covers of two pictures books with characters who have Down syndrome: Out Into the Big Wide Lake and Unbound

Two Picture Books (for Everyone) With Characters With Down Syndrome

On my quest for chapter books that include characters with Down syndrome, I received dozens of recommendations for picture books. We’ve featured some of those here recently, but there are two more that I want to highlight today. These books stand out for their literary and pictorial beauty, and also because they only indirectly contain a moral message about inclusion. 

We need the direct messages that teach our kids (and us) that Everyone Belongs (shout out to Heather Avis and others who are offering these stories loud and clear). We also need the indirect ones.

Out Into the Big Wide Lake doesn’t reference the fact that the main character has Down syndrome. It simply shares the story of a girl (with Down syndrome, a fact that remains in parentheses) who spends the summer with her grandparents and grows in independence.

Unbound tells the story of artist Judith Scott, from the perspective of her twin. Judith was born with Down syndrome. Her sister was not. Judith was placed in an institution for many years until they were reunited. The book is unflinching in the sorrow and love experienced by these sisters. 

Each of these books is written by a sibling of someone with Down syndrome. One is sad and haunting. The other is lighthearted and fun. Both offer a subtle but deep invitation to understand our world as one that includes countless nuanced, gifted, overlooked and underappreciated, diverse humans.

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