10 Great Children’s Books that Celebrate Differences!

I think one of the best ways to help children learn about the world around them and to teach them how to empathize and relate is through reading.

We have made reading a top priority with both of our kids since they were born because Evan and I both love to read so much, and we believe whole-heartedly that a passion for reading leads to a passion for life-long learning. I have also been excited to witness how reading a certain book opens up a great conversation between me and Connor or gets him interested about a specific topic that he wants to learn more about.

And so when Brenna was born with a visual difference, I began to search for books that teach about differences and about being yourself and liking yourself. I realized how important it was to teach my children about all kinds of difference – not only the visual difference that we live every day, but also cultural/racial differences, religious differences and various disabilities – so that they can relate to, be comfortable with and celebrate what makes everyone unique.

We’ve been reading various books relating to celebrating uniqueness for years now, and from those we’ve found through researching, at the library and at the bookstore, here are our favorites:

The best children's books about differences and being yourself

1. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. Oh, how I loved this book! I loved it so much that I first got it from the library, and then bought it for our own collection. It has a wonderful message for children about how even though everyone is different in their looks, beliefs, cultures, etc., we are so similar too because we all experience joy, laughs and love. Not only a must-read, but a must-have!

2. Different is Awesome by Ryan Haack. Hands down, my kids’ favorite book on this list! Ryan wrote this story about himself, to help teach children that even though he was born with his left hand missing, he can still do just about anything everyone else can do to – he just may do it a little bit differently. But in his book, he helps readers to realize that we’re all different from each other, and being different is awesome!

3. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. Another book that is just beautiful and made me get a little choked up. A mother points out to her little girl how many different shades of brown there are while she is painting herself, and the girl then notices how beautiful and unique everyone’s skin color is, comparing them all to foods like cinnamon, chocolate and peaches. Connor really related to the little girl mixing different paint colors, because he loves to paint, and we then talked about how even in our own little family, we all have different colors of skin…and he thought that was pretty neat 🙂

4. Little Quack’s New Friend by Lauren Thompson. This has been on our bookshelf for years, and the kids and I both love this playful story so much! At first, a group of sibling ducks is hesitant to play with a frog because he is so different. But they soon discover that they all have fun together, and that’s what really matters.

5. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. We recently got this from the library, and I think Connor learned a lot from it. It tells the story of a mouse named Chrysanthemum who loves her unique name…until her classmates begin to make fun of it. In the end, you’ll get to see how she learns to love her name again.

6. Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el. Connor immediately took to this book… not only is the story really cute and kind of silly with lovable characters, but the ending was so perfect. I bought this without reading it, and I’m really glad I gave it a chance. In the book, the little dragon discovers he can’t breathe fire like all the other dragons, though he can breathe bubbles and other silly things. At first he and his family are embarrassed, but in the end, they all realize how special he really is.

7. You Be You by Linda Kranz. My mom found this for the kids while on vacation, and it’s really cute. While out swimming one day, a little fish realizes how different all of the fish are…and how those differences make the world a much more beautiful place!

8. Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Bradley. We also got this one from the library, and now it’s on my must-have list too. It’s a fantastic book with a fantastic message, and it opened up a lot of good opportunities for me to point out to Connor that boys and girls are all interested in different activities – and that’s a good thing – and that if he wants to play baseball, that’s OK, and if he wants to do ballet, that’s OK too. In the book, Nate wants to dance ballet, because he likes it, but his brother makes fun of him. In the end, he feels confident in himself to keep doing what he loves.

9. Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This is a very simple story with an awesome message about an exclamation mark who tries to fit in with his period friends, but realizes he was made to stand out. It’s a little silly too, and Connor gets a huge kick out of it.

10. Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki. This is a very sweet story about a little girl who wants to wear her kimono to the first day of school because she is so proud of her heritage. Her sisters are embarrassed by this, but in the end, Suki has pride and confidence in who she is and what she likes…and all of the children in her class really appreciate her unique wardrobe.

I’d love to know if you have other favorites that help kids learn to celebrate being themselves!

See also: Children’s Books about Disability

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33 thoughts on “10 Great Children’s Books that Celebrate Differences!

  • January 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm
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    Brilliant recommendations!

  • January 28, 2014 at 5:48 am
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    Brilliant recommendations!

  • January 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm
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    We love “Konrad kann knuddeln” by Steve Smallman.Haven’t found an english version so far.It’s about a toy who thinks he is usless until the others found out what Konrad can do best…cuddel.Everyone has a special gift that he/she can share with others ♥

  • January 28, 2014 at 6:57 am
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    We love “Konrad kann knuddeln” by Steve Smallman.Haven’t found an english version so far.It’s about a toy who thinks he is usless until the others found out what Konrad can do best…cuddel.Everyone has a special gift that he/she can share with others ♥

  • January 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm
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    Stand tall Molly Lou Melon…. Don’t know the author off the top of my head they also write one calledI like myself by the same people…. Love these both!

  • January 28, 2014 at 9:36 am
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    Stand tall Molly Lou Melon…. Don’t know the author off the top of my head they also write one calledI like myself by the same people…. Love these both!

  • January 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm
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    I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont…it celebrates the joy of liking who you are.

  • January 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm
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    I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont…it celebrates the joy of liking who you are.

  • January 28, 2014 at 9:55 pm
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    Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino.

  • January 28, 2014 at 2:55 pm
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    Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino.

  • February 5, 2014 at 4:47 am
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    You need to check out the Beautiful Bald Princess by Brianne Banning. She is a friend of mine and it is an excellent book! Her daughter is 6 and has beaten cancer TWICE. The book was inspired by her hair loss through chemo, but is pertinent to any beautiful bald princess such as adorable Brenna! If you would like for me to help you get in touch with the Hairy Fairy AKA Brianne Banning, I would be happy to! 🙂

    • February 8, 2014 at 3:11 am
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      Thank you, I will check this out!! This sounds fantastic!

    • February 7, 2014 at 8:11 pm
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      Thank you, I will check this out!! This sounds fantastic!

  • February 4, 2014 at 9:47 pm
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    You need to check out the Beautiful Bald Princess by Brianne Banning. She is a friend of mine and it is an excellent book! Her daughter is 6 and has beaten cancer TWICE. The book was inspired by her hair loss through chemo, but is pertinent to any beautiful bald princess such as adorable Brenna! If you would like for me to help you get in touch with the Hairy Fairy AKA Brianne Banning, I would be happy to! 🙂

  • June 23, 2015 at 1:13 pm
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    Thank you for the list of 10 Great Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences. I was so glad to see Mem Fox’s book at the number one spot. When I was teaching I used two of her books to celebrate the differences in learning styles. What a great writer.

  • July 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm
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    There’s no one like you is also a super good one. Written By Michel Elbin.

    • July 29, 2015 at 4:38 am
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      Oh thank you! I will check it out!

  • July 29, 2015 at 6:36 am
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    Thank you so much for your list, it is so important to teach our kids that everyone is different, but still made perfectly by God. One book that does this so well is You Are Special by Max Lucado. He is an awesome children’s author besides an adult author and artist!

  • July 29, 2015 at 7:03 am
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    Thank you for this list. I will definitely check them out! Little Humans of New York is a sweet little book you may enjoy as well.

  • July 29, 2015 at 8:31 am
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    Skin Again by bell hooks

  • July 29, 2015 at 3:49 pm
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    My niece was born with a small hand that was missing several fingers. When she was 5 years old she was told she was stupid by one of the children in her class. She came home and told her Mom that they needed to write a book! She dictated the book to her Mom and several years later it was published by Wild Onion Press (http://wildonionpress.com/) – a publisher who focuses on books for children with differences. A wonderful collection! My niece’s book is called The Gift of Grace.

    Thanks for sharing your story…

    • July 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm
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      Awesome!! I can’t wait to check this out, thank you for sharing!

  • July 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm
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    For older kids, I cannot possibly recommend R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder highly enough. It’s the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, a middle school aged boy with a severe craniofacial anomaly that has left him, even after multiple surgeries, with a literally monstrous face; he’s neurologically absolutely normal, and a typical goofy funny nutball American city kid, but his face is completely unnerving to strangers, and he’s acutely aware of it. After many years of homeschooling him, his parents decide to send him to a carefully selected, sheltered private school, and the novel tells the story of Auggie’s first year there. We hear from Auggie, his older sister (who’s in the thick of her own adolescent turmoil), other family members, and the friends and enemies he makes at his new school.

    Palacio was inspired to write it after she and her own two children had an uncomfortable encounter at a neighborhood shop with a child with a similar facial anomaly; she could feel them gearing up to shout and point, swept them out so the child wouldn’t have to hear it, and then started thinking about how many times that kid must have had the same experience — her peers goggling at her, a parent swooping down and scooping them away, never to cross her path again, and what a strange and lonely thing it must be to live a life in which that was a fairly typical occurrence.

    Definitely, definitely not for younger kids, but so beautiful and moving and funny and I’m getting a lump in my throat just remembering reading it with my own daughter. A comforting “You are not alone” to kids with similar visible anomalies, and a great way to help more typical-looking kids experience empathy and prepare themselves to deal with the different-looking among them simply as other kids, like them in all the ways that really matter.

  • July 30, 2015 at 10:17 am
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    My kids always loved, Tacky the Penguin, which apparently has sequels. Being different, first seen as a liability, becomes a real attribute and something to be celebrated. Loved your blog and your recommendations – thank you for your gifts.

  • July 30, 2015 at 10:48 am
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    “And Tango Makes Three…”

  • August 2, 2015 at 9:50 am
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    The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater.

  • August 3, 2015 at 12:24 am
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    It’s OK to be different by Todd Parr is a favorite in our house.

  • August 10, 2015 at 11:50 am
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    “Pobody’s Nerfect”, by Nancy Parker Brummett. It’s about a cow born with colored spots instead of black spots. He’s sad that he’s different from the other cows and tries to “change” the color of his spots until he discovers that everyone liked him the way he was. This was a book from my childhood that we loved (that I still have and read to my son)!

  • October 21, 2015 at 8:04 am
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    I like Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis.
    Thank you for this great list!

  • May 20, 2016 at 8:00 am
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    Meet Mabel Molby by Cat Blount is a new one. It is about a girl who is different from all of her neighbors, yet, she doesn’t seem to notice that she is. While they spend their time observing her, and pointing out her differences, she is enjoying her life and herself. Everything that they find wrong or different with her, she thinks the exact opposite.

  • June 29, 2016 at 11:09 pm
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    Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll try them out on my 3-year-old twins. Right now we’re currently enjoying:

    Sweet Briar Goes to School (a skunk’s animal classmates treat her poorly until she uses her scent to defend them against a wolf) and Sweet Briar Goes to Camp (the skunk stands up for a porcupine who is being bullied by others). Both about being different and others not reacting well to it, but coming around in the end with happy endings where everyone learns to appreciate each other.

    Also Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon (dragon is not like the other dragons and is made fun of, but he befriends a princess who isn’t like the other princesses, and they have so much fun together that in the end everyone is jealous of them).

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