We asked our Facebook community members to recommend their favorite books about children with special needs. With their help, we came up with five bestsellers that deserve to be on your must-read list.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Anne Fadiman, 1997), written over eight years, is a nonfiction account of the culture clash between an immigrant Hmong family that believes in animism and science-driven doctors who struggle to care for a severely epileptic child in Merced, CA. The book won a National Book Critics Circle Award and has been used to teach medical, public health, anthropology, and journalism students. It also spurred the creation of Healthy House, a nonprofit that assists with medical care and interpretation for Merced residents with limited English proficiency.
Wonder (RJ Palacio, 2012) is a New York Times best-selling novel about a boy with facial abnormalities who, for the first time, enrolls in school with typically developing classmates. Author RJ Palacio was inspired to write the book after her three-year-old son started crying upon seeing a child with craniofacial differences. Next April, Lionsgate will release the movie adaptation of the book, starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay (best known for his role in Room).
The Reason I Jump (Naoki Higashida, 2013) is a memoir written in 2005 by a then-13-year-old Japanese boy with autism. The English translation, completed by a couple with a son who has autism, became a New York Times bestseller. Public praise also came from the likes of Jon Stewart, who interviewed one of the book’s translators and called Reason “the most illuminating book I’ve ever read on the subject.”
Ghost Boy (Martin Pistorius, 2013) is a New York Times best-selling memoir about a boy who suddenly, at the age of 12, became mute and paralyzed due to an undiagnosed condition. For 10 years, as his mind remained alert, Martin Pistorius was trapped inside his immobile body. “Each day Dad … washed and fed me, dressed and lifted me … I would try to get him to understand I had returned, willing my arm to work. ‘Dad! I’m here! Can’t you see?’ But he didn’t notice me,” Pistorius told the Daily Mail. Ghost Boy tells the story of the hardship one family endures while facing an undiagnosed condition, as well as the triumph, when Martin’s body begins functioning again 10 years later.
Out of My Mind (Sharon Draper, 2012) is a young adult novel, written in first person, about an 11-year-old girl, Melody, with cerebral palsy. While Melody cannot walk or talk, she has a photographic memory. Written by a parent of a child with a disability, Out of My Mind gives a sense of the “village” it takes to raise a child with a complex condition, from Melody’s parents to her teachers to her neighbors. The Gotham Group (best known for The Maze Runner) is making a movie adaptation of the book.
by Ling Woo Liu