Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

I’m looking for a book featuring… characters with a disability

Posted on | September 10, 2012 | 32 Comments

Welcome to “I’m looking for a book about….”, the topic-themed monthly carnival of children’s literature.

Every month I’ll be encouraging anyone who likes to review books for children (of any age) to leave links to their reviews of books that match the given month’s theme. The idea is that over time, this carnival will become a resource for parents, teachers, carers, librarians looking for books by subject.

Old reviews, new reviews, and reviews for any age are welcome. You may also submit multiple reviews, as long as they are all relevant to this month’s theme.

This month’s theme is…

**Disability**

I say theme, but actually I’m hoping that we’ll create a resource of books which are about all sorts of things, which just happen to feature characters with some disability, rather than disability being the sole focus of the books in question. I’m hoping that with the close yesterday of the 2012 Paralympics, lots of children will have seen many more people with varying disabilities and that it will have been both a topic of conversation and also something “normal”, part of everyday life.

Let’s kick off this round up with a review from Sandie at Picturebooks in ELT of Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross. As the blurb on the book cover says “Without being condescending or preachy, the words, pictures and design of this very simple picturebook show that a physically disabled child is ‘just like me, just like you’



Susan Laughs is also included in the round up of picture books included in Kinderbooks with Everything’s post for International Day of Persons With Disability. Do click through to see 3 more pictures books which show people with disabilties in a positive light.

Melanie at Library Mice has a review of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I think every review I’ve read of this book has been glowing. Melanie writes, “You know the type of books that leaves you feeling a little bit more hopeful for human kind, and that you can’t help yourself hugging once you have turned the final page? Wonder is one of those books. It is heart wrenching and heartwarming, bleak and hopeful, cruel and kind, all at the same time.

Over on Maestra Amanda’s Bookshelf there is another review of Wonder, this time written by someone (Amanda’s sister, Allison) who themself has a disability. Allison writes about how moving it was to read a story with someone like her as the lead character.


Denise, writing at the Nerdy Book Club, has a whole shelf-ful of books to recommend featuring characters with disabilities ranging from speech difficulties to Downs Syndrome. The list, mostly of picture books, was inspired after a reading of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. One of the books reviewed by Denise is Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco, and this is also reviewed in more detail by Myra at Gathering Books. It sounds like a tremendous picture book.



Over on the Nosy Crow blog there is a wonderful list of books and other lists of books featuring characters with hearing and or sight loss. Do check out the comments for even more useful ideas about (reading and writing) books which include characters with a disability.



Jax at Making it Up brings Just Because by Rebecca Elliot to our attention, “narrated by a little boy, about his very special big sister and her special chair. It’s a sensitively told story about a little girl with special needs and is a wonderful introduction for children who might not have come across this type of situation before.

Library Mice also has a review of Just Because by Rebecca Elliot, alongside Elliot’s 2nd book featuring the same characters, Sometimes. Melanie writes “Just Because is an amazingly positive introduction to the notion that everybody is different; it is a heartfelt and effective first exposure at disability.



Sherry Early at Semicolon has a raft of reviews for us, starting with Window Boy by Andrea White. About a character with cerebal palsy, Sherry says of this book “Kids who need to understand the world of disability, and all of us do, should also get a taste of Window Boy. It’s not at all didactic, but highly educational nevertheless.



Next up is a review of The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, also from Sherry Early at Semicolon. “Although the word “autistic” is never used in the book, Ted is obviously a high-functioning, but autistic, child.



Sherry also offers us reviews of Rules by Cynthia Lord, Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko all of which feature characters with autism (although this is not always explicitly stated in the books in question). She also reviews Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, by Lauren Tarshis which has a character who probably has OCD or Asperger’s.



Sandhya reviews two books from Indian publishers: Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand? by Sheila Dhir and Chuskit Goes To School written by Sujatha Padmanabhan, illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan. Her reviews are part of a longer article about diversity in children’s books.



There’s a slightly longer review of Chuskit Goes To School over on Saffron Tree. Choxbox writes “apart from the heart-warming storyline, it tells you many things about life in Ladakh in beautiful words and illustrations.

Susan, The Book Chook, has a review of Samurai Kids, Book 1: White Crane by Sandy Fussell. “Despite their disabilities, or sometimes because of their disabilities, the Samurai kids want to prove to themselves and those who despise them that they are worthy of the title Samurai Warrior.



Kinderbooks with Everything highlights a favourite picture book of mine, The Black Book of Colours by Menina Cottin and Rosana Faria. “This extraordinary book emphasises other ways of ‘seeing’ using the other four senses in the way that a blind child needs to. The format makes this book unique. All the pages are black. The text is written firstly in Braille and then in a white font. The illustrations are textured rather than coloured.



The same book, The Black Book of Colours by Menina Cottin and Rosana Faria, is reviewed over at My Little Bookcase. Jacqui is “truly smitten by this book” (I’m with her on this) and she includes some great photos so you can see something of how amazing it is.

The Seeing Stick by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini is also recommended by Kinderbooks with Everything. Once again, “The pages are textured and beg to be touched. The angle that the viewer is positioned at in the beautiful double-page spreads makes for an involvement that renders you transfixed.



I’m Here by Peter H. Reynold is reviewed by Polly over at The Little Wooden Horse
. It’s a terrific review of a wonderful sounding book which “was published to support children and families living with autism“. Unbelievably it’s not yet available readily in th UK…



As it happens Ali at Literary Lunchbox also gives a glowing review of I’m Here by Peter H. Reynold.

SpeakWell, Readwell shares The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie with us. “The main character, Arnold Spirit Jr. is a fourteen-year-old Indian living on a reservation, who was born with “water on the brain”, grew ten extra teeth, stutters and has a lisp. He also has the most engaging voice I have read in a long time



Rosemary Sutcliff’s Warrior Scarlet is the subject of Ali’s post on her blog Fantastic Reads. Apparently this isn’t the only book where Sutcliffe wrote sensitively about disability (in this case the lead character has a withered arm). It’s a long quote but I love what Ali says at the end of her post: “I love that Drem’s character is influenced by his disability, but it is not informed by it. In many children’s books, a period of disability is a test that characters must go through in order to become better people (such as Katy in What Katy Did or Deenie in Deenie) or disabled characters have special powers (Percy Jackson in Rick Riordan’s novels who has dyslexia and ADHD but is the son of a God), but for Drem, his disability is something that he must learn to manage in order to become a functioning part of his society. The adjustments that he makes and ultimately the concessions that his tribe makes allows him to do this, and after all, isn’t that what the able-bodied world should be doing with people with disabilities? Shouldn’t that be our Paralympic legacy?



A character with learning disabilities, especially problems with reading, is the focus of May B by Caroline Starr Rose, which is reviewed over on jen Robinson’s Book Page. It sounds like a fascinating book – a verse novel that will appeal to fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.



Another book with a character with learning disabilities is reviewed by Library Mice: My Brother Simply by Marie-Aude Murail, translated (from the French) by Adriana Hunter. “The theme of My Brother Simple is not in itself new: the arrival of someone “different” in ordinary people’s lives which ultimately changes them and their outlook on life forever has been visited many times by different authors. But this sometimes heartbreaking yet often heartwarming tale of the love and bond between two brothers stands out from the rest because its delivery is such a joy.


Shelf-employed highlights My Sister, Alicia May, by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Shennen Bersani. It “a beautifully realistic story of a young girl whose sister has Down Syndrome… that will do more to instil a compassion for those with disabilities than any lesson ever will



Three more books including characters with Downs Syndrome are included in Kinderbooks with Everything’s post for World Down Syndrome Day.


What with the Paralympics and the Jubilee year here in the UK, Me, the Queen and Christopher by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Tony Ross, reviewed by Library Mice, could hardly be more topical. It’s “a very funny and utterly fictitious story of a an encounter between a little girl and the British Monarch,” which just happens to feature a character with a disability.



Knockin’ On Wood, Starring Peg Leg Bates by Lynne Barasch is a non-fiction picture book reviewed on Perogies and Gyoza. It’s about Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates (1907 – 1998), a black tap dancer who lost a leg in an accident but didn’t let that stop him doing what he loved – dancing. It sounds like quite an inspirational book!



On RuthsReads there is a round up of books including characters with epilepsy and characters who are deaf. She also includes a list of useful organisations and websites.

Other books recommended by readers include Different Just Like Me by Lori Mitchell, Zoom! by Robert Munsch, My Left Foot by Christy Brown, Seal Surfer by Michael Foreman, White Dolphin by Gill Lewis, Stakeout by Bonnie J. Doerr, The Amberella Tales: Amberella in the City by Rosemarie Kaupp, and Wonder by R.J Palacio. Thanks to Sandhya, Cheryl, Choxbox, Corinne, Gill, Rebecca, Bonnie, Rosemarie and Jane for these suggestions.

Looking forward to discovering more books as you link to your reviews (new or old) of children’s books which include a character with a disability. Please add them by clicking on the blue “Add your link” button below, or by leaving them in the comments.

Also, please do take a look at this guest post by Alexandra Strick, a consultant on children’s books and disability: Capitalising on the Paralympic Spirit – how books can help to build on our kids’ increased awareness of disability.



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Comments

32 Responses to “I’m looking for a book featuring… characters with a disability”

  1. Elli
    September 10th, 2012 @ 12:10 am

    I’ve not actually read the book, but I recently saw a review of ‘Just Because’ by Rebecca Elliot, which looks fantastic.
    Elli recently posted..Almost Human

  2. Sandy Brehl
    September 10th, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    I’ll be posting later this month about some PB titles as well as featuring an interview with author Jacqueline Houtman as her middle grade novel is released in paperback. The Reinvention of Edison Thomas is a terrific story of Eddy, whose patterns suggest he is on the autism spectrum, but this is never overtly stated. The character, situations, and story are all highly recognizable and yet unique and memorable.
    Sandy Brehl recently posted..Election Cycles… and Cynics

  3. Sherry Early
    September 10th, 2012 @ 2:57 am

    Window Boy by Andrea White
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=2830
    London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=3192
    Rules by Cynthia Lord.
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=1637
    Anything But Typical by Nora Leigh Baskin.
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=7438
    Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko.
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=8031
    Emma Jean Lazurus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis.
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=2185

  4. sandhya
    September 10th, 2012 @ 4:07 am

    Zoe, I recently wrote an article about books to teach children under 10 years about respecting diversity, for an online women’s magazine, womensweb. I would like to link up to that article- the first two books featured there deal with disability. Tulika books’ “Why Are You Afraid to Hold My Hand” and Pratham books’ “Chuskit Goes to School.”
    http://www.womensweb.in/articles/teaching-children-about-diversity/
    sandhya recently posted..Being the ‘good bahu’

  5. choxbox
    September 10th, 2012 @ 5:40 am
  6. choxbox
    September 10th, 2012 @ 5:44 am

    Aha, was going to point you to Sandhya’s article, can see she’s done the honours already :)

    Here’s one more by Lori Mitchell – Different Just Like Me. http://www.amazon.com/Different-Just-Like-Lori-Mitchell/dp/0881069752
    Remains one of my 7-year old’s favourites, and to think I found it in used books shop :)

  7. sandhya
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:28 am

    OK, first time I’ve pipped you to it, Choxie!:)

    Thanks for recommending my article.
    sandhya recently posted..Abhijnaanashakuntalam: Truth & Lies

  8. Cheryl Lescheid
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:33 am

    Hi, as a Canadian I love recommending our native authors! Robert Munsch is a beloved Canadian children’s author and writes stories featuring many children he’s met across the country. He has a wonderful story about a girl who has a fantastic wheelchair called ZOOM! Here is a link to his website: http://robertmunsch.com/book/zoom

  9. sandhya
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:33 am

    Also, am currently reading an amazing book for 9-12 year olds called “My Left Foot” that is an autobiographical version of Christy Brown’s struggle with Spasticity. http://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Left-Foot-Christy-Brown/dp/0749391774/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347255018&sr=1-1

    Also on my reading list currently is this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wonder-R-J-Palacio/dp/0370332288/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347255208&sr=1-1
    sandhya recently posted..Abhijnaanashakuntalam: Truth & Lies

  10. sandhya
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:35 am

    OK, where did my last comment go?
    sandhya recently posted..Abhijnaanashakuntalam: Truth & Lies

  11. Zoe
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    Sweet justice there Sandhya – I wrote a comment reply which has now got lost in the ether! But what I was saying is that comments with more than one URL in them have to be personally approved by me – lots of spam comments include multiple URLS so I’ve set up the system to ensure I moderate all comments with multiple URLs – and yours should be showing now. Thanks for all your input today – am gradually working my way through the posts, reviews and suggestions and am just about to get to yours :)

  12. Myra from GatheringBooks
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:54 am

    Hi there Zoe! I see that Junkyard Wonders is already part of your post. Let me duplicate that (hehehe) by sharing my review of Patricia Polacco’s lovely story. Hope that’s ok. :)

    We intend to have a bimonthly theme on Celebrating Diversities sometime next year. This link of yours would definitely come in handy.
    Myra from GatheringBooks recently posted..Jan/Jun 2012 AWB Reviews

  13. choxbox
    September 10th, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    @Cheryl: Munsch needs no introduction! We love his ‘Paper Bag Princess’!

  14. victoria
    September 10th, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    I have written about two wonderful picture books where the main character is blind
    • The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin
    http://kinderbookswitheverything.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/4th-june.html
    • The Seeing Stick by Jane Yolen
    http://kinderbookswitheverything.blogspot.com.au/search?q=jane+yolen

  15. Rosemarie Kaupp
    September 10th, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    My book, The Amberella Tales: Amberella in the City, features a puppy, Casper, with a stuttering problem.

  16. Bonnie J. Doerr
    September 10th, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    I’m pleased you are listing books that happen to include a character with a disability rather than featuring the issue. It was a surprise to me when my character, Ana, appeared in a wheelchair. I hadn’t planned that. But I was intrigued when I first saw a beach wheel chair some months before I began writing StakeOut. It must have made quite an impression on me!

    StakeOut, an environmental mystery for tweens, has a wheel–chair bound character with Spina Bifida. It takes a while before the reader realizes she has a permanent disability because she doesn’t let it define her. The book was a 2012 Green Earth award finalist.

    http://www.amazon.com/Stakeout-Bonnie-J-Doerr/dp/1616030070

  17. Ruth Humphreys
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    Hi,
    Great article, good to see more visibility and positive images of disability. I am have reviewed a number of books in this blog post:

    http://ruthsreads.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/childrens-books-and-disability/

  18. Elli
    September 10th, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    At the risk of stating the obvious, has anyone included ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time’?
    Elli recently posted..Dessert

  19. Jackie Small (@littlebookcase)
    September 10th, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

    Oops! I was working backwards tonight. I responded to an RSS email and I added my link first. Then read your post to find that you’d already featured The Black Book of Colours.

    Sorry, but do things the right way next time.

    I love this topic. Thanks for collating
    Jackie Small (@littlebookcase) recently posted..Springtime reading activity: Illustration-inspired artwork

  20. Beth Cox
    September 10th, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    Some great books here but can I also direct people do the In The Picture project from Scope as they reviewed loads of inclusive books: http://www.scope.org.uk/campaigns/scope-campaigns/children-picture/books-list

    Also the Bookmark project from Booktrust where Alex Strick chooses and inclusive book to review each month: http://www.booktrust.org.uk/books-and-reading/children/bookmark/book-of-the-month/

    Hope it’s ok to post these kind of links.

    Just a note regarding an earlier comment on here: no one is bound to their wheelchair so the phrase wheelchair user is more appropriate. Don’t take me mentioning this the wrong way, but if no one says anything, nothing will change.

    Beth

  21. victoria
    September 11th, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    I’ve just thought of some more good books:
    See
    kinderbookswitheverything.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/21st-march-world-down-syndrome-day.html
    and
    kinderbookswitheverything.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/3rd-december-international-day-of.html

  22. victoria
    September 12th, 2012 @ 1:17 am

    And another – don’t forget Jeanne Willis’ Mole’s Sunrise
    kinderbookswitheverything.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/27th-april-nancy-shaw-1946-betty-g.html

  23. Linda
    September 12th, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    The German Wimmel-Bilderbüchern are very good at including characters from all aspects of life and society in their stories. Although non-verbal, the picture books provide a very good starting point to discuss children and adults with disability with the youngest readers.

    http://craftyally.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/wimmelbuchern/
    Linda recently posted..A most satisfying pile of scraps

  24. What We Are Reading Right Now #6 - Featuring Disabled Characters... - se7en
    September 14th, 2012 @ 1:30 am

    [...] 14th, 2012 · No Comments TweetOnce a month Playing By the Book has a call for books with a specific theme, and this month, in line with the Paralympics, the theme [...]

  25. se7en
    September 14th, 2012 @ 2:00 am

    Finally our list is up… it took us forever to settle on books!!! A wander through the library was not enough… we had to go back and choose again… because honestly a lot of books in this section were not that great… but we settled and finally got a list up for you!!! And thank you so much for creating this wonderful list of topics on your blog – love it!!!
    se7en recently posted..What We Are Reading Right Now #6 – Featuring Disabled Characters…

  26. I’m looking for an app about… characters with a disability « CAppTivated Kids
    September 16th, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

    [...] month, I link up with children’s book blog Playing By the Book for a thematic round-up of bloggers’ book reviews under the title “I’m Looking [...]

  27. Helen
    September 16th, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

    I finally finished my post! Better late than never…
    Helen recently posted..I’m looking for an app about… characters with a disability

  28. My Little Bookcase | Blog | The Children's Bookshelf: book and reading posts from around the web : A love of reading starts with one special story
    September 17th, 2012 @ 4:56 am

    [...] Playing by The Book: Has collected a great list of books featuring characters with disabilities [...]

  29. Jackie Small (@littlebookcase)
    September 17th, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    Hi Zoe,

    I just wanted to let you know that I feel that this is such an important book list. I shared it as a featured post in this week’s Children’s Bookshelf round up.
    Jackie Small (@littlebookcase) recently posted..The Children’s Bookshelf: book and reading posts from around the web

  30. Sandy Brehl
    September 30th, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    Hello, Zoe!
    Back again to let you know how much I enjoy this conversation, and to add that I have a post on this topic this week titled Reinventing Friendships. It features picture books and middle grade books, an interview, and a give away (limited to US mailing, sad to say). I also have a page option with additional titles on this topic. I linked to your post at the end of mine.
    http://unpackingpicturebookpower.blogspot.com/2012/09/reinventing-friendships.html
    Sandy Brehl recently posted..Reinventing Friendships

  31. Zoe
    October 1st, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

    Thanks so much for linking Sandy.

  32. Books for children and young people featuring disability | Anne Harding Training
    January 10th, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

    […] can help capitalise on the Paralympic spirit and build children’s awareness of disability. And this post reviews of lots of relevant books. If you scroll down the comments, there are extra […]

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