When Brian Abram was paralysed, he worried about explaining it to his grandson, then he had an idea. Catherine Scott reports.
Brian Abram didn’t know the best way to explain to his young grandson why he was different from most grandads.
And so the 62-year-old from Halifax decided to put pen to paper and wrote the first of five children’s books about the adventures of Grandad Wheels, which is being launched in Leeds tomorrow.
A bicycle accident in 2013 in Derbyshire left Brian paralysed from the waist down.
“I was preparing to do a big cycle ride through Spain with a friend and I was out doing a training ride in Derbyshire on my own. I went over a brick wall, down an embankment, hit a tree and ended up in the river. Luckily, someone saw me half submerged in the river and called for help. I shouldn’t really be here,” says Brian.
“I fractured my spine, leaving me paralysed from the chest down and damaged my aorta. I was in a real mess.”
Brian spent two weeks short of a year in hospital, much of it in Pinderfields spinal unit in Wakefield.
During his long stay in hospital, his grandson Charles, who was only six months old when the accident happened, visited him frequently.
“I started to worry about how I was going to explain that I was different from other grandads when he started to ask questions and so I decided to make up a story.”
Friends and family said Brian should write the story down and so the idea for Grandad Wheels was born.
“Charles calls me Grandad Wheels to differentiate me from his other grandad and I thought it was a great name for a series of adventures.”
Charlie’s Big Idea!, the first of five books in The Adventures of Grandad Wheels! series – hilarious stories of a grandson and his disabled grandad – is being launched at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors in Leeds tomorrow.
“I would never have imagined I would be an author so I’m grateful to Irwin Mitchell for hosting the launch of Charlie’s Big Idea! The message is there is definitely life after spinal injury. It’s hard, but different things reward you so much,” says Brian.
“The Adventures of Grandad Wheels! are not about having a disability, but the fun and life to be lived in spite of it. It would be nice to think we can start to see more children’s books cover disability in a fun, realistic and rewarding way.
“There’s a lot of potential for good to come out of this and I can’t wait to see Charles’s face when he sees us on the cover of a real book in a shop window.”
Brian wrote his stories some time ago but has taken three years to find an illustrator, which he eventually did.
Local artist Lynne Hickin came on board and has shared the cost of publishing the first of Brian’s books.
Fifty pence from each book and any profits from sales of the book will go to the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) and Back Up; two charities working to improve the lives of people who have suffered a spinal injury. They helped Brian after his accident.
The book is also dedicated to the amazing staff at Pinderfields Spinal Unit who helped Brian during his year-long recovery in hospital.
The series comes in the wake of criticism that modern children’s books feature fewer children with disabilities than in the Victorian era. In the last 12 months, only one of the top 100 best-selling children’s books explicitly refers to disability – something Brian hopes to change.
“All the books are light-hearted but do touch on some aspect of being in a wheelchair,” he says.
Ross McWilliams, Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome Brian to our Leeds office for his book launch.
“Our I Am Able campaign puts the focus on ability and not disability, and Brian and his book are examples of this in action.
“All the profits are going to two fantastic charities and the books fill a real need in showing life post spinal injury and that people with disabilities are able to have fun too. It’s an important message we don’t see enough of and one we all need to hear.”
As well as plans to sell the books in conventional book shops, Charlie’s Big Idea! will also be available directly from: www.grandadwheels.com.
And it already has the backing of some famous names.
Roald Dahl illustrator Sir Quentin Blake describes the book as: “An impressive piece of work. I appreciated that Grandad was normal, and not the whiskered dotard that I would have been tempted to draw.”