Tag Archives: disabilities

Milo on Wheels by Elizabeth Gordon

Milo on Wheels by Elizabeth Gordon. August 1, 2019. West 44 Books, 88 p. ISBN: 9781538382387.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9; Lexile: 450.

Milo has never fit in with kids his own age. He’s often bullied for the crutches he uses to walk. When he first shows up at the Club, he sits by himself and draws plants and animals. The annual go-kart rally is coming up, and Milo starts to feel like it’s one sport he could excel at. Can Milo step outside of his comfort zone to make new friends and try something new, or will he be stuck on the sidelines?

Part of series: The Club (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Milo refers to himself as a “cripple”

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
An aspiring biologist who’s bullied because of his disability finds friends when he enters a go-kart competition. When middle schooler Milo Braverman enters a new after-school program in a new city, he braces himself for a new round of jokes, pity, and names like “bug-boy” and “cripple.” Milo, who walks with forearm crutches due to an unspecified congenital disability, cocoons himself in his field-guide sketchbook to avoid attention. But soon, some kids at The Club admire his sketches: Broadway musical aficionado Javi; accident-prone “Hurricane Addy;” artistic Noah; and Noah’s athletic sister, Zoe. In spite of himself, Milo gradually warms to them. When Miguel, the kindly director, announces the annual go-kart team rally, Milo is determined to race and prove he belongs. As the kids combine their various skills and endeavor to build an adapted go-kart in time for the rally, their enthusiasm feels natural, as does Milo’s anxiety. Obstacles arise, and Milo’s anger and mistrust sympathetically illustrate bullying’s lasting effects. Though a tad heavy-handed, Milo’s identification with a “brave” oak tree that “had overcome everything standing in its way” feels apropos; the optimistic, open ending implies that Milo’s growth, like the resilient oak’s, is an ongoing process that’s “hard, but not impossible.” Javi is from Guatemala; Milo and the other kids are ethnically ambiguous, though descriptions of Addy’s red hair, Noah’s “dreadlocks,” and Zoe’s braids will probably have readers imagining the former as white and the latter two as black. Nondescript, uncredited line drawings dot the margins. A realistic, hopeful take on meeting challenges and making friends. (Fiction. 7-12)

About the Author

Elizabeth Gordon has a master’s degree in children’s literature from Hollins University. She was a finalist for the Hunger Mountain Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, the winner of the Hollins University Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Scholarship, and winner of the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant. She has published nine middle grade books so far, including a five-book superhero series.

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Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp. September 18, 2018. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374306502.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today’s teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.

The contributing authors are awardwinners, bestsellers, and newcomers including Kody Keplinger, Kristine Wyllys, Francisco X. Stork, William Alexander, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Kayla Whaley, Keah Brown, and Fox Benwell. Each author identifies as disabled along a physical, mental, or neurodiverse axis―and their characters reflect this diversity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. The 13 stories in this brilliant anthology feature teenagers with physical disabilities, mental illness, anxiety disorders, or autism. The authors of the stories are all people with various disabilities as well, and the stories themselves cover a range of genres. In the realistic “Britt and the Bike God,” by Kody Keplinger, a girl with retinitis pigmentosa rides the “stoker,” or back seat, of a tandem bicycle in her father’s biking club, and she’s both thrilled and horrified when her crush, a boy she thinks of as the “bike god,” is assigned to be her “captain.” Katherine Locke’s “Per Aspera Ad Astra” features a girl with agoraphobia who must overcome her disorder to save her planet. An abandoned carnival is the setting for the creepy “The Leap and the Fall,” by Kayla Whaley, with a protagonist in a wheelchair who must summon the will to rescue a friend, while Dhonielle Clayton’s advice columnist heroine in “Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing of Love” learns to not let her irritable bowel syndrome control her life. The stories feature wide variety and high quality, but most important, none of the teens at the center of the stories are defined by their disabilities. Teens disappointed by the lack of nuanced depictions of disability in YA fiction will cheer for these compassionate, engaging, and masterfully written stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
Thirteen realistic, fantasy, and science-fiction stories starring disabled teenagers. These tales feature teens with different mental illnesses and physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities, but all share common threads: no overcoming disability, magical healing, or disability-as-metaphor; just kids shaped by their bodies and minds, their experiences, and the worlds they inhabit. The #ownvoices tales (all by disabled authors) feature a few standouts. Schneider Award winner Francisco X. Stork’s (Disappeared, 2017, etc.) protagonist is a cognitively disabled Mexican immigrant who hears voices and who makes a friend. Dhonielle Clayton’s (The Belles, 2018, etc.) heroine, a black girl with gastrointestinal disease, pens an advice column. William Alexander (A Festival of Ghosts, 2018, etc.) offers a cane-using Latinx boy with chronic pain who accidentally animates the spirit of Richard III. Disability drives the plots at different levels: Corinne Duyvis’ (On the Edge of Gone, 2016, etc.) cursed wish-granter, a 17-year-old girl who likes girls, may not even be noticeably autistic to some neurotypical readers, while the anxiety of Katherine Locke’s (The Spy with the Red Balloon, 2018, etc.) programming heroine might prevent her from saving her city during an extraplanetary attack. Heidi Heilig’s (For a Muse of Fire, 2018, etc.) heroine has mania and depression in ancient China, where her condition is seen as bad fate. For intersectional representations of disabled kids leading complex lives—sometimes painful, sometimes funny, never sentimentally inspirational—a vital collection. (Anthology. 13-17)

About the Editor

Marieke Nijkamp is the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of This Is Where It Ends. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, and geek. 

She currently resides in her home country, the Netherlands. Her website is www.mariekenijkamp.com/

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A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen. January 9, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419725418.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Corporal punishment

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 8-12. Spencer has been able to see directly into Hope’s bedroom window from his own since she moved to town the summer before seventh grade. From that vantage, they’ve been in the right place to fall for each other, but never at the right time. That hasn’t kept Spencer from annotating, in detailed, drawn taxonomies, their ever-changing relationship throughout middle and high school: Hope as the only girl who likes to climb trees with him. Hope as the one person who doesn’t make fun of his Tourette’s. Hope as the object of his affection when she’s dating other people, but who is emotionally unreachable when she isn’t. In this sincerely charming account of one friendship in flux over the course of six years—eons in adolescence—the pair wrestle with their relationship. Simple summer crush? Tireless support through family strife and personal illness? Lovelorn confidante? Through sparkling prose (and Spencer’s clever doodles), Allen depicts how debasing unrequited love can feel, and just how consuming that connection can be when shared at long last.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Two teens chronicle six years of their unpredictable relationships.Despite his habit of sorting people into categories, Spencer Barton, an awkward white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t share his father and older brother’s love of hunting, and his tics make him a bully magnet. But when Hope Birdsong, a “magical” white girl, moves in next door, she becomes his—protector? Friend? Girlfriend? As they grow up in the insular Georgia town of Peach Valley, Spencer details their amorphous, contentious, on-and-off relationship from ages 13 to 19. His self-deprecating narrative, supplemented with snarky flow charts, alternates with Hope’s pensive text messages and handwritten letters to her older sister. As Spencer and Hope navigate their feelings for each other, their relationships with friends and family—tinged with parental disappointment, sibling rivalry, and grief—evolve. The long time frame occasionally condenses important events, resulting in some clunky expository dialogue and abrupt character development. However, fast-forwarding also allows Spencer and Hope to reflect (albeit somewhat heavy-handedly) on their maturing views of love, sex, friendship, disability, racism (at the expense of a briefly featured black secondary character), and loss. The ending provides closure, but it feels rather neat after the lessons learned from their messy ups and downs. Patient readers will want to follow Spencer and Hope’s tangled relationship just to see where it finally ends up. (Romance. 13-18)

About the Author

Rachael Allen is the author of 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children, and two sled dogs.

Her website is rachaelallenwrites.blogspot.com

 

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. September 5, 2017. Sterling Children’s Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781454923459.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 700.

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. A move to dusty, distant Arizona forces 13-year-old Aven to leave her familiar life and friends behind. Don’t yawn: Bowling takes this overworked trope and spins it into gold with a skein of terrific twists. For one thing, Aven was born without arms, so the new environment—a decrepit Wild West theme park—poses special challenges. For another, thanks to loving, funny adoptive parents who have raised her to be a “problem-solving ninja” (“I’m so flexible, it would blow your mind,” she boasts), readers may repeatedly forget, despite reminders enough, that Aven is (as she puts it) “unarmed.” Moreover, when the dreary prospect of having to cope with the looks and questions at her new middle school sends her in search of an isolated place to eat her lunch, she finds and bonds with Conner, who is struggling with Tourette’s syndrome and has not been so lucky with his parents. Not only does she firmly enlist him and another new friend in investigating a mystery about the theme park’s past but, taking Conner’s involuntary vocalizations in stride (literally), Aven drags him (figuratively) into an information-rich Tourette’s support group. Following poignant revelations about Aven’s birth family, the author lets warm but not gooey sentiment wash over the close to a tale that is not about having differences, but accepting them in oneself and others.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
Born without arms, white “problem-solving ninja” Aven Green can do almost anything with her feet instead—even solve a mystery. “Now that I’m thirteen years old, I don’t need much help with anything. True story.” Aven’s adoptive parents have always encouraged her independence. She’s never felt self-conscious among her friends in Kansas, playing soccer and guitar and mischievously spinning wild yarns about losing her arms. But when her father suddenly gets a job managing Stagecoach Pass, a run-down theme park in Arizona, tales of alligator wrestling can’t stop her new classmates’ gawking. Making friends with Connor, a self-conscious white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, and Zion, a shy, overweight, black boy, allows her to blend in between them. Contrasted with the boys’ shyness, Aven’s tough love and occasional insensitivity provide a glimpse of how—and why—attitudes toward disability can vary. While investigating the park’s suspiciously absent owner, the kids discover clues with eerie ties to Aven. The mystery’s twist ending is somewhat fairy-tale–esque, but Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. Though much of this earnest effort reads like an after-school special, its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Dusti Bowling grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where, as her family will tell you, she always had her nose in a book. Dusti holds a Bachelor of Psychology and a Master of Education, but she eventually realized that her true passion was writing. The Day We Met, her self-published YA novel, has sold over 20,000 copies. She currently lives in Carefree, Arizona, with her husband, three daughters, one bobcat, a pack of coyotes, a couple of chuckwallas, several rattlesnakes, and a few herds of javelina.

Her website is www.dustibowling.com

Teacher Resources

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus Discussion Questions

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