The sad thing is, I had to think hard to come up with some favorite other-abled characters. I haven’t seen many books, movies or shows with other-abled characters that don’t turn them into object lessons for main characters or PSAs to say “look, they’re people too.” But as I gave it more thought, I realized Charles Dickens, of all people, has several other-abled characters that are three-dimensional, not just clichés.
Victorian writers weren’t often politically correct, and Dickens made his mistakes. His Tiny Tim is stereotyped as a saint who helps to bring Scrooge to his redemption, and in Bleak House, Grandfather Smallweed’s disability is almost comic relief with his “Shake me up, Judy!” episodes. But Phil Squod, also in Bleak House, is a well-rounded character, with his mobility disability simply one of his many quirks, and we admire his devotion and service to his boss.
My favorite other-abled character is Miss Jenny Wren in Our Mutual Friend. Miss Jenny Wren is a poor doll’s dressmaker, whose "back is bad and her legs are queer.” But she is the “person of the house,” and not to be trifled with. She berates her ne’er-do-well father as a “bad child” and makes him turn out his pockets so he won’t spend all their money on drink. She pokes people with her sewing pins and can win an argument with anyone. Her friendship with Lizzie allows us to see inside her good heart and wish we had a friend like her.
The ALA (American Library Association) created the Schneider Family Book Award to celebrate the children’s and young adult book of the year “that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Learn more and find some great books for yourself and your kids at .
Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at . You can also find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.