9 Books Celebrating Neurodiversity

According to the Stanford Neurodiversity Project: Neurodiversity is a concept that regards individuals with differences in brain function and behavioral traits as part of normal variation in the human population. The movement of Neurodiversity is about uncovering the strengths of neurodiverse individuals and utilizing their talents to increase innovation and productivity of the society as a whole. Simply put, neurodiversity is about embracing — and celebrating — all the many ways that people think, process information, and experience the world around them.

Related: What is Jewish About Respecting Differences?

This book list features picture books and middle-grade books centering the experiences of autistic individuals, children with ADHD, and other neurodiverse characters. This is a great jumping-off point for kids who are eager to see themselves in a story and for those who need a little help relating to friends and family. All the books featured are by PJ Library or PJ Our Way authors.

A happy girl with brown hair and a pink and purple outfit poses against a pink and gold gradient background

Adina at Her Best
by Rebecca Klempner

Adina struggles with controlling impulsive behavior and often finds herself in trouble at school and at home. Her supportive parents have tried to encourage her to accept help, but she’s unwilling to cooperate. When she is asked to wait out an activity while on a school trip with her fourth-grade class, she despairs of ever regaining the respect of her peers. Luckily for Mr. Hernandez, Adina is in exactly the right place at the right time to recognize the early signs of a stroke. All ends well as Mr. Hernandez recovers and Adina becomes more accepting of her own neurodiversity..

A boy holding a skunk

A Boy Called Bat
by Elana Kuczynski Arnold

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises — some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat's mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter. But the minute Bat meets the baby skunk, he knows they belong together. And he's got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

A colorful town village and street

Detour Ahead
by Pamela Ehrenberg and Tracy López

Every morning, Gilah — a 12-year-old neurodiverse Jewish girl who loves breakdancing and is preparing for her bat mitzvah — takes the public Metrobus to her school in Washington, DC. This year Gilah is finally allowed to ride alone, but not everything goes as planned. When the bus swerves too close to a boy riding his bicycle in Columbia Heights, only one passenger, Gilah, seems to notice and find the courage to speak up. Guillermo — a 13-year-old Salvadoran American boy — has just moved to the area and helps out at his family's new bakery. Until he can earn enough money to repair his bike, Guillermo takes the H4 bus with Gilah. Through Guillermo's poetry and Gilah's prose, the two navigate the detours of their families, their friendship, and themselves.

Four boys and a girl sitting on a bench at a baseball game

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!
by Sarah Kapit

Vivy Cohen throws a mean knuckleball. But girls don't play baseball, especially not autistic girls. Can Vivy prove to her family — and herself — that she has what it takes to get in the game?

A boy holding the title of the book above his head

Mister Lister
by Judith Pransky

Reuven is excited to be starting at a new school. He's worried too, since he's messy and loud and finds it hard to make friends. Luckily, Reuven has a secret weapon: He has an amazing memory for lists. Meet Mister Lister!

Two students doing work at a desk while a teacher stands over them

Thank You Mr. Falker
by Patricia Polacco

In this autobiographical story, Little Trisha, overjoyed at the thought of learning how to read struggles when she finds that all the letters and numbers get jumbled up. Her classmates make matters worse by calling her "dummy." Finally, in fifth grade, she is lucky enough to have a teacher who recognizes Trisha's incredible artistic ability, understands her problem, and takes the time to lead her to the magic of reading.

A girl jumping in the air

This Is NOT The Abby Show
by Debbie Reed Fisher

Pretty much everything Abby does is inappropriate, but she's always managed to keep things under control... until now. Goodbye, summer of stardom; hello, summer of boredom!

The silhouette of a boy kicking a ball

Understanding Buddy
by Marc Kornblatt

Ten-year-old Sam isn't supposed to know that their family's house cleaner has died in a car accident, and keeping the secret makes things hard for him at school. He can't tell anyone why the new boy — Laura's son — acts so strangely, so nobody understands why Sam sticks up for Buddy when the other boys tease him. Least of all, Sam's best friend, Alex.

Three Sesame Street characters

We're Amazing, 1, 2, 3!
by Leslie Kimmelman

Recommended for preschoolers

This book introduces Sesame Street fans to Julia, an autistic character who is also good friends with Elmo and Abby. Follow along with Elmo, Abby, and Julia, as they enjoy a playdate together.