Give the gift of reading and compassion

Girl reading book

More and more, children’s book authors are featuring characters in their books who are challenged with physical and emotional conditions. With so many kids either managing these disabilities themselves, or becoming familiar with these conditions through others, it can be enlightening for young people to experience life through the eyes of complex characters who aren’t defined by their disability.

Here are a few book suggestions for the holidays that feature regular kids facing not-so-regular physical and emotional challenges that will have you rooting for them from page one.


The Running Dream

by Wendelin Van Draanen

For ages 12 and older

Conditions: prosthetic leg and cerebral palsy

When 16-year old Jessica loses her leg in a car accident, she’s convinced her life is over. As someone who lives to run, the thought of running on a prosthetic leg seems not only physically —  but emotionally — impossible. But when Jessica befriends a girl with cerebral palsy, she learns that people do not have to be defined by their disabilities, but by who they are as people. This page-turner is engaging, insightful and hopeful.


Cover of The Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish Boy

by Lisa Thompson

For ages 8 and older

Condition: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

In this compelling debut novel, 12-year-old Matthew is debilitated by his crippling OCD. Afraid to leave his bedroom for fear of encountering deadly germs, he passes the time by watching the comings and goings of his neighbors. When a toddler goes missing, Matthew becomes pivotal to saving the child’s life, even though it means tackling his deepest fears. This middle grade mystery will engage even the most reluctant readers.


Cover of Caleb and Kit

Caleb and Kit

by Beth Vrabel

For ages 8 and older

Condition: cystic fibrosis

Twelve-year-old Caleb has cystic fibrosis. He has grown up under the shadow of his “perfect” big brother and overly protective mother. But when Caleb meets Kit in the woods one day, he feels a sense of independence and freedom for the first time. Kit only sees Caleb, not his disease, and they continue to meet in secret. As Kit slowly lets Caleb into her fragile world, Caleb realizes just how lucky he is.


Small Steps

by Louis Sachar

For ages 12 and older

Condition: cerebral palsy

Small Steps picks up two years after the Newbery Award-winning novel Holes left off, only this time it focuses on 17-year old Armpit (Theodore) who is trying to turn his life around. The most positive influence in his life is Ginny, his 10-year-old neighbor and best friend, who is smart, funny and believes in him. Ginny has cerebral palsy, which causes seizures and stuttering, and Armpit is very protective of her. In return Ginny teaches Armpit about standing up for what he believes in and following his heart.


Cover of Lights, Camera, Disater

Lights, Camera, Disaster

by Erin Dionne

For ages 9 and older

Condition: executive function disorder (EFD)

As someone who loves making movies, 12-year-old Hester Greene sees the world through her own lens. Behind the camera she is focused, decisive and in control, but without it she’s thrown into chaos by her executive function disorder, which affects her schoolwork, her relationships and her life. While Hester’s EFD is a struggle, the courage she finds within herself to conquer it will inspire readers.



by Cynthia Lord

For ages 9 and older

Conditions: autism and paraplegia

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants to be like everyone else — but that is impossible with a brother who has autism and who doesn’t remember simple rules like “keep your pants on in public.” When Catherine meets Jason, a mute paraplegic boy, she learns that being “normal” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Written with authenticity by the mother of an autistic son, this compassionate award-winning book is a must read.


About the blogger: Patty Lenz Bovie is a freelance writer and an aspiring children’s book author. She’s also an avid reader of children’s books, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a mom to two teen daughters. She lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts, with her family.