and everything New Orleans. You can Follow Michelle Dumont on
Instagram @phoebecakesdumont