Growing up, feeling like you're different and don't fit in can be troubling for children. But, by reading books starring characters that are just like them or also don't follow the expectations of those around them can help start conversations with your children and promote a positive outlook on what it means to be different. We have picked out these fun and moving books that will reassure children and remind them that it's our differences that make us unique, special and loved by others, and that diversity is a good thing.
Our friends at Action for Children have also explained the value in reading for children who feel like they are different. Carol Iddon, Managing Director of Operations at Action for Children said, '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.'
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 blending in with everyone else 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, to follow her dremas, she hitches a ride on the back of an enormous whale. 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 are 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.
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.
RJ Palacio | 11+
Wonder is a powerful story about a boy called August who was born with a facial disfigurement. After being homes-schooled for years, August starts middle school for the first time. Despite being picked on for his looks at his new school, August is determined to not let the bullies get him down. His courage and humour see him through and readers will see that just because you're born different, this doesn't mean you don’t belong.
Children can see the brilliance in difference and the joy in individuality in these six excellent books and learn that it's what makes us unique that makes us special.
Unique children's books about being and looking different
- Elmer by David McKee
- The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
- Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
- Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
- The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio