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Wiggly Ziggy on the StoryWalk®

A “magical book” illustrated by a South Wairarapa artist that encourages neurodivergent children to embrace “the joy of our differences” is the latest to be showcased on the Wairarapa Library Service [WLS] StoryWalk® in Martinborough this month.

Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind, by Australian author Bree O’Malley, features the work of artist Becs Reilly, owner of Martinborough art space Ventana.

The WLS StoryWalk® is a guided walk that combines the love of reading with the great outdoors with the pages of a featured book displayed on weatherproof boards stationed along the tree-lined lime path that curves around Considine Park.

The launch of Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind onto the WLS StoryWalk® has been timed to coincide with Neurodiversity Celebration Week, which aims to boost neurodiversity acceptance, equality and inclusion in schools and workplaces worldwide.

Ziggy, the book’s rainbow-haired hero, is inspired by writer O’Malley’s son, Madden, Reilly explained.

“He [and his parents] have had a tricky time and they understand the challenges of raising a neurodivergent child. Madden has a wiggly mind and they have learnt that this is the joy, the joy of embracing all your wiggles as your strengths,” she said.

As well as being Reilly’s first book illustration project, developing the character of Ziggy has been a learning experience in ways she hadn’t anticipated.

“I’ve been arting and crafting since I was a kid, but I had told myself, ‘I don’t do characters’. Then when Bree asked me to come up with a character, I started doodling, and this rainbow hair appeared on the page.

“And once I had drawn this first little picture of Ziggy, I sent it to her, and I was like, ‘How do you feel about this little character having rainbow hair?’ She said, ‘That’s it. I love him. That’s exactly who we need’.”

Madden inspires every drawing, Reilly said.

“So for every page of her book, Bree told me a story about her son, and why she wrote that, and then I could picture him,” she said.

When she first read Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind to her 18-month-old daughter, Maeve, Reilly cried.

“This book is like a little introduction for the really early years, to help children celebrate how unique they are, and helping them understand themselves and others, that we are all different and that is what’s good.

“When I read it to my daughter, I thought, ‘wow, this is the message that I want for you.’”

WLS librarian Sylvia Arnold described Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind as “just a magical story”.

“I think it helps people understand others in a really lovely way. It’s really positive, colourful, energetic and understanding.”

Another important feature of the book is that it uses a font designed to help people with dyslexia, Arnold explained.

“That includes things like having a lot of white space around the words, displaying letters that are easy to distinguish, and ensuring there isn’t a lot of clutter around the words.”

In addition to hosting Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind on the WLS StoryWalk®, WLS has a lot of physical and digital resources for parents and children “to learn about neurodiversity in a positive way”, Arnold said.

Ziggy and His Wiggly Mind will be on display on the Wairarapa Library Service StoryWalk® until April 19. For more information, visit www.wls.org.nz/storywalk and www.facebook.com/wigglyminds

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