July is Disability Pride Month, so we are highlighting some of our favorite titles featuring young people with different kinds of disabilities. We also encourage you to check out DC Public Library’s Center of Accessibility—or your local DMV library’s accessibility services—to access books in braille, talking books, assistive technology, ASL classes and more.
“Benji, the Bad Day, and Me”
by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min
Sammy and his little brother Benji, who is on the autism spectrum, both have a bad day. Sammy is used to seeing Benji crawl into his special box fort, which provides him comfort and safety, but wishes he had a place to go where his needs were met, too. This story demonstrates a family that supports one another and shows how empathetic children can be when someone they care about needs an extra boost.
“What Happened to You?”
by James Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George
Joe sees himself as a fearless pirate and intrepid explorer, but when other kids meet him, all they can see is his missing leg. “What happened to you?!” they always ask. Joe is annoyed at being asked the same question again and again, so he challenges them to use their imagination. This story takes a common, real-world playground scenario and allows the young protagonist to handle it on his own terms.
series by C.L. Reid
This series of early chapter books is not only welcoming for developing readers but features American Sign Language right in the text! The lead character, Emma, has a cochlear implant and explores friendships and firsts, including playing soccer, taking her first airplane ride and caring for a pet. Emma faces some challenges from being Deaf in the series, but the main focus is on her just navigating being a kid.
“Planet Earth is Blue”
by Nicole Panteleakos
Nova is an autistic and nonverbal 12-year-old girl in the foster care system. Her sister, Bridget, is her best friend and shares her passion for astronomy. No one understands Nova like Bridget does, so when she goes missing, Nova is devastated. She is assigned to a new foster family, whose members slowly begin to see and appreciate Nova’s talents. A moving coming-of-age story that may have readers re-evaluating what intelligence looks like.
“Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution”
by Judith Heumann, with Kristen Joiner
The youth version of her popular biography, “Being Heumann,” “Rolling Warrior” tells the life story of Judy Heumann, known by many as the mother of disability rights. A feisty kid who uses a wheelchair after contracting polio, Judy faces hurdles early on in fighting for her right to education and access to the world. With others, she helps lead the charge to get civil rights legislation passed for Americans with disabilities for the first time. Her story is an important part of disability history and will motivate any young activist to fight for what they believe in.
“Sick Kids in Love”
by Hannah Moskowitz
Isabel and Sasha meet while getting blood transfusions in the hospital. They are immediately attracted to one another, but Isabel has a rule: no dating. But Sasha is cute, charming and understands what it’s like to live with a chronic illness. Isabel struggles with her mostly hidden disability in terms of not wanting to inconvenience her friends, her father and any potential romantic suitors. Sasha challenges her to advocate more for what she needs—even within their own relationship. This book is perfect for fans of “The Fault in Our Stars” who wouldn’t mind a happier ending.
“Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens”
edited by Marieke Nijkamp
A collection of short stories written by authors with disabilities about teens with disabilities. This collection features a range of genres—science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy and more—and a range of disabilities. This is ideal for a teen reader who is intimidated by larger novels and would prefer reading in satisfying bite- sized portions.