Local author advocates for diverse voices with children’s picture book
March is Disability Awareness Month. Self-published author and illustrator Jessie DiCicco seeks to bring a fresh perspective to children’s literature with the publication of her picture book, “You Can Have My Dream.”
The story is about a girl named Carly who has a physical disability and dreams of becoming an astronaut like her brother.
“I’ve always admired those who were faced with an adverse situation and adopted an adaptive mentality and overcoming spirit, to the extent possible for the individual. My first published piece was about pro surfer Bethany Hamilton on the debut of her movie ‘Soul Surfer,’ which chronicles the events of the shark attack that claimed her left arm. To this day, I still find her story profoundly inspiring,” said DiCicco.
While DiCicco always considered herself a writer, she never thought she would be the illustrator for her book. That changed when she was introduced to die-cutting as a student at Delaware Tech while pursuing a degree in elementary education.
“Die-cutting works by placing a piece of paper on a die – a plate with metal shapes. When you crank both pieces through a manual die cutter, the image is pressed into the paper. I was working with them for a school project, and it inspired me to pursue cut-paper art,” she said.
The story and illustrations are told from Carly’s perspective. DiCicco spent more than a year designing and meticulously hand-cutting all the artwork for the illustrations, using scissors and a precision knife.
“I’m sensitive to the fact that I haven’t lived through Carly’s particular circumstance. It is only my hope to advocate for others with the gifts I have been given. For me, that’s writing and art,” she said.
This past November, British Paralympian John McFall became the world’s first astronaut with a disability. With recent advancements in the European Space Agency, now is an apt time to share Carly’s dream. “McFall says, ‘Potentially, space is for everyone.’ Carly believes that too,” said DiCicco.
DiCicco has other books planned for the Cadet Carly Series and is using the proceeds of “You Can Have My Dream” to open a small press that will specialize in publishing and promoting books by children of all backgrounds and abilities.