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Children's Books Featuring Characters with Autism or Asperger's

Understanding autism can begin with stories about a child, sibling, friend, and classmate (and even a kid detective!) with autism or Asperger syndrome. This collection includes picture books for elementary age children and their families as well as chapter books for middle school readers. We've also included several biographies of Temple Grandin that describe her inspiring life story. If you know about a great book not listed here, please contact us at: readingrockets@weta.org

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

A Boy Called Bat

By: Elana Arnold
Illustrated by: Charles Santoso
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

After the mother skunk is killed, Bixby “Bat” Alexander Tam’s veterinarian mother brings home its kit to be kept only until its old enough to be released. Who would have thought Bat would want to keep the baby skunk, named Thor? Is it really okay for a skunk to become a pet? Bat is a unique character and the story offers a deeply heartfelt glimpse into the life of a boy on the autism spectrum, presented realistically in this touching (and surprisingly informative) novel.

A Friend Like Simon

By: Kate Gaynot
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When an autistic child joins a mainstream school, many children can find it difficult to understand and cope with a student that is somewhat ‘different’ to them. This story encourages other children to be mindful and patient of the differences that exist and to also appreciate the positive contribution that an autistic child can make to the group.

A Manual for Marco: Living, Learning, and Laughing With an Autistic Sibling

By: Shaila Abdullah
Illustrated by: Iman Tejpar
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

An 8-year old girl decides to make a list of all the things she likes and dislikes about dealing with her autistic brother, and in doing so realizes that she has created A Manual for Marco.

A Whole New Ballgame

By: Phil Bildner
Illustrated by: Tim Probert
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn't believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects. Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other ― and find ways to make a difference ― in the classroom and on the court.

Al Capone Does My Shirts

By: Gennifer Choldenko
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Moose's family moves to Alcatraz so his father can work as a guard and his sister Natalie (who has autism) can attend a special school in San Francisco, Moose has to leave his friends and his winning baseball team behind. Moose just wants to protect Natalie, live up to his parent's expectations, and stay out of trouble, but on Alcatraz, trouble is never very far away.

Anything But Typical

By: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A story told entirely from the point of view of Jason, an autistic boy who is a creative-writing whiz and deft explainer of literary devices, but markedly at a loss in social interactions with “neurotypicals” both at school and at home. He is most comfortable in an online writing forum called Storyboard, where his stories kindle an e-mail-based friendship with a girl. The author describes Jason’s attempts to interpret body language and social expectations, and ultimately how Jason moves through his failures and triumphs with the same depth of courage and confusion of any boy his age.

Autism, the Invisible Cord: A Sibling's Diary

By: Barbara S. Cain
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"Ezra looks like any other sixth grader with faded jeans, turned around cap and a mess of chestnut curls. You see, my brother is like any other eleven-year-old except when he isn't." This story follows 14-year-old Jenny as she describes her day-to-day life with her younger autistic brother, Ezra. Ezra can be both her best friend as well as her biggest obstacle to living a normal life, and Jenny often finds herself stuck worrying about her younger brother. Through taking care of Ezra and a very special school project, Jenny ends up learning about her own character and strengths, and a way to shine despite everything else.

Counting by 7s

By: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. Willow is also an outsider, a girl possibly somewhere on the autism/Asperger's spectrum (although that is never stated). Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. This story is about her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family.

Crow Boy

By: Taro Yashima
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Chibi is a young boy who is excluded on the playground because he is different — he has autism. His peers only discover their admiration for him after a wise, nurturing teacher encourages his unique talent in connecting with animals. Subtle illustrations evoke Japan’s countryside and traditional art.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

By: Lauren Tarshis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Intellectually gifted but socially aloof from her seventh-grade peers, Emma-Jean is nonetheless happy with her life. She has positive relationships with several adults, a number of interests to pursue, and the memory of her late father to inspire her. Her life inexorably changes after a chance encounter with a classmate leads her to become a problem-solver without realizing the ripple effect that her actions will have. Readers will be fascinated by Emma-Jean's emotionless observations and her adult-level vocabulary.

I Just Don't Like the Sound of No!

By: Julia Cook
Illustrated by: Kelsey De Weerd
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

NO is RJ s least favorite word ... and he tries his best to convince his dad, his mom, and his teacher to turn No into Maybe or We'll see or Later or I'll think about it. Even though he doesn t have much success, RJ keeps arguing until his teacher suggests that he try to join her classroom s Say YES to NO Club. If RJ can learn how to accept No for an answer and to disagree appropriately with his teacher and parents, he can add his name to the club's Star Board.

I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism

By: Pat Thomas
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A sensitive, gently illustrated book about helping a child understand autism in a sibling, playmate, or classmate. The story line is simple and easily accessible to younger children, who will learn that exploring the personal feelings around social issues is a first step in dealing with them.

Ian's Walk: A Story about Autism

By: Laurie Lears
Illustrated by: Karen Ritz
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Julie can't wait to go to the park and feed the ducks with her big sister. Her little brother, Ian, who has autism, wants to go, too. Ian doesn't have the same reactions to all the sights and sounds that his sisters have. Through its simple plot, the story conveys a complex family relationship and demonstrates the ambivalent emotions Julie feels about her autistic brother. This natural mix of resentment, anger, isolation, loyalty, and love is explained in preliminary notes written by professional pediatric caregivers.

It's Hard To Be a Verb!

By: Julia Cook
Illustrated by: Carrie Hartman
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Louis is a verb! He has a lot of trouble focusing and he is always doing something, but the problem is usually it s the wrong something. It s hard to be a verb! My knees start itching, my toes start twitching, my skin gets jumpy, others get grumpy. When it comes to sitting still it s just not my deal. Haven't you heard... I am a verb! Louis mom teaches him how to focus by showing him a few hands on ideas that anyone can try. A must have book for all who struggle with paying attention.

Jay and Ben

By: Lulu Delacre
Illustrated by: Katharine Swanson
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Jay can make his own breakfast, dress himself, and play by himself, but sometimes he feels sad and wishes for a friend. When a magical horse appears and befriends Jay, his wish comes true. This interactive book was developed for use with children with developmental and learning differences and disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and dyslexia. It is designed to help educators, parents, and caregivers teach children about language, reading, story comprehension, functional skills, and basic concepts.

Just My Luck

By: Cammie McGovern
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn't found a new best friend at school. He's still not a great bike rider — even though his brother George, who's autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad's recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom's advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time, but Benny doesn't know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life seems to have thrown their way.

Looking after Louis

By: Lesley Ely
Illustrated by: Polly Dunbar
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A young girl sits next to a boy named Louis at school. Louis has autism, but through imagination, kindness, and a special game of soccer, his classmates find a way to join him in his world. Then they can include Louis in theirs.

Mockingbird

By: Kathryn Erskine
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

From inside Caitlin's head, readers see the very personal aftermath of a middle school shooting that took the life of the older brother she adored. Caitlin is a bright fifth grader and a gifted artist. She also has Asperger Syndrome, and her brother, Devon, was the one who helped her interpret the world. A compassionate school counselor works with her, trying to teach her the social skills that are so difficult for her. Through her own efforts and her therapy sessions, she begins to come to terms with her loss and makes her first, tentative steps toward friendship. (Winner of the National Book Award)

My Brother Charlie

By: Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Illustrated by: Shane Evans
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Twins Callie and Charlie have a lot in common, but they are also very different: Charlie has autism. Callie narrates the story, describing what autism is and exploring the issues that come along with it. The theme is of love, patience, and acceptance. Endnotes give a few basic facts for children unfamiliar with autism. The authors, a mother-daughter team, based this story on personal experience. The bright, mixed-media illustrations depict the family's warmth and concern.

My Friend with Autism

By: Beverly Bishop
Illustrated by: Craig Bishop
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A peer narrator explains that his friend with autism is good at some things and not so good at others — just like everyone else! In an informative, positive tone, he addresses issues such as sensory sensitivity, communication differences, unique ways of playing, and insistence on routine.At the end of the book are notes for adults, which supplement the text with facts and explanations to further educate teachers and classmates’ parents.

My Mouth Is a Volcano!

By: Julia Cook
Illustrated by: Carrie Hartman
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

All of Louis thoughts are very important to him. In fact, his thoughts are so important to him that when he has something to say, his words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle, then his tongue pushes all of his important words up against his teeth and he erupts, or interrupts others. His mouth is a volcano! This story takes an empathetic approach to the habit of interrupting and teaches children a witty technique to capture their rambunctious thoughts and words for expression at an appropriate time. Told from Louis’s perspective, the story provides parents, teachers, and counselors with an entertaining way to teach children the value of respecting others by listening and waiting for their turn to speak.

P.K. Pinkerton and the Case of the Deadly Desperados

By: Caroline Lawrence
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The year is 1862, and twelve-year-old P.K. “Pinky” Pinkerton is on the run from Whittlin’ Walt and his gang of ruthless desperados. P.K. is determined to hold on to Ma’s last priceless possession: the deed to a large amount of land and silver mines in the Nevada Mountains. P.K. will have to be both clever and cunning to evade the band of outlaws. All this is seen through the eyes of P.K., a half-Lakota kid with Asperger Syndrome, which makes him chronically unable to interpret the intentions of people around him.

Pedro's Whale

By: Paula Kluth
Illustrated by: Justin Canha
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Pedro, a young boy who loves whales more than anything, is heartbroken when he's told to put away his favorite toy whale on the first day of school. But then Pedro's teacher discovers the secret to helping him do his best work: not only giving him his whale, but also incorporating his special interest into the whole curriculum. Soon, Pedro's whale is helping all the children learn, as the teacher works whales into math lessons, storytime, simple science experiments, and more! Pedro's whale helps him make friends, too, as the other children start to share his special interest. This story introduces educators to one of the best, most effective inclusion strategies: using students' fascinations to help them learn.

Personal Space Camp

By: Julia Cook
Illustrated by: Carrie Hartman
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Louis is back! And this time, he's learning all about personal space. Louis, a self-taught space expert is delighted to learn that his teacher has sent him to the principal's office to attend personal space camp. Eager to learn more about lunar landings, space suits, and other cosmic concepts, Louis soon discovers that he has much to learn about personal space right here on earth. Written with style, wit, and rhythm, personal space camp addresses the complex issue of respect for another person's physical boundaries. Told from Louis's perspective, this story is a good resource for parents, teachers, and counselors who want to communicate the idea of personal space in a manner that connects with kids.

Rain Reign

By: Ann M. Martin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein). Not everyone understands Rose's obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different — not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Though Rose's story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-fact narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world.

Remember Dippy

By: Shirley Reva Vernick
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

During a summer vacation at his aunt's house, Johnny is made responsible for taking care of his older cousin Remember, who has autism. Remember is a gawky awkward kid with some pretty strange habits, like repeating back almost everything Johnny says and spending hours glued to the weather channel. Johnny's premonitions of disaster appear at first to come to fruition, but when the two boys save a bully from drowning, salvage the pizzeria guy's romance, and share girl troubles, Johnny ends up having the summer of his life.

Rogue

By: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. She wishes she could be like her hero Rogue — a misunderstood X-Men mutant who used to hurt anyone she touched until she learned how to control her special power. When Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is complicated and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power. The story celebrates everyone’s ability to discover and use whatever it is that makes them different.

Rules

By: Cynthia Lord
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal? (2007 Newbery Honor Book)

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am

By: Harry Mazer, Peter Lerangis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ben's decision to join the military affects his entire family members, including his brother, who has autism and who announces that he, too, wishes to enlist. (Schneider Family Award winner)

Superstar

By: Mandy Davis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This uplifting story follows space-obsessed Lester Musselbaum as he experiences the challenges of his first days of public school: making friends, facing bullies, finding his "thing," and accidentally learning of his autism-spectrum diagnosis. A touching peek into the life of a sensitive autism-spectrum boy facing the everydayness of elementary school.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

By: Sy Montgomery, Temple Grandin
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew that she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism. While Temple’s doctor recommended a hospital, her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead. Today, Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. As an advocate for autism, Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make. This compelling biography complete with Temple’s personal photos takes us inside her extraordinary mind and opens the door to a broader understanding of autism.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

By: Mark Haddon
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, a teenager with Asperger's, is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. In this story, Christopher sets out to solve the mysterious death of a neighborhood dog.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: the Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

By: Julia Finley Mosca
Illustrated by: Daniel Rieley
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe! This is the first book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists. You'll find a complete biography, fun facts, a timeline of events, and a note from Temple.

The London Eye Mystery

By: Siobhan Dowd
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim board the London Eye, but after half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off — except Salim. Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners and follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. Ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery.

The Real Boy

By: Anne Ursu
Illustrated by: Erin McGuire
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Oscar knows he’s different. He can’t remember where he comes from, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of magical herbs and their uses, and he just does not understand human interaction. As the apprentice to Caleb, the last magician in the magic-steeped Barrow, Oscar's job is to collect the herbs, prepare the charms and tinctures, do his chores, and avoid trouble. That changes when a mysterious destructive force arrives and it is up to Oscar and his friend Callie to protect the Barrow and its inhabitants.

The Someday Birds

By: Sally J. Pla
Illustrated by: Julie McLaughlin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. This story is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

By: Clarabelle van Niekerk, Liezl Venter
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sam doesn't like his pancakes to touch, his coat hurts his skin, and his sister is annoyed by his incessant singing. But once he is diagnosed, teamwork-based support helps Sam's life become a little easier. The book includes 10 helpful tips geared toward children, showing them how to respect and accept differences as well as to interact with a classmate or friend with Asperger's.

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