Interested in learning more about genetics and public health through books? Join us on TikTok (https://www.tiktok.com/@nccrcg) to talk about books that range from fictional that highlight the effect a genetic condition can have on an individual and their family to non-fiction works that discuss the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic research. Have a good book (either fiction or non-fiction) you would like to recommend for this year’s Book Club, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: This list is not a comprehensive list of books related to genetics and public health. Nor are books listed necessarily endorsed by the National Coordinating Center for the Regional Genetics Network (NCC), host of Public Health Genetics Week. If you have any questions about the book club, please do not hesitate to reach out.
The Brillant Girl with the Special Chair
By: Zakiyyah Evans
Having the courage to stick up for yourself can be extremely challenging, especially when you’re a child.“The Brilliant Girl With The Special Chair” is a cheerful book about a young girl coming to terms with her physical disability while learning self advocacy skills. With the aid of a compassionate grandfather, this story explores her dilemma of how to fit in with peers, her immobility and her wheelchair. With sunny illustrations by the Vector family, Zakiyyah Evans winsome story evokes healthy dialogue that encourages children in learning about disabilities with respect and concern while developing self advocacy skills.
The DNA Book
It’s inside every living plant and animal, from the tiniest seed to the person standing next to you, but how much do you know about DNA? This book gives children an in-depth look at DNA and its role in all living things–from why we have different-colored eyes to why we age. Discover what DNA is, what it does, and how it shapes our lives, including inheritance and why we look like our parents; forensic science and how DNA evidence helps catch criminals; and genetic engineering and if we could bring dinosaurs back to life. With fun illustrated DNA characters, clear diagrams, and astonishing photographs, children will love learning about themselves and this all-important molecule.
House of Robots
By: James Patterson
Severe Combined Immune Deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive condition that receives a lot of attention thanks to popular culture’s depiction of “the bubble boy.” This commercial middle grade title offers a more balanced and realistic depiction of the condition through the main character’s sister, Maddie. The link to robots not only has kid appeal, their germ-free nature makes a lot of sense.
Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School
By: Melissa Shang
Hello, sixth grade! Mia Lee is a stop-motion filmmaker with a wheelchair and a lot of sass, trying to survive her new middle school. Which doesn’t seem so easy when she’s running for Video Production Club President against certified Middle School Mean Girl, Angela Vanover. Things get weird when Angela starts being nice to her – well, when other people are around, at least. But when Mia’s campaign posters for VP Club President mysteriously vanish – no tape, no poster, no nothin’ – the presidential race gets real. With the help of her brain files, an awesome aide with keys to the whole school, and her friends, Rory, Daniela, and Caroline, Mia finds herself on a mission to prove Angela isn’t just an ordinary middle school mean girl, she’s a thief!
Pack of Dorks
By: Beth Vrabel
Lucy is the second most popular girl in fourth grade. She maintains her social standing by obsequiously following her “best friend,” queen bee Becky—even when that means succumbing to peer pressure and giving Tom Lemmings a quick kiss during recess. Suddenly, Lucy finds herself being made the butt of jokes and is no longer in her exalted position as a popular kid. When groveling doesn’t work, Lucy opens up to spending time with other kids she had previously overlooked and finds herself making some real friends in the process. This book doesn’t soft-peddle the strange cruelty that kids inflict on one another, nor does it underestimate the impact. At the same time, it does not wallow unnecessarily. Instead, Lucy finds joy in her new little sister and helps her family gain perspective as they struggle to come to terms with the baby’s special needs.
By: Nnedi Okorafo
Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality
Inside Hudson Pickle
By: Yolanda Ridge
A spot on the basketball team isn’t the only thing Hudson’s looking for. Cut from AAA hockey, seventh-grader Hudson Pickle needs to make the basketball team. But, after having an asthma attack at the first tryout, his chances aren’t looking good. Then it’s discovered that his uncle Vic has a genetic respiratory illness. Could this mean Hudson has something worse than asthma? And while this DNA mystery is being unraveled, will the truth about what happened to his father finally be revealed as well? Sometimes the pains of growing up come from unexpected places. And so do the rewards.
By: RJ Palacio
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a severe facial difference (Treachers Collins) that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, Auggie wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past his extraordinary face. Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include the perspectives of his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These voices converge to portray a community as it struggles with differences, and challenges readers, both young and old, to wonder about the true nature of empathy, compassion, acceptance, friendship, and—ultimately—kindness. Auggie is a hero for the ages, one who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
No One Dies in Garden of Syn
By: Michael Seidelman
Synthia (Syn) Wade is a teenage girl who struggles with cystic fibrosis, an incurable life-threatening disease. One day she is pushed into a pond by an unseen figure and wakes up in a new world – a mysterious garden where illness and death don’t exist. Welcomed by the garden’s residents and now free of her symptoms, Syn decides to stay. But, before long, she realizes that this apparent utopia holds many dangers and dark secrets. Surrounding the garden is a fog that Syn is warned never to enter. She encounters bizarre creatures that defy reason. And always lurking in the shadows is a masked woman – a woman who may have a connection to the disappearance of Syn’s parents many years ago. A woman whom no one will speak of, but whom everyone fears. While No One Dies in the Garden of Syn, Syn will soon discover that some fates are worse than death.
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone
By: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon. But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules. When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive. These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving? From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.
By: Nancy Werlin
Eighteen year old Eli Samuels has just graduated from high school and lucked into a job at Wyatt Transgenics—offered to him by Dr. Quincy Wyatt, the legendary molecular biologist. The salary is substantial, the work is interesting, and Dr. Wyatt seems to be paying special attention to Eli. Is it too good to be true? Eli’s girlfriend doesn’t think so, but his father is vehemently against his taking the job and won’t explain why. Eli knows that there’s some connection between Dr. Wyatt and his parents—something too painful for his father to discuss. Something to do with his mother, who is now debilitated by Huntington’s disease. As Eli works at the lab, and spends time with Dr. Wyatt, he begins to uncover some disconcerting information—about himself. Suspenseful and eloquent, with a hair-raising conclusion, Double Helix explores identity, intimacy, and the complicated ethics of genetic engineering.
We are Giants
By: Amber Lee Dodd
Sydney thinks her mother Amy is the best mom in the world–even if she is a bit . . . different from other kids’ parents. As Amy explains it, when she was a girl she got to 48 inches tall and then stopped growing right there. It’s the perfect height, in Sydney’s opinion: big enough to reach the ice cream at the supermarket, but small enough to be special. Anyway, Sydney’s big sister Jade is always there to help out with the stuff on the highest shelves. And though Sydney’s dad died when she was only five, she’s never felt alone or that there isn’t enough love to go around. But when they are forced to move to another neighborhood, things get more difficult for their little family. Sydney and Jade have to get used to different routines, make a whole new set of friends, and deal with the bullies at their new school. And then there’s the whole business of growing up. But Sydney doesn’t want to grow up–not if it means getting taller than her mom.