I think that everyone struggles with feeling different at times. Most adults have (hopefully) come to terms with and learned to love the things that make them different, but children often aren't quite there yet. It's so important to teach children to embrace the differences that they may notice between themselves and others, and also to value and be sensitive to the differences that they may notice in others. Thankfully, the topic is so prevalent that there are loads of great children's books that address it. Here are some of our favorite Books About Feeling Different.
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Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Little Molly Lou Melon is full of quirks. When she moves to a new town, a boy at school makes fun of her, but she sweetly and charmingly proves how awesome she is. Molly Lou has so much confidence in herself and she makes her differences work to her advantage. Both of my girls love this book, and I love reading it to them. I recommend it for older toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children.
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
Tacky is not like the other graceful, elegant, tuxedo-clad penguins. He's a bit rough around the edges. When some hunters come to catch Tacky and his friends, Tacky's odd behavior scares them off, and he saves the day. This book will have you and your kids smiling from the beginning to the end. It's a true gem.
Elmer by David McKee
Sweet Elmer the elephant is not a standard gray like all his friends. Instead he is patchwork. He also happens to be the 'herd clown' and enjoys making his friends laugh. Until one day he thinks that perhaps they are laughing at him instead of with him. He tries to cover his brilliant color, but ends up realizing that his friends truly do love him for who he his. My girls ask to hear this story again and again and again. It is appropriate for older toddlers and preschoolers.
Dandylion by Lizzie Finlay
Dandylion is one of my all time favorite books, so I'm sad to say that its out of print. You could check your library, though, or find a used copy through Amazon. Little Dandylion goes to school where he brightens up the monotony of a dull and dreary classroom. At first the children love his antics, but then they become too much and Dandylion is told that he is a 'weed.' He vows to never return to school again, the children go back to their dull routines. After a short time they realize how much they miss Dandylion's vivaciousness, so they welcome him back in a very special way.
Argus by Michelle Knudsen
This book makes me tear up (even though it is not particularly sentimental). The students in Sally's class are all given eggs to take care of and raise. Sally's egg looks different from the beginning, and gets even more different as it grows. At first Sally is embarassed by her little pet, but when he goes missing she realizes how much she loves him and how special he is. This book would be particularly good for a child who had a sibling or family member who had noticable differences.
The Legend of the Indian Paint Brush by Tomie dePaola
A young boy in an Indian tribe struggles to come to terms with his own unique gift. He is a gifted artist, and uses his talent to record the events of his people. Even though he is not a warrior, the boy has a special place in the tribe. The illustrations in this book are beautiful-- many books by Tomie dePaola are a bit silly and cartoonish (and we LOVE them for that), but this one stands out for its beauty and poignancy.
Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
Gerald the giraffe wants to join in with his friends during the annual jungle dance but he is a bit clumsy and watches from the sidelines. He slinks away in shame until he realizes that he just needs to dance in his own special way. This book is written in rhyme, and is short, so it is a perfect choice for older babies or toddlers. The illustrations are alos bright and cheerful, and really make this book special.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Hinkes
Sweet little Chrysanthemum loves the special and unique name that her parents gave her. But when she starts school, the children make fun of her long and complicated name. Chrysanthemum struggles to regain her confidence until a beloved teacher reveals that she, too, has a unique and different name. Most of this book feels very sad (even though it all turns out well in the end), so if you have a particularly sensitive child you may want to skip it.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
After baby bat Stellaluna becomes separated from her mother, she starts living with a family of birds. She tries desperately to fit in by sleeping right side up and eating worms. Stellaluna is finally reunited with her mother and is thrilled to discover that she does fit in, and that she can still be friends with the birds who took her in. The artwork in Stellaluna is stunning-- I never thought bats could look so attractive!
Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el
Poor Crispin the dragon can't breathe fire. Even though he does always manage to breate whatever is needed at the time, his parents are still disappointed in him. Crispin befriends a young knight who is not terribly comfortable in his knightly role, and the two become fast friends. Eventually, Crispin's parents come to realize that Crispin's unique talents are something to be celebrated. This book is funny, with cartoon-ish illustrations. Older toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged students will ask to hear this story again and again.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
The Story of Ferdinand should be on every child's bookshelves. Ferdinand is a bull who prefers to sit calmly and smell the flowers rather than romping and fighting with the other young bulls. His mother worries about him. He is mistakenly selected to participate in a bullfight, but Ferdinand remains true to himself and is able to continue with his quiet life. For some quiet and calm children, this story is a lovely reassurance that is is perfectly okay to prefer sitting on the sidelines.
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