The best picture books on real people with disabilities

Meeg Pincus Author Of So Much More to Helen: The Passions and Pursuits of Helen Keller
By Meeg Pincus

Who am I?

I’ve lived most of my life with invisible disabilities that affect my daily activities, and I hope to encourage nuanced, empowering, and inclusive conversations about disabilities with my book, So Much More to Helen! All of my nonfiction picture books—Miep and the Most Famous Diary, Winged Wonders, Cougar Crossing, Ocean Soup, Make Way for Animals!, and more—are about “solutionaries” who help people, animals, and the planet. They’ve won Golden Kite and Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Awards, starred reviews, and spots on best book and state reading lists. Mostly, I hope they inspire compassion, curiosity, and action.


I wrote...

So Much More to Helen: The Passions and Pursuits of Helen Keller

By Meeg Pincus, Caroline Bonne-Müller (illustrator),

Book cover of So Much More to Helen: The Passions and Pursuits of Helen Keller

What is my book about?

Most folks know the same famous story of Helen Keller—a DeafBlind girl who learned to understand sign language at the family water pump. But what do you really know about her? Did you know she was an activist, a rebel, a writer, a performer, a romantic?

There is so much more to Helen than we usually learn in school! In this picture book, the story of Helen Keller’s passionate, boundless life unfolds—reminding us that she was, as we all are, many things. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

By Sonia Sotomayor, Rafael López (illustrator),

Book cover of Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

Why this book?

I love this picture book that plants compassion, comfort, and connection for kids with all kinds of disabilities. Starting with author (and Supreme Court Justice!) Sonia Sotomayor’s own story of living with diabetes, then award-winning illustrator Rafael López’s story of living with asthma, it introduces readers in first person to an array of diverse kids with various visible and invisible disabilities. Using questions to help make each child relatable and allowing many children to see themselves in a book for the first time, this book opens hearts and minds.


I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists from Past and Present

By Cerrie Burnell, Lauren Mark Baldo (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists from Past and Present

Why this book?

I chose this illustrated collected biography because it highlights a wonderfully diverse array of real people living with visible and invisible disabilities. Featuring both famous and non-famous people of various races, genders, and sexualities, with both physical and mental health conditions, it’s incredibly inclusive. The people’s stories, at one page or less, are short enough to keep kids’ attention and the back matter includes an important glossary of terms for talking about disabilities. This book celebrates many different ways people live and work with disabilities and encourages openness and inclusion.


All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything

By Annette Bay Pimentel, Nabi Ali (illustrator),

Book cover of All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything

Why this book?

This book, for me, is important as the first trade nonfiction picture book about the fight for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I hope and assume more books on this topic are in the pipeline, as there is so much more to share with kids about this crucial social justice movement! Jennifer Keenan’s story is great for kids because she was a kid herself when she crawled up the U.S. Capitol steps to fight for disability rights. This book offers an inspiring, personal entryway into the disability rights movement and the importance of having laws and systems to back up beliefs about access for all.


Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

By Laurie Ann Thompson, Sean Qualls (illustrator),

Book cover of Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Why this book?

I chose this book in part because Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboa was a young person who helped create the Persons with Disabilities Act in his country, Ghana, like Jennifer Keenan in the United States. Again, I think it’s important for kids to see that they can make a difference when it comes to big things like laws. I also chose this book because it features a Black subject, while most of the picture books about people with disabilities focus on white subjects (including my own), and more books about and by BIPOC are sorely needed.


I Talk Like a River

By Jordan Scott, Sydney Smith (illustrator),

Book cover of I Talk Like a River

Why this book?

This book is just so beautiful and personal, from the poetry to the art, that it hits right in the heart. Basically a simple picture book memoir of a boy figuring out how to deal with his stutter, I love how it is about everyday mindset, not any grand action, and how a small shift can change so much. It’s about the beauty of silence and understanding from a parent to a child, and it gives kids (and adults) without a stutter a glimpse at what it might feel like to struggle with forming words in that way. This book can’t help but grow compassion and insight in every person who reads it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in people with disabilities, Ghana, and disability?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about people with disabilities, Ghana, and disability.

People With Disabilities Explore 39 books about people with disabilities
Ghana Explore 14 books about Ghana
Disability Explore 33 books about disability

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again), Ani's Light, and Roll with It if you like this list.