Monday, August 29, 2016

#MGGetsReal! The Conversation Continues--Books on ADD/ADHD by Michael Gettel-Gilmartin

On Thursday here at Project Mayhem, Dianne Salerni's post introduced us to a team of MG writers, posting under the hashtag of #MGGetsReal, who are doing a significant service. Their goal, as they state it, is to "spotlight middle grade books with tough topics, in hopes that kids who face real issues such as these will be able to see themselves within the pages of a book."

I have a personal connection to tough topics. My eldest son (now 20) was born significantly prematurely and weighed only 1 pound and 6 ounces at birth. His early life consisted of early interventions, including speech and occupational therapy. (He didn't speak until he was three.) However, with a lot of hard work, he started school and did very well. (He never had a problem reading, and was reading in Kindergarten.) By 4th grade, however, the "dreaminess" was beginning to cause concerns. He wasn't paying attention to his teacher's instructions, and there were also reports of "perseveration." (ghastly word!)

He was assessed and put on an ADD medication. The change (as reported by the teacher) was remarkable. His focus improved, and he was no longer taking up so much of her time. He ended up going to a high school for kids with learning differences, found his place in the world, and is now starting his sophomore year at college, majoring in theater.

Time and again, we heard stories from my son's friends about how they were treated by teachers and other adults in their earlier years. They were labeled "stupid" and told they wouldn't amount to much. Peers called them the "R-word," and they were often overlooked or, in worst cases, shunned. However, by and large, these children have incredible creative gifts. Many are gifted artists or musicians. When given the right backing and support, many kids with ADD/ADHD can excel. (Often, their intelligence is off the charts.)

If you have a child with ADD/ADHD in your life, here are several middle grade books recommended by friends or featured in #MGGetsReal:

JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY by Jack Gantos (Harper Trophy 2001)
"They say I'm wired bad, or wired sad, but there's no doubt about it -- I'm wired."

Joey Pigza's got heart, he's got a mom who loves him, and he's got "dud meds," which is what he calls the Ritalin pills that are supposed to even out his wild mood swings. Sometimes Joey makes bad choices. He learns the hard way that he shouldn't stick his finger in the pencil sharpener, or swallow his house key, or run with scissors. Joey ends up bouncing around a lot - and eventually he bounces himself all the way downown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of the line. As Joey knows, if he keeps making bad choices, he could just fall between the cracks for good. But he is determined not to let that happen.
In this antic yet poignant new novel, Jack Gantos has perfect pitch in capturing the humor, the off-the-wall intensity, and the serious challenges that life presents to a kid dealing with hyper-activity and related disorders. (There are several other Joey Pigza books in this series.)

ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER by Carmella Van Vleet (Holiday House 2014)
Eliza Bing, 11, is not a big, fat quitter, or is she? Her track record isn't great. She has a history of not following through with activities—Junior Scouts, gymnastics, tap, piano…. So, when she wants to sign up for a cake-decorating class with her bakery loving friend, her parents flat-out say no. Eliza strikes a nearly impossible deal with her parents: if she can finish a tae kwon do class over the summer, she can take cake decorating in the fall. For Eliza, this is easier said than done. She has ADHD and no interest whatsoever in martial arts, Master Kim is strict, she can't remember all of the Korean words, and mean girl Madison is in the class. As the summer progresses, Eliza finds it difficult to focus in class and she contemplates quitting, but she is determined not to be a loser. With family support, she finds internal strength she didn't know she had, but an injury threatens her completing the class and earning a yellow belt... Feisty Eliza will have readers, especially those with ADHD, rooting for her. (From School Library Journal)

BOUNDERS by Monica Tesler (Aladdin, January 2016)
Bounders have always known they were different, but they never suspected they were the key to saving Earth.
Thirteen years ago, Earth Force—a space-military agency—discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together a team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as elite astronauts able to pilot ships that can travel across the galaxy in an instant.
Jasper Adams can’t wait to join the first class of Bounders, but when he arrives at the space station, nothing is as it seems. Security is sky-high, and Jasper and his new friends soon realize that Earth Force has been keeping secrets—one of the biggest being a powerful, highly-classified technology that allows the Bounders to teleport through space without a ship. Only Bounders can use this tech, which leads Jasper to a sinister truth—humanity is facing a threat greater than any they’ve ever known, and Bounders are the ones standing between their planet and destruction.
Will Jasper and his friends rebel against Earth Force for hiding the truth, or fulfill their duty and fight for their planet? The fate of Earth may rest on their choice.

TROUT AND ME by Susan Shreve (Yearling 2009)
Ever since first grade, Ben’s been in trouble, even though he’s really not a bad kid. He just can’t seem to stop doing things that get him sent to the principal’s office. His parents and wise older sister, Meg, swear he’ll be fine in his own time, but when a new kid shows up in Ben’s fifth-grade class, he’s not so sure. Trout sticks to him like glue, and it’s clear from the start that Trout is a much bigger troublemaker than Ben ever was. So when Ben gets diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), just like Trout, and then has to take Ritalin, just like Trout, he’s not sure what to make of his friendship–especially when he starts to get a bad reputation. Is Trout’s badness rubbing off on him? Can Ben make people understand it’s the ADD, not Trout, causing the problems before it’s too late?

ADHD IN HD: BRAINS GONE WILD by Jonathan Chesner (Free Spirit Publishing, 2012)
From an early age, actor Jonathan Chesner knew he had the kind of brain that would wear a Hawaiian shirt, bright red pants, and cool painted shoes to a wedding while most other people’s brains would wear three-piece suits. He also knew that if he learned how to manage the difficulties of ADHD and harness its awesome powers, he would help other “special brains” by sharing this knowledge in a book to slay all other books.

This is that book. ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild is a kinetic collection of frank personal stories of failure and success, hilarious anecdotes, wild ideas, and point-blank advice that will resonate with teens and young adults. While most books on the topic are written to parents and educators, this is written to hold the attention of the teen and young adult ADHD reader: more than 60 short essays, interesting topics, wacky illustrations—all stamped with Jonathan’s irresistible humor.

The book addresses the four main characteristics of ADHD: hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and indecisiveness. It provides positive advice about school, family life, social life, dating, careers, medicine, and how to be like Mr. T—even if you don’t have a Mohawk, lots of gold chains, or huge muscles.

I hope you will bookmark the list at #MGGetsReal. Also, if you have other titles about ADD/ADHD to share, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!


  1. Thanks for sharing. Yes, more kids suffer with this than we think and it can get tied into serious depression, at least for some of my friend's kids. Thanks for sharing some great books that touch on this too.

  2. I'm glad to see books for this age with topics that are about real issues. Thanks for list of books.

  3. THIS IS NOT THE ABBY SHOW by Debbie Reed Fischer is a recent MG with a protag with ADHD. Fantastic. Thanks for posing on the topic.

  4. Well done. I think of a handful of my former students who would have found understanding in these books.

  5. Wow! These sound like great books for those with ADD/ADHA. I'm particularly intrigued by the last one.

  6. Wow! These sound like great books for those with ADD/ADHA. I'm particularly intrigued by the last one.

  7. Wow, Michael! Fantastic list! I have a son with an auditory processing disorder and ADHD and this topic is dear to my heart! I'm going to have to break my book buying ban because I absolutely have to have these titles in my house!

  8. I've read about half of your great list. I'm on the search for the ones I missed. Thanks for the inspiring post

  9. Michael, thanks for keeping the #MGGetsReal campaign going here on your page, and I'm so glad to know that your son is now thriving! We are always seeking new titles to add to our comprehensive #MGGetsReal list which encompasses all kinds of tough topics for kids, so recommendations are welcome. Debra Getts, I do have Debbie Reed Fishers book, THIS IS NOT THE ABBY SHOW on our master list. It's fantastic.
    Great post, Michael.

  10. Thanks for this post. I have a 5th grade daughter with ADHD (among other learning issues) and it would be great to share some of these books with her!

  11. Tania Stanwood9/20/16, 12:28 PM

    How great are these? I have a son that will benefit from probably all of these. Thanks! He is reading Silencing Sharks right now, author John Hope has written a phenomenal book, that really touches on problems that some kids face everyday and how to deal with those issues.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!