5 children’s stories written by characters with disabilities
Posted on May 23rd, 2014 by Beth
Cynthia Fordham is a Children’s Librarian at the Woburn Public Library in Woburn, Mass., and her lifelong hearing impairment gives her first-hand knowledge of the challenges that go along with disabilities. Cynthia left such an insightful comment to a post I’d written about children’s books that I invited her to write a couple guest blogs for us. Here she is with a list of fiction written from the perspective of young people with disabilities.
A character with a disability’s point of view
by Cynthia Fordham
As a children’s librarian who has previously worked as a rehabilitation counselor and a teacher, I have long been on the lookout for books by and for children with disabilities. If you look hard enough, they are out there, and every year the numbers increase! Here are five of my favorite fiction books told in the first person by children whose experience is colored by being differently abled.
- It’s OK to Be Me!: Just Like You, I Can Do Anything! by Jennifer Moore-Malinos (Barron’s, 2007) ISBN: 0764135848. This picture book features Adrian, who uses a wheelchair. He notices that other kids are friendly, but that they don’t include him in their games. By practicing, he learns how to use his chair to be more mobile, and learns to move and maneuver so that he can play basketball. Figuring out how to do the same things other kids like to do gives him the opportunity to be included.
- A Screaming Kind of Day by Rachna Gilmore (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1999) ISBN: 1550416618. This picture book describes Scully’s day, from typical sibling rivalry, to her frustration at not getting to play in the rain (even though she will keep her hearing aids dry!), to sneaking out and getting grounded, then finally finding the peace with her family she had been hoping for. Scully has a hearing loss, and she is able to compensate by using her other senses, and shows that she is an ordinary little girl with the same ordinary problems as any little sister and young child in a family.
- An Utterly Unique: Celebrating the Strengths of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Elaine Marie Larson (AAUP: Autism Asperger’s Publishing Co., 2006) ISBN: 1931282897. This is a rollicking alphabet book that accentuates the child’s best qualities: such as “I am a Detail Detective;” and “I have Enormous Enthusiasm.” Pictures are simple, with bold outlines and great color.
- Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever is a partly autobiographical series of books written by actor Henry Winkler. Readers enter the world of Hank Zipzer, a kid with a learning disability. These are funny adventures that will be greatly enjoyed by students in grades 3-5. The series is published by Grosset & Dunlap.
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio, is told from several points of view, starting with Auggie, born with a severe facial deformity, who is beginning middle school after being home-schooled all his life. The book begins and ends with his observations and experiences, while middle chapters are told from other people’s point of view: his sister, his sister’s boyfriend, his friends at school, and others with whom he interacts. The characters are vivid, situations realistic and sometimes unexpected, the story well-paced, and the ending is satisfying. Published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2012, this is a must read for students in grades 5-8.
Although some of these books are older, every title is available and a search on the Internet should help locate them. You may also want to see whether your local library has them. Enjoy!
*Beth here again, and I have good news: Cynthia Fordham will be back soon with a guest post sharing a list of her recommended non-fiction books written from the perspective of children who have disabilities. In the meantime, I suggest you take her advice and head over to the library for one of the books on today’s list. Some are even available in audio versions—I just used the Library of Congress Braille and talking-book service to download “Wonder” for Free” from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.