Happy Sunday, kidlit friends! This is Margaret, your regular Tuesday newsletter writer. Karina is taking today off, and I’m happy to take over today’s newsletter for her. July is Disability Pride Month, and this week I’m sharing some middle grade novels with disability representation that I really enjoyed. I’m working on about four different articles for various websites this month about disability, and it’s been a bit hard to keep everything straight! It’s encouraging to see more places take an interest in disability, though I’m not sure how much that is translating into change for the disabled community.
Before I get to those reviews, let me tell you about one of Book Riot’s new podcasts! What do S.A. Cosby, Khaled Hosseini, Sarah Bakewell, and Yahdon Israel have in common? They’ve been guests on Book Riot’s newest podcast, First Edition, where BookRiot.com co-founder Jeff O’Neal explores the wide bookish world. Subscribe to hear them and stay to hear Book Riot’s editors pick the “it” book of the month.
Like Lava in My Veins by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Shawn Martinbrough & Adriano Lucas (picture book)
This is a very cool graphic novel for picture book readers. Bobby Beacon has a superpower: he can make fire and lava. He’s excited and nervous to start at a new school to help train his powers, but he immediately gets off to a rough start when a teacher constantly criticizes him for being too antsy. This makes him furious, and he uses his power in the classroom. After the principal talks to his parents, Bobby is moved to a different classroom with a much more supportive teacher. This support enables him to save the school when villains strike. I could see this being turned into a series.
The Red Jacket by Bob Holt (picture book)
This funny new picture book is about making friends and being yourself. Bob the Seagull is a bit of a loner. When he meets another bird with a swanky red jacket, he asks if he can wear it. The other bird agrees, so Bob puts on the jacket. Feeling much more confident in his neat red jacket (with fries in the pocket!), Bob starts up conversations with everyone he meets. But a huge wave washes away his jacket. Will he be able to find it again? Does he even need it anymore?
For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!
July is Disability Pride Month. Over the past few years, I’ve seen so many more middle grade novels published by disabled authors and with disabled characers. Here are four excellent ones to check out.
Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter
I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed this one in the newsletter yet! As someone with severe allergies, I really identify with the protagonist in this graphic novel. Maggie loves animals. However, when her parents allow her to adopt one from the humane society for her 10th birthday, she discovers she’s severely allergic to them. The dog has to go back, and her parents take her to an allergist, where they learn she’s allergic to all animals. Meanwhile, she’s also navigating a new school, a new neighbor, her pesky brother, and a new sibling on the way.
Aniana del Mar Jumps In by Jasminne Mendez
I have reviewed this middle grade novel-in-verse once before in a newsletter, but as one of my favorite 2023 middle grade releases, I had to include it again. Twelve-year-old Dominican American Aniana’s joints hurt often, and sometimes swell and feel hot to the touch. She hasn’t told anyone though, because she has a big secret she’s hiding from her Mami — she’s joined the swim team. As a child, Mami lost her brother in a flood, and she doesn’t want Aniana anywhere near the water. Aniana loves water and swimming, however. When the pain gets to the point that she’s no longer able to hide it, her parents take her to the doctor, and she’s eventually diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Her secret swim meets are also revealed.
No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin
This is another middle grade novel-in-verse, and the first book written by someone with cystic fibrosis that has a main character who also has cystic fibrosis. Penny Rooney’s English teacher has assigned the class a poem about themselves, but Penny can’t think of anything to write about. Penny and her older sister Liana love to play in the creek in their backyard in Durham, North Caroline. One day Penny finds a distressed and lost dolphin in the creek, and she’s determined to help it. This is a lovely novel about friendship and identity.
Second Chance Summer by Sarah Kapit
Two friends face off at drama summer camp in this fantastic and inclusive middle grade novel with dual perspectives. Maggie is a fat Jewish kid with dyspraxia. Chloe is an actress with an overbearing mom who is beginning to discover she’s a lesbian. The two former best friends had a falling out after a school musical went horribly wrong. Now they’re bunkmates in a summer camp. Kapit has two other middle grade novels with neurodiverse characters that I love just as much: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! and The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family.
I was cleaning up the house before bedtime when I walked into my daughter’s room and found her Squishmallow Rooti reading a book in bed, a board book my daughter enjoyed as a baby and toddler — Babies on the Farm. So cute!
If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is email@example.com.
See you Tuesday!