Top 5 Middle Grade Reads About Differing Abilities

I’m an avid reader – always have been! More importantly though, I have been fortunate enough to cultivate the love of reading in my children. They will always be on the look out for books to satisfy their appetite for reading. In this insatiable quest, they indulge in a diverse range of books – different genres, authors and recommendations from friends, and may even try out a book based on the cover! (I think it’s safe to assume we have all done that at some point!).

To fuel my own thirst, I recently joined the Diverse Books Club (DBC) as a way to cultivate a diverse range of books in my reading. I was first introduced to the DBC, through Madeleine, who shares her love for literature through Top Shelf Text.
She is also a Special Education Teacher and works hard at instilling the love of reading in children. I highly recommend her Instagram stories as they are pure bookish joy!

With the help of Madeline, I’ve listed some books that you may want to consider adding to your child’s reading repertoire. These are some great perceptive books that talk about differing abilities in children. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we cultivated more compassion, empathy and universal kindness among us? Perhaps, we can also take a moment to appreciate that these differing abilities do not define a child, and just like any other person, they too struggle with acceptance, and the hope to just fit in.

Reading books with this theme, helps open up discussions with your children, and helps better understand the need for acceptance for many.

Here are my top five!

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder is probably one of the better known books these days. It centers around Auggie Pullman – a 10-year-old boy, who has severe facial deformities. He has had numerous surgeries on his face, and has been home schooled up till now by his mom. However, he is about to start a main stream middle school called Breecher Prep. Will his new classmates, realize he is just like the rest, despite appearances?

This is the first book by R.J. Palacio, and was inspired by a real-life encounter. She was at an ice cream store with her son, and seated next to a girl with a severe facial deformity. Palacio’s 3-year-old son started crying in fear, when he saw the little girl. Palacio realized she did not know how to handle the situation when in fact she could have turned it into a teaching moment for her child. She started writing ‘Wonder’ that same night!

R.J.Palacio has written an absolutely brilliant heart warming story showcasing courage, determination and most of all kindness.

When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.- RJ Palacio, Wonder

The movie has just come out this past week in cinemas and I will be honest, I was hesitant to go, because I did not want to ruin the impact the book had left on me. But I am so glad I went, as it is an absolutely brilliant adaptation of the book.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El deafo is a graphic novel based on the author CeCe Bell’s childhood experiences about growing up with hearing impairment. She starts a new school, wearing a bulky hearing-aid called the ‘Phonic Ear’, which is strapped to her chest. Though it is definitely awkward wearing that device, Cece soon realizes, it has actually become her superpower!

The characters in El Deafo are all rabbits, which were a good visual metaphor, because they have large ears and a sharp sense of hearing. Except Cece.

I loved that it not only had experiences dealing with hearing loss, but also the realities of trying to make good friends along the way.  It is a charming, funny, and heartfelt read that was brought to life with delightful illustrations.

“And being different? That turned out to the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers” –  Cece Bell, El Deafo


A page from the graphic novel El Deafo by Cece Bell

I often look up authors after I read their books, and find their thought process and lives most intriguing. There is always something, that helps connect me with the book better, after I listen or read about the author.
In the short clip below, author, Cece Bell, talks about her graphic novel El Deafo. It is definitely worth a listen!


Rules by Cynthia Lord

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord is an exceptionally talented children’s writer and one of her books that comes most recommended is Rules.

The story is told through 12-year-old Catherine who has a brother David, on the autism spectrum. Catherine is often embarrassed by David, and establishes ‘rules’ for him and some for herself as well! She is often left in charge of babysitting her younger brother, which makes both for a unique bond and some common sibling issues.

The story moves at a great pace, and contrary to what you may think, it is filled with real-life moments and great laugh out loud humor. Rules is a special book as it is told from the perspective of a sibling, who also has to learn acceptance and face her own fears and hesitations.

“Some people think they know who you are, when really they don’t.” Cynthia Lord, Rules


Out of my mind by Sharon Draper

Out of my mind by Sharon Draper

Sharon Draper is a five time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, and has beautifully crafted this story of Melody in her book Out of my mind‘.
Melody is a highly intelligent girl, who is brighter than most of her classmates in an integrated classroom. She has a detailed photographic memory, but unfortunately no one is aware of that because she is unable to communicate. However, Melody refuses cerebral palsy to define her.

This inspiring story full of hope and bravery explores how Melody finds her way to self acceptance and finds love with the people around her.

“Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes-each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.”

-Sharon Draper, Out of my mind.


Here is a link to some Fun Facts & Silly Questions that Sharon Draper answers! Definitely worth checking out!

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Caleb and Kit is a relatively new release that has come out in September 2017. The story is about Caleb, who is a 12-year-old frail boy who has cystic fibrosis. His mother has always been over protective of him, so when he meets Kit, a high-spirited,  independent girl, a new friendship blossoms!

Every day that he meets Kit, it turns into an adventure and Caleb soon questions, the rules that govern his life. The story is an engaging one with a sense of adventure, middle grade concerns, and layered with the daily struggles of cystic fibrosis.

All the books listed, have children with differing abilities that affect their life, but it definitely does not define them! 

All these wonderful titles are ones, my middle grader and I, have both read. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please do share it, and spread the love of reading!

Until next time!

After The Playground

33 thoughts on “Top 5 Middle Grade Reads About Differing Abilities

  1. Pingback: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed | an introverted blogger

  2. Yes yes yes!! Love this list and the need to introduce our children to wonderful diversity of human life. I have read ‘Wonder’ and it is a marvellous book – I would recommend that adults read it as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the film. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only read El Deafo, and I agree that it’s great at teaching about accepting differences. Thanks for sharing that interview with Cece Bell. I hadn’t quite thought about it in the sense of sharing one’s superpowers to make friends.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Good list, and I love how in this case diverse doesn’t just geographic or racial diversity, but diversity in personal abilities and experiences. It’s such an overlooked part of “diversity.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can’t wait to get going with this list with my girl. Like many parents, we have done Wonder — and looking forward to seeing the movie tomorrow. The next couple titles are definite treats to look forward to. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

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