Top 6 Best Children's Books About Being Different

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.

1. Elmer

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!


2. The Snail and the Whale

Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler | 3+

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.

The Snail and the Whale

3. Giraffes Can't Dance

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!

Giraffes Can't Dance

4. Princess Smartypants

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.

Princess Smartypants

5. The Sneetches

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.

The Sneetches

6. The Boy in the Dress

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.

The Boy in the Dress

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.'

Book People working with Action for Children

To find out more about how Action for Children works, visit

  • OYD2 9 years +
    9 years +
    • £4.49
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    Now widely regarded as one of the most talented children's authors around, funnyman David Walliams, previously best known for his Sport Relief challenges and Little Britain, released his debut novel, The Boy in the Dress, to tremendous acclaim in 2008.

    Full of heart, wit and a touch of Roald Dahl-style anarchy, it finds 12-year-old Dennis living unhappily after his mum leaves the family. A crack of light shines through as he strikes up a friendship with a girl based on their mutual love of Vogue magazine - and soon Dennis is trying out some of her dresses...

    Covering an important and timely subject with no judgment and plenty of wit and insight, this fantastic novel is great for reluctant readers and any child who's felt like they're the odd one out...
  • SJA2 3 years +
    3 years +
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    Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler combine once more to magical effect with the unforgettable The Snail and the Whale.

    Full of adventure and friendship, the rhyming story follows a tiny snail who wishes to sail. To do this, he hitches a ride on an enormous whale and the duo head on an amazing journey past icebergs, volcanoes, sharks and penguins. Bu then disaster strikes and the whale finds itself beached in a bay... can the snail save the day?

    This special edition of the Gruffalo team's classic has a stunning, redesigned cover and a beautiful finish.
  • The Wonderful World of Dr Seuss Collection - 20 Books - Collection - 9780007823505 - Dr. Seuss
    WWDS 5 years +
    5 years +
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    Due to phenomenal demand, we are out of stock of this title. We will not be receiving any more stock for the foreseeable future.

    The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who... Dr. Seuss' creations are timeless and here you can read all of the stories starring this zany cast of characters for one unbelievable Book People price.

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    Please note each book size is 160 x 115mm
  • ADBOK 3 years +
    3 years +
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    Princess Smartypants does not want to get married. She enjoys being a Ms. But being a rich and pretty princess means that all the princes want her to be their Mrs. Find out how Princess Smartypants fights to preserve her independence in this hilarious fairy-tale-with-a-difference. 'Babette Cole is ...funny, unrestricted and totally unforgettable' - "Independent on Sunday".
  • ELQ2 Toddlers
    David McKee
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    Elmer the patchwork elephant is the star of this gorgeous picture book.

    David McKee's stunning illustrations give Elmer lots of toddler appeal and this is a lovely book to read to youngsters to illustrate the message that it's OK to be different and not just one of the crowd!

    Elmer offers lots of fun and laughter for readers aged 1 and over.
  • GXD2 3 years +
    3 years +
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    Gerald the tall giraffe wants to join in with all the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but everyone knows that giraffes can't dance - or can they?

    This is a funny, touching and triumphant story all about gaining confidence and it's full of joyful artwork.

    A Number One bestseller, author Giles Andreae that has been delighting children for over 15 years, you'll all be laughing at the antics of Gerald.