Team Japan para athlete to publish children’s book based on her experiences

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kaede Maegawa talks about her children’s book.

Kaede Maegawa, a Paralympic athlete who came in fifth in the long jump at the Tokyo Games, is set to publish a children’s book about a dog who uses a prosthetic leg, similar to herself.

“Ku-chan Itterasshai,” depicts Ku-chan, a female puppy, as she goes through her daily life. Maegawa, 23, wants to use the book to teach children that “normal” varies from person to person.

Ku-chan is a black Labrador retriever modeled after Maegawa’s family dog, Ku. In the book, she does not have a right hind leg, and instead, uses a prosthesis. The book goes through her morning routine of waking up, getting dressed, going to the bathroom and eating breakfast before finally leaving the house.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kaede Maegawa during the long jump at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in September.

The 32-page picture book, which is written and illustrated by Maegawa, is based on her real-life experiences. For example, in one part of the book, Ku-chan hops on one leg as she rushes to the bathroom.

“I don’t like wearing my prosthetic leg first thing in the morning,” Maegawa said, laughing.

Maegawa was a third-year junior high student when she was injured in a traffic accident and had to have her right leg amputated from below her thigh. She was unable to move around without the use of crutches and gave up on basketball, a sport she loved. She was depressed for about a year, but her life was changed after being fitted with a prosthetic leg. Her mood was lifted after being able to run again and feeling the wind against her face.

Maegawa’s doctor recommended that she try playing sports, so she started training in athletics. She quickly made a name for herself and appeared in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and this summer’s Tokyo Games. She is currently training at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences in Kumatori, Osaka Prefecture, for the 2024 Paris Games.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kaede Maegawa during the long jump at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in September.

Book goals

“Why do you have only one leg?”

“How do you take bath?”

Children ask Maegawa many questions when she gives lectures at schools. She wanted children to know at an early stage that what is normal for some, might not be normal for others. It was then that she came up with the idea to write a children’s book.

When Maegawa was about 3, she started taking art lessons from her aunt, who graduated from an arts college. Maegawa fell in love with drawing and painting after being encouraged by her aunt and continued to create art in her free time while training to become a para athlete.

Around May, when the Tokyo Games neared, she worked on the book on her tablet for about a month while at home and at training camp.

Courtesy of Kaede Maegawa
The cover of “Ku-chan Itterasshai”

She made sure to keep technical terms to a minimum so that even young children can understand the story. She hopes they will come to see that prosthetic limbs are just another item used in daily life, like glasses.

However, that is not her only goal from writing the book. She also hears from children who use prosthetic legs being bullied at school.

“I want to support them, so they can live in society,” Maegawa said. “I’ll be happy if this book can help them in any way.”

The publishing company Hakujunsha is set to release “Ku-chan Itterasshai” on Dec. 15. It will be available in stores and online for ¥1,100.

Maegawa is now considering writing a sequel, which will depict Ku-chan at school and on an outing.