For your winter-break middle-grade reading pleasure: Texas librarian extraordinaire Amanda Hunt created this big graphic portraying all her favorite middle grade novels that deal with both invisible and visible disabilities. This is a mix of some recent classic standbys and some brand new releases. All books are worth knowing about. How many have you read?
From her collection, Amanda chose to write about a few books that especially resonated:
Wink by Rob Harrell: This title spoke to me because so many students at the middle school I work at are just trying to survive middle school, but Ross is trying to survive life. Labeled "the cancer kid," his rare eye cancer makes him stand out when so often many kids want to blend in. The fact that this book is based on the author's real life experiences made it all that more impactful to read.
Roll With It by Jamie Sumner introduced me to a girl with spunk, sass and a passion for cooking. She also happens to live her life in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy. I learned a lot about this diagnosis through reading this title and found myself rooting for Ellie at her new school.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling was one of the first middle grade books I read that blew me away. Imagine not having either of your arms and having to move through life, expected to do everyday tasks such as brush your teeth, eat and go to school. Aven taught me so much about strength, courage and the ability to move beyond one's disability to be seen for who she truly is: a good friend surviving at a new school and trying to solve a mystery.
Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd is probably my favorite middle grade read from 2022. I firmly believe this novel will win the Newbery. Olive has been homeschooled for a while due to her brittle bone disease and wants to be like all the other kids and go to school. She also wants a friend -- a very best friend with whom she can gossip and have sleepovers. When Olive hears about a magical bird that takes wishes, all she can focus on is to find this bird and make her dreams come true.
Bear by Ben Queen is a heartwarming tale about a service dog who would do anything for his human. This is a graphic novel chosen by the Texas Maverick Graphic Novel reading list, for which I am the Chair, and we all fell in love with this title as soon as we read it. Bear's owner is blind and when Bear, too, starts losing his vision he starts to question his mission in life if he can't protect the one person that he's sworn to help so he heads out on a quest to use his other senses to be a guide dog in that way.
Slider by Pete Hautman was a Texas Bluebonnet book nomination that really tugged at my heartstrings. The main character's brother is autistic. He has to watch him, while also training to be a competitive eater to earn some money to repay his parents. This was funny, as well as an insightful look into the family and friends around those who are neurodivergent.
Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla tackles so many important topics, from being neurodivergent, to bullying, to dealing with someone in your life who has an illness, to friendships, to celebrating a love for comics.
I loved every character in this book and loved the trivia aspect of it, as so many students can relate to a love of all things Comic-Con!
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold is probably one of my favorite early chapter books ever. Bat is autistic, with a mix of strengths and challenges. I could see so many of my students in Bat's behavior, his questioning and inquisitive nature and someone with a huge heart that isn't always able to show it. When Bat rescues a skunk his veterinarian mother allows him to nurse it back to health, but Bat forms such a strong bond with his skunk he struggles to set him free.
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez and Gabriela Epstein was a starred title on the Maverick graphic novel reading list for 2023 that was recently announced. We chose it because of the many topics it tackles. From dyslexia to behavior problems to attendance zone issues to racism to homelessness -- this book is one that will stand the test of time.
My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee deals with a family's repercussions when a son is diagnosed with mental illness. Dee is able to break down stigmas and really show the perspectives and points of view of those who live with someone dealing with mental illness/mental health issues. It was beautifully told and will generate empathy for those who read it.
Amanda Hunt, aka @TheNextGenLibrarian, is a 6th-8th middle school librarian in New Braunfels ISD. She’s been a librarian for twelve years at both elementary and secondary campuses. She is the current chair for the Mavericks Graphic Novel Reading List Committee for TLA. She is also the current chair for TxASL Talks Editorial Board and TxASL Councilor. She was a TLA TxASL Media and Visual Presence (MVP) Honoree for 2021 and the Branding Iron Award 2022 Winner for Digital Only Communications in a School Library. Amanda has certifications in multiple #edtech tools and is a voracious reader.Visit her linktree: http://bit.ly/biolinkthenextgenlibrarian and follow her on social media: @thenextgenlibrarian.