Four excellent picture books about real kids facing disability, illness and adversity are below:
Six Dots: The Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant illustrated by Boris Kulikov (2016) Random House; New York. Grades K-4.
SUMMARY: Louis Braille wants to read but there are no books for blind children in his small French village. He attends the Royal Academy for the Blind in Paris and is excited when he is presented with a book with raised letters, but the words are the size of his hand and the books are huge which limits the volumes the library can contain. He makes it his mission to produce a reading and writing format for the visually impaired and realizes his dream at the age of fifteen when he creates a system using six dots to represent all the letters of the alphabet.
Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Quails (2015) Random House; New York. Grades K-2.
Thank You, Mr. Falker written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco (1998). Philomel Books; New York. Ages 5-8. Grades K-3.
SUMMARY: Patricia Polacco, renowned illustrator and children’s book author, tells of her personal experiences with dyslexia and how one caring teacher helped her overcome bullying and learn how to read. Video interviews with Polacco talking about the book and her experiences with dyslexia may be found at Reading Rockets.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr (1977) Puffin: New York: Ages 4-8 for the picture book and Grades 2-6 for the chapter book. This title is available as both a short chapter book (ISBN 0-14-240113-7) and a picture book (ISBN 0-698-11588-0).
SUMMARY: Sadako develops leukemia as a result of radiation exposure during WWII. She sets a goal of making 1,000 origami paper cranes because of the belief in Japan that if a person completes this task their wish will come true. She wishes not only for health, but also for peace. Her classmates help her complete the cranes and also raise money to build a memorial. Though she dies at the age of 12, Sadako is immortalized by this beautiful story as well as a statue of her image holding a golden crane at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan. Most of the paper cranes were buried with Sadako, but her brother donated one of the few that remain to the WTC Visitor Center in New York See the article. More information about Sadako as well as lesson plans and a teacher's guide for the book may be found at the Origami Resource Center.