I met Sarah Marie Jette at our first NESCBWI Meet & Greet for YA/Children’s Writers and Illustrators of Color. as part of the new NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee that I am on. She told me about her new book and we were both struck by the lack of children’s and YA books that have characters with epilepsy.
I asked her to create a list and together we came up with only a handful of books. I’d love to grow this list so please help us out by leaving comments with your book recommendations. Thanks so much!
We are also giving away 3 copies of her book, What the Wind Can Tell You. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.
Epilepsy in Children’s and YA Books
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Technically, the character has seizures but not epilepsy. The cause is something else. Still, this is an excellent graphic novel that explores friendship, being different, and the Asian Model Minority. [graphic novel, ages 8 and up]
We Could Be Heroes by Margaret Finnegan
In this case, it’s a dog in the book that has epilepsy. Review by Randomly Reading:
“Maisie’s mission is simple – after freeing her neighbor’s pit bill Booler, Hank will take him and give him a good home. Booler has epilepsy and his owner, Mr. Jorgensen, keeps him outside and tied to a tree while his two other dogs have free run of the house and yard. Maisie thinks this is cruel and, since Mr. Jorgensen won’t let her have the dog, she’s devised a plan to free Booler, so he can be Hank’s dog, instead.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
What the Wind Can Tell You by Sarah Marie Jette
Isabelle is fascinated by the wind. And this year, she’s determined to win the middle school science fair with her wind machine. She’s just as determined to have her brother, Julian, who has a severe form of epilepsy and uses a wheelchair, serves as her assistant. But after Julian has a grand seizure, everything changes. Isabelle is suddenly granted entry into Las Brisas, a magical world where Julian’s physical limitations disappear, and one, she discovers, that he visits every night. The more Isabelle explores Las Brisas, the more possibilities she sees―for Julian, and for herself―and the more she finds herself at odds with her parents. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Stick With Me by Jennifer Blecher
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“Izzy and her best friend Phoebe always had a lot of fun doing silly things, but now that they are in middle school, Phoebe has little patience for Izzy’s “out of the box” ways, especially now that she would rather spend her time with the popular but mean Daphne. Izzy is trying to navigate her feelings about this change, and they are complicated by her family problems. Her parents are both entrepreneurs; her father is trying to market an anti-technology app, and her mother wants to get back into home decorating as a profession. Wren’s life is also difficult. She is a figure skater, but the sport has become more of a chore than a joy as competition has become fierce and her skills are lagging behind. It doesn’t help that her younger sister, Hannah, is struggling with severe epilepsy and requires lots of doctors’ appointments. Her father, a hockey coach, tries to be supportive, but her mother is very much invested in her sister’s progress. When Hannah has to have brain surgery in Boston and will be in the hospital for quite some time, the family rents a house… Izzy’s house. Izzy’s family is cash strapped and looking to make a few dollars, so they list their house on a rental site and plan to live in an apartment over the garage during Izzy’s spring break. Both girls are vaguely angry about this situation, so reluctant to connect, but both end up at a theater camp at Izzy’s school…with Phoebe AND Daphne. Daphne continues her mean behavior, and Wren helps Izzy understand that it’s not okay, and helps her stand up for herself. When Wren makes some bad choices, Izzy helps her out, and both girls learn a bit about dealing with friends and also about dealing with themselves.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle
Entering high school can be hard. But 16-year-old Emilie has additional hesitations. She’s beginning high school after years of being homeschooled following her diagnosis of epilepsy and the death of her father. In The Thing With Feathers, Emilie is hoping her three-month trial will pass quickly.
As days pass, friendships are made, and Emilie is hesitant to share her diagnosis with her friends and her new boyfriend. Emilie is quick to assess others, marveling at their complete families, the ease of their seemingly impairment-free lives – until she realizes that everyone’s life is complicated.
The author creates a complete and complex character who you will root for. [young adult, ages 13 and up]
Meena Meets her Match by Karla Manternach
Meena is a competitive and creative 3rd grader. She doesn’t understand why her friend, Sofía, isn’t playing with her at recess anymore. She also doesn’t understand why her arms sometimes move involuntarily or why she loses track of time – seconds she can’t account for.
Meena is preparing to make the most artistic Valentine box imaginable when she has a seizure. She wakes up at the hospital and suddenly, her life gets more complicated.
Karla Manternach writes a playful protagonist who works through friendship challenges and her new diagnosis with bravery and heart. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
3 Book Giveaway of What the Wind Can Tell You
We are giving away 3 copies of What the Wind Can Tell You. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter. We can only ship to U.S. addresses.
Sarah Marie Aliberti Jette grew up in Lewiston, Maine, in a house filled with books. Like Isabelle, the main character in What the Wind Can Tell You, Jette is Mexican-American. “I made Isabelle Mexican-American because I wanted to write the character I searched for as a child,” says Jette. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she served in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, studied rehabilitation counseling, and now has the best job in the world: teaching fourth-graders. When she’s not writing, she’s crafting with her three children, sewing her own clothes, and snuggling with her cats. She lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.
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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.