IBBY UK Disability Selection – a selector’s experience
The 2023 selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. Twelve titles selected and submitted by IBBY UK
By Carol Thompson
The 2020 selection for the Disability list was hampered by the Covid 19 pandemic as publishers’ submissions were delayed, contacts unavailable, deadlines were extended and the post was erratic. Everyone had to adapt and books were submitted electronically for the first time.
Now, in 2022, this has proved fortuitous, as more people could be involved in the process, and the IBBY UK committee has continued receiving publishers’ book PDFs for the 2023 submissions. The convenience of electronic books in PDF format means that nominated books can be shared widely for selection purposes for the first time. We have received a greater number of submissions from the publishers than ever, each one varied, challenging and wonderful. If only we were not restricted to submitting just 12 titles. We try to show a fair representation. There are so many books we’d love to include – we suspect also, that there are many great books out there that are not submitted by the publishers.
This year, for the first time, we did not receive any submissions in specialized formats – Braille, sign language, non-verbal communication systems, tactile books. All of these can help make reading accessible to everyone, and allow a person with a particular disability to read or understand a book.
Noticeable was the varied and growing inclusion of ‘own voices’ in both writing and illustration. Voices speaking out about how they’d like to be seen or represented. These include a child amputee, deafness, speech impairment or stammering, and non-verbal characters. There are more children with disabilities included in group scenes, in wheelchairs, as characters respectfully represented and playing a major part in the plot action. The variety of complex disabilities continues to widen. We have seen many books of excellent quality, great stories, with creative, beautiful illustrations.
For the first time in 2022, the IBBY selection criteria has been extended to include invisible mental disability, PSD, autism, bipolar etc. We are delighted about this as we have been asking for a broader set of criteria for some time.
Sadly, as we leave the pandemic, it’s under the shadow of a war, with displaced children and families as refugees. The need for books for children and teens who are suffering trauma is more crucial than ever.