Creativity. Bravery. Ingenuity.

These three words are not typically associated with people with disabilities 
but they ARE and should be.

Here are NEW picture books which exhibit these traits. 
Creativity: Unbound- The Life & Art of Judith Scott  
Bravery: We Want to Go to School! The Fight for Disability Rights
Ingenuity: Best Buddies

These books flow together, capturing times in history in the fight for disability rights in education; from the injustices of 1950’s when Judith Scott was institutionalized (Unbound), to the 1971 fight for Public School Education (We Want to Go to School!), to current day when children with disabilities are educated with their peers (Best Buddies).

Yes- thankfully, times have changed. 
Laws have been enacted to include ALL children into public schools, 
but more needs to be done to include people with disabilities in all walks of LIFE. 

Check out these great books. 
I hope you add them to your library and help to open hearts and minds. 
Thanks!- Maryann Cocca- Leffler & Janine Leffler


Written by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Judith Scott was born with Down syndrome. She was deaf, and never learned to speak. She was also a talented artist. Judith was institutionalized until her sister Joyce reunited with her and enrolled her in an art class. Judith went on to become an artist of renown with her work displayed in museums and galleries around the world.
Poignantly told by Joyce Scott in collaboration with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet and beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist, Melissa Sweet, Unbound is inspiring and warm, showing us that we can soar beyond our perceived limitations and accomplish something extraordinary. 
Published By Knopf Books


By Maryann Cocca-Leffler & Janine Leffler, Illus by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
There was a time in the United States when millions of children with disabilities weren’t allowed to go to public school. But in 1971, seven kids and their families wanted to do something about it. They knew that every child had a right to an equal education, so they went to court to fight for that right. The case Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia led to laws ensuring children with disabilities would receive a free, appropriate public education. Told in the voice of Janine Leffler, one of the millions of kids who went to school because of these laws, this book shares the true story of this landmark case.
Published by Albert Whitman & Co.


Written By Lynn Plourde Illustrated by Arthur Lin
Best Buddies introduces a boy-and-dog duo who are BEST FRIENDS and who do EVERYTHING together! So how will they manage being apart when the boy heads to school for the first time? Find out how a clever boy with Down syndrome and his loyal pet find the perfect way to feel close even when they can’t be together. A sweet, inspiring story that will ease concerns about the first day of school and other big changes for kids.
Published by Capstone Publishing Co.


New Book on Disability Rights

 Albert Whitman & Co. Sept 1, 2021

An inspiring true story of the people who helped make every public school in the nation a more inclusive place.

My life as an author, illustrator, mother, and disability rights advocate has merged. 

Over the past few years, I have researched the history of education for children with disabilities. What I discovered was a painful past, one in which children with disabilities were seen as useless, worthless and a burden on society. 

I was surprised to discover that as recent as 1970, millions of children with disabilities were excluded from public education classrooms. A small number of children with mild disabilities were sometimes allowed to attend public school, only to be segregated from their peers and given an inadequate education. The majority of children were placed in institutions, hospitals or stayed at home and given no education at all. The schools argued that children with disabilities were unable to learn, would distract the other students, and require too much time and funds.

I delved deeper into the subject and stumbled across a lawsuit that changed everything. In the early 1970’s seven brave families from the Washington, DC area, whose children had a variety of disabilities, joined together to fight for the right of their children to attend public schools. A group of lawyers sued the Board of Education in US District Court on their behalf and WON. The case was called Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia.  It was a class action suit, representing not only these seven children, but over 18,000 other children in the Washington, DC area, who were also excluded from public education. This landmark case paved the way for the creation of important laws ensuring children with disabilities would receive a free, appropriate public education.  

While researching this book, I was very fortunate to connect with the last surviving lawyer on the Mills case, Attorney Paul R. Dimond, who generously gave me first-hand insight into this case and the times. (Later, he graciously agreed to write a note, which appears in the book.) Paul coined the term, "The Quiet Revolution” because this momentous civil rights case and subsequent laws did not receive the attention or press it deserved. We talked about this. We wondered,"Why?" Could it have been that people with disabilities did not have the voice or the support needed to catapult this “fight” into the public eye? Or perhaps, society's pre-judgments and prejudices created a belief that people with disabilities were not deserving of these rights. I guess we’ll never know for sure, but based on the history of the times and the discrimination that existed, both scenarios are entirely probable. 

As I gathered my notes, I realized that my daughter Janine's life would have been very different had she been born prior to 1970. I told  her about the Mills case. I listened as Janine reflected back on her own education as a student with disabilities around the 1990s. She immediately recognized, as did I, that these brave families stood up and changed many lives, including her own. I asked Janine to partner with me, to help tell the story from her perspective. She agreed – and together, this book was born.  

A Note From Janine:

In 1985 I was born with Cerebral Palsy, which affected my muscles, vision and cognitive abilities. Throughout my 15 years in public school, I learned side by side with my classmates. I thrived because of the interactions I had with my peers and made many friends. I received the therapies and accommodations I needed to succeed in school and go on to College where I earned my BA. I am grateful to those students and families who stood up for OUR right to attend public school in 1971.

I often get asked, if I could snap my fingers and not have any disabilities, would I? There is only one answer, NO. I will never drive, ride a bike, or tie my shoes, but my challenges made me who I am today. It is the inside that counts.  I focus on what I can do, not what I cannot do, and continue to live my best life. I hope you do too.

Our book publishes on Sept 15, 2021 by Albert Whitman & Co. 

We hope you will share it with your families and your classrooms.

We want to get the word out...if you know of any podcasts, blogs or organizations who may want to know more about this book and our story, please reach out to Maryann at or the Publicity Dept at Albert Whitman & Co.

Warmly- Maryann & Janine

Announcing - Our Upcoming Book:

We Want to Go To School! The Fight for Disability Rights

Albert Whitman & Co. Sept 2021

Did you know that before 1971 children with disabilities did not have the legal right to attend public schools? Well, it is true. The history of education for children with disabilities was grim. 

In 1971, seven families in the Washington, DC area, who's children were denied a public school education because of their disabilities, joined together to fight for their childrens' rights, and won! Because of their bravery, children with disabilities all over America now have the right to an appropriate public school education.

This is their story.

I am very proud to have co-authored this book, with my daughter Janine. We look forward to sharing it with you.

Above- The Publisher's Weekly announcement

Our book is publishing in September 2021 by Albert Whitman & Co.
 Stay tuned...More to come!
Keep Fighting-
Maryann & Janine