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Children's Nonfiction Special Needs

Emily Included

by (author) Kathleen McDonnell

Second Story Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2011
Special Needs, Social Activists
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


The true story of Emily Eaton. Born with severe cerebral palsy, Emily and her family had to fight for her right to go to school with non-disabled children in a regular classroom. Their fight, which began at a time when children with CP were segregated, was groundbreaking. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Emily's fight would take her all the way to the Supreme Court. Eventually victorious, Emily’s story makes her an amazing role model for children everywhere - whether they are living with a disability or not.

About the author

Kathleen McDonnell grew up in Chicago, but has lived in Canada for all of her adult life and graduated with a BA from the University of Toronto. She is the author of nine books of non-fiction and YA fiction. She's also written more than a dozen plays, many of which have had award-winning productions in Canada and the United States. As befits a passionate swimmer, McDonnell lives on Toronto Island; a unique, vibrant, mostly car-free community a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto where she and her life partner Alec raised their two daughters, Martha and Ivy.


Kathleen McDonnell's profile page


  • Short-listed, IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities Outstanding Book
  • Short-listed, Ontario Library Association Golden Oak Award
  • Short-listed, Red Cedar Book Award
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award

Editorial Reviews

Kathleen McDonnell has written an inspirational narrative about Emily’s remarkable journey to attend school with non-disabled children. What I found fascinating was that Emily’s teachers and students found how much they benefited from her participation in school.

Chidren's Books Heal

By using a combination of dialogue and narrative, author McDonnell reveals Emily’s personality, her family relationships, and her many accomplishments.

Good News Toronto

This book is an enjoyable read as it stands. However in the hands of educators and caregivers, its value for children will be greatly enhanced through discussion of the various thought-provoking topics it engenders.

Canadian Children's Book News

This book offers a unique poignancy, captured in photos and an epilogue written by Emily herself, that comes from its real-life implications and that other resources on the topic often lack. It presents issues of equality, access, and parity in a narrative style that is easily accessible to any child who may be experiencing their own uncertainty with inclusion situations at school.

This excellent biography exposes the reader to the world of living with disabilities and to the advantages of inclusive education for all children.

Canadian Teachers Magazine

Librarian Reviews

Emily Included

The true story of Emily Eaton and her family, who fought for the right for Emily, who was born with severe cerebral palsy, to go to school with her peers.

The challenges of living with cerebral palsy are central to Emily Eaton’s experiences. This book can be shared to help students build understanding of and compassion for other students with special needs. Finding the right school program for students with special needs, whether a physical disability or not, is a situation that many students will recognize. The book is a true story of perseverance, in which one family takes their fight for inclusion and justice all the way to the Supreme Court.

Author available for class visits

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Emily Included: A True Story

Emily, eager to partake in ordinary activities with friends, was born with cerebral palsy, unable to speak and lacking control over her movements. Despite these limitations, she thrives at her local school where she feels accepted, participating as fully as possible. School authorities, however, believe she should attend a special school for the disabled — a school where her family feel she will be marginalized.

This is the true story of a five-year landmark case to provide equality for Emily and others with disabilities, as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights. Upholding the Eaton family’s belief, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that children in Emily’s situation should be part of mainstream education and segregated only in extreme situations.

A proud moment in Canadian history is told with sensitivity and authenticity despite the book’s limited visual appeal. Kathleen McDonnell has conveyed in short, readable chapters, illustrated with black and white photographs, both Emily’s personal story and its larger impact. Told in the third person, Emily’s inner thoughts and emotions are interpreted for us. In her determination to overcome her medical prognosis and lead a full life as well as battle for equality, Emily is a role model. Equally inspiring are her advocates who understand that, for Emily to thrive, she needs inclusion not isolation from her community.

This book is an enjoyable read as it stands. However in the hands of educators and caregivers, its value for children will be greatly enhanced through discussion of the various thought-provoking topics it engenders.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2012. Volume 35 No. 2.

Other titles by Kathleen McDonnell

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