We are continuing to celebrate National AccessAbility Week (May 29 to June 4) by recommending some books that raise awareness about the need for a more just and equitable world for people with diverse physical and mental accessibility needs.
Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King
Award-winning author Wesley King has made mental health the focus of many of his novels, including OCDaniel for which he won the Edgar Award. We first meet the titular Sara from Sara and the Search for Normal in OCDaniel, where she’s the only one who seems to notice that Daniel has obsessive compulsive disorder, and the reason for that is Sara knows a thing or two about being different herself. Sara strives to make friends and be normal like the others, but her doctor has diagnosed her with various conditions. She gets panic attacks and has other episodes that cause her to isolate herself. But then she meets gregarious Erin, who’s talkative and outgoing and doesn’t believe in “normal.” Soon Sara and Erin become good friends, but there’s more to Erin than her cheerful exterior, and Sara begins to wonder if helping Erin will mean sacrificing their friendship. As he did in OCDaniel, King makes his characters endearing, and in their uniqueness, he makes a case for the need for more neurodivergent characters in children’s literature. Grades 3-7
The Disability Experience: Working Toward Belonging by Hannalora Leavitt
Author of The Disability Experience, Hannalora Leavitt lost most of her vision by the age of 12 and spent two years at a school for the blind, where she lived and learned alongside her blind peers. Since then, Leavitt has spent her life demystifying disability through her writing and public speaking. In this book, Leavitt explains how people with disabilities (PWDs) are hindered from achieving their goals, not because of their disabilities, but because they’re not granted the same access to education, employment, housing, transportation, and healthcare. Leavitt writes about people with different kinds of disabilities and the ways in which they have been ignored, reviled, and marginalized throughout history. Using the example of the triumphs and achievements of PWDs, Leavitt raises awareness of people who have fought for change. Filled with colourful illustrations, historic photographs, and lots of information, The Disability Experience is a comprehensive disability primer. Grades 7+
Author Lillie Lainoff is a disability activist who has spent most of her life dealing with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a chronic illness marked by an abnormal increase in heart rate that results in dizziness and fainting. In One for All, a gender-bending retelling of The Three Musketeers, Lainoff creates a protagonist with the same illness as hers, but who, like Lainoff, is so much more than just the condition she was born with. The book’s heroine Tania de Batz is tired of being the “sick girl.” After her father, a musketeer, is murdered, Tania goes to the mysterious L’Académie des Mariées, which fronts as a finishing school, but which is a secret training ground for new Musketeers: strong, sword-fighting, and fencing women who are fearless. Tania feels right at home and is committed to the school’s mission of uncovering secrets to protect France from downfall, when she meets the charming Étienne, who might just test Tania’s loyalties to her sisterhood’s cause. One for All is a swashbuckling tale of adventure and intrigue and features an inspiring and complex heroine who doesn’t let her illness define or limit her. The book includes an author’s note about her personal experience with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Grades 8-12