Differing Abilities

Differing Abilities

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

All My Stripes

Shaina Rudolph
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Rud)

Zane rushes home to tell his mother about problems he faced during his school day, and she reminds him that while others may only see his "autism stripe," he has stripes for honesty, caring, and much more.

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.

Dad and Me in the Morning

Pat Lakin
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Lak)

A young boy who is deaf awakens to the light of his special alarm clock, puts in his hearing aids, and tiptoes to awaken his father. Together they walk to the beach, observing nature.

Different Abilities

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

In Different Abilities, 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.

Emmanuel’s Dream

Laurie Ann Thompson
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 362.4092 Tho)

Born in rural Ghana in 1977 with only one functional leg, he 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."

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, as his efforts are sometimes misinterpreted, or things just go wrong--but Henry keeps trying, and in the end he finds a friend he can play with. 

Hands and Hearts

Donna Napoli
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Nap)

In fifteen short, warm free-verse poems, a young girl and her mother enjoy a leisurely day at the seaside: splashing in the ocean, playing in the sand, watching the sunset. Soft pencil and watercolor illustrations emphasize the water, sand, and light of a summer day. In sidebars, pencil drawings illustrate one word from each poem in American Sign Language.

Hello Goodbye Dog

Maria Gianferrari
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Gi)

Like most dogs, Moose loves "hello" and hates "goodbye." "Hello" is a ride in the car, a pat on the head, or a visit with her favorite people. "Goodbye" is a closed door and being alone. Moose loves "hello" most when it involves her favorite human, Zara. When Zara steers her wheelchair into her family's van, it means good-bye. Not for long. After all, one thing Moose loves almost as much as "hello" is being read to, and what better place to be read to than school?

Henri’s Scissors

Jeanette Winter
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 750.92 Matisse Win)

As an old man, Matisse becomes ill, unable to paint, he begins cutting shapes from paper and dives into the process, allowing his shapes to grow with his imagination.

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.

King For A Day

Rukhsana Khan
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Khan)

During Basant, the people of Lahore move to their rooftops to enjoy the spectacle of a sky filled with kites and birds, an impressive city skyline, their community, and the renewal of spring. Here, a boy in a wheelchair overpowers the neighborhood bully with his kite-flying savvy and keen, compassionate eye.

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.

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

Shane Burcaw
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 362.43 Bur)

A picture book answering the questions young children ask Shane Burcaw about his wheelchair and life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy with equal parts optimism, humor, and empathy.

The Pirate of Kindergarten

George Lyon
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Lyo)

Ginny enjoys kindergarten, but she does have some difficulties, and occasionally children laugh when she runs into chairs or reads lines of text twice. Her teacher notices that she closes one eye to read, but on Vision Screening Day, the school nurse discovers something about Ginny’s sight.

The Remember Balloons

Jessie Oliveros
(Juvenile Picture Books - Ej Oli)


James has a bunch of balloons, each of which holds a special memory, but as his grandfather ages and loses his own balloons, James discovers that he is gaining new ones.

Rescue and Jessica: A LIfe Changing Friendship

Jessica Kensky
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 636.70886 Ken)

When he is paired with a girl who has lost her legs, Rescue worries that he isn't up to the task of being her service dog.

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

We’ll Paint the Octopus Red

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 306.875 St)

When young Emma learns she'll have a new sibling soon, she thinks of all the activities she can do with the baby. But when her brother Isaac is born with Down syndrome, her father explains that she can probably do all of the activities she had planned, but that Isaac might require more time, patience, and help to do them.

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.

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.

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.

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 austim, resolves to prove that he is up to the challenge of caring for the skunk permanently.

The Collectors

Jacqueline West
(Juvenile Fiction - J West)

Van has always been an outsider. Most people don't notice him. But he notices them. And he notices the small trinkets they drop, or lose, or throw away--that's why his collection is full of treasures. Then one day, Van notices a girl stealing pennies from a fountain, and everything changes. He follows the girl, Pebble, and uncovers an underground world full of wishes and the people who collect them.  Apparently not all wishes are good and even good wishes often have unintended consequences--and the Collectors have made it their duty to protect us. But they aren't the only ones who have their eyes on the world's wishes--and they may not be the good guys, after all.

Dorothea’s Eyes

Barb Rosenstock
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 770.92 Lange Ros)

 As a child, Lange was teased and rejected by her peers for her limp, yet the very invisibility she feels becomes an asset as she learns to see "with her eyes and her heart." As Lange grew older, she began taking photographs, eventually discovering her interest in capturing portraits of the impoverished and needy during the Great Depression.

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.

Deborah Kent
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 920 Ke)

Profiles seven dozen people throughout history with various physical or mental disabilities. Additional articles provide historical background on the disability rights movement.

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

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures

Julia Finley Mosca
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 921 Grandin Mos)

Diagnosed at an early age with autism, Temple Grandin grew up at a time when there was generally little care or regard for those like her. However, Grandin's mother was able to secure the therapies and education her daughter needed to thrive. ("She was Different, Not less,' they all finally agreed.") Grandin would eventually design animal husbandry techniques to more humanely treat livestock in the meat industry.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Merrie Haskell
(Juvenile Fiction - J Haskell)

Yearning for life in a cloistered scriptorium, thirteen-year-old Princess Matilda, whose physically different foot brings fear of the evil eye, escapes her scheming cousin Ivo and joins her servant Judith and an old friend, Parz, in hunting dragons and writing about them.

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.

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.

Out of My Mind

Sharon Draper
(Juvenile Fiction - J Draper)

A brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy, considered by many to be mentally retarded, discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

Penguin Days

Sara Leach
(Juvenile Fiction - J Leach)

Lauren, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, reluctantly takes on the role of flower girl in her aunt's wedding. While it's difficult to break her familiar routines and deal with unfamiliar cousins and scratchy dresses, Lauren eventually decides that having an extended family is worth the bother.

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.

Six Dots

Jennifer Bryant
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 921 Braille Bry)

Louis Braille was just five years old when he lost his sight. He was a clever boy, determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read. Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. And so he invented his own alphabet--a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. A system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today.

Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly
(Juvenile Fiction - J Kelly)

Twelve-year-old Iris and her grandmother, both deaf, drive from Texas to Alaska armed with Iris's plan to help Blue-55, a whale unable to communicate with other whales.

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

The Truth About Stacey

Raina Telgemeier
(Juvenile Graphic Novel - J-GN Baby Sitters Club v. 2)

Joining the Baby-sitter's Club after moving to a new town, Stacey helps her new friends outmaneuver a rival sitter group while coming to terms with her diabetes.

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.