15 Books for Kids and Young Adults by Autistic Authors
Guest post by Adriana White
As an autistic librarian, I’m often asked if I can recommend any good books about autism. And I certainly can! I really enjoy sharing book recommendations, because one, I love supporting my favorite authors and their amazing books. And two, I believe that we have to provide kids with a wide variety of books that can serve (as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote) as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors into the diverse world in which we live.
I also know that – for many parents, teachers, and librarians – it can be difficult to keep up with the constant flow of new releases in children’s literature. And it can be even more difficult to truly judge the quality of a book that’s been written outside of your own personal experience. That’s why I encourage adults to seek out lists like this one, written by #OwnVoices readers, so they can get an inside look at the kinds of children’s books that we read and love.
When I make book recommendations about autism, I try to focus primarily on books that have been written by autistic authors. Because far too often, the publishing industry elevates non-autistic voices above the voices of actually autistic writers. Autistic authors are able to use their own experiences and insights to bring their autistic characters to life, resulting in powerful stories that feel authentic, unique, and magical.
So, if you’re looking for some great books by autistic authors to read this April, here’s a quick list to get you started:
Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min – When autistic Benji sees that his brother Sammy is having a bad day, he comforts him in the best way that he knows how. Inspired by her own neurodivergent family, autistic author Sally J. Pla crafted a wonderful story about the love between siblings.
Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down by Lindsey Rowe Parker, illustrated by Rebecca Burgess – An autistic girl recounts all the ways that stimming helps her in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Both the author and illustrator of this picture book are neurodivergent (Parker has ADHD, and Burgess is autistic), and bring great authenticity to the book.
Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism by Jen Malia, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff – Holly doesn’t like things that stick to her hands, so when her class makes slime for science, she fears that it will just be too sticky! Like Sally J. Pla, Jen Malia was inspired by her own neurodivergent family, including her autistic daughter.
I Am Odd, I Am New by Benjamin Giroux, illustrated by Roz MacLean – 10-year-old Benjamin wrote a poem about feeling strange and different from other non-autistic kids, which has been lovingly adapted into this beautiful and moving picture book. Now 16 years old, Giroux is working on additional picture books, as well as a book series.
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla – Bird-loving Charlie embarks on a quest to find all the birds on his “Someday” list, in the hopes that doing so will help his father recover from an injury. Charlie is a terrifically unique and loveable character, with autistic traits as well as some anxiety (which could be interpreted as obsessive-compulsive disorder).
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll – When autistic Addie learns that they used to burn witches in her small Scottish town, she sets out to create a memorial to these women (who were all just a little weird, like her). McNicoll studied neurodiversity in publishing for her master’s degree and has written two more extraordinary books with autistic heroines.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit – Vivy wants nothing more than to play baseball (not softball!), but her overprotective mother doesn’t think that it’s a good idea for an autistic girl like her. Kapit pulled from her own softball experience to write about the sensory, social, and motor challenges that many autistic athletes face.
Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos – In 1986, Nova, a nonspeaking autistic girl, waits for her sister Bridget to return in time for the launch of the Challenger space shuttle. Panteleakos (who is autistic and also has OCD) worked with nonspeaking students as a substitute teacher, and she also has two nonspeaking godchildren.
Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass – Ellen hopes that a class trip to Barcelona will mend a strained friendship, but the trip turns out to be more than Ellen ever imagined. Just as he did in his previous book, Ana on the Edge, Sass expertly explores big issues like gender identity in a middle-grade-friendly way, and the end result is a magical book.
At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp – As a mysterious disease ravages the world, the teens who have been left behind at the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center (including non-speaking, autistic Logan) must find a way to survive the chaos. Nijkamp wrote this book while recovering from COVID, and the end result is a thrilling, genuine, and heartbreaking story.
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – Autistic Taylor usually avoids big risks and changes, but when she joins friends Charlie and Jamie at a comic convention, her love for a particular fantasy series inspires her to try something new. Wilde brings aspects of her own identity to her characters, as well as her love of geek culture.
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley – Peta (who is autistic and also has ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder) had to learn a lot of rules in order to fit in, but when she falls in love, will she stick to her old ways, or learn how to be her true self? Whateley expertly explores a lot of important issues in her book, including social skills training and LGBTQ+ identity.
Young Adult Science Fiction
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis – When a comet threatens all life on earth, an autistic girl named Denise learns that she can earn a spot on a departing spaceship – if she can prove her worth. Duyvis, who created the term #OwnVoices, tells a suspenseful sci-fi story that pushes readers to think deeply about how we should make ethical choices in the midst of a disaster.
Underdogs by Chris Bonnello – In this thrilling dystopian series, Britain’s only hope against a clone army is an incredible group of neurodivergent and disabled teens. Like Marieke Nijkamp, Bonnello focuses his books on the kinds of kids who are often overlooked and forgotten. Bonnello skillfully utilizes his own experiences with autism, and his background in special education, to write respectfully and truthfully about the challenges – and strengths – of his diverse cast of characters.
Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby – Xandri, one of the few autistics left in the universe, excels at communicating with aliens, but she finds other humans much harder to understand. As Xandri mediates a political dispute, readers get to see an incredible inside look at how an autistic mind works – and how our strengths can be used for the benefit of everyone.
And More to Come!
All of these books are only the tip of the iceberg. There are even more amazing books by autistic authors out there to discover, and there are even more coming in the next few years. Be sure to keep your ears open for upcoming releases from Steve Asbell, Kaz Windness, K.A. Reynolds, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Mike Jung, Sonora Reyes, Aoife Dooley, Rebecca Burgess, and many other great autistic authors.
About Adriana White
Adriana White is an autistic librarian, former special education teacher, and writer. She is a staff editor for the website A Novel Mind, and frequently writes and speaks about neurodiversity and mental health in children’s books. You can visit her website adrianalwhite.com to learn more about her work, or follow her on Twitter at @Adriana_Edu.
Adriana White is an autistic librarian, former special education teacher, and writer. After being diagnosed with autism in her 30s, she now advocates for more autism-friendly schools and libraries. She is also passionate about supporting #OwnVoices books by autistic authors, and thinks that every library should include them! Links to her work can be found at https://linktr.ee/adrianalw
Geek Club Books Resources
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