So you read this memorable story by Dusti Bowling, now you’re on the hunt for books like Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus? Welcome!
Recommending readalikes can be a tricky process, but as I said in the first post in this series, I enjoy the process of finding similar threads running through even books that appear different on the surface. Today’s pick is Dusti Bowling’s Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. I really liked this book, and Aven Green. It’s also a much loved book, although it is not an Own Voices take on disability. Still, it has good representation featuring a character without arms and one with Tourette’s.
Here’s my readalike criterion: Each book I recommend must have at least three strong similarities with the beloved title. For each recommended book, I’ll also highlight major differences to keep in mind, just in case they might put you off. If you or your kids loved this book, here are more books like Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.
Ready? Let’s go.
Books Like Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Twelve-year-old Ross is just trying to get through middle school, but he has more on his plate than the average kid. Ross has an eye tumor. This book manages to include music, comic panels, disability rep, and humor! Major points for being Own Voices, based on the author’s experience.
Will Levine has micrognathia, a condition that gives his chin a weird look. He hopes to get through middle school by hiding in his shell, much like the turtles he’s been collecting. When he starts visiting a boy with an incurable illness for his Bar Mitzvah community service, he learns that there’s more to life than hiding away. Disability, STEM connections, Jewish culture, music, and friendship take center stage in this one.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
This was one of the first (and still is a favorite) middle-grade books I ever read! Lucy got struck by lightning and developed OCD, social anxiety, and a super math genius brain. Lucy’s grandma insists that she learn social skills (make one friend!) before she tries to head off to college (at age 12). Friendship, math, animals, and a warm family dynamics make this book a moving read.
Forget Me Not
Calliope has Tourette’s and a mother who’s always moving them from city to city. She struggles to hide her Tourette’s in school and manages to make one friend who sees her for the wonderful person that she is. Until her mom says they have to move again! This novel in verse is perfect for an older audience (11 and up).
Mustaches for Maddie
This book is based on Morris and Brown’s daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Much like their daughter, Maddie a quirky 12-year-old who is set to play Juliet in the school play is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and her life changes. In time, Maddie learns that she can keep her sense of humor while fighting cancer. This one will appeal to fans of school plays, funny books, and moving but tear-jerking disability stories.
Also by Morris and Brown, this middle-grade book follows young Flint, an aspiring comic artist, who is well on his way to losing his vision. He and McKell, the new girl at school form a tentative friendship that becomes a safe place for both their worries and hidden talents. This is perfect for art lovers, those looking for more disability rep in middle grade and fans of books about unlikely friendships.
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
Macy is deaf, finishing sixth grade and adjusting to a newly blended family when her mom sends her off to help an octogenarian moving into an assisted living facility. It turns out Iris, the 86-year-old woman loves telling stories, but does not know sign language. This heartwarming pick is perfect for those looking for more books about blended families, friendships with older people, and of course, disability rep.
Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine
If you’ve read Bowling’s sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, then maybe try the prequel? This forthcoming chapter book highlights Aven’s life PRE-middle school, and promises to be a lot of fun!
Your turn! Which books like Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus would you recommend and why? I’d love to hear from you. Also, I would love your help with this series. Which middle-grade, chapter books, or picture books, or even YA books would you love readalikes for? Let me know!