Special Siblings

by Alyssa Yenzer

Special Siblings

By Savannah Winkler, Public Services Supervisor

There are a few things I’m truly proud of, and one of them is being the eldest sister of my three brothers. Growing up, there was never a dull moment in our household. From the summer days spent swimming to inventing new tricks on the trampoline, our childhood was full of fun and excitement (despite the occasional sibling squabble). Life got even more exciting when our third brother was born. Despite my not-so-secret desire for a little sister, I was instantly smitten with my new sibling. Then our lives changed in a different way. After he was born, my brother was diagnosed with Down syndrome. When my parents sat me down to explain this news, I was confused and not sure what to think. Would my brother be okay? How/why did this happen? Would other kids—or even adults—be nice to him? Answers to these questions were hard to find. However, after some time, I found them in one of my favorite places: books.

The year after my brother was born, I read “Rules” by Cynthia Lord. This book follows twelve-year-old Catherine as she grapples with everyday life and her brother, David, who has autism. Catherine has a strong desire to appear “normal” to those around her. Catherine loves her brother, but she also can’t help but feel embarrassed by his behavior at times. So, she makes a list of rules for him (such as, “It’s okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store”). Then Catherine meets Jason, a 14-year-old boy who is paraplegic, and she starts to question her idea of “normal.” She begins to realize that acceptance of others is what’s truly important. “Rules” provided me a lot of comfort and reassurance after my brother’s diagnosis and remains one of my favorite childhood books.

Another option for young readers is “One-Third Nerd” by Gennifer Choldenko. In this humorous fiction book, ten-year-old Liam lives in a basement apartment with his mom and two younger sisters: aspiring scientist Dakota and affectionate hugger Izzy (who happens to have Down syndrome). The story follows Liam’s day-to-day life as he navigates school, being the eldest sibling, and the aftermath of his parents’ divorce. “One-Third Nerd” stands out because it includes a young person with a disability without making it the main focus of the book.

Ghosts” by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel about two sisters, Cat and Maya. Maya is the youngest sister, and she has had cystic fibrosis since birth. In order to help her breathing condition, Maya and Cat’s family move to Bahía de la Luna, a coastal village in Northern California. Upon arrival, the sisters discover that their new town is obsessed with ghosts. There are ghost tours and a Día de los Muertos celebration. Maya, the adventurist, is fascinated and wants to meet a ghost. But Cat is more hesitant, fearful of her sister’s health and prognosis. The two set off on a ghost adventure that teaches them about both loss and love.

The fourth book in this list is for adult readers. “Happiness Falls” by Angie Kim is a mystery that released in 2023. The novel is narrated by Mia, the twenty-year-old daughter of the Parson family. The Parson’s lives change forever following the disappearance of their father, Adam. Adam was last seen on a walk with the youngest Parson sibling, 15-year-old Eugene. Eugene is non-verbal and has both autism and Angelman syndrome. He can’t speak, meaning that the sole witness to the disappearance is unable to say what happened. Or at least, that’s what everyone believes. Mia, desperate to find her father, pours over his journals to try and find any clues. His writings reveal that there may be much more to Eugene than meets the eye. “Happiness Falls” is a mystery with many twists, but it’s also a thoughtful exploration on neurodiversity and how we perceive those who are different than us.

Books have always been my safe haven and the place I go to find reassurance in times of uncertainty. If you’re also needing some comfort, even more materials can be found at the library, from physical books to digital resources like ebooks or audiobooks. With a free library card, there are endless stories and experiences to discover.
Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Learn more at mhklibrary.org.



Savannah Winkler, Public Services Supervisor