I don’t know about you, but in my library community, I’ve noticed recently that there has been an increased demand for books like Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper that focus on the topic of disability. So, I always try to have my ear to the ground when new books are published with characters that have special needs. Here are some noteworthy recently published fiction and non-fiction books that depict the disability experience in a positive light. Share some with your readers!
Strong Deaf by Lynn McElfresh
Sibling rivalry is complicated by conflicting cultures in this realistic novel of a hearing girl and her deaf sister. Grades 5 – 8 (Kirkus)
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
Move over, Joey Pigza! Here comes another exceptional spokesman for people with learning disabilities. Grades 5 – 8 (Library Media Connection)
Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson
This picture-book biography allows its young readers to identify with the famous figure as a child close to their own age. A Braille alphabet on the back cover is likewise a nice tactile touch for those fascinated by Helen’s story of overcoming adversity. Grades 1 – 4 (Booklist)
The Cruisers: A Star Is Born by Walter Dean Myers
LaShonda has been offered a full scholarship to the Virginia Woolf Society Program for Young Ladies, thanks to her costume designs for the recent class play. The problem is that LaShonda lives in a group home with her autistic brother, Chris, and the two are inseparable. Surprisingly rich. Grades 5 – 8 (Kirkus)
Kevin Keeps Up by Anne Whitehead Nagda
Kevin has trouble concentrating on schoolwork, but with his supportive teacher leaving for six weeks, a less sympathetic substitute filling in, and his urgent need to find his escaped pet snake before his mother does, Kevin’s prospects of creating a good report on cheetahs look dim. Grades 1 – 4 (Booklist)
Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gellman
A special Hanukkah workshop at the Jewish Community Center gives Jeremy a chance to make a unique dreidel as a surprise gift for his father, who is blind. A nicely subtle approach to diversity. Grades PreK – Grade 2 (Kirkus)
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise
This picture book biography describing William Hoy’s struggles with illness-induced deafness and his remarkable nineteenth-century baseball career, this also gives a sensitive explanation for his nickname. Grade 1 – 4 (Booklist)
I saw your list of books about special needs children, and wanted to tell you about a book The Bravest Boy I Ever Knew. This book teaches an important lesson about friendship and acceptance between a boy named Michael and his best friend who is disabled. In this book Michael tells about all the things his friend CAN do, not what he can’t. Check it out on Amazon
Please check out the book Smart on the Inside — A True Story About Succeeding in Spite of Learning Disabilities. It tells of Eileen Gold Kushner’s comeback story from academic problems due to learning disabilities to success as owner of three Chicago area McDonald’s restaurants.
This easy to read book will stimulate discussion about self-advocacy, self-awareness, bullying, self-esteem, accommodations, and life skills. Teachers will be able read it with groups of students and use the free curriculum resources that are available on the interactive website http://www.smartontheinside.com. Eileen’s story conveys a strong message about the importance of having a positive attitude, never giving up, working hard, and giving back to the community. It is available in print and as an eBook on Amazon.