12 Books for Kids and Tweens That Celebrate Neurodiverse Minds

Think outside the box with these 12 titles for the tween and younger set that feature neurodivergent characters and celebrate the extensive ways our minds can come up with ideas, solve problems, and learn new things.


Our bodies don’t come in neat, one-size-fits-all packages, so of course neither do our brains. Start to think outside the box with these titles for the tween and younger set that feature neurodivergent characters and celebrate the extensive ways our minds can come up with ideas, solve problems, and learn new things.

CARMICHAEL, Jodi. The U-nique Lou Fox. Pajama. 2022. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781772782585.
Gr 3-7 –Lou is u-nique, au-da-cious, and spec-tac-u-lar…well, usually. She’s a fifth grader with ADHD and dyslexia, which makes school a little tricky. 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 are designed with dyslexic readers in mind.

CONKLIN, Melanie. A Perfect Mistake. Little, Brown. 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316668583.
Gr 3-7 –Eleven-year-old Max sets out to solve the mystery of what really happened the night that left one friend unconscious on the side of the road and another friend refusing to speak to him. An ADHD diagnosis and a thoughtful therapist give Max several management techniques, setting him and a new sleuthing friend on an exciting—and dangerous—path to find out who’s really at fault.

 EARLE, Phil. When the Sky Falls. Bloomsbury. 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781547609307.
Gr 3-7 –This moving historical fiction novel takes place in 1940s London, where Joseph has been sent to live with Mrs. F., the dilapidated local zoo’s caretaker. Joseph is angry about his mother’s death, his soldier father’s absence, and the way he’s bullied at school for dyslexia. But Joseph’s tentative interest in the mysterious and majestic silverback gorilla Adonis just might teach him something about himself.

FULLERTON, Alma. Flipping Forward Twisting Backward. Peachtree. 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781682633663.
Gr 3-7 –At gymnastics practice, fifth grader Claire’s confidence soars. But in the classroom, it flops. Claire is always getting into trouble and is bullied for the unidentified dyslexia that makes it hard to read. Words do handsprings on the page, leaving Claire deflated. Especially frustrating is her mother’s reluctance to help. This hopeful novel in verse emphasizes that learning disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.

GURIDI, Raúl Nieto. It’s So Difficult. illus. by author. Eerdmans. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802855848.
Gr 1-4 –Every voice is worth hearing—even the smallest ones—in this expressive picture book translated from Spanish. Chaotic scribbles and bold lines depict a young boy who experiences anxiety exacerbated by overwhelming environments.

 HIRANANDANI, Veera. How to Find What You’re Not Looking For. Penguin/Kokila. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525555032.
Gr 3-7–It’s 1967, and Ari is the only Jewish kid in her sixth grade class. When Ari’s big sister Leah elopes with her boyfriend Raj, an immigrant from Bombay, her family’s world is rocked. The isolation from her classmates due to 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?

 MCDUNN, Gillian. Honestly Elliott. Blooms­bury. 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781547606252.
Gr 4-7 –In the wake of his parents’ divorce, Elliot feels like his life has split in half. He has ADHD, and one of the only places he feels totally at ease is in the kitchen, cooking up a storm. But balancing the opposite kitchens at his parents’ houses, the prospect of a new baby, and adjusting to a new school all threaten to throw Elliott even further off.

 MCNICOLL, Elle. A Kind of Spark. Crown. 2021. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593374252.
Gr 4-7 –Addie learns what it means to be an upstander when she sets out to encourage her Scottish town to memorialize women who were branded as witches throughout history. Perceptive Addie is autistic and deeply empathetic, drawing parallels between the way society treats these so-called “witches” and the way she’s bullied while struggling with feelings of being an outsider.

RUDOLPH, Shaina. Brilliant Bea. illus. by Fiona Lee. Magi­nation. 2021. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781433837418.
PreS-Gr 3 –With help from an understanding and inspiring teacher who encourages her brilliance, dyslexic Bea is able to make her words soar in class by using a tape recorder instead of pencil and paper in this gorgeously illustrated picture book.

SASS, A.J. Ellen Outside the Lines. Little, Brown. 2022. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780759556270.
Gr 4-7 –A summer field trip to Barcelona presents opportunities for fun and adventure for autistic eighth grader Ellen, but unexpected twists in the itinerary present some overwhelming challenges. Changing friendships—including one budding with the new Latinx, nonbinary student—empower Ellen to explore the nuance of her own identity.

 TALBOTT, Hudson. A Walk in the Words. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399548710.
Gr 1-3 –Slow reading is good reading in this picture book featuring a young boy with dyslexia. Drawing is easy, but writing and reading become challenging when the words crowd the page to make an impenetrable wall. Instead, the boy uses words he knows as stepping-stones to tell his story slowly but surely.

TREHAN, Meera. The View From the Very Best House in Town. Walker. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536219241.
Gr 4-7 –In alternating chapters, this story is narrated by autistic best friends Sam, and Asha, and the omniscient, mysterious mansion next door called Donnybrooke. Sam and Asha are inseparable until Sam gets accepted to a prestigious school, leaving Asha to fend for herself. Will their friendship survive jealousy, bullying, and the trials of middle school?

Allison Staley is a youth and teen services librarian at the Lake Oswego Public Library near Portland, OR. She is the co-chair of the ALA committee Rise: A Feminist Book Project for ages 0-18.

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