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11+ Powerful Children’s Books About Disabilities

December 3rd has been observed as the International Day of Disabled Persons since 1992 when it was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. The theme for 2021 is ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.’ Books definitely help us work towards that inclusive goal, and to make that goal more achievable. Here are a few powerful children’s books about disabilities, in one way or the other. In some, one or more of the main characters have disabilities while in others, that is not the case; some feature disability as the central theme of the story and in yet others, it is impactful though not the main storyline. However, each of these ensures we understand more about the diversity in our world, even that which we see in our abilities and disabilities.

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13 Powerful Children’s Books About Disabilities

The Fastest Woman on Earth

Title: The Fastest Woman on Earth
Author: Francesca Cavallo
Illustrator: Luis San Vicente
Publishers: Undercats (August 24, 2021)
Genre: Children’s Sports Biographies
Age-Range: 4 – 8 years (and up)
Source: NetGalley eARC

 You can get it here

This biographical picture book tells the inspiring story of 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden. Readers learn how Tatyana, who was born with spina bifida in Russia, was raised in an orphanage From walking on her hands for the first six years of her life, to becoming someone considered the best female wheelchair racer of all time, Tatyana’s journey shows us that no matter what, there is something each of us can do and make our own mark on the world.

Francesca Cavallo’s narrative is straight forward and heartfelt, and Luis San Vicente’s illustrations convey the action and emotion needed for this story perfectly. Together, words and art tell a story that makes it a great way to start discussions about disability, to spark curiosity, and to show that nothing is impossible.

All the Way to the Top

TitleAll the Way to the Top : How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything
Author: Annette Bay Pimentel 
Illustrator: Nabigal-Nayagam Haider Ali  
Length: 32 Pages
Genre: Juvenile NonFiction (4 – 8 years)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Explore; Illustrated Edition (March 10, 2020)

 You can get it here

My Thoughts: I mentioned this book in an earlier post here and have since read it. This is a truly informational and inspirational read about the ADA* and its timeline. Do read the foreword by Jennifer (the real life protagonist of this story) and the backmatter.

* Americans with Disabilities Act

Joy


Title: Joy
Author: Corrinne Averiss
Illustrator: Isabelle Follath
Publishers: words & pictures (July 19, 2018)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Family
Age-Range: 3 to 6 years (and up)
Source: Edelweiss eARC

 You can get it here

My Thoughts: A delightful, heartwarming sweet read. You can check my full review here. This book can be used to start discussions about depression and empathy; about fostering healthy relationships with friends and family.

Six Dots


Title: Six Dots
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Publishers: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Illustrated edition (September 6, 2016)
Genre: Juvenile Non Fiction / Children’s Physical Disabilities Books, Biographies
Age-Range: 4 – 8 years, and up
Source: Library

 You can get it here

Six Dots effortlessly and wonderfully tells so much in the few pages that the picture book format affords! While I knew of Louis Braille and his invention, I did not know his story at all. This book informs and takes readers of all ages into the journey of Braille’s life, from when he became blind as a child to how he used his passion and persistence to develop the Braille system, which has benefited many around the world since.

Given the book’s nature, it would have been wonderful to have the Braille translation included throughout (or hopefully they have a Braille edition of the same). Backmatter includes a must-read Author’s Note, and a Q&A answering more questions about Braille as well as links and resources to learn more for curious readers.

Jen Bryant’s storytelling is simply superb and I look forward to reading more books by her now, while Boris Kulikov’s illustrations lend to the storytelling in so many wonderful ways. You will understand what I mean when you read it for yourself.

El Deafo


Title: El Deafo
Author/Illustrator: Cece Bell
Publishers: Harry N. Abrams (September 2, 2014)
Genre: Children’s Physical Disabilities Books/Biographical Comics
Age-Range: 7 – 12 years, and up
Source: Library

 You can get it here

I need more Cece Bell in my life now! That was my first thought even as I was halfway through this amazing book, authored and illustrated by Bell.

Cece is someone we can identify with, easily. She is just like anyone else, struggling with the same things other little girls do as well, in addition to figuring out how to deal with deafness and the tools that help her with it. I loved the humor and honesty that shines through the pages in both the sweet and straightforward text, and in the amazingly cute comic art. Cece’s heartfelt passion to share her issues and to help others understand is easily visible in her book, and is a perfect medium to help children (and adults) become more aware of hearing disabilities. It also shows how one should treat people with such disabilities without being preachy about it.

Colors of the Wind


Title: Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza
Author: J. L. Powers
Illustrator: George Mendoza and Hayley Morgan-Sanders
Publishers:  Purple House Press (June 30, 2021)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Children’s Art & Sport Biographies
Age-Range: 6 – 12 years (and up)

 You can get it here

How did I not know about George Mendoza before today? Or maybe I did and did not pay attention. Well, that is no longer the case. I now know about his amazing story and am sure will not forget anytime soon. The title of the book along with its long subtitle is self-explanatory, and almost a one-word summation of Mendoza.

With spare yet powerful text accompanied by Mendoza’s vibrant artwork interspersed with Hayley Morgan Sander’s line drawings, this book will appeal to everyone. Mendoza looked beyond his visual impairment to focus on the ‘can’ and succeeded! His story teaches us that in the end, it is our choices and our responses to what life hands us that really matters.

Do make sure to check out the excellent backmatter which includes more details on George Mendoza and photos as well. The book can serve as a great way to intitiate conversations about how the choices we make impact our lives, about learning that there are various degrees of each disability and also learning how each impacts people, and that each of us can find something we can do well, no matter our barriers.

Knees


Title: Knees: The Mixed-up World of a Boy With Dyslexia
Author: Vanita Oelschlager
Illustrator: Joe Rossi
Publishers:  Vanita Books; Original edition (May 1, 2012)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Children’s Physical Disabilities Books
Age-Range: 4 – 8 years (and up)

 You can get it here

Written and presented in a format that can be read even by dyslexic people (and reviews confirm the same), this book is an age appropriate introduction to dyslexia. It shows the various struggles that a dyslexic person goes through as well as gives examples of famous dyslexic people. With its simple text and drawings, it imparts information and the knowledge that we can each shine in our own way!

Real


Title: Real
Author: Carol Cujec with Peyton Goddard
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Children’s Fiction/OwnVoices(8 – 11 years, and up)
Publisher: Shadow Mountain(February 2nd 2021)
Source: NetGalley e- ARC (Advance Review Copy)

 You can get it here

Inspired by the true story of Peyton Goddard, who is autistic and a lifelong advocate for inclusion, Real speaks to all those who’ve ever felt they didn’t belong and reminds readers that all people are worthy of being included. 

A book that TOTALLY deserves to be read, not only for the #ownvoices storytelling, but for just what it is – a heartwarming read about including everyone. Read my complete review of the book here

When Charley Met Emma


Title: When Charley Met Emma
Author: Amy Webb
Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Beaming Books (March 12, 2019)
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Special Needs
Source: Edelweiss

 You can get it here

This is a great book to add to home and school libraries; to help understand that different is good; different is what makes each of us – ‘one’ among us. My complete thoughts are here.

Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon

Title: Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon
Author:  KT Johnston 
Illustrator: César Samaniego
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Animals (8 – 12 years, well all ages, actually!)
Publisher: Capstone Editions (February 1, 2020)
Source: Library

You can get it here

Read my full review of this true story here. This book tells the story of a railway employee in South Africa in the 1800s. After he lost his legs in an accident, he found Jack, a baboon, and trained him to help him at his job. The story is heartwarming and can be used to discuss service animals and rights of the differently-abled, as well as inspire curiosity about the history of the railways around the world.

Unbeatable Betty

Title: Unbeatable Betty: Betty Robinson, the First Female Olympic Track Field Gold Medalist
Author: Allison Crotzer Kimmel
Illustrator: Joanie Stone 
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Biographies (4 – 8 years)
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 9th 2020)

 You can get it here

This book introduces us to Betty Robinson, who became the first female gold medalist in track and field in the 1928 Olympics. What happened to her after, and how she overcame it to continue to succeed, is amazing indeed. You can read my complete thoughts here

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Bonus Reads

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of the featured books? I would love to hear your thoughts on the books you have read and any further recommendations too.

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