Kid's Stuff -- Books About Disabilities
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"Girls A To Z"
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Suzanne Bloom
(Boyds Mills Press, 2002)

A groovy, multicultural girl-power alphabet book, with Eve the Engineer, Flora the Firefighter, Ula the Umpire, and others offering the promise that any little girl can be what she wants to be when she grows up... In addition to the professional positions and more esoteric choices, there are also some more traditional roles mixed in, such as librarian, teacher, nanny and next president, so no options are denied. The artwork is nice, the message is good... My only qualm was that Chris the Computer Whiz is wheelchair-bound, the only disabled character in the book... Glad to see disabilities represented, but that particular match-up seemed a bit stereotyped. Anyway, if you're looking for a nice girl-power book, along the lines of Two Girls Can, this is a nice option. (B+)

"Different Just Like Me"
Written by Lori Mitchell
Illustrated by Lori Mitchell
(Charlesbridge, 1999)

An exemplary pro-diversity book, with a little girl telling of all the people she met over the course of a week... The book includes people with physical disabilities (deafness, blindness), of various ethnicities and ages, and also folks who just like different things. The girl goes to the farmer's market, to her father's workplace, on a train and over to her grandmother's house in the 'burbs, where she sees all different kinds of flowers in the garden (and draws a parallel between the diverse flowers and the different people she's seen -- she likes them all, for different reasons.) Although the book wears its message on its sleeve, it has a fairly light touch. Nice artwork -- realistic, but not too stiff or controlled. All in all, a nice book for kids who are old enough to feel a bit of empathy. (A-)

"Lucy's Picture"
Written by Nicola Moon
Illustrated by Alex Ayliffe
(Dial Books/Orchard Books, 1994)

While all the other kids plunge into their art class paintings, young Lucy hangs back and asks the teacher if she can make a collage, instead. The teacher says yes, and Lucy spends the day building a very tactile painting, with felt strips, feathers, yarn and three-dimensional elements. The reason isn't clear until the very end, when Lucy's grandfather comes to pick her up after school... She'd been making the picture for him, and it turns out he's blind... The book makes its point subtlely -- mostly the story is about the thrill of creating an art piece, but the twist ending provides a nice springboard for conversations about disabilities and different ways of perceiving the world. Nicely done... recommended! (B+)

"Dream Dancer"
Written by Jill Newsome
Illustrated by Claudio Munoz
(Harper Collins, 2001)

A touching story about a girl named Lily who loves to dance but has to stop after she falls from a tree and breaks her leg. The rest of the book involves her yearlong recovery, which is helped by a little ballerina doll named Peggy who does Lily's dancing for her while she heals. Hobbled by her leg cast, Lily moves from a wheelchair into crutches, and then eventually is again able to walk again -- and dance! -- once her leg has healed. A sweet, hopeful story with lovely artwork, ideal for children who are dealing with major injuries or who have gone through physical rehab and want to talk about it. Very matter-of-fact, neither too scary or too sentimental... hits just the right emotional tone. (B+)

"Alex Is My Friend"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1992)

A compelling story about a kindergarten-age boy named Ben who becomes friends with another child who doesn't keep growing at the same pace as he does. Alex later has surgery and requires a wheelchair while he recuperates... Ben sticks with his friend, and the story, told from Ben's youthful, innocent point of view, raising awareness of physical differences without labeling the other child's condition or stigmatizing him in any way. A very sensitive, compassionate presentation, and a nice example of steadfast friendship... May be too upsetting for some very small children, but wonderful when the time is right. (A)

Related Reading

"Voices From The Margins: An Annotated Bibliography Of Fiction On Disabilities And Differences For Young People"
Written by Marilyn Ward
(Greenwood, 2002)

A survey of children's literature from 1990-2001. I haven't read this myself, but I imagine it's a very good resource. (-)

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