International Wheelchair Day is always 1st March and is an annual day of events and activities which take place around the World when wheelchair users celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair has on their lives. This video of a modified “Iron Man” suit inspired this book list.
Another interesting tidbit that I found is that Lego is introducing a new wheelchair mini figure.
Arnie and the New Kid by Nancy Carlson
The new kid in school is different. His name is Phillip and he has a wheelchair. Arnie isn’t sure how to play with Phillip and he makes poor choices. He challenges Phillip to a race. He teases Phillip for eating slowly. When Arnie falls down the stairs and breaks his leg, twists his wrist and sprains his tail, he needs help just like Phillip does sometimes. Now, Arnie is the one who eats the slowest and loses the race. It turns out that Arnie and Phillip have a lot in common. They both like baseball cards and video games. When Arnie gets his cast off, he gets invited to play baseball. Will he include Phillip? Yes, Phillip is Arnie’s coach!
Nancy Carlson’s story can help kids understand how to act around others with physical disabilities that they may not understand or empathize with. Sometimes this discomfort or lack of understanding can be expressed unkindly, like Arnie’s reaction. With a gentle touch, Carlson shows that kids — even those with physical disabilities — are just the same as everyone else … once you take the time to get to know them. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
King for a Day by
Malik has a special kite that he made himself for the Punjabi Basant Kite Festival, a kite fighting competition. From his rooftop, Malik competes, taking down kite after kite including the kites flown by the bully next door. His victories crown him the king. When he sees the bully on the street below take a kite from a little girl, he intercedes with a gesture of kingly generosity. Malik’s physical disability is a subtle background note; his determination to win the kite fighting competition and the kindness he shows reveal how his wheelchair does not limit him. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Seal Surfer by Michael Forman
Ben and his grandfather find a seal mother and young pup along the rocky shore. Season after season, Ben watches the young seal grow up, from the pup’s first swim to learning to fish. Ben is learning new things too. He’s a strong swimmer and now he’s learning to swim. When a strong wave knocks him off his board and his head hits a rock, his young seal friend comes to his rescue, pushing him to the surface and onto his board.
From the illustrations, we see Ben progress from crutches in the beginning of the story to a wheelchair a wheelchair at the end but there’s no mention of why he needs either. Instead, this is a story about his bond with a seal pup and also, subtly, how he’s just like any other kid; strong and capable and willing to try new things. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
My girls have volunteered at Special Surfer Night where kids including those in wheelchairs learn to surf in Kennebunk, Maine. It’s an amazing experience for everyone involved.
The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando by Stan and Jan Berenstain
I like the Berenstain Bears picture books but I wasn’t familiar with their chapter books and I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Harry is a new bear that moves into town. He’s in a wheelchair and he gets hostile when bears make assumptions about his condition and ask him how it happened. Brother and Sister Bear try to help him when Too-Tall bullies him, but Harry doesn’t want any help. It’s not until the kids get to know Harry that he can drop his defenses. When Too-Tall challenges him to a basketball game, Harry has a plan. He makes it a one on one game wheelchair basketball and beats him badly. Now, even Too-Tall and his gang respect Harry and see him for who he is — just a kid in a wheelchair who is really good at computers, wheelchair basketball, and chess.
This is the kind of chapter book that helps kids realize how those with physical disabilities want to be treated, and it models how to look past the differences to find the commonalities. [early chapter book, ages 6 and up]
Noah Zarc series by D. Robert Pease
It’s a minor point that 12-year-old Noah Zarc is in a wheelchair because living on a spaceship it doesn’t prevent him from piloting this time-traveling ship, dodging killer robots, or saving Earth’s animals from extinction. In this action adventure series set in the future, Noah’s family is in trouble. His father is stranded in the Ice Age. His mother has been kidnapped and taken to Mars. And the foe that Noah must defeat who is bent on destroying Earth (again) is also somehow related to him. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
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