Disability in Kidlit is often asked about books we recommend; our website is also frequently used by librarians and educators seeking to diversify their collections. For that purpose, we decided to create the official Disability in Kidlit Honor Roll. Books included on the Honor Roll are ones that we actively recommend for their authentic, accurate, and respectful depiction of disability.
As there are bound to be questions about how we put together this list, we wanted a separate page explaining our thinking. Please read this page carefully before reaching out to us with questions or suggestions.
What the Honor Roll means:
Any book we select falls into these categories:
- middle grade or young adult novel
- please note that we don’t feature picture books or adult titles
- features a disabled protagonist
- at this moment, we’re not highlighting secondary characters on the Honor Roll
- published in the US or UK by a major publisher with bookstore and library presence
- the Disability in Kidlit team feels comfortable recommending the title for its depiction of disability
We believe the books we selected can do a lot of good, for both people who share the condition and for those learning about it from the outside.
Who vets each book:
All books considered for the Honor Roll were read and evaluated by readers who share the disabilities portrayed, which is similar to how we approach our reviews. Those readers (whom we are incredibly grateful to, as this list would have been impossible without them!) provided critical feedback on each book’s representation. The editors then read all books in the running and made the final selections.
What the Honor Roll does not mean:
It doesn’t mean that our selections are flawless. No book is perfect, and books that are incredibly worthwhile in one area may fall down in another area. See the next section for more.
What doesn’t get a book disqualified:
Microaggressions, incorrect details, et cetera.
We take these things very seriously, and recommending a book does not mean we condone or ignore these issues. However, if we were to veto any book featuring microaggressions, the list would be so small as to be worthless. We’ve looked at each book closely, and carefully assessed their various merits and potential problems. If a book makes it onto the Honor Roll, it’s because we think it has substantial value.
We want to ask that people still read our reviews when they’re available, as reviews provide room to discuss each book in detail. This list isn’t meant to be the final word in any way, so please do consider any accompanying reviews for a more in-depth discussion.
What does get a book disqualified:
Messages about disability that we consider harmful. No, we’re not the sole authority on disability—books are often complicated, and whatever message they send about disability may be up for debate. But this is a subjective list specifically compiled of books that we, the editors, endorse, so we end up having to make judgment calls that not everyone may agree with.
Uncritical use of slurs. We understand that a lot of teenagers may use the R-word, for example, and that a lot of disabled people have internalized ableism to the point where they may use that word or others to describe themselves or others. These are complex situations and real-life discussion of reclamation, labels, and language are often fraught even within the disabled community. However, if use of ableist slurs is pervasive and never challenged or examined within a book, we don’t feel comfortable recommending it on a disability-specific list.
Negative or stereotyped depiction of disability or other marginalized groups. If a portrayal of any marginalized group goes beyond microaggression into full-on stereotype or otherwise harmful portrayal, we’re not comfortable backing the book. We do not want to recommend books for their portrayal of disability at the expense of any other marginalized group.
This doesn’t mean we “blacklist” books that fall into these categories. We’ll still happily talk about them in our reviews, where we’ll point out the good and bad alike, and we may recommend the books in other circumstances. It simply means that this particular list isn’t the place for them.
Is this list complete? Why isn’t this one book on the list?
The list is definitely not complete! Our goal is to continually add to the list with both newer and backlist titles. We particularly want to diversify the disabilities and genres represented, and include more characters and authors belonging to various marginalized groups. We are fully aware of these shortcomings and are actively attempting to rectify them behind the scenes.
If you want to stay up-to-date on new additions, please subscribe to our newsletter.
As for why a title isn’t on the list, there might be various reasons:
- The book isn’t on our radar yet. See the below section for how to change that!
- It might be on our radar—heck, we might even have posted a glowing review!—but we (the editors) haven’t had the chance to consider the book for ourselves yet.
- We might have considered a title and decided not to add it. This can even be the case for a book we’ve posted a glowing review of; we might have chosen not to include it for a reason that’s not mentioned in the review.
- The book might not be suitable for our list. For example, the disabled character might be secondary, or the book is self-published, or it might be a picture book.
In other words, if a book isn’t on the list, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a purposeful decision on our end. Even if we did decide to turn down a title, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harmful, bad, or otherwise not worth reading. It just means it isn’t right for this particular list.
How can I suggest a title for the list?
The best way to get a title considered for the list, whether you’re a fan or affiliated with the book, is to get it reviewed by us. Please see the review policy for details. Any book with a disabled main character that receives a positive review from us is automatically considered for the list; there is no need to specifically request whether the book can be added.
We will also consider titles we’ve heard good things about from the groups being represented. If you’re disabled and you’ve read a good portrayal of your condition in a MG/YA book by a major publisher, we would love to hear about it. (Ideally, we’d love a review, but please reach out with your recommendation even if you’re unable to do a review. It’s a tremendous help to us!)
Before suggesting a title, please make sure it hasn’t already been reviewed. You can do a search for the book title or author name in the upper right corner of each page.
How can I help?
We’d love to hear from you if:
- you’re disabled and want to help us vet titles (especially if you’re also willing to review them)
- you’re disabled and you’ve read a title that you think would be a good fit
- you’re a member of one or more other marginalized groups (whether you’re also disabled or not) and you’re willing to help vet books from that perspective
- you’re in a position to arrange review copies
You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is also the email address to use for any other questions you may have.