Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
Sahara has always been a little different. Navigating an inner city Chicago school is tough enough as it is, but it is even harder when you are a special education student. She hates getting pulled out in the hallway to work with the special ed teacher and she hates how the letters she writes her Dad (whom she doesn't know) get taken away and put in her school file. All she wants is to grow up and be a writer. Life begins to turn around for Sahara when her mother decides to have her repeat the 5th grade and declines special ed services for her daughter. With a new creative and unconventional teacher on her side, Sahara begins to find her voice and make real friends for the first time. She discovers just how special she is.