Kids are Special

8 by Eight

Kids are Special

A few years ago, a parent in our store requested a picture book that included a character using a wheelchair. His child had seen wheelchairs in real life and had questions. The dad wanted a book to help facilitate a conversation. I'm a huge proponent of books as conversation starters, and was delighted that this parent asked. As I looked through our collection, however, I quickly realized that while we had picture books that included wheelchairs, we were lacking picture books that featured someone using a wheelchair. 

This story is important to me, becuase it reminds me that I need to always be dilligent. I need to recognize the gaps in representation in our collection. Also, it is another important reminder that children's books function as both windows and mirrors (see Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's article on the importance of "Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors"). In this situation, parents were looking for a window book, an opportunity for their child to learn about an experience different than their own. I've also worked with a parent who has a child with Down Syndrome. It is important to this mother that her child find mirror books -- books that reflect and value a child's own identity -- in classroom libraries. Representation matters. 

Lack of representation regarding ability was a failing in our store -- one I continually work to rectify. It is, however, also a failing in the publshing industry. Yes, it is possible to find books that represent varying abilities, but there are not nearly enough. Recognition of and conversations about this gap are continually occuring in the children's book industry. Librarian Betsy Bird addresses the conversation in her article "Down Syndrom and the Great Gaping (Longstanding) Children's Book Gap". Furthermore, it is difficult finding books from an #ownvoices persepective; often the story is told from the perspective of a sibling, friend, or parent. 

This 8 by Eight list is a combination of my personal favorites as well as recommendations from other experts. Hello Goodbye Dog is adorable and has a lovely surprise twist at the end as does Susan LaughsThe Black Book of Colors is a fascinating investigation of how to talk about colors without using sight or visual descriptors, and instead focuses on alternative sensory language. Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers frames Isaac's experiences with his environment in superhero terms. The Sound of All Things is a gorgeously illustrated book, based on the author's experiences, about a family trip to Coney Island as a boy struggles to convey all the different subtleties in sounds to his deaf parents. The Alphabet War helps explain experiences with dyslexia. I learned about Mallko and Dad from Betsy Bird's article mentioned above, which was shared with me by a Falmouth Public Library employee. The four Falmouth elementary school librarians brought My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay and My Brother Charlie to my attention when they were actively working to increase representation in their own libraries. Thank you, Falmouth Librarians, for the great resources!

What is this 8 by Eight list missing? Are there more books you recommend? Does your family have favorite books that you would like to share? Email me at

Here's a New Year's challenge for all of us: review your home (and classroom!) libraries. Do you have window and mirror books? Are your children seeing themselves and learning about others? Are there any gaps that need filling? I'll do the same at the bookstore. 

Nest steps: Do you notice gaps in your school or local libraries? Request books! Libraries -- and bookstores! -- are very responsive. 

If you're interested in reading more and following conversations in children's literature, please see the resources listed below. 


Resource List

Disability in Kid Lit

Disability in Kidlit is dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature. We publish articles, reviews, interviews, and discussions examining this topic from various angles—and always from the disabled perspective.

On Tumblr:


Schneider Family Book Award

About the Schneider Family Book Award: The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

Schneider List of winners

Additional Resources

We Need Diverse Books Resource List

Down Syndrome and the Great Gaping (Longstanding) Children’s Book Gap, by Betsy Bird




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Hello Goodbye Dog By Maria Gianferrari, Patrice Barton (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Maria Gianferrari, Patrice Barton (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781626721777
Availability: Currently not in store. Available to order. Usually Ships in 3-7 Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - July 25th, 2017

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! By Melanie Walsh, Melanie Walsh (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Melanie Walsh, Melanie Walsh (Illustrator)
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780763681210
Published: Candlewick - March 22nd, 2016

My Brother Charlie By Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete, Shane Evans (Illustrator) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545094665
Availability: Currently not in store. Available to order. Usually Ships in 3-7 Days
Published: Scholastic Press - March 16th, 2010

The Sound of All Things By Myron Uhlberg, Ted Papoulas (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Myron Uhlberg, Ted Papoulas (Illustrator)
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781561458332
Published: Peachtree - March 1st, 2016

The Black Book of Colors By Menena Cottin, Rosana Faria (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Menena Cottin, Rosana Faria (Illustrator)
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780888998736
Published: Groundwood Books - June 1st, 2008

The Alphabet War: A Story about Dyslexia By Diane Burton Robb, Gail Piazza (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Diane Burton Robb, Gail Piazza (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780807503041
Availability: Backordered. Please call 508.548.5548 for more information.
Published: Albert Whitman & Company - September 1st, 2017

Susan Laughs By Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross (Illustrator)
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780805065015
Published: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) - September 1st, 2000

Mallko & Dad By Gusti, Mara Lethem (Translator) Cover Image
By Gusti, Mara Lethem (Translator)
ISBN: 9781592702596
Availability: Currently not in store. Available to order. Usually Ships in 3-7 Days
Published: Enchanted Lion Books - November 20th, 2018