World Autism Month kicks off each year with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Below, we have compiled a list of children’s books from our ebook collection that feature main characters with learning differences.
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt (Ages 10 and up)
A finalist for the National Book Award, this book follows 14-year-old Doug as he moves to a new school and navigates tough family dynamics. Doug, who struggles with reading and has grown up in poverty, finds an unlikely friend in the local librarian and discovers his artistic talent through the bird paintings of John James Audubon. It’s a story of loss and recovery with lovable characters and some American history thrown in.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 8 to 12)
Harbor Me was on last year’s Bluebonnet list and touches on many important issues including learning differences, bullying, and race. When six kids with learning differences get together each Friday afternoon for “special-kids only time”, they share their stories and come to understand each other on a deeper level. This book beautifully displays what it means to care for someone else and listen without judgment, and is a great family conversation starter on friendship and forgiveness.
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (Ages 8 to 12)
Mason Buttle has a lot to battle: learning differences, bullies, and grief over his best friend’s death fifteenth months ago. The police don’t believe Mason when he says he had nothing to do with it, and when his new best friend goes missing, Mason is in trouble once again. Can Mason figure out what happened to both of this friends, and will anyone believe the truth when he does?
Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever series by Henry Winkler (Ages 8 to 12)
Based on Henry ‘the Fonz’ Winkler’s own life and experiences growing up with dyslexia, Hank Zipzer is a funny, relatable 12-year-old boy who finds himself in hilarious everyday situations thanks to his creative mind. After kids read the books, they can also watch the TV show based on the series.
Rules by Cynthia Lord (Ages 9-12)
Catherine’s brother has autism, and her family’s life completely revolves around it. As hard as she tries to teach her brother not to embarrass her in public, it never seems to work. When Catherine meets Jason, a friend she wasn’t expecting, and Kristi, her new neighborhood best friend, she is forced to face her own shocking behavior. Will these experiences change her view of what it means to be ‘normal’?
Roll with It by Jamie Sumner (Ages 10 and up)
Ellie has cerebral palsy and a no-nonsense approach to life. She has a wheelchair but she also has big dreams for her future, including being a professional baker. When she moves to a new town with her mom, she has to deal with not only being the girl in the wheelchair but also the one who lives in a trailer park on the bad side of town. The future is looking gloomy for Ellie until she makes her first-ever friends. Can she convince her mom that this move might be the best thing that has ever happened to them? Fans of Wonder and Out of My Mind will love this book, which is another story of resilience told from a first-person perspective.
Counting by 7s (Ages 10 and up)
Willow Chance loves nature, researching medical conditions, and counting things by 7s. Extremely smart but considered an outcast, she struggles to connect with anyone besides her adoptive parents. Despite all of that, she manages to live a happy life until her adoptive parents are tragically killed in a car accident. Suddenly completely alone in the world, Willow learns to deal with her grief and finds a new surrogate family who loves and accepts her, quirks and all. Willow is very endearing, and readers will find it impossible not to root for her all the way to the end!
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl (Ages 8 to 12)
Another Bluebonnet selection from last year, this book follows Lucy Callahan, who was struck by lightning several years ago. Although she doesn’t remember the incident, it made her a genius at math and she has been homeschooled ever since. At just 12 years old, she is ready to go to college, but her grandmother insists that she attend one year of middle school first…and make a friend, participate in an activity and read a book that’s not a textbook. Lucy’s OCD doesn’t make any of those things easy, but meeting new friends helps her get outside of her comfort zone and embrace those things that make her unique.
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (Ages 10 and up)
Oversized, troubled Max teams up with his new neighbor, the tiny, brilliant boy with Morquio Syndrome named Freak. Together they aim to defend the weak and right wrongs in their town under the name “Freak the Mighty”. This story touches on many difficult themes including bullying and shows that courage isn’t about being big and strong.