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Autism and Autistic Characters

books with autistic characters

Recommended children’s books about autism and autistic characters

Browse our booklist of recommended children’s books that foster awareness and understanding of autism. Our selection of books offers a range of perspectives on neurodiversity, exploring different experiences of autism including personal accounts and experiences of supporting family and friends. Books and stories can play an important role in raising awareness and promoting understanding towards autistic individuals as well as celebrating their strengths and talents and allowing children with autism to be represented in stories written by authors with similar experiences.

Our booklist is designed for anyone seeking to promote diversity and inclusion in their personal or school settings, including parents, teachers, and those looking for personal development. This varied booklist of picturebooks, chapter books and graphic novels includes relatable stories for autistic children, as well as books that help all children to understand what it is like for autistic people to navigate a world that isn’t always designed with them in mind and stories designed to celebrate neurodiversity.

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Picturebooks about neurodiversity

Pablo
Picturebook
Pablo thinks differently! Pablo's mum takes him to his cousin Lorna's birthday party, but Pablo gets scared of the noisy party. Pablo hides in the car, and soon his friends come to join him. Pablo's friends help him realise that it's OK if he doesn't want to go to the party. This lovely and heartwarming story will help readers understand that not everybody thinks the same way, and that some people feel differently about parties. All Pablo books are written by writers on the autistic spectrum and are grounded in the real-life experiences of autistic children.
Jon Roberts
 & Hannah Rounding
Picturebook
Jon Roberts' debut work for children is a sensitive portrayal of life as a child with Autism, narrated by 4-year old Kya, who guides readers through her likes and dislikes and all the nuances of her character. Utilising colourful text and illustration and inspired by his experiences of raising his own daughter with the condition, it is an ideal tool for encouraging an understanding of Autism for both children and their families.
Samuel Langley-Swain
 & Mirna Imamovic
Picturebook
A heartfelt Christmas story of friendship and belonging, centered around the unbreakable bond between a boy and a bear, with a message about sustainability at the heart. Due to his autism, Arctic-enthusiast Arthur does not like Christmas, the noise, the lights, and the crowds. He keeps his precious toy polar bear close for security, but after losing him and asking Father Christmas for a new one, he wakes up to find a REAL polar bear in his garden! Arthur names his new friend Björn, and in spite of his best efforts to keep him cold and happy, it soon becomes clear that he needs to help his friend return to where he belongs. Time for some more Christmas magic...
Isabelle Marinov
 & Chris Nixon
The world was too bright for Leo. And too loud. "I must be living on the wrong planet," Leo thought. Leo struggles to make sense of the world. He doesn't understand the other children in his class, and they don't seem to understand him. But then one day, Leo meets Maya. Maya is an octopus, and the more Leo learns about her, the more he thinks that perhaps he isn't alone in this world, after all.
Tom Percival
Picturebook
Meesha loves making things . . . but there's one thing she finds difficult to make - friends. She doesn't know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it. But one day she discovers that she has a special talent that might just help her navigate social situations - and maybe even make new friends. A warm and affectionate look at the joys and difficulties of making and keeping friends, relating to others, and finding your place in the world.

Chapter books about neurodiversity

Siobhan Dowd
Chapter book
Ted and his sister Kat watch their cousin Salim climb aboard the London Eye. But when his pod returns to the ground and the doors open, Salim has completely vanished. Where could Salim have gone? Has he been kidnapped — or worse? With the police baffled by his disappearance, it's down to Ted to use his unique abilities to solve the mystery — following a trail of clues that lead across London, with Kat's help. Starring a brilliant young detective, Siobhan Dowd's ‘howdunnit' is a real classic, which will keep you gripped from beginning to end.
Elle McNicoll
Chapter book

This story follows twelve-year-old Cora, who describes herself as autistic, as she befriends a boy called Adrien at a party that she never wanted to go to. A little unwilling at first, Cora is used to distrusting others and feels sure that Adrien’s intentions are unlikely to be driven by genuine interest in her. In no time at all, Cora learns to trust Adrien, who confides in her about his own ADHD, and as the pair become close they enjoy each other’s unquestioning acceptance and bond over their experiences of not quite fitting in at school.

Adrien’s Dad runs a company called ‘Pomegranate Technologies’, and Cora finds herself drawn to their innovative programme of creating incredibly lifelike holograms (or ‘grams’) of people. Having recently lost her own mother, the idea of being able to interact with a loved one after they die appeals instantly. Cora is intrigued to discover that scientists at the institute are keen to interview her as a ‘person with autism’, and after an unexpected event happens with Adrien she agrees to help. Before long, Cora notices something amiss with one of the grams and begins to unravel some surprising truths about what is really going on behind the scenes at Pomegranate…

There was so much to enjoy in this book. I loved the depth of the storytelling – the multilayered writing with its many allusions, symbols and reflections that provoke an enjoyable tension between feeling the need to pause for thought and wanting to rip on through the genuinely gripping plot. I enjoyed the artificial intelligence strand of the plot very much, and in particular, how thought-provoking the story was with regard to the ethics of AI in both the hypothetical sense of holograms, but also hinting at a closer, everyday sense too. There’s food for thought aplenty, and yet the writing is watertight and never strays from the plot to dwell on these themes or impose judgement. I also enjoyed the emerging themes of acceptance and the importance of being true to oneself.

This is a stand-out story and a must-have for classrooms and school libraries where there are mature readers aged 10+.

Libby Scott & Rebecca Westcott
Chapter book
With diary entries written by eleven-year-old Libby Scott, based on her own experiences of autism, this pioneering book, written in collaboration with esteemed author Rebecca Westcott, has been widely praised for its realistic portrayal of autism.Tally is eleven years old and she's just like her friends. Well, sometimes she is. If she tries really hard to be. Because there's something that makes Tally not the same as her friends. Something she can't cover up, no matter how hard she tries: Tally is autistic.Tally's autism means there are things that bother her even though she wishes they didn't. It means that some people misunderstand, her and feel frustrated by her.People think that because Tally's autistic, she doesn't realise what they're thinking, but Tally sees and hears - and notices - all of it.And, honestly? That's not the easiest thing to live with.
Kate Foster
Chapter book

This is a positive and uplifting book that would appeal to across Key Stage Two year groups.

11-year-old Alex is autistic and having difficulty navigating school and friendships. His relationship with his dog, Kevin, is at the heart of the story and their ambitions ultimately lead to important lessons about friendship.

Dog books are a popular but not usually diverse genre, so it’s particularly nice to see a neurodiverse main character. The story covers some of the anxieties and concerns associated with the transition to secondary school. It would also be suitable for much younger capable readers and would be a great fit for a school library.

 

Elle McNicoll
Chapter book

This is a beautifully written book with a fascinating story behind it, and an insightful exploration of one girl’s experiences of autism.

The way that the messages of the book about acceptance and self-belief are intertwined with the story of the witches persecuted in Scotland is clever and thought-provoking.

This book will help those children who may feel they are ‘different’, but also challenges all children to think carefully about how they treat those who they see as different to them.

The story has also been televised for CBBC. See our blog interview with author Elle McNicoll for more information.


Nicola Davies
 & Mike Byrne
Jake is different from the other kids at school. He struggles when routines change and people's emotions are so hard to understand. Christmas can be even worse and often the festivities are just too much to bear. But when Jake finds a little dog lost in the street he unlocks a connection he's never had before. Together Jake and Susan form a special bond that helps him to understand the world around him, changing his life for the better. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.
Katya Balen
 & Laura Carlin
Chapter book
Frank is ten. He likes cottage pie and football and cracking codes. Max is five. He eats only Quavers and some colours are too bright for him and if he has to wear a new T-shirt he melts down down down.Sometimes Frank wishes Mum could still do huge paintings of stars and asteroids like she used to, but since Max was born she just doesn’t have time.When tragedy hits Frank and Max’s lives like a comet, can Frank piece together a universe in which he and Max aren’t light years apart?This jaw-dropping, heartbreaking and hopeful novel from Katya Balen will remind you we are all made of stardust. For fans of thought-provoking, moving middle grade from Wonder to Skellig.

Graphic novels about neurodiversity

Aoife Dooley
Graphic Novel

This graphic novel follows the story of Frankie and offers readers a delightful blend of humour, relatability, and empathy. Drawn from the author’s own life experiences, this is told from the perspective of Frankie, a girl with autism. Frankie tackles bullies, discovers her strengths, and gains a deeper understanding of herself.

Readers will cheer Frankie on in this wonderful graphic novel of growth and self-discovery illustrated in bright oranges and blues.

Abigail Balfe
Non-fiction
The beautiful true story of one girl's journey growing up autistic and the challenges she faced in the 'normal' world.Abigail wass not like the other children in the class at school. Abigail didn't didn't know she was autistic until she was an adult.This is her true story of growing up in the confusing 'normal' world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about herself.There are be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including her dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you'll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.If you've ever felt different, out of place, like you don't fit in - this book is for you.
Rebecca Burgess
Graphic Novel
For fans of Click and Brave, this touching coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel debut follows an autistic girl who finds friendship where she least expects it and learns to express her true self in a world where everyone defines her by her differences.Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self. While she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her.Together, they've taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure.She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say.

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