Writers as Mentors: Books for Children with Differences and Learning Difficulties

One of the wonderful things about writing stories for kids is that you have the ability to shape how the next generation understands our world. Similar to teachers and parents, authors act as guides who point to, question, and explore what is and what could be. The only difference (and this is the magic of writing!) is that this bond is achieved across the inanimate page. Much of my book, The Orphaning Place, is about the relationships between mentors and pupils, parents and daughters/sons, and how they are fragile, conflicted, and (we can only hope) nurturing.

As I settle in for another day of writing, I wanted to off you a list of novels for kids that introduce such topics as bullying, prejudice, and appreciating one's differences. Similar to Wonder by RJ Palacio (discussed in "On Bullying and ADHD"), many of these titles embrace the idea that everyone should have a place to belong:

Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos (*for kids with ADHD)
Maniac MaGee by Jerry Spinelli
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupe
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowed

As a kid with ADHD, I was fortunate to have parents, Mary Jo Wilson PhD and James K. Wilson LCSW, who fostered my creative spirit while never ridiculing my eccentricities. I hope that some day I'll have that same patience to raise children with the courage to accept their differences, whatever they may be. Until that day, I'll continue wile away at my writer's desk, creating stories to share with you and the next generation.

What were some of your favorite books as kids? What types of characters, settings, and stories influenced you the most?

Aren't we all?