Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January is Birth Defect Prevention Awareness and Month

January is Birth Defect Prevention Awareness Month. I was surprised by how hard this list was to come up with. You'd think there would be more books with characters with birth defects! I'm sure I'm missing a bunch-- let me know in the comments!


Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson. When Amanda suddenly dies at a gymnastics meet, her brother convinces her parents to donate her organs. He writes letters to each of the recipients, including Dani, a teen who was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen. Terra's brothers have left home and barely looked back, leaving her and her mother alone with her domineering and cruel father. But after another failed attempt to get rid of the port wine stain on her face, Terra and her mother get into a minor car accident. The other car has Jacob, an adopted teen with a cleft palate scar. As the two teens and two mothers become friends, Terra and her mother discover the courage they forgot they had.

Life Happens Next by Terry Trueman. In this sequel to Stuck in Neutral and its companion novel Cruise Control, readers are back inside Shawn's head. Shawn has severe cerebral palsy and cannot move or talk. But he has a massive crush on Ally and struggles with his jealousy over the "normal" lives that his siblings lead. Things change when his mother's cousin, who has Down's Syndrome, and her dog move in. Shawn feels that Debi understands him in a way that no one else does.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio. This one's for younger readers. Auggie's had 27 surgeries to fix his face, but he still makes kids scream and run away. And now, in 5th grade, he's starting school for the first time. It starts in Auggie's voice, but then we get the voices of his classmates and family members as Auggie gets used to school, and school gets used to Auggie.


Fade to Black by Alex Flinn. Clinton has been bullying Alex for being HIV-positive. After Alex is attacked, Clinton is accused, but claims he's innocent. Daria, a teen with Down's Syndrome was a witness to the attack and names Clinton as the attacker. And everyone knows that Daria never lies. Told in alternating sections to get each teen's side of the events, the reader is left to figure out the truth.

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Cynnie's mother is an alcholic and so Cynnie is the main caregiver for her 3-year-old brother, Bill. Bill's the best thing in her life, but he has Down's Syndrome and Cynnie's only 13. When her grandparents take Bill to live with them, Cynnie quickly spirals into alcoholism, trying to drown the pain.

Wanting Mor by Rukshana Khan. Jameela has a cleft palate and lives in a small Afghani village. When her mother dies, her father takes her to Kabul, where the woman wear headscarves so flimsy, they might as well wear nothing. Unable to get along with her new stepmother, her father dumps Jameela at an orphanage. There, she learns to navigate city ways, starts school, and has the opportunity to get reconstructive surgery to fix her lip. Another excellent book featuring a girl with a cleft lip in post 9/11 Afghanistan is Trent Reedy's Words In The Dust.

What books am I missing?

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  1. It's an old one, but I really liked Marie Killilea's 1952 book, Karen, about her daughter's struggle with cerebral palsy. Odd that Hyde's book is the only one I've seen with a Down Syndrome child.

  2. Ms. Yingling-- I'll have to check out Karen. Fade to Black has a Down's teen, but I was also surprised at how few Down's characters I came across. I feel like Down's syndrome is one of the more visible birth defects in pop culture-- remember Cory from One Life to Live or the McDonald's commercials? Heck, even Glee has had multiple characters with Down Syndrome. (Side comment-- Glee handles a lot of things with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but I love the way that Becky has grown into a character where her personality is NOT defined by having Down Syndrome and it doesn't come up much anymore.) So yeah, I was expecting a lot more in book format!


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