Part of my series on Diverse children’s books. For more information check out the tags.
First of all, I’d like to say that I’ve reached out to others for a bit of help with putting together this list. Whilst I have family members who have disabilities, I am not disabled myself, and so I wanted a few suggestions from other people to make sure that I wasn’t just creating a list full of stereotypes. Thanks to all those who helped out.
Disability is something that has been missing from kids books for a very long time. Adults have often explained this as bring about protection: children will be afraid or upset if they see disabled characters. In reality that’s not the case. They’re frightened or upset ONLY if their adults are upset. Cerrie Burnell, cbeebies presenter and author extraordinaire explained that “kids learn very quickly.”
And so, without any further ado, here are my top books with characters who have disabilities!
The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher
I’ve talked about this one before as it’s a delightful tale of a boy who really really wants a dinosaur for Christmas. Whilst it isn’t mentioned anywhere on the cover, William is also in a wheelchair, and faces bullying because of it. His disability is definitely important to the secondary themes, but it’s by no means the main part of the plot. Its not an ‘issue’ book. In short this is a book that definitely does diversity right in that way.
Perfect as a bedtime story or to read themselves for Year 3 up.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Can any list about characters with disabilities NOT include this book. Wonder is about a boy called August who was born with a severe facial disfigurement, who until now has been homeschooled. The book follows his first year at middle school, along with the ups, downs and in betweens that occur along the way. It’s a really good book for upper KS2 and there are LOADS of resources to go with it. A film even came out recently! It’s a bit saccharine sweet in places, but definitely worth a read, even just for its overall message of kindness
One by Sarah Crossan
Definitely one for your most mature year 6s and above, One is the story of conjoined twins, told entirely through poetry. It’s a great book, and the latter part of the story will have you in floods of tears. It really is more young adult than anything else but it’s worth taking a look!
Oh yes – and it was shortlisted for a Carnegie.
Just Because by Rebecca Elliot
A beautiful picture book about a boy and his love for his disabled sister, who might not be able to walk, talk or do algebra, but is still his best friend.
Perfect for all ages.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg-Sloane and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
I wasn’t really sure whether to add these here. It’s never explicitly stated that Willow is on the spectrum, but this really is a great one, touching on depression, grief, death and obsessive behaviours. It’s great for Year 6 and up. Similarly, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin- definitely worth a read, and focuses on grief, recovery, and selective mutism. I’ve written more about this book here. Both main characters present as high-functioning ASD, and the associated mental health issues involved in the book also are disabilities in one form or another.