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Kids Can, 2022
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'Up and Adam': A children’s story of overcoming and strength

Latina author Debbie Zapata features an authentic representation of a child with Down syndrome, focusing on his abilities, not disabilities

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Debbie Zapata grew up in a multicultural family in Austin, Texas. As a girl, she loved the places that brought people together — public parks, community rec centers and the local libraries. Today, she writes books for children. 

“I like writing books that have heart and humor. My favorite stories are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” she writes on her website.

Many of her stories also celebrate diversity and pay tribute to her Mexican culture.

Her latest children’s book, Up and Adam, is an uplifting story about Adam, a young boy with Down syndrome who helps his neighbors in the aftermath of a storm in a way only he can. Adam and his dog, Up, do what they can to pitch in with the cleanup. But it turns out, Adam’s most important contribution to his community is one he doesn’t even think about — his smile. Because when anyone sees Adam smile, they smile, too.

As reported by her publisher, the author scores on two fronts — it features an endearing and authentic representation of a child with Down syndrome, focused on his abilities, not disabilities, and it offers an inspiring model of how everyone can make a difference in their community. 

The story is based on Zapata’s personal experience. When she had her first child, the doctor told her that her baby had Down syndrome.

While people focused on what my son couldn’t do, I concentrated on his strengths. My son Adam showed me that he is smart and strong. He inspires me every day and I am lucky to be his mom. Watching Adam’s unique way of touching his community led me to write Up and Adam,” she writes on her website.

The book is full of positive examples of community, contributing and inclusion, and beautifully captures the character education themes of kindness, teamwork, initiative and citizenship.

The story is accompanied with Yong Ling Kang's illustrations, which thoughtfully feature details in Adam's clothing and belongings that are sensitive to his needs. 

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