Kids have a built-in curiosity about the struggles of other kids. Books are great for developing sympathy and understanding. These books cover many different types of disabilities, both physical and mental, and are very popular. Expect another list of books on this topic within the year.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (Cerebral Palsy)
Imagine a world where you can’t talk, walk, or feed yourself. Imagine a world where you want desperately to be understood, but fail miserably. Imagine a world where you are the smartest kid in the class and everyone thinks you are the dumbest. This is the world of 11 year-old Melody Brooks. Trapped in a body that can barely function, Melody must find a way to convince people that there is more to her than they can see.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio (facial deformity)
10-year-old Auggie has been homeschooled his whole life, and now his parents have decided that it’s time for him to attend school. There’s one problem. Auggie has a severe facial deformity that many surgeries have not been able to correct. Little kids are scared of him and big kids bully him. Through it all, Auggie is one brave boy with parents who have his back at every turn.
Rules by Cynthia Lord (autism)
Catherine has a problem. Her autistic brother, David, has a hard time following rules. Don’t put toys in the fish tank. Late doesn’t mean not coming. Catherine struggles with the social ramifications of having an autistic brother. When a girl her age moves in next door, she becomes more determined than ever to teach David the rules. If only her brother could be normal.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (club foot)
England is on the brink of a German invasion. Ada, born with a clubfoot, is forbidden from going outside by her abusive mother. As children take shelter in the countryside away from the bomb threat in London, Ada and her younger brother use it as an opportunity to escape. They are reluctantly taken in by a woman who ends up transforming their lives. Ada finds the person she was capable of being all along if only she had had a mother who loved her.
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (autism)
Rose is a fifth grader with autism and a father who doesn’t understand her. When he unexpectedly brings home a dog on a rainy night, she names it Rain, and the two become instant companions. When Rain goes missing during a hurricane, she will stop at nothing until she finds her dog. Excellent man’s best friend story with an autistic voice.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (dyslexia)
Ally is always getting in trouble. No one understands her, even her teacher. Other kids tease her and the other “different” kids relentlessly. Then Mr. Daniels arrives to sub for the regular teacher. He suspects an underlying cause for Ally’s behaviors and soon realizes that she has dyslexia. This story shows the power of a teacher to change the trajectory of a kid’s life.
So B. It by Sarah Weeks (mentally handicapped)
12-year-old Heidi knows very little about herself. All she knows is that she showed up on Bernadette’s doorstep with her mentally handicapped mother when she was only a few days old. Her mother only speaks 23 words and can’t tell her anything. When she discovers some pictures that might offer clues about her family, she decides to follow the clues across the country to a mental hospital where her mother might have been a patient.
El Deafo by Cece Bell (hearing loss)
This is a graphic novel about the author’s childhood dealing with hearing loss brought on by an illness. She doesn’t like being different so she refuses to learn sign language. Instead she wears a huge amplifier box that picks up the sounds from the teacher’s microphone. Since she can pick up conversations the teacher has when not in the room, this gives her a “superpower” other kids don’t have.
How To Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby (autism)
Lily’s mother died, leaving Lily and her stepfather to care for her severely autistic 4-year-old brother. Her stepdad is having a hard time accepting Adam’s disability and refuses to put him in a special school. Finally he agrees to try the dolphin therapy program, but Lily’s blind friend questions the morality of keeping dolphins in captivity.
1 thought on “Middle Grade Stories About Disabilities”
The only two books on this list I’ve read are ‘Rules’ and ‘El Deafo.’ I really liked ‘El Deafo’ but I didn’t like how some of the disability issues in ‘Rules’ were portrayed. I’d also recommend these middle-grade books with this theme if you haven’t already read them.
1. My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt
3. A Storm of Strawberries by Jo Cotterill
4. Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
5. The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry
6. The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse
7. The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
8. Clay by Colby Rodowsky
9. A Cool Moonlight by Angela Johnson
10. Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer