Top News

P.E.I. author pens children's book inspired by her own granddaughter's life in a wheelchair

Marlene Bryenton holds a cake celebrating her next book, Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair, which is about her 11-year-old granddaughter. The Charlottetown resident, who is hoping to release the book on her 70th birthday in September, is currently recovering from hip surgery.
Marlene Bryenton holds a cake celebrating her next book, Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair, which is about her 11-year-old granddaughter. The Charlottetown resident, who is hoping to release the book on her 70th birthday in September, is currently recovering from hip surgery. - Dave Stewart
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Not even reconstructive hip surgery could keep longtime Charlottetown volunteer Marlene Bryenton from being busy.

The down time actually gave the 1998 Order of P.E.I. recipient the chance to do something she is quite passionate about — write.

The result is Bryenton’s second children’s book. She hopes to launch Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair on her 70th birthday, Sept. 21.

However, the book isn’t merely a children’s book. It’s a love letter to her 11-year-old granddaughter, Jaya, who was born with a genetic disorder that has meant she has to be in a wheelchair. She is also unable to speak.

Marlene Bryenton’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Jaya, right, is pictured with her three-year-old sister, Brynn. - Contributed
Marlene Bryenton’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Jaya, right, is pictured with her three-year-old sister, Brynn. - Contributed

“I have restricted mobility over the last year and haven’t been able to do much of anything, but the one thing I was able to do is work at the computer," Bryenton said. “I’ve always had a love of writing. I really believe that God inspired me with these stories. He gave me something to do when I couldn’t do much else."

She released her first book, Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses, in February while she awaited hip surgery and worked on Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair following surgery.

Bryenton is also quick to credit Leanne Bowlan, a licensed optician at Vogue Optical, for providing the illustrations for both books.

“When I contacted Leanne, I had seen her posts on Facebook and everyone kept saying to her that she should illustrate a children’s storybook. I contacted her and asked her if she would do a story with me."

Leanne Bowlan shows some of the illustrations she made for Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses. - SaltWire file
Leanne Bowlan shows some of the illustrations she made for Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses. - SaltWire file

Bryenton had no idea what the first book would be about until Bowlan started talking about the anxiety children can go through with their first visit to an optometrist and an optician.

So, the purpose of the story in Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses is meant to allay a child’s fears.

“Also, it stresses the importance of going for an eye exam at an early age. I also portrayed the glasses as a fashion statement because some kids get teased at school about wearing glasses."

Congratulations to Marlene Bryenton and Leanne Bowlan, whose book, "Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses" won Honorable...

Posted by Dragonfly Book Awards on Thursday, 6 August 2020

The inspiration for Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair came simply from observing her granddaughter, who loves in Surrey, B.C. 

She could see how much Jaya loves being outside, as well as her time spent therapeutic horseback riding, going to the library, attending baseball games and having someone push her wheelchair through a water sprinkler on a hot summer day.

Jaya loves when her magic wheelchair, Sparkle, takes her through the water sprinkler on a hot summer day. - Contributed
Jaya loves when her magic wheelchair, Sparkle, takes her through the water sprinkler on a hot summer day. - Contributed

Then, one day, Jaya’s father put her sister, Brynn, in a little push car and tied a rope to Jaya’s wheelchair. He shouted for Brynn to push down on the pretend gas pedal and off they went slowly down the sidewalk. Jaya loved it, and the inspiration for the book was born.

The wheelchair in the book is its own character, Sparkle, with its own personality. Just as in real life, Sparkle helps Jaya to explore the world.

Bryenton said the book can serve as a conversation piece between parents and children.

Charlottetown optician Leanne Bowlan did the illustrations for Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair. Here, Jaya hangs out in one of her favourite spots, the library, with her special friend, Sparkle, the wheelchair. - Contributed
Charlottetown optician Leanne Bowlan did the illustrations for Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair. Here, Jaya hangs out in one of her favourite spots, the library, with her special friend, Sparkle, the wheelchair. - Contributed

“The child has an opportunity to ask questions about a child in a wheelchair," she said.

"Some children are scared of children in a wheelchair because they are different. Jaya, as well as other children in wheelchairs, want to be included and want to have friends."

The Department of Education distributed 3,000 copies of Anna’s Pink and Purple Glasses to students in kindergarten to Grade 2 and Bryenton is hoping the same will happen with Jaya’s story. The department has asked to review the book.

Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair also speaks about the importance of physiotherapy, which helped Jaya learn to crawl and stand with help. - Contributed
Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair also speaks about the importance of physiotherapy, which helped Jaya learn to crawl and stand with help. - Contributed

Need to know

Following is information on Marlene Bryenton’s upcoming book, Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair:

  • Books will be $12.95 to purchase with $2.95 from every sale being donated to Camp Gencheff.
  • Books will be available at Proude’s Shoe Store, Sherwood Drug Mart, Indigo and The Bookmark.
  • Marlene Bryenton is the author of the book, but her team included Leanne Bowlan (illustrator), Judy Parsons (editor) and Mark Bowlan (formatter).
  • KKP in Charlottetown is printing the book.
  • Sponsors that made book possible include CUPE P.E.I., Geneva Villa, Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty, Gogi’s Neighbourhood Treatery, Sherwood Drug Mart, KKP.
  • Bryenton has also had a story previously published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels All Around.

Twitter.com/DveStewart

RELATED:

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories