Book Reviews: Coping With Sibling Disability

My Sister, Alicia May
Author: Nancy Tupper Ling
Illustrated by Shennen Bersani
Interest Level: Ages 4-9

From the Book Jacket: In many ways, Rachel and Alicia are like any sisters. But Rachel knows her sister is different, and very special. She has Down syndrome. Based on the lives of two real sisters, My Sister, Alicia May expresses the joys and challenges of growing up with a sibling who has special needs.

Esquisitely written with humor and compassion, this heart-warming story provides a familiar setting for precious children with special needs and those who love them. It offers a window into their world for all children as well as for teachers and members of the global community. The breathtaking illustrations by Shennen Bersani make the pages of My Sister, Alicia May as captivating visually as the story is to read.

Why It's On My Bookshelf: I work in an inclusive school. That means there are students with all kinds of special needs in regular education classrooms. Some of them have siblings who also attend our school. A few of those siblings have had a hard time because they've been teased (doesn't happen often - but it HAS happened) for having a sister or brother with a disability. When I read My Sister, Alicia May I immediately knew I wanted to read it to all of our students to confront this 'sometimes' problem. This is exactly what I've been trying to teach kids about being sensitive, compassionate, and understanding towards students who have a sibling with special needs. It's also written from the perspective of big sister Rachel. She explains the ups and downs of their daily lives in and out of school. She loves her sister, but at times feels exhausted by what is required to help her. But one day, Alicia May is putdown and teased. Big sister Rachel steps in and puts a stop to it and tells them to, "Knock it off." I think this is an eye opener for many kids in my school. I'm going to ask them to take a moment to put themselves in someone elses shoes.....maybe those shoes are more difficult than they believed. This story provides perspective and validation. Love it.

My Brother Charlie
Authors: Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Interest Level: Ages 4-9

From the Book Jacket: Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. he's good at so many things - swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett. But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet. His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away. Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun. Charlie is like any other boy - and he has autism.

In this joyful story, told from a sister's point of view, we meet a family whose oldest son teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love. Holly Robinson Peete, bestselling author, actress, and national autism spokesperson, has paired with her daughter, Ryan, to co-author this uplifting book based on their own personal experiences with Holly's son and Ryan's brother RJ, who has autism.

Why It's On My Bookshelf: Often times, when we hear someone has autism we feel bummed out for them and their family. When I finished My Brother Charlie I felt uplifted and encouraged for those families and especially the kids who will read this book. Callie is paving the way for a lot of kids like her brother Charlie and their siblings. She doesn't want the reader to feel sorry for her brother. Like she says in the book, "Charlie has autism. But autism doesn't have Charlie." You feel the pride and love Callie feels for her brother. She does a wonderful job describing who he is....a smart, loving, quiet, and interesting brother. And she does touch upon the sadness and difficulties autism can sometimes cause. But they don't quit on Charlie. They embrace him even more...."And so we do right by Charlie. We love Charlie strong." Thank you, Callie, for the words and validation you are giving families...."I'm blessed to be Charlie's sister and to share so much. I count my "Charlie Blessings" every day." WOW! 

A Link to These Books:


  1. Thanks for this post - I have been wanting to know about books like these.


  2. Thank you for sharing these books, Roxanne. My daughter is an only child but if I ever have another child, I will definitely want these books!