In recognition of National AccessAbility Week (May 29 to June 4), we recommend some books that raise awareness about the need for a more just and equitable world for people with diverse physical and mental accessibility needs.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo is a graphic novel based on author Cece Bell’s own experience of hearing loss at a young age. When Bell lost her sense of hearing, she was made to wear a device called the Phonic Ear, a very powerful and very awkward hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gave Bell the ability to hear, but it also isolated her from her classmates when all she wanted was to fit in. Eventually, though, Bell was able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” Heartwarming and humorous, El Deafo also shows impressive use of the graphic novel form. As Bell gradually loses her hearing, the speech in the speech balloons begins to fade. In this way, Bell shows the reader exactly what her character is hearing, or not hearing—a very important thing to show in a story about deafness. Another clever and funny device Bell uses is to portray all her characters as rabbits. According to her, rabbits make for the perfect visual metaphor for someone experiencing hearing loss since they have big ears and amazing hearing. Grades 5-10

Slug Days by Sara Leach

Slug Days follows a little girl named Lauren navigating life as someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (an umbrella term that has included Asperger Syndrome since 2013). Lauren dislikes slug days, because those are the days she feels slow and slimy. Everyone seems to be impatient with her and it seems as if she has no friends. She sees the world differently from others and that frustrates Lauren and makes her angry, especially when she learns differently from her classmates at school. But with support from her family and teachers – and a flair that’s all her own – Lauren learns to manage her feelings. In Irma, the new student in class, she even finds a kindred spirit, because like Lauren, Irma too is insecure about being different from others. Author Sara Leach continues Lauren’s story in the two books following Slug DaysPenguin Days and Duck Days – each one told with a good dose of empathy and humour for its central character whose autism is not presented as a disability, but rather something that she just learns to live with. Grades 2-5

King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Krömer

The advent of spring in South Asia is celebrated with a festival called Basant. Besides making and consuming homemade sweets, flying kites is an important activity during this festival. The titular king in this book is a boy named Malik, an expert kite-fighter. Malik has crafted his own high-speed kite, called falcon, and he can’t wait to fly it. On the day of Basant, Malik is unbeatable. He takes down the kite flown by the bully next door and by the end of the day, Malik has a big pile of captured kites. But when he sees the bully trying to take a kite from a girl, Malik decides to help the girl with a sudden act of kingly generosity. In the pictures, we can see that Malik uses a wheelchair, but author Rukhsana Khan never makes Malik’s disability a focus of the story. Instead she focuses on universal themes of tradition, craft, kindness, and dedication and portrays a kid finding his own way to face and overcome life’s challenges. Grades 1-5