Picture books about disability are thankfully not in short supply. It made me glad to find a variety of stories about various physical disabilities when researching this post. You’ll find lots of books with kids using wheelchairs, having vision difficulties, being deaf or hard of hearing, and many others. These books provide much-needed positive representation and show kids how to treat people with disabilities.
If you’ve been looking for children’s books about disability, you’ll love this list. We also have a list of middle grade books about physical disabilities if you’d like choices for older kids.
Picture Books About Disability
We’re All Wonders
Published: March 28, 2017
Over 15 million people have fallen in love with Wonder and have joined the movement to Choose Kind. Now younger readers can meet Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face, and his beloved dog, Daisy.
Countless fans have asked R. J. Palacio to write a book for younger readers. With We’re All Wonders, she makes her picture-book debut as both author and artist, with a spare, powerful text and striking, richly imagined illustrations. Palacio shows readers what it’s like to live in Auggie’s world—a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he’s not always seen that way.
Hello Goodbye Dog
Published: July 25, 2017
For Zara’s dog, Moose, nothing is more important than being with her favorite girl. So when Zara has to go to school, WHOOSH, Moose escapes and rushes to her side.
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed at school and Moose has to go back home.
But Moose can’t be held back for long. Through a series of escalating escapes, this loyal dog always finds her way back to Zara, and with a little bit of training and one great idea, the two friends find a way to be together all day long.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay
Published: January 13, 2015
Zulay and her three best friends are all in the same first grade class and study the same things, even though Zulay is blind. When their teacher asks her students what activity they want to do on Field Day, Zulay surprises everyone when she says she wants to run a race. With the help of a special aide and the support of her friends, Zulay does just that.
The Pirate of Kindergarten
Published: June 22, 2010
Doubles are good for lots of things—double scoops of ice cream, double features at the movies. But double vision is NOT a good kind of double. In fact, it can make kindergarten kind of hard. Ginny sees double chairs at reading circle and double words in her books. She knows that only half of what she sees is real, but which half? The solution to her problem is wondrously simple: an eye patch! Ginny becomes the pirate of kindergarten.With the help of her pirate patch, Ginny can read, run, and even snip her scissors with double the speed! Vibrant illustrations from Lynne Avril capture the realities of what Ginny sees both before and after.
My Wanderin’ Eye
Published: April 1, 2008
Jenny Sue’s eyes are not the same as other people’s eyes. Her right eye looks in one direction, while her left eye sometimes wanders. Jenny Sue has a travelin’, lazy eye. Although it makes her different, it also helps her see the world in a special way.
Here is a charming story about one very inspiring little girl who overcomes her disability and offers inspiration to others.
I Talk Like a River
Published: September 1, 2020
What if words got stuck in the back of your mouth whenever you tried to speak? What if they never came out the way you wanted them to?
Sometimes it takes a change of perspective to get the words flowing.
I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.
And I can’t say them all . . .
When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.
You are Enough: A Story About Inclusion
Published: March 2, 2021
It can be hard to be different whether because of how you look, where you live, or what you can or can’t do. But wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? Being different is great! Being different is what makes you YOU.
This inclusive and empowering picture book from Sofia Sanchezan 11-year-old model and actress with Down syndrome reminds readers how important it is to embrace your differences, be confident, and be proud of who you are. Imagine all of the wonderful things you can do if you don’t let anyone stop you! You are enough just how you are.
Sofia is unique, but her message is universal: We all belong. So each spread features beautiful, full-color illustrations of a full cast of kid characters with all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, and abilities.
Can Bear Ski?
Published: November 10, 2020
Little Bear feels the world around him. He feels his bed rumble when Dad Bear wakes him up in the morning. He feels the floor shake when his teacher stomps to get his attention. But something else is missing, like when his friends tell jokes that he isn’t sure he understands, or when all around him Little Bear hears the question, “Can bears ski?” Then, one day, Dad Bear takes him to see an “aud-i-olo-gist,” and Little Bear learns that he has been experiencing deafness and will start wearing hearing aids. Soon he figures out what that puzzling refrain is: “Can you hear me?” Little Bear’s new world is LOUD and will take some getting used to, but with the love and support of Dad Bear, he will find his way. In this lyrical picture book, award-winning creators Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar draw on their own experiences to tell Bear’s story.
Florence & Leon
Published: September 4, 2018
Florence and Leon have never met. Florence is a swimming instructor. She has a small problem with her lungs: it’s as if she’s breathing through a straw. Leon is an insurance salesman. He has a small problem with his eyes: it’s as if he’s seeing the world through a straw. One day Florence and Leon bump into each other, literally, and this mishap turns their lives upside down. Over slushy drinks with proper straws, Florence and Leon find out how their differences make them alike.
Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair
Published: November 20, 2018
Like many kids her age, Carolyn loves animals, castles, and building with blocks. She helps out her mom and dad, and even her baby brother. But when Carolyn was born, her body did not work like most people’s. She cannot use her legs to walk and so she uses a wheelchair. But she can do almost everything at school, even when she needs to do things a bit differently! Carolyn shows her classmates and readers how to learn about and be a friend to children with disabilities. A “Note to Parents and Caregivers” by the authors offers more information on explaining disabilities and fostering an attitude of kindness toward others.
Published: July 30, 2016
A girl in a wheelchair looks down from her balcony and calls to passersby below: “Look up!”
Dog walkers, a bike rider, a kite flier, and dozens of commuters walk by without taking any notice. Then a boy stops and looks up. He lies on the sidewalk so the girl can see him better. A woman joins him. Soon nine people and one dog are lying down and looking up. The girl looks up at the reader and smiles.
All the Way to the Top
Published: March 10, 2020
This is the story of a little girl who just wanted to go, even when others tried to stop her.
Jennifer Keelan was determined to make a change—even if she was just a kid. She never thought her wheelchair could slow her down, but the way the world around her was built made it hard to do even simple things. Like going to school, or eating lunch in the cafeteria.
Jennifer knew that everyone deserves a voice! Then the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that would make public spaces much more accessible to people with disabilities, was proposed to Congress. And to make sure it passed, Jennifer went to the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC to convince them.
And, without her wheelchair, she climbed.
ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!
Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship
Published: April 3, 2018
Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.
She Persisted in Sports
Published: September 22, 2020
Throughout history, women have been told that they couldn’t achieve their dreams, no matter how hard they tried. Women athletes have faced their own unique set of challenges, across countless sports and levels of play. In this third She Persisted book, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to women who have excelled in their sports because of their persistence.
Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photograph’s the Truth
Published: March 1, 2016
After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear. But her desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family’s disapproval, Lange pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously unseen victims of the Great Depression. This poetic biography tells the emotional story of Lange’s life and includes a gallery of her photographs, an author’s note, a timeline, and a bibliography.
Fauja Singh Keeps Going
Published: August 25, 2020
Every step forward is a victory.
Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn’t allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to school miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn’t stop him. Working on his family’s farm, Fauja grew stronger to meet his own full potential.
He never stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and became the first person over 100 to complete the grueling long-distance race.
Moses Goes to a Concert
Published: April 1, 2002
Moses and his school friends are deaf, but like most children, they have a lot to say. They communicate in American Sigh Language, using visual signs and facial expressions. This is called signing. And even though they can’t hear, they can enjoy many activities through their other senses. Today, Moses and his classmates are going to a concert. Their teacher, Mr. Samuels, has two surprises in store for them, to make this particular concert a special event.
Isaac Millman tells Moses’s story in pictures and written English, and in American Sign Language (ASL), introducing hearing children to the signs for some of the key words and ideas. At the end of the book are two full conversations in sign language and a page showing the hand alphabet.
You can learn sign language, too.
A Boy and a Jaguar
Published: May 6, 2014
Alan loves animals, but the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo makes him sad. Why are they all alone in empty cages? Are they being punished? More than anything, he wants to be their champion—their voice—but he stutters uncontrollably.
Except when he talks to animals…then he is fluent.
Dark Was the Night
Published: August 25, 2020
Willie Johnson was born in 1897, and from the beginning he loved to sing–and play his cigar box guitar. But his childhood was interrupted when he lost his mother and his sight. How does a blind boy make his way in the world? Fortunately for Willie, the music saved him and brought him back into the light. His powerful voice, combined with the wailing of his slide guitar, moved people. Willie made a name for himself performing on street corners all over Texas. And one day he hit it big when he got a record deal and his songs were played on the radio. Then in 1977, his song–“Dark Was the Night”–was chosen to light up the darkness when it was launched into space on the Voyager I space probe’s famous Golden Record. His immortal song was selected for the way it expresses the loneliness humans all feel, while reminding us we’re not alone.
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Published: September 3, 2019
Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboa
Published: January 6, 2015
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel’s Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable.
Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
Poojo’s Got Wheels
Published: March 16, 2021
What a good dog Poojo is! He’s a great friend to everyone and everything (pigeons and scooters included). He’s creative and clever (how many other dogs can pop a wheelie?). And he definitely is fast—look at him chasing that squirrel, or leading his doggie pals in a race through the park! There’s no stopping this joyful pup, even when he’s briefly faced with a flat tire. Poojo can do anything! Inspired by a dog in their neighborhood, debut author-illustrator Charrow spins a sweet and empowering story of a lovable, determined pup who entered the world with two legs—but with the help of some wheels accomplishes whatever he sets his mind to.
I am Hellen Keller
Published: September 1, 2015
When Helen Keller was very young, she got a rare disease that made her deaf and blind. Suddenly, she couldn’t see or hear at all, and it was hard for her to communicate with anyone. But when she was six years old, she met someone who change her life forever: her teacher, Annie Sullivan. With Miss Sullivan’s help, Helen learned how to speak sign language and read Braille. Armed with the ability to express herself, Helen grew up to become a social activist, leading the fight for disabled people and so many other causes.
Published: February 23, 2021
At just 8 years old, it was clear that Steveland Judkins was going to be a star. Renamed Stevie Wonder for his astonishing talent on the piano and other instruments, he wrote and performed some of the biggest hits of the 1970s. Stevie became known for his inventiveness, his soulful voice, and the social commentary in his lyrics. He is a UN Messenger of Peace and remains one of the music world’s most iconic figures. This inspiring book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the great musician’s life.
There they are: 23 picture books about disability. Which of these books have you read and loved? Which ones did I miss?
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