International Wheelchair Day is always March 1st 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.
Here is more exciting news:
A young paralyzed man just walked again after having an electrode implanted in his back.
Wheelchair Books for Kids
Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Zara’s dog Moose wants to join her at school, but he’s not allowed. He escapes time and time again, where he’s great at listening to stories being read aloud. Finally, Zara comes up with a solution so that Moose can join her as a therapy dog. This charming picture book has diverse themes wrapped around a heartwarming dog story. It will appeal to anyone who hates to leave their dog behind. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Roll With It by Jamie Sumner
Review from Ms. Yingling Reads:
In the tradition of Wonder and Out of My Mind, this big-hearted middle grade debut tells the story of an irrepressible girl with cerebral palsy whose life takes an unexpected turn when she moves to a new town.
“I really believe that most middle school students are more curious about differences than mean about them, and Coralee and Bert both evidence this in their treatment of Ellie. Ellie herself is very matter of fact about what she can and can’t do, and there is enough description about the help she needs to enlighten readers who have never encountered someone in a wheelchair. While the move necessitates some discussion of her wheelchair use, this is a book about the family dynamics and the grandfather’s Alzheimer’s as well as settling into a new community. It was fast-paced, fun to read, and included a lot of good baking descriptions.” [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
Days with Dad by Nari Hong
Nari’s own dad used a wheelchair and this book reflects her message that it doesn’t matter if her dad can’t walk. She’s happy with the things that they do together: ice fishing, drawing, building a sandcastle, and going to the park. The message of half-full is told in a gentle way and resonates beyond having a differently-abled parent. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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]
King of the Skies by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Laura Fernandez and Rick Jacobsen
Award-winning writer and storyteller Rukhsana Khan, tells a contemporary story set in Lahore, Pakistan about a boy known as the “King of the Skies” because of his kite-flying skills. Every year he anxiously awaits Basunt, the kite festival that celebrates the arrival of spring. Unable to walk or run, he relies on his brother and sister to get the kites he has cut free with the sharp twine of his yellow Guddi Chore, or “Kite Thief”, as he has named it. The movement of the kites flying up in the sky and the children running down below is a powerful contrast with the boy’s disability and a beautiful reminder that freedom comes in many colors and shapes. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb, illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard
When Charley saw Emma, he forgot what his mother taught him about being different. Different isn’t weird, sad, bad or strange. Different is different and different is ok. It helped him apologize to Emma and to become friends with her. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Yes I can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair by Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner, and Claire A. B. Freeland, illustrated by Violet Lemay
From Children’s Books Heal:
“The authors have written a very uplifting story that focuses more on what Carolyn can do, than what she can’t do. Carolyn is very outgoing, social and wants to participate. And there are many things available to help children with disabilities adapt and participate.
I like how the teacher in the story handles Carolyn’s disability in her classroom. She makes sure Carolyn feels included when she asks her to pass out papers, when she invites her to help with the morning song and when she makes sure she can accompany the class on a field trip. This helps Carolyn feel less isolated.
And the teacher has to deal with the other students’ curiosity. Kids are naturally very curious about someone they may perceive as different. Some feel cautious and awkward. They don’t know what to say or how to act. And Carolyn’s teacher is very supportive so that her school friends feel comfortable including her in school activities, recess, and lunch. The students hardly notice her disability.
The illustrations are expressive, warm and endearing. They show diversity which complements the book’s theme.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Snow Rabbit by Camile Garouche
Two sisters look longingly through their window at the snowy sky. One goes out and sculpts a little rabbit, but when she brings it back inside to her wheelchair-bound sister, it begins to melt. So they take it outside and into the forest where enchanted things begin to happen. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Brave by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
With simple text, McAnulty expands the definition of bravery by showing kids facing different challenges, fears, and pressures. A young child racing in a wheelchair is included. An inspiring picture book all kids can relate to. [picture book, for ages 4 and up]
Seal Surfer by Michael Foreman
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 at the beginning of the story to 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]
Mascot by Antony John
Noah Savino has been stuck in a wheelchair for months. He hates the way people treat him like he’s helpless now. He’s sick of going to physical therapy, where he isn’t making any progress. He’s tired of not having control over his own body. And he misses playing baseball—but not as much as he misses his dad, who died in the car accident that paralyzed Noah.
Ms. Yingling Reads has a great review:
“Noah Savino lives in the St. Louis neighborhood of the Hill, which is great because he loves baseball. Well, he used to. After a devastating car accident, he is in a wheelchair and trying to figure out a new normal. This doesn’t include Logan, his former best friend, and teammate, who has been a jerk. When quirky new student Ruben moves to the area, calling himself “Double-Wide” because of his size, Noah is glad to have one person who doesn’t know all of the details of his accident. It helps that Ruben is also very matter-of-fact (and has some slight autism spectrum characteristics) and just ASKS Noah about issues that have to do with his wheelchair-bound state if he doesn’t understand them.” [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler
Review from Ms. Yingling Reads:
“The treatment of grief and moving forward in this book is so well done. Yes, Carlos is dealing with horrible, overwhelming loss, but he also knows that he is lucky to have his aunt and uncle. There is talk of being in counseling, and the aunt and uncle are supportive but not enabling. Add to that the fact that Carlos’s trauma is not the whole story, and that’s what makes this especially good. The kids have to band together to save the gym from evil developers and city government while playing basketball. Yes! It is possible to have serious issues in a book that is hopeful and interesting and not soggily sad.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Two of the most talented and prolific voices of color use their words and images to inspire a new generation to take Dr. King’s words to heart and utilize them by making mindful choices. In his words: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” There is a page spread that features a boy in a wheelchair: “You can be a King. Make the world take notice. Do your very best at whatever you do.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Digging Deep by Elena Delle Donne
This is one of my favorite middle grade volleyball books. Elle is six feet tall in 6th grade so naturally everyone expects her to be a basketball star. And, it turns out, she is a great athlete. But the dynamic on her basketball team isn’t great. the coach is too intense and previous center, Bianca, bullies her because she is the new center. Elle makes the difficult decision to quit the basketball team to join other extra curriculars including an anti-bullying club at school. When Lauren gets injured on the volleyball team, Elle gets recruited and finds that she likes the more laid back vibe of this team. It’s a difficult balance to maintain friendships with old teammates while being on a new team. When Lauren recovers and can rejoin the volleyball team, Elle musts decide which team makes her happier. Elle’s autistic non verbal and wheelchair bound sister adds an additional layer of diversity to the cast of characters. [middlegrade, ages 8 and up]
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p.s. Related posts:
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.