For Book People's Bedtime Story Competition, in support of Action for Children, we received 1,000s of amazing entries from young storytellers from all over the country. One thing we learned, though, was that over two thirds of children expressed their worries about bullying, loneliness or being different.
We have picked out these fun and moving books that will reassure children who feel like they don't fit in, that it's our differences that make us unique, special and loved by others, and that diversity is a good thing; and we've asked the experts at Action for Children for their take on why children's books about being different are so important. Action for Children is a charity that does what's right, what works and what's needed for disadvantaged children, young people and families across the UK.
David McKee | Toddlers
The funny and cheerful Elmer the elephant has a vibrant patchwork hide, which is rather conspicuous among the grey of the other elephants. Tired of feeling different, Elmer coats his skin in a grey berry mash to blend in with the others. He enjoys his anonymity for a while, but soon realises how dull things are without his exuberant personality. This classic picture book shows young children that our differences make us unique and special, rather than just one of the herd!
This story follows a courageous little sea snail. All the other snails insist that she should stick to the rock and stay put, but she's not like the other snails: she wants to explore the world! So she hitches a ride on the back of an enormous whale, and the pair set off on an incredible journey, past icebergs, volcanoes and golden beaches. But suddenly, the whale finds itself beached in a bay! Can the tiny snail save him? This exciting and gorgeously-illustrated story shows how being different is no bad thing, and can lead to lots of fun and friendship.
Giles Andreae | 3+
Gerald the giraffe wants to take part in the Jungle Dance with all the other animals, but everyone knows that giraffes can't dance - their legs are too skinny and their necks too long! But Gerald is determined to prove them wrong. Full of vibrant artwork, this funny, touching and triumphant tale is all about being confident in your individuality and doing what makes you happy, regardless of differences!
Babette Cole | 3+
As a rich and pretty princess, all the princes want Princess Smartypants to be their wife. But Princess Smartypants doesn't want to get married; she prefers to spend time with her pets than pesky princes. But as family pressure mounts, how long can her single life last? Join her as she fights to preserve her independence in this hilarious fairy-tale with a twist.
Dr. Seuss | 5+
In this classic Dr. Seuss story, some Sneetches have stars on their bellies and some do not. But those with stars think they're far superior, and don't let Plain-Belly Sneetches join them for games or parties. Then a curious stranger turns up with an incredible machine, which gives the Plain-Belly Sneetches stars on their bellies - for a price. But then the original Star-Belly Sneetches want their stars removed so everyone will still know who's who. Ultimately, everyone is conned by the stranger, and they all realise that whether you have a star on your belly or not really makes no difference.
David Walliams | 7+
Both heart-warming and funny, this book stars Dennis, a talented young footballer who has a rather unusual secret: he loves women's fashion. When he becomes friends with the cool and pretty Lisa, she is all too happy to dress him up, and he gets the chance to become his alter ego, Denise. But will Denise be accepted by her friends and schoolmates? This book teaches children about tolerance in a light-hearted way, and shows them that being different doesn't mean you should be bullied or excluded.
Carol Iddon, Managing Director of Operations at Action for Children
'Action for Children promotes equality, diversity and inclusion in the support we provide to children, young people and families across the UK.
Books that explore the theme of 'being different' are important mechanisms for children to learn about other backgrounds, cultures and faiths as well as helping them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves and celebrate their individuality.'