Category: Disability and Health

My Friend Isabelle

My Friend Isabelle book cover art

I had a blast reading this book. It reminded me so much of my best friend and I, very different from each other and still the best of friends. For example, I am an ambivert with high energy most of the time while she is an introvert who likes to spend her free time catching up on her shows. She likes environmental sciences while I’m more geared towards exercise sciences. She is vegan while I eat meats almost daily. Yet we still go to church as many Sundays as we can. The hours we spend together feel like minutes filled with laughs and inside jokes. We share the same core beliefs and even apart, I know that we could never truly be separated.

This book is about a friendship such as ours. Isabelle is slow, Charlie is fast. Isabelle is short, Charlie is tall. They still spend time together and have lots of fun playing, going to the park, and eating delicious snacks. The book is wonderfully illustrated with just a sentence or two on each page. It highlights the many differences between the two kids just to show how the same things that should keep them apart is actually what brings them together. Charlie even says himself that “the world is more fun with friends like Isabelle.” I teared up at the end because not only was this a familiar feeling, but I was able to understand from the author’s simple words that Isabelle was not quite like the other kids. Sure enough but not directly mentioned by the author, I was able to piece together that Isabelle has Down syndrome. My favorite part about this book is how it showcased children’s unconditional love; their innocence and general acceptance of things and people that are different from them. This is a great book to educate young kids about differences between people, how they can learn from each other, and accept each other no matter what.


Want to read the analysis for My Friend Isabelle? Click here to check it out.

Rescue and Jessica

Rescue and Jessica book cover art

The book Rescue and Jessica showcases a woman who loses both of her legs from the Boston Marathon Bombing and finds a service dog that brings back her joy. The book shows a true representation of a tragedy that causes someone’s life to change. The authors honestly portray the struggles and recovery of the bombing victim. The book also shows how service dogs are trained and the amount of service they provide to their owner. The authors and illustrator briefly touch upon the mental struggles that often occur when someone experiences a traumatic event.

This book is inspiring to people of all ages. It demonstrates to readers that disabilities don’t need to limit you; that if you find something that brings you joy and happiness, you can achieve many things. As a person who wants to work with children and show them that disabilities don’t limit them, this book helps show that there might be setbacks, but if you keep trying, you can achieve anything. This book received the 2019 Schneider Award which just goes to show that representation of a disability is important. When books like these get awarded, it shows people that these topics are necessary and that there is an audience for them. Rescue and Jessica shines a positive light on people with disabilities, because as a person with a disability, it is nice to read a book that shows that a disability does not have to limit me. 


Want to see the analysis for Rescue and Jessica? Click here to check it out.

Intersectional YA

collage - Intersectional YA book covers

In 2014, I attended a bookstore event for Shannon Hale—a children’s and young adult author—where she was promoting her newest book, Dangerous. Dangerous tells the story of Maisie Danger Brown, a biracial teenager born with a congenital limb difference who gains superpowers at an ultra-secretive, highly-exclusive space camp. At the event, Shannon Hale described a criticism she’d received from an early reader: “A homeschooled, biracial Paraguayan American girl with one hand who wants to be an astronaut? That’s too specific. Teens won’t be able to relate to her.” As if teenagers who are both biracial and disabled don’t exist in the real world. As if white, able-bodied teens could wrap their minds around superpowers bestowed by alien technology, but not a character whose identity deviated too far from their own experience.

Intersectionality is a term coined by activist and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, while discussing issues of feminism and race. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” Young adult books featuring characters who live in the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability have become more common in the five years since Dangerous was published, but as with most issues related to diversity in young adult and children’s literature, there is still plenty of room for improvement and growth.

The following books feature teenage characters who belong to more than one marginalized group:


The Junkyard Wonders

The Junkyard Wonders book cover art

This book was incredibly fun to read. Not only were the illustrations interesting, but the story as well. It is the story of a dyslexic young girl who moves to Michigan to live with her dad for a year. When she gets to the new place, she’s hoping that she’s left the difficult part of her life behind but unfortunately, due to her disability, she still finds herself singled out and placed in “special” classes. However, this is where the story gets better instead of worse. The class that she is made to join is nicknamed the “Junkyard Wonders” and it is a collection of kids who don’t quite fit in with the others. Mrs. Peterson, the teacher, explains to them what a junkyard really is. “It is a place of wonderful possibilities! What some see as bent and broken throwaways are actually amazing things waiting to be made into something new. Something unexpected. Something surprising.” The very first day of class Mrs. Peterson reads the definition of genius that she had written on the board. She told them: “Read it, memorize it, genius describes each and every one of you.” Mrs. Peterson turned out to be one of those teachers who eventually leaves a lasting impact in your life. Everyone in the little group that Patricia is assigned to grows up to be amazing people with extraordinary lives. The boy who loved ballet grew up to be the artistic director of the American Ballet Theater Company, the girl who didn’t talk became a fashion designer, and the boy who liked to build things became an aeronautical engineer for NASA. If it wasn’t for the other kids in school, the kids in the Junkyard that they rudely called weirdos and retards would have lived to be pariahs and society rejects, but because of a caring and dedicated teacher they became much more than that. Mrs. Peterson went as far as bringing them to an actual junkyard and telling them to go ahead and find something to make beautiful and the kids did just that. The Vanilla group, which is the one that Patricia sniffed her way into, found everything they needed to make an airplane. Then one of the kids, Gibbie, said something about the airplane that stuck with me, “This baby is goin’ all the way to the moon!” Years later, as an engineer for NASA, Gibbie put the airplane that he made with his friends from the Junkyard Wonders on an aircraft which, you guessed it, found its way to the moon.


Want to read the analysis for The Junkyard Wonders? Click here to check it out.

Helen Keller: Toward the Light

Helen Keller: Toward the Light is one of the many books I’ve read that has left a lasting impact on me. The book follows Helen from childhood up until the end of her life. It highlights major events such as the disease that resulted in her becoming blind and deaf, her difficulties dealing with feeling secluded by the world, her getting accepted into the school for the blind, her raising money to fund passion projects, her influential work throughout the world to bring awareness to the blind and deaf community, etc. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she realized that the kind lady who sometimes scratched figures into her palm was actually teaching her sign language and how to communicate with the outside world. She said herself something along the lines of “My life started that day.” I can’t imagine being isolated from the world in such a debilitating way for so long. I believe she only started learning words at around 7-8 years old. Before that, she was unable to communicate, and her frustration led to her having a “bad attitude” and frequent temper tantrums. Another favorite of mine is when she set her sight onto attending and finishing college. She faced so many challenges as a deaf and blind student but through her perseverance, her amazing support system, and her resiliency, she was not only able to finish college, but to also go on to writing books and learning how to speak so that she could spread her influence worldwide. Helen Keller became an inspiration to me by the second chapter and finishing the book just showed me that impossible is a word that we use to limit ourselves and our capabilities.


Want to see the analysis for Helen Keller: Toward the Light? Click here to check it out.


I’ve had the opportunity to read many of the books that are currently in the DIVerse Families database; one that has stood out to me was Punkzilla by Adam Rapp. This book is about a 14-year-old boy named Jamie, but also known as Punkzilla who is fleeing away from military school to reach his brother who is dying from cancer. The plot was definitely a roller coaster with all kinds of twists and turns adding to the narrative. I enjoyed reading this book because it showed me a new perspective on diversity and gave me clarity on how important the DIVerse Families database was. I feel like representation is very important; seeing yourself represented feels really good and motivating. Growing up, I’ve always gravitated towards books that represented me in some kind of way because I wanted to relate to the storyline. But lately, these past few months I’ve realized that just because a character doesn’t look like me or didn’t grow up in the same background as me, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the book and learn something new. Diversity isn’t just about seeing yourself in media but seeing everyone else as well. Seeing and understanding that people come from all walks of life, and just because they are different from you doesn’t mean their story should go unheard. I enjoyed reading Punkzilla because it was a breath of fresh air from what I’ve always been used to reading in the past. This coming-of-age story touched on multiple topics of diversity from Family Relationships, to LGBT+ topics, to even Disability and Health, and much more. I learned about problems and issues I didn’t even know existed, and for that, I’m very grateful for getting the chance to read this book. I highly recommend for everyone to go check out the book, whether you identify with the character or not, come join Jamie on his adventure to reaching his brother.


Want to read the analysis for Punkzilla? Click here to check it out.

Friends in the Park

Friends in the Park book cover art

One of my favorite books I have read during this project is Friends in the Park by Rochelle Bunnett. This picture book really warmed my heart as I turned the pages. Friends in The Park shows children with various disabilities playing together. One of the children is a wheelchair user; however, he still is playing with all the other children. Another child is depicted to have Down syndrome. This picture book demonstrates that a person’s disability does not restrain them from living a normal life. Although these children have physical disabilities, they are still shown having fun with the other children. The target audience for Bunnett’s book is children in kindergarten to first grade. If young children read this book, it would introduce them to disabilities they may be unaware of. Also, this exposure shows kids that people with disabilities are just like everyone else and should be treated as so. Overall, Friends in The Park is a heartwarming children’s book that I feel is beneficial for young children to read.


Want to see the analysis for Friends in the Park? Click here to check it out.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” but this time necessity is my daughter

Where do you locate picture books that showcase interracial families? 

After being the recipient of a book baby shower (for which I am grateful for the outpouring of love and support), I realized that 97% of all the books focused on white families with white kids or books that had animals as the main character.  The majority of the books did not show interracial families, such as my very own.   

This led me to question and seek out my local bookstores in trying to identify picture books that showed interracial parents or interracial families.  The local bookstores did not seem to have many books that either had non-white main characters or interracial families, even when I stopped and asked for assistance.    

As a librarian, I began researching the various library catalogs, children literature databases, and websites for books, trying to identify books that I could bring home to my daughter, who is of Ethiopian descent.  The search results brought back a few hits, but not a lot with which I wanted to start to build my home library with. 

If I, as a librarian, were having trouble with my local bookstores in trying to locate books, and the library catalog was not descriptive enough to identify the race or ethnicity of the characters in the book, how could families, who did not have the library databases at their fingertips, find and build a collection of books that represented their family? 

This project was initially started with the idea of locating books that showed interracial families.  As other members began to be interested in the project, the topic expanded to include LGBTQ+ families, as a parent from the daycare in which my daughter attended, asked me about books that represented her family. 

As I looked around my world of friends, colleagues, and neighbors, I soon learned that families needed books as tools to help explain different family dynamics.  Be the change that you want to see.  As a librarian, I felt charged with creating a database that could benefit more than just my daughter and me.