15 Kids’ Books That Embrace Disabilities and Differences

It’s important for children to understand that everyone is different, and that our differences make us wonderful and unique. But sometimes, this message isn’t so easy to convey. These books that celebrate differences and disabilities highlight characters who are different from (and in some cases similar to) the reader. From the real life story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who had a deformed leg and eventually became a cyclist, to John Green’s novel about a girl coping with anxiety, these kids’ books embrace the things that make us who we are.

no no 9780593532294 Monster Hands by Karen Kane and Jonaz McMillan, illustrated by Dion MBD

Bedtime jitters turn into an exercise in bravery for two best friends. When Milo shares his worries about the monster under his bed, Mel helps him use shadow puppets to scare it away. This sweet, slightly spooky picture book features two main characters communicating through American Sign Language.
(Ages 3–7)

9780525514121 Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor uses her own childhood experience with diabetes to craft this beautiful and inspiring children’s picture book. Being different can be tough, especially when you’re a kid. But just like a garden, where different flowers and plants make it beautiful, different types of people make our world a more wonderful place.

Sotomayor’s story of children working to build a community garden encourages kids to ask questions and learn how we’re all different.
(Ages 3–7)

RELATED: Picture Books To Help Kids Understand Physical Disabilities and Differences

9780593529904 This Is How We Play by Jessica Slice and Caroline Cupp, illustrated by Kayla Harren

This cheerful picture book from disability rights activists Jessica Slice and Caroline shows how families use play to build strong connections. The illustrations feature a diverse cast of characters playing with family and friends, some with disabilities and some without. The bouncy, rhyming text and vibrant colors will make this book a favorite with young readers.
(Ages 3–7)

9780593323892 Sam’s Super Seats by Keah Brown, illustrated by Sharee Miller

Sam is a young girl with cerebral palsy who can’t wait to go back to school shopping with her friends. As they pick out clothes and try on outfits, Sam gets tired and must find somewhere to sit. This upbeat story is a beautiful reminder that listening to your body and prioritizing rest is essential.
(Ages 4–8)

9780449813379 Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Boris Kulikov

When Louis Braille lost his sight at the age of five, he was determined to learn how to read. But even at his school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. Louis didn’t give up on his dream, and instead created his own alphabet that could be read by touch. This story, which highlights sound, smell, and touch, is sure to inspire little readers.
(Ages 4–8)

9780449817445 Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born with a deformed leg in Ghana, West Africa. Though no one thought he could amount to much, his mother taught him to reach for his dreams — and he did. Eventually, he became a cyclist and in 2001 rode across Ghana to share his inspiring story and the message that disability is not inability.
(Ages 4–8)

9780375867125 A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Growing up, Horace Pippin loved to draw. Even during World War I, he drew from the trenches… until he was shot. Upon returning home after the war, Horace couldn’t lift his arm to draw. But he didn’t give up, and slowly but surely he regained the use of his arm and went on to become a famous artist. Another inspiring story from Jen Bryant, children will be empowered to never give up.
(Ages 5–8)

9781984815149 Wink by Rob Harrell

Based on author Rob Harrell’s real life experience, this middle grade novel follows Ross Maloy — a seventh grader with eye cancer. He just wants to be a normal kid, but it’s hard to be normal when your friends don’t know how to act around you. Funny and poignant, this book is packed with comics that your tween is sure to relate to.
(Ages 8–12)

RELATED: Books That Embrace What Makes Kids Unique

9780593619469 Dancing in the Storm by Amie Darnell Specht and Shannon Hitchcock

Twelve-year-old Kate’s life turns upside down when she gets diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that causes her bones to grow abnormally. The disorder affects every aspect of her life, and she quickly starts to feel overwhelmed by it. However, with the help of a new pen pal and the support of her friends and family, Kate learns how to manage her disability and enjoy the beautiful moments of life.
(Ages 8–12)

9780525554189 Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

Vivy Cohen just wants to play baseball, but her mom is worried about her being the only girl on the team — and the only autistic kid. When an assignment tasks her with writing a letter to someone, Vivy chooses her hero: Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Her luck turns when a coach sees Vivy playing ball and invites her to join the team, and VJ starts writing her back! But when an accident lands her back on the bench, Vivy will have to do all she can to stay in the game.
(Ages 8–12)

RELATED: Authentic Middle Grade Books About Autism

9780375869020 Wonder by R.J. Palacio

R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder took the middle grade book world by storm when it introduced us to Aggie Pullman, a boy with a facial difference. After being homeschooled all his life, he finally starts fifth grade at Beecher Prep. There, he wants to be treated like everyone else — but people can’t seem to get past his face. Told from the perspective of multiple characters, Wonder encourages kids to choose kindness over bullying and will have readers rooting for Auggie.
(Ages 8–12)

9781524770266 Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Twelve-year-old Iris may be a tech genius, but as the only deaf kid at her school people often treat her like she isn’t very smart. After learning about Blue 55, a whale who can’t speak with other whales, she finds herself relating to him and wants to invent a way to “sing” to him. This novel is full of heart, and will show readers just how far our determination can get us.
(Ages 8–12)

9780593533802 Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino

YA romance fans will swoon over this heartfelt novel featuring a hard-of-hearing teenager and her deaf love interest. Lilah feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere and wants to find her community. She becomes a counselor at a summer camp for the deaf and blind, where she goes on a journey of self-discovery and first love. Young adult readers will love this feel-good story!
(Young Adult)

9780525555377 Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Aza is struggling to be good at everything — a good daughter, a good friend, and anything else life throws at her. When her friend Daisy is eager to investigate the disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett — and the $100,000 reward — Aza ends up trying to also be a good detective. John Green’s latest novel tackles anxiety, OCD, and mental illness in a refreshingly relatable way.
(Young Adult)

RELATED: Middle Grade and YA Books on Mental Disorders and Differences

9781984848857 Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

A year after Ava loses everything — her parents, her home, her best friend, and her face — her aunt and uncle decide it’s time she returns to high school. There’s no escaping being the “Burned Girl,” but when Ava meets Piper, a fellow survivor, and Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, she may be on her way to getting her life back. But Ava’s not the only one going through something, and she’ll have to decide if she’s going to let those around her help her really shine or if she’ll retreat into herself.
(Young Adult)

The post 15 Kids’ Books That Embrace Disabilities and Differences appeared first on Brightly.

Related Post