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 enthusiastically recommending the title for its depiction of disability
We believe the books we selected are good picks for people who share the condition, for those learning about it from the outside, or both.
Who vets each book:
All books considered for the Honor Roll were read and evaluated by readers who share the disabilities portrayed. Those readers (whom we are incredibly grateful to) provide critical feedback on each book’s representation. The editors then read all books in the running and make the final selections.
What gets 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 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 use of the R-word (for example) may be realistic in some situations, and that many disabled people have internalized ableism to the point where they may use slurs to describe themselves or others. These are complex situations; real-life discussion of reclamation, labels, and language are often fraught even within the disabled community. However, if usage of slurs is pervasive and never challenged or examined within a book, we don’t feel comfortable recommending it.
- Negative or stereotyped depiction of marginalized character. 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. We may recommend these 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 included?
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 to include more characters and authors belonging to various marginalized groups. We’re fully aware of these shortcomings and are actively attempting to rectify them.
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 — one of our contributors might even have written a glowing review! — but we 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 positive 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, the book is self-published, or it’s 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?
You can simply e-mail us with your suggestion or use this suggestions form. Please do make sure the book isn’t already featured on the list, and that we haven’t previously reviewed it negatively. You can do a search for the book title or author name in the upper right corner of each page.
We’re open to suggestions from anyone (including the authors themselves!) but we’re especially interested in suggestions from disabled readers.
How can I help?
We’d love to hear from you if:
- you’re disabled and you’ve read a title that you think would be a good fit
- you’re disabled and want to help us vet titles (especially if you’re also willing to review them)
- 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.