According to the 2010 census, nearly one in five people in the United States live with a disability. This means that 20 percent of Americans are not likely to be adequately represented in literature. Books featuring main characters who have disabilities are not widely read or visible in mainstream society, so we’ve searched for and found some great indie reads that prove that these 20 percent can be heroes too.
Lizzie! by Maxine Kumin (Seven Stories Press)
Paralyzed from the waist down, feisty eleven-year-old Lizzie doesn’t let her wheelchair get in the way of solving mysteries. When a monkey thief strikes a petting zoo in Lizzie’s Florida town, she and her friends put their adventurous spirits into action.
If Not for This by Pete Fromm (Red Hen Press)
Maddy also uses a wheelchair, but to cope with multiple sclerosis. Having traveled across the American West, she and her husband settle in Oregon to start a business guiding rafting and fishing trips on rivers around the world. Maddy narrates her irresistible love story with wit, sensuality, and family love.
Noah’s Rainy Day by Sandra Brannan (Greenleaf Book Group Press)
Severe cerebral palsy doesn’t stop twelve-year-old Noah from joining his FBI agent aunt on investigations, albeit from home. His awesome brainpower helps his aunt solve a kidnapping while she helps him achieve his dream of becoming a spy.
The Question of the Missing Head by E. J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen (Llewellyn)
Another crime-solving hero shines in this novel. Samuel uses his highly-honed skills, namely attention to detail, to find answers to several mysteries. Asperger’s syndrome is only one aspect of his personality that makes him a talented detective. His curiosity and desire to understand the world lead him into hilarious situations.
Silent Starsong by T. J. Wooldridge (Spencer Hill Press)
Kyra’s parents buy a telepathic alien servant to help their deaf daughter communicate with the world, but the servant, Marne’s telepathy is much too weak. Marne and Kyra’s friendship grows even as intergalactic terrorists threaten their world. Together, these two lovable characters will fight to save themselves and each other.
O’Shae the Octopus by Brandee Bublé and Eliska Liska, illustrator (Simply Read Books)
Octopus O’Shae has ten arms instead of eight, but he enjoys going to the park to play with his friend Shelton the Shark. This adorable tale shows kids how to deal with bullies who don’t understand differences. O’Shae’s kindness and Shelton’s caring friendship are endearing and empowering.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (Candlewick Press)
Ava is fascinated by her family’s genealogy and tells the story, in this book, of where she came from and what makes her family special. She may be driven to trace her family tree because she and her twin brother both have disabilities—he is mute, and she was born with a pair of wings—but her haunting tale shows that she and the other 20 percent of Americans with disabilities, too, can reach the stars.
Aimee Jodoin is deputy editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.