Nonfiction for Young Readers About Paralympians and the Paralympic Games

As the world prepares for the 2024 Summer Paralympic Games, here are a few nonfiction titles about the Games and some of the inspiring athletes who have competed in them.

The Americans With Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in July of 1990, protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Every July, Disability Pride Month commemorates this legislation. As the world prepares for the 2024 Summer Paralympic Games, starting August 28th in Paris, here are a few nonfiction titles for young readers of all ages about the Games and some of the inspiring athletes who have competed. These titles are available as a downloadable spreadsheet.


A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games by Lori Alexander. illus. by Allan Drummond. HMH. ISBN 9781328580795. 
Gr 3-6–Ludwig Guttmann was a surgeon who realized that sports could build strength, boost confidence, raise spirits, and develop camaraderie in his patients. What started as a wheelchair sports competition between two hospitals grew into the international Paralympic Games. VERDICT An uplifting biography that spotlights the dedicated physician who saved lives, created the Paralympic Games, and became a pioneer for disability rights.

Fastest Woman on Earth: The Story of Tatyana McFadden by Francesca Cavallo. illus. by Luis San Vicente. Undercats. (Paralympians: Bk. 1). ISBN 9781953592040. 
K-Gr 2–This first installment in a series that will highlight Paralympic athletes features Tatyana McFadden—known as the fastest woman on earth. VERDICT A great introduction to an accomplished athlete that also showcases a nontraditional family; this work will empower kids.

Zion Unmatched by Zion Clark with James S. Hirsch. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536224184.
Gr 2-4–A visual and motivational picture book autobiography. Zion Clark was born without legs, given up by his mother, and forced to face neglect in the foster care system. He went on to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics. VERDICT An uplifting autobiography. Consider as a general purchase for large collections.

[Read: 12 Nonfiction Titles About Olympic Athletes for Young Readers of All Ages]

Unsinkable: From Russian Orphan to Paralympic Swimming World Champion by Jessica Long with Hannah Long. HMH. ISBN 9781328707253. 
Gr 5-8–Long was born with fibular hemimelia in both legs, leading to a double amputation below her knees. This did not deter her from achieving her dream of Paralympic glory. Through hard work and perseverance, Long became a U.S. Paralympic athlete, winning her first gold medal at 12 years old, the youngest to do so. VERDICT A general purchase for libraries with middle grade memoir fans.

Tenacious: Fifteen Adventures Alongside Disabled Athletes by Patty Cisneros Prevo. illus. by Dion Mehaga Bangun Djayasaputra. Lee & Low. Jun. ISBN 9781643790985. 
Gr 1-4–There are a lot of positives to describe this book, which shines a light on athletes with disabilities, among them, those who participated in the Paralympics. Each athlete is profiled with a brief bio, a daily challenge, and a daily joy against a page with a full-color illustration of that person in action. VERDICT An eye-opening look at disabled athletes who turn the stigma of disability on its head. Libraries looking to add titles on adaptive equipment, games and events that are inclusive, or robust bios of great athletes will find this worth buying.

Just Don’t Fall (Adapted for Young Readers): A Hilariously True Story of Childhood Cancer and Olympic Greatness by Josh Sundquist. Viking. ISBN 9780593621998.
Gr 5-8–Sundquist’s memoir weaves humor and inspiration, recounting his journey from childhood cancer survivor to Paralympic ski racer. This book is the inspiration for the Apple TV show Best Foot Forward. VERDICT The author’s infectious wit shines through the very readable narrative as he navigates his medical challenges while embracing dedication and positivity.


Series Titles About the Paralympics

HANLON, Luke. Para Alpine Skiing. ISBN 9781503885134.
––––. Para Track and Field. ISBN 9781503885127.
––––. Sled Hockey. ISBN 9781503885080.
MCDOUGALL, Chrös. Goalball. ISBN 9781503885110.
OLSON, Ethan. Para Cycling. ISBN 9781503885141.
––––. Para Swimming. ISBN 9781503885103.
––––. Sitting Volleyball. ISBN 9781503885097.
––––. Wheelchair Basketball. ISBN 9781503885073.
ea vol: 24p. (Paralympic Sports). Child’s World/Stride. Jan. 2024. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 4-6–Each book in this series begins with an excerpt from a game or race from an athlete’s perspective, before moving on to an overview of each sport, its equipment and history, and ends with thumbnail sketches of noteworthy athletes. Straightforward prose is complemented by photos and diagrams, especially helpful in detailing equipment such as monoskis or delineating a sitting volleyball court. Paralympic competitions have grown to include athletes from around the world, including China’s para swimmer Tao Zheng, who has won 10 medals after just two Paralympics. Along with a glossary and resource list, each book includes three questions that focus on empathy, including: “Why is it important to offer opportunities for disabled people to compete in sports?” VERDICT These readable accounts offer concise introductions to these sports, and the inspiring athletes who compete in them.


BOWERS, Matt. Individual Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518299.
––––. Team Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518305.
––––. Water Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518282.
––––. Wheelchair Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518275.
ea vol: 32p. (Paralympic Sports). Amicus. Jan. 2020. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 2-4–This standout series handles para athletics with the care and consideration it deserves. Readers will learn that para athletics has different sport classes. These divisions are maintained to keep the events fair based on the athletes’ impairments and how their individual impairments impact their ability to do their selected sport. Individual sports, like racing, cycling, archery, and the triathlon, can be done mostly alone, though some visually impaired athletes require a guide to race alongside them. Team sports are exciting too, whether it’s sitting volleyball, five-a-side (which is soccer with a noisemaking ball for visually impaired athletes), or goalball (which is similar to soccer dodgeball). Water sports and wheelchair sports can be performed individually or with teams. Readers will be inspired by the amazing athletes who work hard and win medals for their ­performances. VERDICT An essential first purchase for all libraries.

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