March is Indiana Disability Awareness Month. Did you know that there are 54 million Americans with disabilities and that people with disabilities make up about a fifth of Indiana’s population? Today, I’m sharing some great books for all ages that explore disability experiences. Pick them up now to acknowledge Disability Awareness Month or anytime.
For younger children:
Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon (2018). Also available via Overdrive e-book. This picture book follows the real story of Jessica, a woman who lost her legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, and her new helper dog Rescue. It’s a heartwarming look at their relationship, including the training both of them had to undergo and how they both take care of each other. This is a great pick for dog lovers or anyone who has a special animal (officially trained or not!) in their lives.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (2019). This bright, colorful picture book presents a diverse array of children with different types of disabilities and is written by Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor who has had Type I diabetes since she was a child. The story celebrates the fact that it’s our differences that make the world a wonderful place, like having many different types of flowers in a garden, and encourages children to ask about differences they notice rather than being afraid of them.
For older children:
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly (303 pages, 2019). Also available on downloadable e-book and downloadable audiobook via Overdrive. Iris is Deaf and goes to a hearing school where she often feels left out because no one speaks her language. When she learns about a whale named Blue-55 that swims the oceans without a pod because he sings at a different pitch than the other blue whales, Iris feels certain she can do something to help him. But how’s a kid supposed to get across the country and onto a science expedition? This is a moving and heartfelt story about one girl’s quest to find her people and it’s based on an actual whale!
Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein (315 pages, 2019). When Ricky Bloom is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, she feels cursed. Not only is she in pain and having to relearn how to move, her invisible disease is too boring to inspire anyone to shave their head in solidarity. Written by an own-voices author, this blistering book really puts the reader inside the head of a person newly diagnosed with a painful chronic illness.
About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of the New York Times edited by Peter Catapano and Rosemary Garland-Thomson (285 pages, 2019). Also available on downloadable e-book via Overdrive. This collection of own-voices essays runs the gamut from funny to bleak and tackles such topics as dating in a wheelchair, worrying about passing on a disability to children, navigating the world with a physical disability, and so much more. If you make time for one book about disability experiences this year, this is the one.
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma (277 pages, 2019). We had the absolutely pleasure of hearing Haben Girma speak at the Public Library Association Conference last month and she shared some incredible stories with us. From salsa dancing and learning how to surf to graduating from Harvard Law and becoming a disability rights lawyer, Girma has tackled life full-on. In this inspiring memoir, she shares her story.
— Abby Johnson, Collection Development Leader