One body does not fit all. Each and every body is different, with different sizes, shapes, and abilities.
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Just a few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a middle grade novel featuring a child with a disability and while there is still work to be done to fill this representative gap, recent publication years have given us some amazing stories. Celebrate all bodies and abilities by reading these awesome children’s books with disabled characters.
9 Chapter Books with Disabled Characters
El Deafo by Cece Bell
El Deafo is a Newbery Honor book and Eisner Award winning graphic novel about about being deaf in middle school… and having a hearing aid that gives you a very interesting superpower! This is one of my favorite graphic novels.
Roll With It! by Jamie Sumner
Roll With It! is a recently published book about Ellie, a wheelchair-bound middle schooler with cerebral palsy. I enjoyed Roll With It! because Ellie’s story does not simply center around her disability, but centers her life and identity as a whole as she moves to a new school.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This book has become a modern classic and must-read. Wonder is a story told from multiple perspectives about a child born with a facial difference that garners him a lot of attention- good and bad. Because it has multiple narrators, the story gives a lot of insight into the experience of both Auggie and the members of his community.
You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P.! by Alex Gino
This one is an intersectional treasure. In You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P.!, Gino tackles the intersections of race and ability in a way that is navigable for tweens by following the friendship between Jilly and Derek, a Deaf, Black ASL user.
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
Lucky Broken Girl is the 2018 Pura Belpre Award Winner based on the author’s childhood. The story is about a girl whose body and ability was changed due to an accident and long recovery period. By following Ruthie’s journey, this book offers a great picture of what it is like to live day-to-day when the world is not built for your body.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Another Newbery Honor book, The War That Saved My Life tells the story of Ada, a girl who was born with clubfoot. Her abusive mother believes she will never accomplish anything, but her love of horses and desire to learn how to ride them is never hindered by her body.
The Sound of Silence: Growing Up Hearing With Deaf Parents by Myron Ulberg
The Sound of Silence is a young reader adaptation of the author’s memoir Hands of My Father. This autobiographical story tells about Ulberg’s childhood as he grew up with deaf parents during a time when American Sign Language was just becoming established as a communication tool. This is a book that can spark a number of amazing discussions!
Worth a Thousand Words by Brigit Young
Tillie is the type of person who likes to fade into the background, especially since an accident left her with a pronounced limp. You can usually find her behind the lens of her camera, documenting the world around her — so much so that her classmates call her “lost and found,” because her photos have helped them find lost items.
Jake wants Tillie’e help with a different kind of “lost and found” project: finding his father. The two are soon uncovering secrets and learning things the never wanted to know. How does Tillie move forward with the truth when it has the potential to hurt her friend?
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Melody Brooks is a genius. The problem is, no one knows it. Melody has cerebral palsy, which has left her unable to speak or write. People write her off as mentally challenged, because she can’t share with them all she knows. Melody is determined to find a way to show her intelligence and become an activist for herself. Technology and determination provide Melody with a method for communicating with her peers.
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