Celebrate Voices of People with Disabilities

Celebrate Voices of People with Disabilities

This booklist includes characters and authors with differing abilities. We highlight this topic in hopes it will help bring awareness to people with disabilities and a world where the successes and frustrations of being disabled are noted and respected.

Compiled by:
Ginny H.

Early Readers

A Boy and a Jaguar

Alan Rabinowitz
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 921 Rabinowitz Rab)

The renowned cat conservationist reflects on his early childhood struggles with a speech disorder, describing how he only spoke fluently when he was communicating with animals and how he resolved at a young age to find his voice to be their advocate. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Different Abilities

Rebecca Pettiford
(Juvenile Picture Book Nonfiction - Ej 362.4 Pet)

Beginning readers will learn to celebrate diversity by appreciating the variety of abilities people have. Vibrant, full-color photos and carefully leveled text engage young readers as they draw inferences about how diversity makes our society stronger and more interesting. Recommended for ages 6–9.

Emmanuel’s Dream

Laurie Ann Thompson
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 362.4092 Tho)

Born in rural Ghana in 1977 with only one functional leg, Emmanuel grew up to become a national hero and disabilities activist. Learning to ride a bike brought him to the national stage: he embarked on a 400-mile bicycle ride through Ghana, spreading his message that "being disabled does not mean being unable." Recommended for ages 6–9.

A Friend for Henry

Jenn Bailey
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Bai)

Henry would like to find a friend at school, but for a boy on the autism spectrum, making friends can be difficult. Henry's efforts are sometimes misinterpreted or things just go wrong, but he keeps trying and finds a friend he can play with. Recommended for ages 3–6.

Janine and the Field Day Finish

Maryann Cocca-Leffler
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Coc)

Janine knows her body doesn't work as well as other kids', but she's ready for field day anyway, from the froufrou good-luck ribbons adorning her red sneakers to the kicky cheer she's invented to spur everyone on. Her classmate Abby, however, is not impressed. Recommended for ages 3-6.

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

Cari Best
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Best)

Zulay, who's blind, is determined to race at Field Day. This fantastic book welcomes readers into a world where the successes and frustrations of being disabled are noted and respected. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having A Disability

Shane Burcaw
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 362.43 Bur)

In this picture book, Shane Burcaw answers questions from young children about his life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and his wheelchair. It is equal parts optimism, humor, and empathy. Recommended for ages 6–9.

Tuesday Tucks Me In

Luis Carlos Montalvan
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 636.70886 Mon)

This full-color picture book filled with adorable photographs tells the story of the amazing service dog who helps former U.S. Army Captain Luis Carlos Montalván overcome his combat-related wounds. Recommended for ages 6-9.

When Charley Met Emma

Amy Webb
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Web)

Five-year-old Charley gets teased for daydreaming and drawing more than his friends, but when he meets Emma, who is physically different, he needs help remembering that being different is okay. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Older Elementary

As Brave As You

Jason Reynolds
(Juvenile Fiction - J Reynold)

When 11-year-old worrywart Genie and his big brother, Ernie, leave Brooklyn and go to their grandparents' home in rural Virginia, it seems as though they have been dropped on another planet. The city boys are introduced to another way of life and to their blind grandfather, who goes to extreme lengths to conceal his disability. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Born Just Right

Jen Lee Reeves
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 921 Reeves Ree)

When Jordan Reeves was born without the bottom half of her left arm, the doctors reassured her parents that she was “born just right.” And she has been proving that doctor right ever since! With candor, humor, and heart, Jordan’s mother, Jen Lee Reeves, helps Jordan tell her story about growing up in an able-bodied world and family, where she was treated like all of her siblings and classmates—and where she never felt limited. Recommended for ages 9-12+

A Boy Called Bat

Elana Arnold
(Juvenile Fiction - J Arnold)

When his veterinarian mom brings home a stray baby skunk that needs rehabilitation before it can be placed in a wild animal shelter, Bat, who has autism, resolves to prove that he is up to the challenge of caring for the skunk permanently. Recommended for ages 9–12.

El Deafo

Cece Bell
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - J GN 741.5092 Bell)

Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Fish in a Tree

Lynda Hunt
(Juvenile Fiction - J Hunt)

Sixth-grader Ally Nickerson has been to seven schools in seven years, and the same thing happens at each one; she spends more time in the principal's office than in class. The pattern is repeating at Ally's current school until a long-term substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels, discovers that Ally is acting out to hide the fact that she can't read. Ally is deeply ashamed and has bought into what others have told her—that she's dumb and worthless—but Mr. Daniels helps her understand that she has dyslexia. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Dusti Bowling
(Juvenile Fiction - J Bowling)

New friends and a mystery help Aden, thirteen, adjust to middle school and life at a dying western theme park in a new state, where her being born armless presents many challenges. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Meena Meets Her Match

Karla Manternach
(Juvenile Fiction - J Mantern)

Third-grader Meena Zee navigates the triumphs and challenges of family, friendship, and school while being diagnosed with epilepsy. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Out of My Mind

Sharon Draper
(Juvenile Fiction - J Draper)

Melody, a brilliant fifth-grader with a photographic memory and cerebral palsy is one of the smartest kids in her entire school. No one knows this, since having cerebral palsy prevents her from communicating in the same way as other kids. Melody refuses to give up and let cerebral palsy prevent her from living the way she wants. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Rain Reign

Ann M. Martin
(Juvenile Fiction - J Martin)

Struggling with Asperger's, Rose shares a bond with her beloved dog, but when the dog goes missing during a storm, Rose is forced to confront the limits of her comfort levels, even if it means leaving her routines in order to search for her pet. Recommended for ages 9-12.

This Kid Can Fly

Aaron Philip
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 362.43 Phil)

Aaron Philip's memoir chronicles his extraordinary journey from happy baby in Antigua to confident teen artist in New York City. His honest, often funny stories of triumph––despite physical difficulties, poverty, and other challenges––are as inspiring as they are eye-opening. Recommended for ages 9-12.

The Wild Book

Margarita Engle
(Juvenile Fiction - J Engle)

In early twentieth-century Cuba, bandits terrorize the countryside as a young farm girl struggles with dyslexia. Based on the life of the author's grandmother. Recommended for ages 9-12.