Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
Publisher: Square Fish
Copyright Date: 2014
Reading Age: 14-18
Reading Level: Grades 9-12
Awards: Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
Genre: Young Adult Biography
Subgenre: Nonfiction Humor
Shane Burcaw has been in a wheelchair since he was two, but he doesn't let that slow him down. With honesty and sharp wit, Shane discusses living with spinal muscular atrophy. He discusses awkward moments, having a girlfriend, and the risks involved in being in a very breakable body. What could have made him bitter instead made Sean realize just how important it is to celebrate life's moments—and how important it is to keep your sense of humor.
Shane Burcaw writes with humor and frankness about his life in a wheelchair and the challenges that surface because of it. His spinal muscular atrophy also causes his body to be quite fragile, and his discussions of the fear of being inadvertently broken are raw and cause for empathy. Books on people with disabilities are still quite rare in the teen collection, and this is a good option for a library since it unapologetically explores what it's like to do the normal things in life when the world doesn't address one's needs or abilities. There are some problematic aspects of Shane's discussion of others with mental disabilities that can at times border on bullying and further harmful stereotypes. But the good outweighs the bad in their book. What could have made him bitter instead made Sean realize just how important it is to celebrate life's moments—and how important it is to keep your sense of humor. Shane Burcaw shares his experiences with wit and humor, answering many of the embarrassing and not-so-embarrassing questions people have about those who live with disabilities. His raw portrayal of his life experiences is approachable to teens and will give them insight into living with a disability. Shane is full of sarcasm and biting wit, and it gives the stories he tells a sparkle that makes the experiences relatable even if the reader has never had to deal with the challenges Shane faces on a daily basis.
Shane Burcaw shares his experiences with wit and humor, answering many of the embarrassing and not-so-embarrassing questions people have about those who live with disabilities.
About the Author
In 2011, a kid named Shane Burcaw from Bethlehem, PA started a humorous blog to tell his life story of living with a disease that made his muscles waste away as he grew older.
The blog blew up, achieving HALF A MILLION followers (a number that still grows to this day). Shane realized how badly people needed humor in their lives, so he set out with his cousin Sarah (top picture) to create a company that could help people laugh more and help others living with the same disease.
Since the founding of Laughing At My Nightmare, Shane has gone on to start a viral YouTube channel with his wife (bottom picture), Hannah (Aylward) Burcaw. The channel is called Squirmy and Grubs. Shane's disability plays a huge role in their relationship, but not in the way that most people expect. Watch them navigate their life together and laugh with them along the way!
(About the author and photo can be found here.)
Shane and Hannah Burcaw run a successful YouTube channel. Discuss what makes their vlogs so interesting.
Talk about how humor can make what seem like unbearable situations more easy to navigate.
Challenge issues: strong language, mental illness stereotypes, sexuality
Challenge Issue Resources:
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While there are some issues in how the author refers to people with mental disorders, Shane Burcaw confronts his own challenges with Spinal Muscular Atrophy with humor, wit, and courage. His frank portrayal of his life experiences is approachable to teens and will give them insight into living with a disability.