The best books to see the child first and understand the disability

Nancy Bo Flood Author Of I Will Dance
By Nancy Bo Flood

Who am I?

I believe stories help heal our hearts and give us “new eyes” to see ourselves and others. I write to celebrate the courage shown by children as they meet challenges, perhaps the loss of a parent or a friend, the sting of rejection because of being “different.” Stories show us how others face fear or failure. Stories help us celebrate who we are. As a child psychologist, I worked with families and educators on the Pacific island of Saipan to develop programs for students with disabilities so all children could continue their education. My books have been given a variety of awards but the best reward is when a child reading one of my books, smiles, and says, “I am in this book.”

I wrote...

I Will Dance

By Nancy Bo Flood, Julianna Swaney (illustrator),

Book cover of I Will Dance

What is my book about?

Eva longs to dance. But unlike many young people, Eva is in a wheelchair. She has Cerebral Palsy (CP). She doesn’t know what dance looks like for someone who uses a wheelchair but Eva is determined to dance, not alone, not pretend, not imagine. In this picture book we follow Eva’s journey from her first tentative decision to try to audition for an all-abilities dance company to the scary moment of actually “rolling into” the studio, and eventually to becoming a true part of a dance community, a dancer! 

The books I picked & why

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After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

By Dan Santat,

Book cover of After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

Why this book?

The delightful and surprising book uses a metaphor to give the reader a “real” experience of fear and depression – and eventually, the courage to risk trying again even if it means failure. Humpty Dumpty not only falls from a wall but is terrified of getting back up on the wall. He lets go of many of the things he loves to do until finally, he looks up at that wall and takes the first step up. Any age reader will be surprised and delighted at the amazing ending.  

Ani's Light

By Tanu Shree Singh, Sandhya Prabhat (illustrator),

Book cover of Ani's Light

Why this book?

Ani’s Light by Tanu Shree Singh with art by Sandhya Prabhat is about the depression and sadness when Mom is gone to the hospital for chemotherapy. This gentle picture book shows the reader that often fear makes us want to “hide” and find someplace safe.  But little by little the reader sees the importance of reaching out to others and slowly facing and talking about the fears that hurt one’s heart. 

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 middle-grade biography shows the grit, passion, and determination of lifelong activist Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins and her participation in the Capitol Crawl even when others tried to stop her…even if it meant crawling all the way up the Capitol steps without her wheelchair. Jennifer fought to make real the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law to make public places – schools, libraries, universities, airports – accessible to all. Jennifer went to the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC to convince Congress to pass this law. All the Way to the Top includes Jennifer’s foreword, illustrations throughout the book, and back-matter detailing the history of the disability rights movement. This biography is both informative and an inspiration, an excellent resource for parents or teachers addressing civil rights, freedom of speech, or social justice issues.

Roll with It

By Jamie Sumner,

Book cover of Roll with It

Why this book?

Ellie, a sixth-grader, loves anything to do with baking. She and her mom move from Tennessee to Oklahoma to be close to her grandparents. Finally, she gets a chance to participate in a real baking contest! But Ellie is unsure if she should risk failing. She is at a new school, kids don’t really know her and especially don’t seem to get past seeing her as "the girl in the wheelchair." Will she ever again have a true friend that sees “you” first, not the chair?

This book shows through everyday interactions the importance of being seen as someone more than a disability.

Look Up!

By Jin-Ho Jung, Mi Hyun Kim (translator),

Book cover of Look Up!

Why this book?

In ​Look Up! by Jung Jin Ho the reader slowly comes to understand that the main character is a child sitting on a small balcony outside a tall building in a wheelchair. This child is lonely and isolated. The reader can feel the angry emotion coming off the pages as the child feels frustrated that no one sees them. Everyone on the streets below goes about their day and never notices the child even when she pleads, “Look up!” Jin-Ho uses a black and white color scheme and a combination of lines and objects to evoke melancholy emotions… until the last page when color is used to show happiness, contentedness, and relief. Someone has finally “looked up” and seen more than a wheelchair

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