The world is full of awards for literature—the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Edgar Allan Poe Award—but a recent conference introduced me to one I had not been familiar with before.
Named after a child born with cerebral palsy, the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award is given every other year to the authors and illustrators of books, written for children and young adults, that show an accurate portrayal of individuals with developmental disabilities.
The award-winning titles feature characters with a range of disabilities, from Autism or Down Syndrome to intellectual disabilities that cause trouble in school. The authors give us good stories with a lot of heart and help us genuinely empathize with the characters.
A few books I had read and loved previously went on to win this award:
A Small White Scar by K. A. Nuzum
In the summer of 1940, all Will wants to do is get away. He’s sick of working the family ranch, sick of his father holding him back from what he wants to do, and sick of taking care of his twin brother, Denny, who has Down Syndrome. But when Will decides to run away to compete in a rodeo, Denny follows.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
Salim got on the London Eye Ferris Wheel—his cousins Kat and Ted watched. But when the ride stopped a half hour later, Salim was nowhere to be found. The police can’t find him, but Kat and Ted, making use of Ted’s unique way of viewing the world, are on the case.
Remember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick
Johnny planned on enjoying his summer, but a change in his mom’s plans means he has to stay with his aunt and take care of his older, autistic cousin, Remember. Will a pet ferret and the weather channel be enough to save Johnny from complete boredom?
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award is a collaboration between the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the Special Needs Project. For more information about the award, and a full list of winners, click here.