20 Great Books featuring Neurodiversity

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 6.06.19 PMEverybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein.

School should be a place for all types of learners and thinkers to shine. This year, Learning Village Librarian Sarah FitzHenry learned about the idea of neurodiversity, a term defined by The National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University as “a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labeled with dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others.” In the simple terms that she uses with her students, this means that different brains work differently – and that’s perfectly normal and perfectly okay. Here, she discusses literature for children related to neurodiversity that would make for great winter reads.

The idea is an easy and natural fit for children, and childrens’ literature is embracing neurodiveristy, too. Authors and illustrators are finally starting to incorporate neurodiversity into their characters, and not just in the quirky sidekicks and perpetually furious bullies of yesteryear. Readers of all ages can now celebrate with detectives who have obsessive compulsive disorder, connect with dog lovers on the autism spectrum, and empathize with students learning with dyslexia. Common themes also include supporting a loved one with neurodiversity, like helping a parent with bipolar disorder work through therapy or loving the unique personality of a sibling or cousin with Down syndrome. The wide selection of titles that honor and celebrate neurodiversity create a safe place for children to explore differences and mental health, and are amazing tools for starting family and classroom conversations.

Titles that celebrate neurodiversity teach students that human brains and behaviors work in myriad different ways, and that that is okay. They build perspective and remind readers that all human beings deserve respect. And introducing the idea of neurodiversity through a kid-friendly story (and without the sophisticated vocabulary) helps to build kindness and empathy, making the world just a little bit better!

As a bonus, my readers love exploring stories about children with exceptional minds. Here are some of the most popular titles in our library featuring neurodiverse characters – plus a few young adult novels for good measure.

Picture Books:


Where Oliver Fits, by Cale Atkinson

The Princess and the Fog, by Lloyd Jones

A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey

Benji, the Bad Day, and Me, by Sally J. Pla

Be a Friend, Salina Yoon

Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon!, Melissa Marr and Lena Podesta



Chapter Books:


A Boy Called Bat, Elana K. Arnold (book 1 in a series; here’s book 2 and book 3)

  Goldfish Boy, Lisa Thompson

Rain Reign, Ann M. Martin

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, Stacy McAnulty

Fish in a Tree, Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, Richard Paul Evans (first book in a series – find the rest here)

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Jack Gantos


Young Adult Books:


(Don’t) Call Me Crazy – 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health,

History is All you Left Me, Adam Silvera

On the Edge of Gone, Corinne Duyvis

Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman

Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley

The Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson

Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X Stork


This article was originally published via Perspectives. Read it in its original format here.

Note: If you purchase something through the links in this post, it may earn Fitz Between the Shelves an affiliate commission at no cost to you. This post is not sponsored. All reviews are my own (and shared because I love talking about books!).

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