Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Feature Characters Who Show Resilience Despite Disabilities


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Books that Feature Characters who Show Resilience Despite Disabilities


1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio


August Pullman was born with severe facial deformities. He says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Because he is continually in and out of surgery and recovery, Auggie has always been home-schooled. When his mother suggests he start the fifth grade in a private school, he is against it but decides to give it a try. This book made me want to be a better person.

2. Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson


Emmanuel’s Dream is an inspirational story about a boy who refuses to be overcome by his disability (a deformed leg). Others tell him he should just become a beggar, but he is determined to be the best he can be. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and the story flows well. Students will find hope and strength in Emmanuel’s strong, resilient spirit.

3. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

running dream

This book won the 2012 Schneider award. It is about a high school girl who loses her leg in a car accident. When I was on a plan, the man in the seat next to me was reading it. He turned to me and said, “This book is really good. Everyone should read it.”

4. Paperboy by Vince Vawter


An eleven-year-old boy who is growing up in the 1950s South struggles to say his own name–he has a stuttering disorder and shows incredible strength.

5. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork


Marcelo has an Asperger’s-like cognitive disorder. His father forces him to spend the summer working in a law office, promising if Marcelo follows the rules of the “real world,” then he can choose between his special ed school or public school for his senior year. Marcelo may, perhaps, be one of my favorite characters of all time.


I must second Ricki’s #1, 2, & 4. I love all of those books, and they definitely deserve to be on this list.
There were so many amazing books about kids overcoming their disability, that I had a very, very, very, very hard time choosing 5. I ended up choosing 3 books about kids who are deaf and 2 books about kids with learning disabilities. There are also so many amazing books about autism, cerebral palsy, blindness, etc. etc. This is just a snapshot.

1. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby


Not once in this book do you think Joey is incompetent because of her disability. Although her mother may try to keep her from growing, she has learned how to survive and succeed in the world she lives in. Joey may seem like a normal kid, but she is more than that. She has learned to live in a world with no sound without really, truly being able to communicate. Then when ASL is introduced into Joey’s life, you begin to learn how intricate of a language ASL is, and the reader begins to build even more respect for the deaf.

2. El Deafo by Cece Bell

el deafo

Although Cece finds herself deaf at a young age, we see her overcome this blow and turn it into a superpower. But this book is about more than deafness; it is about being a kid, about growing up, about friendship, about ackwardness, about school, about crushes, about family, about life. This book is truth.

3. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


Ben and Rose are both deaf and find themselves on a journey to New York searching for someone important to them. This book shows how a disability can change a life, but can also lead to a different, maybe better life.

4. Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Ally is so many students that I have had over the years that just needed a teacher to take the time.
Mr. Daniels is the teacher that I hope I am, that I wish I could be, that I want all teachers to be, and that I want to be friends with.
Ally’s journey is one that I hope I inspire my students to have.
Albert is so many student in our schools that are just a bit different thus leading to a life of sorrows.
Shay shows that meanness often is because of meanness.
Travis shows that it is never too late to change a kid’s life.
So many special characters and such a special story.

5. Bluefish by Pat Schmatz


This is one of those books that makes me proud to be a teacher. Students like Travis is the reasons why I became a teacher, and I hope that I am a teacher like Mr. McQueen who ultimately changes Travis’s life. And not only is this book a love story to good teachers, it is a love story to books and the written word.

Which books featuring characters with disabilities are your favorites?

RickiSig and Signature

19 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Feature Characters Who Show Resilience Despite Disabilities”

  1. Thank you! I am honored to have Fish in a Tree be listed among SO many fantastic books! I especially loved Marcelo, El Deafo, and Emmanuel’s Dream. Thanks, again, for your kind words. 🙂

    • Lynda, every kind word about this book is so well deserved! It is a special, special book!
      I still need to read Marcelo, but I love the other two.
      Thank you for stopping by!

  2. I haven’t read Lynda’s yet, but I love Emmanuel’s Dream! My new favorite MG is Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, great voice & full of heart. I also love Marcelo in the Real World, and Rules, and A Splash of Red, on Horace Pippin.

  3. Thanks for the great list! Wonder is now one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read a lot on both lists, but have a few more to look forward to reading! I think it’s so important to show children with disabilities in literature… We Need Diverse Books!

    • Diversity, in all ways, is so important, and I love that these books will reach kids who may not always feel understood. So special.
      Hope you like some of the others when you get to them!

  4. Thank you for the list! I just illustrated a book written that is an adaptation of a poem written by the author when he was 16 years old. He was inspired by his sister Shauna, who was born with Rhett’s Syndrome and was unable to speak or walk on her own. It was a great project to be a part of.

  5. Great lists! I loved Marcelo and Wonderstruck. I really want to read El Deafo. And can you believe I still haven’t read Wonder?? Even a friend of mine who doesn’t normally read that age books just read it and loved it. I am the last one??

    I am currently listening to an audiobook called Say What You Will about a girl with CP and a boys with OCD who become friends (and more). It is excellent so far – I am totally hooked! Just started it today and already listened to about a third of it!


    Book By Book


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