Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities 2023 – IBBY UK (written by Carol Thompson)

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Blog

Honouring the increasing diversity in children’s books.

In 1981 IBBY initiated Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilites as a biennial project to celebrate the UN International Year of Disabled Persons.

In 2023, our world was shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic and by war, climate change and health challenges. How could we continue to find solutions together and educate authors, illustrators, carers, and publishers about the need for representation of characters in books, who are deaf or have disabilities?

In December 2021, the IBBY UK committee sent out invitations to book publishers, educators, our members, and more, inviting submissions suitable for the 2023 IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books.  All submissions were to be published during 2018-2022.


We look for books of excellent quality, well written, with creative illustrations. They are to include characters with a wide range of disabilities, be presented respectfully, and have a major part of the plot action – no tokenism!

Over the years, the response from publishers has increasingly grown, and we have received many amazing, and outstanding books, which is wonderful.  But we are restricted, as are all the participating IBBY countries, to nominate just twelve titles. We know that there are great books that we just can’t include. We try to choose a representative variety of disabilities from the UK.

All the submitted books are read, shared, and discussed.  Our final selected twelve books are then sent to the Toronto Public Library for final selection by the International Team who work on creating the IBBY collection.


Since I have been involved, submissions from publishers have increased hugely, and it gets harder for the UK to get their nominees selected. This is a good thing as it shows international submissions are growing substantially, more varied, more wonderful, and more groundbreaking. Young people are speaking out as to how they would like to be seen and represented, and ‘own voices’ are gaining momentum.


Internationally there were submissions from 30 countries, in 22 different languages.  From these, the International Committee has selected 40 outstanding books for the 2023 Disability List

Here in the UK, we were delighted to have three titles chosen from our twelve nominees. A trend that we noticed was that ‘own voice’ or ‘lived experience’ was common to all three of our selected books:

  1. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? James Catchpole. Karen George (Illustrator). FABER

James Catchpole, author, shares the same limb difference as his main character. Funny, diverse, and honest, Catchpole writes a note for parents about respecting a disabled person’s disability and space.


  1. UP AND DOWN MUM. Maggie Robbins. (Creator) Summer Macon (Illustrator). Text. CHILD’S PLAY

A child lives with the uncertainties of a parent with bipolar disorder; written in consultation with families dealing with mental health. Sensitive and empowering.


  1. THE AMAZING EDIE ECKHART. Rosie Jones. Natalie Smillie (Illustrator). Hodder & Stoughton

Comedian Rosie Jones, as a gay woman with cerebral palsy, draws on her own experiences with her portrayal of disability and sexuality rarely seen in children’s novels.


Now it is 2024, and once again, we are reaching out to publishers and looking for their amazing books that are waiting to be discovered for the next Disability List 2025.

We thank all of them for their effort and generosity in sending books to us and providing further copies for the collection.


Carol Thompson




Edited and Uploaded by Rhiannon Jelley.