New children's book features The Falkirk Wheel at its heart

One of Falkirk district’s popular tourist attractions takes centre stage in a new children’s book.

By Fiona Dobie
Thursday, 1st July 2021, 4:30 pm

Sara Johnstone has placed The Falkirk Wheel at the heart of her story, Ada and the Wheel.

The story is the second in a series of books following an autistic boy and his imaginary blue giraffe, Ada, on their adventures around Scotland.

The 39-year-old hopes that through her books, which she is writing and illustrating herself, she can raise more awareness of autism and bring more representation to autistic children in children’s stories.

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Sara Johnstone has published a new children's book called Ada and the Wheel, featuring local landmark The Falkirk Wheel.

Sara, who lives in the Kilmarnock area, explained: “I have two autistic children and the youngest is at this moment non verbal."I’m American and my boys are Scottish. Scotland has always made me feel very welcome and it was important to me that the books take place here.

"Through the books I wanted to create more of an awareness and acceptance for autistic children in day to day life.

"My eldest son’s very first toy his godmother gave to him is a little blue giraffe and he carried it everywhere.

"He gave it to his little brother when he was a new born, which was such a kind gesture.

"The story is about an imaginary blue giraffe, inspired by that toy, going on adventures with a little boy.

“In addition to wanting to bring more autism awareness, I wanted people to know about the Falkirk Wheel.

"Many people don't know about it, and I think that's a tragedy because it's such an impressive structure.

"A lot of autistic people, especially my two boys, are fascinated by mechanical workings and engineering.

"My eldest when we took him to the wheel was mesmerised by it.

"The book is about a school outing and a very normal event that would happen for children in every day life, and it looks at the wheel as if it’s through his eyes.”

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Although the book is already available to buy online from Olympia Publishers, a special launch is planned later this month.

Sara said: “The people at Scottish Canals have been great. They allowed me to replicate the schematics for the Wheel in the book and they have agreed to host a book launch on July 24.

"I’m writing five books in the series, and the others will take place around Scotland as well.

"They are all written and I have almost finished illustrating the third one which is set at Loch Ness.

"Scottish Autism have reviewed both books positively and I’m quite proud of that.

"This is my first time writing for children and I’m really enjoying it.

"My husband thinks I should do more, but we’ll see how it goes.”

In her review of the book, Charlene Tait, deputy chief executive of Scottish Autism said: “Beautiful illustrations of Scottish landmarks accompany a gentle narrative that tells of the bond between Ada and the “boy”. Like all good writing, it works on a number of levels, for its own sake and as a way in to discussion about difference, friendship and acceptance.”

To find out more about Ada and the Wheel, or to buy a copy, click here

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