12 Books for Kids and Tweens That Celebrate Neurodiverse Minds

Think outside the box with these 12 titles for tweens and youngsters, featuring neurodivergent characters, and celebrating the vast ways our minds can generate ideas, solve problems, and learn new things.

Our bodies don’t come in neat one-size-fits-all packages, and neither does our brain, of course. Start thinking outside the box with these titles for tweens and youngsters, which feature neurodivergent characters and celebrate the vast ways our minds can generate ideas, solve problems, and learn new things.

CARMICHAEL, Jodi. The underground one-of-a-kind Lou Fox. pajamas. 2022. Tr$18.95. ISBN 9781772782585.
Sizes 3-7 –Lou is unique, au-da-cious, and spec-tac-u-lar…well, usually. She is a fifth grader with ADHD and dyslexia, which makes school a bit difficult. Lou would rather dream up new ideas for plays than pay attention in class, and her strict teacher can spot a daydream from a mile away. This novel’s font and text placement have been specially designed for dyslexics.

CONKLIN, Melanie. A perfect mistake. small, brown 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9780316668583.
Sizes 3-7 – Eleven-year-old Max sets out to solve the mystery of what really happened the night a friend lay unconscious by the side of the road and another friend refused to talk to him. An ADHD diagnosis and a thoughtful therapist provide Max with a variety of management techniques that send him and a new detective friend on an exciting — and dangerous — journey to uncover who’s really at fault.

EARL, Phil. When the sky falls. Bloomsbury. 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9781547609307.
Sizes 3-7 – This moving historical novel is set in 1940s London, where Joseph was sent to live with Mrs. F., the caretaker of the run-down local zoo. Joseph is furious over the death of his mother, the absence of his soldier father, and the way he is being bullied at school for having dyslexia. But Joseph’s tentative interest in the mysterious and majestic silverback gorilla Adonis might teach him something about himself.

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FULLERTON, Alma. Tilt forward, rotate backward. Peach tree. 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9781682633663.
Sizes 3-7 – Fifth grader Claire’s confidence increases when she does gymnastics. But in the classroom it flops. Claire keeps getting into trouble and being bullied because of her unidentified dyslexia, which makes reading difficult. Words make hand bounces on the page, leaving Claire deflated. Her mother’s reluctance to help her is particularly frustrating. This hopeful verse novel emphasizes that learning disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.

GURIDI, Raul Nieto. It is so hard. Fig. by author. Eerdmans. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802855848.
Sizes 1-4 -Every voice is worth hearing – even the smallest – in this expressive picture book from Spanish. Chaotic doodles and bold lines depict a young boy experiencing fear that is compounded by overwhelming environments.

HIRANANDANI, Veera. Here’s how to find what you’re not looking for. Penguin/Kokila. 2021. $17.99. ISBN 9780525555032.
Sizes 3-7– It’s 1967 and Ari is the only Jewish child in her sixth grade. When Ari’s big sister Leah elopes with her Bombay immigrant boyfriend Raj, her family’s world is rocked. Isolation from her classmates because of her religion is only compounded by Ari’s dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects her writing. Can Ari lean on her family and face these issues head-on?

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MCDUNN, Gilian. Honestly Elliot. Bloomsbury. 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9781547606252.
Sizes 4-7 – After his parents’ divorce, Elliot feels like his life has split in half. He has ADHD, and one of the only places he’s completely comfortable is in the kitchen, where he’s making a splash. But balancing the opposing kitchens in his parents’ homes, the prospect of a new baby, and adjusting to a new school threaten to throw Elliott even further off track.

MCNICOLL, Elle. Kind of a spark. Crown. 2021. $16.99. ISBN 9780593374252.
Sizes 4-7 –Addie learns what it means to be an insurgent as she sets out to encourage her Scottish town to commemorate women who have been branded witches throughout history. Autistic and deeply empathetic, the perceptive Addie draws parallels between the way society treats these so-called “witches” and the way she is bullied while struggling with feeling like an outsider.

Rudolph, Shaina. Brilliant Bea. Fig. by FionaLee. magic. 2021. $16.99. ISBN 9781433837418.
PreS Gr 3 -With the help of an understanding and inspiring teacher who encourages her brilliance, the dyslexic is able to make her words fly in class, using a tape recorder instead of pencil and paper in this beautifully illustrated picture book.

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SASS, AJ cubits outside the lines. small, brown 2022. $16.99. ISBN 9780759556270.
Sizes 4-7 -A summer field trip to Barcelona offers autistic eighth grader Ellen opportunities for fun and adventure, but unexpected turns in the itinerary present overwhelming challenges. Shifting friendships – including one budding with the new Latinx, a non-binary college student – empower Ellen to explore the nuances of her own identity.

TALBOTT, Hudson. A walk in words. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. 2021. $17.99. ISBN 9780399548710.
Sizes 1-3 – Slow reading is good reading in this picture book about a boy with dyslexia. Drawing is easy, but writing and reading becomes a challenge as the words fill the page, forming an impenetrable wall. Instead, the boy uses words he knows as stepping stones to slowly but surely tell his story.

Trehan, Meera. The view from the very best house in town. walker. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536219241.
Sizes 4-7 – In alternating chapters, this story is told by autistic best friends Sam and Asha and the all-knowing, mysterious mansion next door called Donnybrooke. Sam and Asha are inseparable until Sam is accepted into a prestigious school and Asha is left to her own devices. Will their friendship survive jealousy, bullying, and middle school exams?

Allison Staley is the Youth and Youth Services Librarian at Lake Oswego Public Library near Portland, OR. She is co-chair of the ALA committee Rise: A Feminist Book Project for 0-18 years.