Literature about Accessibility Grades 4-12

A Beautiful Mind

Stories of famously eccentric Princetonians abound – such as that of chemist Hubert Alyea, the model for The Absent-Minded Professor, or Ralph Nader, said to have had his own key to the library as an undergraduate. Or the “Phantom of Fine Hall,” a figure many students had seen shuffling around the corridors of the math and physics building wearing purple sneakers and writing numerology treatises on the blackboards. The Phantom was John Nash, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, who had spiraled into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning a large part of economics. When the Nobel Prize committee began debating a prize for game theory, Nash’s name inevitably came up – only to be dismissed, since the prize clearly could not go to a madman. But in 1994 Nash, in remission from schizophrenia, shared the Nobel Prize in economics for work done some 45 years previously.

  • Date: 2005
  • Author: Wendy Mass
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Secondary School Students
  • Topic: Schizophrenia


Set in a small town near Belleville, Ontario, between the years 1903 and 1919, Deafening is the story of Grania, a girl who goes deaf from scarlet fever at age five. Much of the first third of the book is a view into the intimate world of the deaf, as Grania’s grandmother teaches her to communicate, and her sister, Tress, helps her deal with her childhood fears. Eventually Grania goes away to a school for the deaf, returning home each summer to a family she misses terribly, at the hotel run by her father and mother. When the teenaged Grania falls in love with Jim, a man who is not deaf, this novel begins to gain momentum.

  • Date: 2004
  • Author: Francis Itani
  • Publisher: Phyllis Bruce Books
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Secondary School Students
  • Topic: Hearing impairment, Disability, difference

He Shoots! He Scores!

‘He Shoots, He Scores’ deals with what happens when the support routine is disrupted and when Fish enters a new stage of his life, adolescence, and his new community isn’t as understanding as when he was a child due to the stereotypes and attitudes that exist in society about mental illness.

  • Date: 2010
  • Author: Gayle Grass
  • Publisher: Iris the Dragon
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: Mental health challenges, difference

How Many Days Until Tomorrow?

Winner of the 2001 Parents’ Choice Award. Josh is a twelve-year-old with dyslexia who spends the summer on a remote island in Maine with his teasing older brother Simon and grandparents he hardly knows. His bug-eyed grandfather (alias Grumps) rarely says a kind word. Living on Seal Island is torture until Josh realizes his own ingenuity. He captures a pet mouse, learns about seals and whales and meets a cute girl. In a dramatic, life-threatening emergency, Josh learns he is just as smart as his gifted older brother. He spends the worst and the best summer of his life on Seal Island, far out to sea off the coast of Maine.

  • Date: 2000
  • Author: Caroline Janover
  • Publisher: Goose River Press
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: Dyslexia, difference

Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key (And Sequels)

Joey Pigza can’t sit still. He can’t pay attention. He can’t follow the rules. And he can’t help it! He just does whatever pops into his head. Even if it’s swallowing a key. If he keeps messing up, he’s going to be sent to a special-ed center for “problem” children. He knows he’s a good kid; he’s just got dud meds. But can he get anyone else to believe that? Two sequels: Joey Pigza Loses Control (juvenile novel) 2000; What Would Joey Do? (juvenile novel) 2002.

  • Date: 1998
  • Author: Jack Gantos
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: Learning disability, attention deficit disorder, difference

Kids Of Action

A collection of stories about children with disabilities from the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

King Paralympics

An inspirational account of the athletic achievements of Paralympians at the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic games.

Love And Salt Water

Love and Salt Water is Ethel Wilson’s final and darkest novel. Like Swamp Angel, her finest book, it is a deceptively simple story charged with latent symbolism. Here, however, Wilson introduces an element of emotional terror that only flashes briefly in her other works. This is the tale of Ellen Cuppy, a seemingly unremarkable young British Columbian. When Ellen is 16, her mother dies; as a sort of rest cure for grief, her father then takes her as a passenger on a freighter bound for Europe. As she grows older, Ellen moves through her life without forming terribly strong emotional ties, until a near- fatal accident involving Ellen and her sister’s only child draws her out of her studied nonchalance.

Motherless Brooklyn

Hard-boiled crime fiction has never seen the likes of Lionel Essrog, the barking, grunting, spasmodically twitching hero of Lethem’s gonzo detective novel that unfolds amidst the detritus of contemporary Brooklyn. As he did in his convention- smashing last novel, Girl in Landscape, Lethem uses a blueprint from genre fiction as a springboard for something entirely different, a story of betrayal and lost innocence that in both novels centers on an orphan struggling to make sense of an alien world. Raised in a boys’ home that straddles an off-ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lionel is a misfit among misfits: an intellectually sensitive loner with a bad case of Tourette’s syndrome, bristling with odd habits and compulsions, his mind continuously revolting against him in lurid outbursts of strange verbiage.

  • Date: 1981
  • Author: Ken Kesey
  • Publisher: Signet
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Secondary School Students
  • Topic: Mental Illness, difference

My Name Is Brain Brian

From the publisher: ‘This “outstanding” (School Library Journal) book for children is the sensitive portrayal of a boy who struggles to hide his dyslexia from his friends. Based on the author’s personal experience as a dyslexic, this novel is “drawn from real insight”. Kirkus Reviews.’

  • Date: 1995
  • Author: Jeanne Betancourt
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: Dyslexia, difference

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

This excellent version of Kesey’s classic novel does not supplement the fine Recorded Books edition (Audio Reviews, LJ 2/1/93). However, this Blackstone version is a worthy companion, based on the reading skills of narrator Tom Parker. Parker does an exceptional job of bringing to life the characters of Randall Patrick McMurphy, Big Nurse Ratched, Chief Broom, and the others occupying the Oregon mental hospital. He is especially good with Chief Broom, the story’s narrator, presenting the chief’s state of mind in seeing dark forces behind the nurse’s actions plus the changes he undergoes through McMurphy’s rebellious, fun-loving nature. Parker’s skills and the continuing popularity of this work make this version a required purchase for all collections, even those libraries that have the earlier edition.

  • Date: 2007
  • Author: Michael Foreman
  • Publisher: Andersen Press
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Secondary School Students
  • Topic: Disability, difference, ableism

The Bake Sale

From the publisher: ‘This manual contains 1 audio tape, and 5 1 hour modules about children with learning disabilities. Activities for the students are also included to help the students better understand how students with learning disabilities feel and how learning disabilities affect their day to day lives.’

  • Date: 1999
  • Publisher: The Junior League of Toronto
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: A program to sensitize students to different learning disabilities

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbour’s poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington’s owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves—against the objection of his father and neighbours—to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result – quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number – is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

  • Date: 2004
  • Author: Mark Haddon
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: Autism, developmental exceptionalities, difference

The Summer Of The Swans

On a fateful summer day, a young girl learns important lessons about compassion, difference, and belonging when her disabled brother is lost.

  • Date: 1981
  • Author: Rhoda Cummings
  • Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
  • Format: Book
  • Audience: Teachers, Students
  • Topic: Learning disabilities, developmental exceptionalities difference