Special Needs Reading List

A LIST OF THE “SPECIALLY ABLED” IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

The best lesson children can learn in life: no one is left out. We are all in. 

This list of special needs literature will continue to grow. If you know of a story I’ve left out, please email me. I have added comments, if warranted.

Short Stories

Young Readers (Preschool through Elementary)

Middle Grade and Up

 ________________________________________________________________________________________________

SHORT STORIES:

“The Scarlet Ibis”

By James Hurst

Ages: Middle Grade and Up

Special Need: Physically Challenged

This classic story is haunting, as the main character flashes back to tell about his brother, Doodle, who has physical challenges. The older brother wanted a brother—a normal brother. So as not to be embarrassed when Doodle began school, the narrator teaches Doodle to walk and more, but it is never enough. The story is beautifully told, paralleling the journey of a scarlet ibis, chased by a storm.

“Raymond’s Run”

By Toni Cade Bambara

Ages: Middle School and Up

Special Need: Mentally Challenged

Hazel Parker, called Squeaky, runs a race against her biggest opponent Gretchen. While Squeaky runs, she sees her mentally challenged brother running alongside the fence, and she realizes he can run too.  Despite her numerous medals and ribbons, including the new win today, she sets a plan in motion: to train Raymond. She even eyes Gretchen, wondering if she’ll help.

“Flowers for Algernon”

By Daniel Keyes

Ages: Middle School and UP

Special Need: Mentally Challenged

The beloved, classic story of a mentally challenged man who enters an experiment hoping for intelligence equal to Algernon’s, an extraordinary lab mouse and first test-case.  In poignant diary entries that begin with misspellings and rise in depth of insight, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. Charlie’s intelligence even surpasses that of his doctors. However, intelligence can be a curse. Charlie finally sees how his co-workers mock him for amusement. He recognizes the cruelty in others. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration.

YOUNG READERS

Tangerine Image

 

 

Tangerine by Edward Bloor

Ages: 5-7

Special Need: Legally Blind

Paul Fisher sees the world from behind glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he’s not so blind that he can’t see there are some very unusual things about his family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day?

The chaos is compounded by constant harassment from his football–star brother, and adjusting to life in Tangerine isn’t easy for Paul—until he joins the soccer team at his middle school. With the help of his new teammates, Paul begins to discover what lies beneath the surface of his strange new hometown. And he also gains the courage to face up to some secrets his family has been keeping from him for far too long. In Tangerine, it seems, anything is possible.

Wonder Image

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Ages: 9-11

Special Need: Physical—facial difference

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, a #1 New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

My Brother Charlie Image

 

 

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Ages: 7-10

Special Need: Autism

From bestselling author and actress Holly Robinson Peete–a heartwarming story about a boy who happens to be autistic, based on Holly’s son, who has autism.

“Charlie has autism. His brain works in a special way. It’s harder for him to make friends. Or show his true feelings. Or stay safe.” But as his big sister tells us, for everything that Charlie can’t do well, there are plenty more things that he’s good at. He knows the names of all the American presidents. He knows stuff about airplanes. And he can even play the piano better than anyone he knows.

 

Be Good to Eddie Lee Image

Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia Fleming

Ages: 4-8

Special Need: Down’s Syndrome

Christy’s mother always tells her to be good to Eddie Lee, a neighborhood child with Down’s Syndrome. But Christy wants to run and play — and not worry about Eddie Lee tagging along. One hot summer day, though, Eddie Lee takes Christy to a secret place in the woods and teaches her that beautiful things can be found in unexpected places.

Adam & the Magic Marble Adam and the Magic Marble by Adam Buehrens

Ages: 8-11

Special Need: Tourette Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy

A marvelous story of three heroes – Adam, Chris (both have Tourette syndrome), and Matt (afflicted with cerebral palsy). Constantly taunted by bullies , the boys find a marble full of magic powers that are nearly impossible to control. They accidentally aim a magical spell at the bullies, and … the adventure begins. Humorous and delightful, this fantasy will take you from laughter to tears and happily back to laughter again every time you read it. Exciting reading for all ages, and a must for those who have been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome or other disabilities.

A Season of Secrets A Season of Secrets by Alison Gragin Herzig & Jane Lawrence Mali

Ages: Middle School and Up

Special Need: Epilepsy

Brooke worries about her little brother’s mysterious fainting spells, which her parents will not explain, and has difficulty at first understanding his fondness for a pet bat named Lucifur.

First Star I See First Star I See by Jaye Andras Caffrey & Lynne Adamson

Ages: 8-12

Special Need: ADHD

A lively, enchanting story that wonderfully captures the daily ups and downs of being a child with attention deficit disorder through the adventures of Paige, a bright young girl whose inability to stay focused threatens to spoil her best efforts to win a school contest.

Here's What I Mean to Say Here’s What I Mean to Say. . . by Sarah Yates & Darlene Toews

Ages: 8-11

Special Need: Cerebral Palsy

Ann learns to read using a computer with her foot. Is it her? Or is it the angel within?

How Many Days Until Tomorrow How Many Days Until Tomorrow? by Caroline Janover

Ages: 8-12

Special Need: Dyslexia

Award: Parents’ Choice Award

Josh is a twelve-year-old with dyslexia who spends the summer on a remote island in Maine with his teasing older brother Simon and grandparents he hardly knows. His “bug-eyed” grandfather (alias Grumps) rarely says a kind word. Living on Seal Island is torture until Josh realizes his own ingenuity. He captures a pet mouse, learns about seals and whales and meets a cute girl. In a dramatic, life-threatening emergency, Josh learns he is just as smart as his “gifted” older brother. He spends “the worst and the best” summer of his life on Seal Island, far out to sea off the coast of Maine.

Zipper

 

Zipper: The Kid With ADHD by Caroline Janover

Ages: 8-12

Special Need: ADHD

Stop tapping! groans Zipper’s sister. “Can’t you EVER sit still?” It seems Zack (better known as Zipper) is always getting into trouble. A smart, athletic 5th grader, Zipper speaks and acts before he thinks. His impulsivity drives his friends and family crazy. When Zipper earns the money to rent a drum set, he begins to turn his life around, with the help of a jazz musician.

 What's Wrong with Timmy What’s Wrong with Timmy? by Maria Shriver (author), Sandra Speidel (illustrator)

Ages:4- 8

Special Need: Intellectually challenged

What is the response when a child points out that a disabled child or adult looks ‘different’? Shriver tells the story of Kate, who finds that making friends with a mentally retarded boy helps her learn that the two of them have a lot in common.

 Special People Special Ways Special People Special Ways by Alrene Maguire (author), Sheila Bailey (Illustrator)

Ages: 4-7

Awards: iParenting Media Award, 2009 Preferred Choice Award by Creative Child Magazine

Special Need: Multiple Special Needs

Arlene Maguire’s delightful rhymes combine with Sheila Bailey’s rich watercolor illustrations to take the reader on a journey of discovery. Each page portrays positive images of children with various disabilities. Winner of an iParenting Media Award, this book illustrates that beyond our physical limitations is a world of unique gifts for each of us to share. Teachers and parents love to read this book aloud to promote understanding and tolerance at school and at home. The detailed artwork attracts children of all ages.

 My Brother is Very Special My Brother is Very Special by Amy May (author), Laurie A. Faust (illustrator)

Ages: 8-12

Special Need: Apraxia (speech difficulty)

This story is about a little boy, Reed, who is very different than most little children. Reed has a severe speech disorder, Apraxia, which leaves him almost completely unintelligible to his peers. This story is told from the viewpoint of his older sister, as she is well aware of his challenges and his triumphs. Instead of exclusively focusing on what Reed is unable to do, this story portrays the many things he can do with his peers, in spite of his inability to speak to them. ”My Brother is Very Special” gently teaches young children about acceptance in a way that they can developmentally understand.

 When My Worries Get Too Big When My Worries Get Too Big! by Kari Dunn Buron

Ages: 8-12

Special Need: Anxiety (includes teaching activities)

Worry and anxiety are on an upswing. In fact, anxiety is the most frequent of all mental disorders in children. High levels of stress and big emotions related to social situations, sensory issues, or general frustration are common in children who live with anxiety. Such stress can lead to a loss of control, resulting in aggressive behavior, such as screaming, throwing things or even hurting someone. Prolonged anxiety can also seriously impact success in academic achievement and cause children to avoid social and extracurricular activities. Now with a special section on evidence-based teaching activities for parents and teachers alike, this bestselling children s classic just became even better and more relevant.

 My Brother Matthew My Brother, Matthew by Mary Thompson (author, illustrator)

Ages: 5-8

Special Need: Brain Injury

When David finally gets to visit his new brother in the hospital, he can barely see the baby for the wires and equipment around him. Matthew was born with disabilities, and this fact has taken over the family. Even David’s birthday party is sacrificed. But when Matthew finally comes home, the boy establishes a bond with him. As the years pass, he plays space explorers, swims, and takes walks with Matthew, realizing that he is pretty special. Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library.

 We'lll Paint the Octopus Red We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stepanie Stuve-Bodeen (author), Pam Devito (illustrator)

Ages:5-8

Special Need: Down’s Syndrome

As six-year-old Emma anticipates the birth of her new baby brother or sister, she vividly imagines all of the things they can do together. Emma feels ready to be a big sister! Then when the baby is born, her dad tells her that it’s a boy and he has something called Down syndrome. Finally she asks, “If Isaac has this Down thing, then what can’t he do?” Her dad thinks about it, then tells her that as long as they are patient with him, and help him when he needs it, there probably isn’t anything Isaac can’t do. In this touching story, Emma helps her father as much as he helps her to realize that Isaac is the baby they dreamed of. The book concludes with a set of commonly asked questions about Down syndrome with answers for children and how it might affect their sibling and family.

 The Alphabet War The Alphabet War by Diane Burton Robb (author), Gail Piazza (author/illustrator)

Ages: 4-8

Special Need: Dyslexia

When Adam started kindergarten, the teacher wanted him to learn about letters. But “p” looked like “q,” and “b” looked like “d.” In first grade, he had to put the letters into words so he could read. That was the beginning of the Alphabet War.

 My Friend Isabelle My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson (author), Bryan Gough (illustrator)

Ages: 4-8

Awards: 2004 iParenting Media Award Winner

Special Need: Down Syndrome

Isabelle and Charlie are friends. They both like to draw, dance, read, and play at the park. They both like to eat Cheerios. They both cry if their feelings are hurt. And, like most friends, they are also different from each other. Isabelle has Down syndrome. Charlie doesn’t. Written by Isabelle’s mother, this charming tale encourages readers to think about what makes a friendship special. MY FRIEND ISABELLE also opens the door for young children to talk about differences and the world around them. It’s a wonderful story to read at bedtime or to share at school. Lively full color illustrations dovetail beautifully with the text to bring the simple story to life.

 Keep Your Ear on the Ball Keep Your Ear on the Ball by Genevieve Petrillo (author), Lea Lyon (illustrator)

Ages: 8-12

Awards: Moonbeam Award

Special Need: Blind

Even though Davey is blind, he is quite capable―until he tries to play kickball. After several missed kicks and a trampled base keeper, no one wants Davey on the team. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a solution that will work for everybody.

Genevieve Petrillo has been teaching elementary students in New Jersey for 34 years. David DeNotaris was in her classroom many years ago, and this is a true story.

 Views from our Shoes Views from Our Shoes by Donald Joseph Meyer (author, editor), Cary Pillo (illustrator)

Ages: 9-11

Special Needs: Various

45 siblings share their experiences as the brother or sister of someone with a disability. The children whose essays are featured here range from four to eighteen and are the siblings of youngsters with a variety of special needs, including autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, ADD, hydrocephalus, visual and hearing impairments, Down and Tourette syndromes.

Their personal tales introduce young siblings to others like them, perhaps for the first time, and allow them to compare experiences. A glossary of disabilities provides easy-to-understand definitions of many of the conditions mentioned.

 Different Like Me Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder (author, illustrator), Marc Thomas (illustrator)

Ages:8-12

Special Need: Autism

Different Like Me introduces children to famous, inspirational figures from the world of science, art, math, literature, philosophy and comedy.

Eight-year-old Quinn, a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, tells young readers about the achievements and characteristics of his autism heroes, from Albert Einstein, Dian Fossey and Wassily Kandinsky to Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Banneker and Julia Bowman Robinson, among others. All excel in different fields, but are united by the fact that they often found it difficult to fit in-just like Quinn.

Fully illustrated in colour and written in child-friendly language, this book will be a wonderful resource for children, particularly children with autism, their parents, teachers, carers and siblings.

 

MIDDLE GRADE AND UP

COVER EVIL SPEAKS 060417 ebook

 

Evil Speaks by S. Woffington

Ages: 9+

Special Need: Blind, Deaf, Paraplegic (also Multicultural)

Awards: Readers’ Favorite 5-Star

Benny, fifteen, is solitary by circumstance more than choice: he counts each move to a new town as “a life.” He’s on Life Number Seven. His last! He plans to run away from his paranoid mother, who’s been on the run since the disappearance of his father when he was three. Benny has no memory of it, except for weird dreams of a firestorm and a hideous dragon. After a fight with his mother, Benny packs his bags. Boom! The house explodes, catapulting Benny into a world he never imagined existed. The trail leads him to a gated Neoclassical building in the woods and to six teens he vaguely remembers: Kami is deaf, Amir is blind, Zuma is overweight, Layla is gorgeous but lazy, Chaz is in a wheelchair and Raj is as angry as the purple dagger-shaped birthmark running down the side of her face. These unlikely heroes share a common thread: Benny lost his father and they lost their mothers on the same day. The only clue to the mystery is Benny’s grandfather, Domenico H. Adez, a strange and dangerous man.

Handbook for a Dragon Slayer

 

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Marie Haskell

Ages: 9-12

Special Need: Clubfoot

Awards: Schneider Family Book Award

A 13-year old princess with a club foot must save her kingdom.

“What is striking to me is that Handbook is not a book written with a direct mission or statement about disability. Disability is simply part of the story; it is not the entire plot, nor is it the only source of hardship. In other words, disability is not simplified or reduced to a useful but inaccurate writing device. And it’s not sugarcoated.” Reviewer, Aimee Louw at DisabilityinKidLit.

Comment by S. Woffington: My mother was born with two club feet and had surgery to correct them as a baby; so happy to see this in a novel!

Wonderstruck

 

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Ages: 10-18

Special Need: Deafness

Awards: Schneider Family Book Award—Middle School

Since birth, Ben could hear in only one ear, until struck by lightning, holding a phone to his good ear. Rose has been deaf since birth.

“Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.”

Hurt Go Happy

 

Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

Ages: 14-17

Special Need: Deafness

Awards: Schneider Family Book Award

Joey Willis, 13, is deaf, but her mother won’t let her learn sign language so she can learn to read lips, but she struggles. When she meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his baby chimpanzee, Sukari, who knows sign language, Joey’s life changes—as does Sukari’s.

Comment by S. Woffington: This book may be inappropriate for sensitive, young readers, as Sukari, the signing chimp, ends up in a primate research lab, described in detail, and the animal dies of cancer due to pesticide research. In addition, Joey, the main character has lost her hearing at the hands of an abusive parent. I had a hard time with the fact the chimp was left to Joey, along with the money to care for her, so her ending up in a research facility seemed highly contrived for the worst possible outcome, and it’s all blamed on Joey’s mother who kept Joey in the dark. It’s very melodramatic. The best parts are learning how a deaf person communicates and the charming interaction between the chimp and Sukari.

When We Collided

 

When We Collided by Emery Lord

Ages: Young Adult

Special Need: Bipolar Disorder

Awards: Schneider Family Book Award

Jonah Daniels, caring for his many siblings and his mother who is deep in depression after losing Jonah’s father, meets Vivi, an “unfiltered” artist and imaginative girl. Vivi brightens everyone’s lives, but in her own life, she struggles with bipolar disorder.

 

As Brave as You

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Ages 10-18

Special Need: Blindness

Awards: Kirkus Award Finalist; Schneider Family Book Award; Coretta Scot King Author Honor Books

This novel examines a deep question: is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

Two brothers, Genie and Ernie, leave New York to spend a summer with their blind grandfather in Virginia. Who is braver?

Rules Rules by Cynthia Lord

Ages: 9+

Special Need: Autism

Awards: Newberry Honor Book; Schneider Family Book Award

Catherine, 12, just wants a normal life, but she has a brother with autism, and this dominates family time. To save herself embarrassment, she tries to teach David the rules, such as “keep your pants on in public.”

Catherine forms a friendship with Jason, a boy who communicates through pictures, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for. It’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Mockingbird

 

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Ages: 9+

Special Need: Asperger’s

Awards: National Book Award

Caitlin has Asperger’s. The world according to her is black and white; anything in between is confusing. Before, when things got confusing, Caitlin went to her older brother, Devon, for help. But Devon was killed in a school shooting, and Caitlin’s dad is so distraught that he is just not helpful. Caitlin wants everything to go back to the way things were, but she doesn’t know how to do that. Then she comes across the word closure–and she realizes this is what she needs. And in her search for it, Caitlin discovers that the world may not be so black and white after all.

Braced

 

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Ages: 8-12

Special Need: Scoliosis

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Until, the sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her–even her friends and Tate.

Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

 The Running Dream The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Ages: 12 and up

Awards: Schneider Family Book Award

Special Need: Loss of a leg

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She’s not comforted by the news that she’ll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

 The Legend of Mikey Tussler The Legend of Mikey Tussler: A Novel by Frank Nappi

Ages: 12 and up

Special Need: Autism

In the late 1940s, the minor league Milwaukee Brewers are foundering yet again and manager Arthur Murphy is desperate. When he sees seventeen-year old Mickey Tussler throwing apples into a barrel, he knows he has found the next pitching phenom. But not everyone is so hopeful. Mickey’s autism—a disorder still not truly understood even today—has alienated the boy from the world, and he is berated by other players and fans. Mickey faces immense trials in the harsh and competitive world of baseball while coping with the challenges inherent to his disorder. An honest and knowledgeable book about overcoming adversity, and the basis for the television movie A Mile in His Shoes, Mickey’s powerful story shows that with support and determination anyone can be triumphant, even when the odds are stacked against him.

 Sophomore Campaign Sophomore Campaign: A Mickey Tussler Novel by Frank Nappi

Ages: 12 and up

Special Need: Autism

It’s 1949 and eighteen-year-old pitching phenom Mickey Tussler is back with the rejuvenated minor league Brewers in the sequel to The Legend of Mickey Tussler (the basis for the television movie A Mile in His Shoes). Despite Mickey’s proclamation that he will never play baseball again after last season’s violent conclusion, his manager—and now surrogate father—Arthur Murphy cajoles the emotionally fragile, socially awkward boy with autism into giving it another shot. Mickey reluctantly returns to the field and must once again cope with the violence and hatred around him. When a young African American player joins the team, the entire team is subjected to racial threats and episodes of violence, one of which Mickey witnesses firsthand. Struggling to understand such ugliness and hatred, and fearful of reprisal should he tell anyone about what he has seen, the boy’s performance on the field suffers. Mickey now must deal with a side of human nature he scarcely comprehends.

 Welcome to the Show Welcome to the Show: A Mickey Tussler Novel by Frank Nappi

Ages: 12 and up

Special Need: Autism

It’s 1950 and Mickey Tussler—the now-famous pitching prodigy with autism and a golden arm—is back for another baseball season in this third installment of Frank Nappi’s critically acclaimed Legend of Mickey Tussler series. Talk of Mickey’s legendary exploits on the field has grown since his improbable debut two years prior, as have the fortunes of Murph and the rest of the lovable ragtag Brew Crew. Now Mickey, Murph, and Lester find themselves heading to Bean Town to play for the Boston Braves.

 Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

Ages: 12 and up

Awards: National Book Award

Special Need: ADD

Joey Pigza’s got heart, he’s got a mom who loves him, and he’s got “dud meds,” which is what he calls the Ritalin pills that are supposed to even out his wild mood swings. Sometimes Joey makes bad choices. He learns the hard way that he shouldn’t stick his finger in the pencil sharpener, or swallow his house key, or run with scissors. Joey ends up bouncing around a lot – and eventually he bounces himself all the way downtown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of the line. As Joey knows, if he keeps making bad choices, he could just fall between the cracks for good. But he is determined not to let that happen.

 

 Challenger Deep Challenger Deep by Neal Shusteman (Author), Brendan Shusteman (illustrator)

Ages: 12 and up

Awards: National Book Award and Golden Kite Award

Special Need: Mental Illness

 

A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

 Stuck in Neutral Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

Ages: 12 and up

Special Need: Cerebral Palsy

Shawn McDaniel’s life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. He is glued to his wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle—he can’t even move his eyes. For all Shawn’s father knows, his son may be suffering. Shawn may want a release. And as long as he is unable to communicate his true feelings to his father, Shawn’s life is in danger.

To the world, Shawn’s senses seem dead. Within these pages, however, we meet a side of him that no one else has seen—a spirit that is rich beyond imagining, breathing life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s