Books Exploring All Abilities
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Good Reads: Books Exploring All Abilities

These lively books feature kids with different learning and physical abilities, and they were written by authors with those same abilities.

Tots-age 7

I Am a Masterpiece!: An Empowering Story about Inclusivity and Growing Up with Down Syndrome By Mia Armstrong Illustrated by Alexandra Thompson Random House, 2024, $19.99

In this engaging autobiography, actor, artist and Down syndrome activist Mia Armstrong gives readers a glimpse of her life, family and interests, and she tells us that it “would be boring if we were all the same.” The colorful illustrations by Alexandra Thompson are a perfect match for Mia’s cheerful tone as she describes what she like – surfing, drawing, her best friend Monroe – and dislikes – those who stare at her or act like she’s invisible. In the author’s note and back matter, Mia answers questions and explains that Down syndrome comes from her genes and affects the way her brain learns.

 

The Girl Who Figured It Out: The Inspiring True Story of Wheelchair Athlete Minda Dentler Becoming an Ironman World Champion By Minda Dentler Illustrated by Stephanie Dehennin Sourcebooks, 2024, $18.99

Minda Dentler shares her life story, including lower-body paralysis from polio in her birth country India, adoption by an American family in Washington state, learning to walk with the aid of braces, backpacking through Europe and interning at the White House. Courageous, resilient Minda set herself many challenges, and she refused to buckle to setbacks, internalizing her father’s encouraging advice to “figure it out.” One of her goals: to be a competitive athlete. In 2012, she broke a record, becoming the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship triathlon.

Preteens

Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life

By Jerry Pinkney Little, Brown, 2023, $17.99

When he died in 2021, the acclaimed children’s book artist Jerry Pinkney had almost completed this years-in-the-making illustrated memoir, which offers a window into his Philadelphia childhood in the 1940s and ‘50s, his love of drawing and art and his struggles with a learning disability now better understood as dyslexia. The support of his parents, his own passion and persistence and tips from the artist John Liney helped Pinkney counter the racism of the times and forge a life as a groundbreaking professional artist and book creator. The sepia-colored illustrations and text may help root middle-grade readers in the past, but Pinkney’s stirring example of working hard to attain one’s dreams remains timeless.

Teens

Torch Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Author)

Torch By Lyn Miller-Lachmann Carolrhoda Lab, 2022, $19.99

This compelling, carefully researched historic novel is set in 1969 in Prague, after the failure of the Czechoslovakian Revolution. When 17-year-old Pavol protests publicly and searingly against rule by the Communist Soviet Union, his three friends struggle with the aftermath of his decision as the authorities then target them. All these characters are masterfully developed by the award-winning author Lyn Miller-Lachmann, whose personal understanding of the neurodivergent experience lends particular depth and nuance to lonely, autistic Tomas. This wrenching, emotionally resonant novel has parallels to current political events in our country and worldwide.

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