Ableism is perhaps one of the most systemic forms of discrimination within children’s literature. Defined as discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities, ableism manifests in children’s literature largely through omission. There just aren’t that many books for children or young adults that include characters with disabilities, let alone feature them prominently. While you can find a few books about kids with autism and learning disabilities, these are generally published by foundations and are explicitly pedagogical. While books that tell “day in the life of a person with _____ disability” are important, we also need stories where disability is just one aspect of a person’s multifaceted identity.
The following is an incomplete list of picture books that have one or more characters with a disability. An asterisk next to a book’s title indicates that the protagonist of the story has a disability. Titles without an asterisk either have a secondary character with a disability or are simple picture books for toddlers and preschoolers that do not have a protagonist. Links are to reviews on this blog. Please leave suggestions for other books to include in this list in the comments.
Picture books that show disability
Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter (shows a girl who uses a wheelchair)
Touch and Tickle by Sanja Rešček
*Brian’s Bird by Brian’s Bird by Patricia A. Davis, illustrated by Layne Johnson (the protagonist is blind)
*Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas (in the American edition Jessica uses a wheelchair; in the Australian edition she does not).