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Middle-Grade Books Featuring Protagonists with Physical Disabilities

Common physical disabilities like cerebral palsy are sometimes featured in children’s books, but it is even more rare to find other physical disabilities in books. So here are some middle-grade books featuring protagonists with physical disabilities:

1.“Insignificant Events In The Life of A Cactus” by Dusti Bowling

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.

2.”Monumentous Events In The Life of A Cactus” by Dusti Bowling

The sequel to the critically acclaimed “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” follows Aven Green as she confronts yet another challenge: high school. Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of “armage,” everything changes once again. She’s about to begin high school . . . with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, fears, loss, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?

3.”The Chance To Fly” by Ali Stroker

Thirteen-year-old Nat Beacon loves a lot of things: her dog Warbucks, her best friend Chloe, and competing on her wheelchair racing team, the Zoomers, to name a few. But there’s one thing she’s absolutely OBSESSED with: MUSICALS! From Hamilton to Les Mis, there’s not a cast album she hasn’t memorized and belted along to. She’s never actually been in a musical though, or even seen an actor who uses a wheelchair for mobility on stage. Would someone like Nat ever get cast? But when Nat’s family moves from California to New Jersey, Nat stumbles upon auditions for a kids’ production of Wicked, one of her favorite musicals ever! And she gets into the ensemble! The other cast members are super cool and inclusive (well, most of them)—especially Malik, the male lead and cutest boy Nat’s ever seen. But when things go awry a week before opening night, will Nat be able to cast her fears and insecurities aside and “Defy Gravity” in every sense of the song title?

4.”Pixie Pushes On” by Tamara Bundy

A young girl learns bittersweet life lessons on the family farm after her sister gets polio, in this poignant and funny novel set in the heartland in the 1940s. Pixie's defenses are up, and it's no wonder. She's been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it's not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements—and giving her classmates nicknames like "Rotten Ricky" and "Big-Mouth Berta"—hasn't won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident--a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding—and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she's not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she's finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

5.”The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

6.”The Meaning of Maggie” by Megan Jean Sovern

Eleven years old. The beginning of everything! For Maggie Mayfield, turning eleven means she's one year closer to college. One year closer to voting. And one year closer to getting a tattoo. It's time for her to pull herself up by her bootstraps (the family motto) and think about more than after school snacks and why her older sisters are too hot for their own good. Because something mysterious is going on with her cool dude Dad, whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it. After all, nothing's impossible when you're future president of the United States of America, fifth grade science fair champion, and a shareholder in Coca-Cola, right?

7.”Braced” by Alyson Gerber

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She's finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she's pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet. Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel's spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her -- even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

8.”Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn't ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive - one of the adults with dwarfism who've joined the production's motley crew of Munchkins - and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn't want to fade into the background and it's a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

9. “Freak The Mighty” by Rodman Philbrick
Two boys—a slow learner stuck in the body of a teenage giant and a tiny Einstein in leg braces—forge a unique friendship when they pair up to create one formidable human force. A wonderful story of triumph over imperfection, shame, and loss.

📚 Happy reading!

#themightyreaders #LimbDifference #SpinalCordInjury #Polio #Paralysis #MultipleSclerosis #Clubfoot #Scoliosis #Dwarfism #MorquioSyndrome

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✨Memoir Spotlight✨—“Ugly” by Robert Hoge

Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumor on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness. Home for the Hoges was a bayside suburb of Brisbane. Robert's parents, Mary and Vince, knew that his life would be difficult, but they were determined to give him a typical Australian childhood. So along with the regular, gruelling and often dangerous operations that made medical history and gradually improved Robert's life, there were bad haircuts, visits to the local pool, school camps and dreams of summer sports. “Ugly” is Robert's account of his life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.

#themightyreaders #BirthDefect #LimbDifference #LimbAmputation

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Chosen Not Cheated

I was told my whole life I wouldn’t be able to have a baby due to my Type One #Diabetes . I was told it would be too hard for me to conceive, it would be unlikely I would be able to carry the baby full term, and too dangerous for me.

And so when I got pregnant, I felt like finally……this was going to be my redemption story.

After years of turmoil managing a chronic disease.

After years of hospital stays and doctors appointments.

Millions of shots and blood glucose checks.

Years of being told a baby wasn’t in the cards for me and going full term would be near impossible.

I did it.

And yet, it wasn’t the redemption story I’d imagined in my mind.

All of that struggle I’d endured hadn’t given me the perfect birth story, the healthy baby, the cherry on top of the sundae, or the fairy tale as a reward. That struggle I’d endured didn’t mean a damn thing. There was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for me.

I felt cheated. I felt like I’d had my hopes, dreams, and years of silent prayers ripped out from under me. As I sat in the NICU for 10 weeks, watching other families leaving with their now healthy babies, I felt like God was handing out MY dreams to other people. Why did they get to go have the fairy tale life now? Why did they get the healthy baby? Why did our family have to suffer with uncertainty, fear, anger, a disability diagnosis, a chronic heart condition, and grief? How come everyone else’s baby would be able to walk and ours wouldn’t?  Why was our baby born with a lower #LimbDifference ? Why did our child need an amputation?

Why wasn’t this my happily ever after?  Why was I being cheated out of my fairy tale?

The thing that I didn’t know at the time was…..

I hadn’t been cheated.

I’d been chosen.

Chosen to be her mama.

Chosen to be her advocate.

Chosen to be my husband’s soft place to land.

Chosen to navigate this new world.

Chosen to be her champion.

Chosen because I was strong.

Chosen because I knew what it was like to be different.

Chosen because I can do hard things.

Chosen because I’m stubborn as hell.

Chosen because I know grief and loss.

Chosen because I understand how to find joy in the every day.

Chosen because I don’t quit.

Chosen because there was no one else more perfectly suited to be her mother…..

Than me.

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My recent TEDx

Excited to join and learn from this group.

As an introduction, I was born with a limb difference and hid it for 25 years of my life, afraid of how others would judge me. Through my journey toward unhiding, I came to realize that many of us hide parts of ourselves, and we think we are alone. We are not.

Thought I would share out my recent TEDx: When I Stopped Hiding, I Found Freedom.

Would love your thoughts on what resonated with you and what made you think...

#LimbDifference #Disability #expanddiversity #Inclusion #Diversity


Excite to share and to learn from others

Through sharing my personal journey of overcoming the shame of having a limb difference and hiding it for over 25 years, I have found that many people can relate, as they have had to cover and hide their own differences, whether physical, mental and/or personal background-- the visible and invisible. The gifts I have discovered from accepting my difference have been incredible, and include the freedom to be me, the power to be authentic in relationships, and the ability to connect fully with others-- and bringing my full self/human to work.