As HMS Hawks, we value inclusivity and celebrate unique abilities. This list features characters with differences, disabilities, and illnesses that make daily life different or challenging for them. This includes physical and cognitive differences, and also chronic illnesses. Please check in with us if you are sensitive to certain topics and would like guidance on finding the right book for you!

NOTE: You’ll probably notice this list often uses the word “difference” instead of “disability.” This is because we prefer to appreciate the unique opportunities provided by differing abilities, rather than always framing them as challenges. Changing the name of something can change its perception, and the goal of reading these books is to change our own perceptions. Let us know if there’s a way to make this list more inclusive.

ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, & Learning Abilities

As Simple As it Seems - Sarah Weeks [dyslexia]

Connect the Stars - Marisa de los Santos & David Teague [gifted intelligence]

Counting By 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan [gifted intelligence]

Fish in a Tree - Lynda Mullaly Hunt [dyslexia]

Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick [dyslexia]

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key - Jack Gantos [ADHD]

Out of My Mind - Sharon Draper [gifted intelligence, cerebral palsy]

Autism & Cognitive Differences

Anything But Typical - Nora Raleigh Baskin [autism]

The Boy Who Ate Stars - Kochka [autism]

Forget Me Not - Ellie Terry [Tourette syndrome]

The London Eye Mystery - Siobhan Dowd [autism]

A Mango Shaped Space - Wendy Mass [synesthesia]

Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine [autism]

Rain Reign - Ann M. Martin [autism]

Family Member or Friend with Cognitive Difference

Al Capone Does My Shirts - Gennifer Choldenko [autism]

Lone Stars - Mike Lupica [concussion]

Just Like Jackie - Lindsey Stoddard [Alzheimer’s disease]

My Louisiana Sky - Kimberly Willis Holt [autism]

Pop - Gordon Korman [Alzheimer’s disease]

Rules - Cynthia Lord [autism]

Sand Dollar Summer - Kimberly K. Jones [mutism/speech]

Slider - Pete Hautman [autism]

So B. It - Sarah Weeks [autism]

Blindness, Deafness, or Sensory Difference

A Blind Guide to Stinkville - Beth Vrabel [blindness]

The Danger Box - Blue Balliett [blindness]

El Deafo - Cece Bell [deafness, Graphic novel, autobiography*]

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup - Sharon Creech [blindness]

A Mango Shaped Space - Wendy Mass [synesthesia]

Maxi’s Secrets - Lynn Plourde [blindness + deafness]

Rocky Road - Rose Kent [deafness]

Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick [deafness]

Cancer & Chronic Illness

After Ever After - Jordan Sonnenblick [cancer]

Breathing Room - Marsha Hayles [tuberculosis]

Defiance - Valerie Hobbs [cancer]

Halfway Normal - Barbara Dee [leukemia]

The Meaning of Maggie - Megan Jean Sovern [Multiple Sclerosis]

Small Steps: the Year I Got Polio - Peg Kehret [*Autobiography, polio]

Family Member or Friend with Illness

Bluish - Virginia Hamilton [leukemia]

Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick [cancer]

Ghosts - Raina Telgemeier [cystic fibrosis]

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day - John David Anderson [cancer]

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness [cancer]

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett [polio]

Skellig - David Almond [baby sickness]*

Ways to Live Forever - Sally Nicholls [cancer]

Depression, Mental Illness, & Addiction

The Best Worst Thing - Kathleen Lane [obsessive compulsive disorder]

The Goldfish Boy - Lisa Thompson [Obsessive-compulsive disorder]

Homesick - Kate Klise [depression]

Lily and Dunkin - Donna Gephart* [bipolar disorder]

Locomotion - Jacqueline Woodson [trauma]

Family Member or Friend with Depression, Mental Illness, or Addiction

Courage for Beginners - Karen Harrington [agoraphobia]

Do Not Pass Go - Kirkpatrick Hill [drug addiction + incarceration]*

Harry Sue - Sue Stauffacher [trauma]

Homesick - Kate Klise [depression]

Nest - Esther Ehrlich [mental illness]

Rules for Stealing Stars - Corey Ann Haydu [alcoholism]

Rocky Road - Rose Kent [Bipolar disorder]

Still a Work in Progress - Jo Knowles [eating disorder]

What I Call Life - Jill Wolfson [mental illness]

Physical Difference or Injury

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus - Dusti Bowling [limbs]

Lizzie! - Maxine Kumin [paralyzed]

Lucky Broken Girl - Ruth Behar [car accident injury]

Out of My Mind - Sharon Draper [cerebral palsy]

The Running Dream - Wendelin Van Draanen [amputation]

Soar - Joan Bauer [heart transplant]

The Thing About Georgie - Lisa Graff [dwarfism]

A Time to Dance - Padma Venkatraman [amputation]

Wonder - R.J. Palacio [facial deformity]

Family Member or Friend with Physical Difference

Firegirl - Tony Abbott [burn injuries]

King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige - Wes Tooke

Mosquitoes Don’t Bite Me - Pendred Noyce [wheelchair]

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town - Kimberly Willis Holt [weight]