Some of the most common advice given out is “be yourself”. But while this is incredibly important, sometimes it is easier said and done, especially when people try to put you down, tease or bully you for what makes you you. This Anti-bullying Week, we’re not bringing you examples of bullies in books (although if we did, the Trunchbull would definitely be in there!) Instead we’re shining a light on some fantastic reads that celebrate and encourage being unapologetically yourself and celebrating individuality, even when other people try to get you down. Here are some great literary examples of learning to love yourself for who you are, quirks, rainbow patches, dresses and all!
Elmer, David McKee
What’s it about?: Elmer the elephant is different. While all the other elephants around him are grey, he’s covered in beautiful multicolored rainbow patches! Feeling self conscious and embarrassed, Elmer is upset when he feels that the other elephants are laughing at him. Maybe, he thinks, if I can find a way to become a grey elephant, they might accept me….This classic picture book retains all of it’s original charm, even upon multiple readings and teaches young readers that its OK to be themselves and to be proud of your true colours!
Age range: 3-6
Julian is a Mermaid, Jessica Love
What’s it about?: While riding home on the subway with his abuela, Julián notices three beautiful women on the tube. Glamorous, glowing and gorgeous, with wonderful sweeping fish-tail dresses, perfect hair and a twinkle in their eyes, Julián wants to be just like them! On the ride home, he daydreams himself into his own technicolor underwater world, complete with his own periwinkle tail and flowing locks to boot! But what will his abuela think about his underwater world and more importantly, what will she think about him? This is an absolute visual feast from start to finish with incredible warmth. The book sensitively celebrates both creativity and individuality in one fell swoop that tells youngsters that you are loved as you are.
Age range: 3-11+
Perfectly Norman, Tom Percival
What’s it about?: Norman has always been perfectly normal, thank you very much! That is until one day when he sprouts a magnificent pair of wings. Flying with the times and testing out his new wings, Norman tests out his wings with glee. But then he’s called in for dinner and panic ensues. What will his parents say if they see his new wings? Should he hide away? Will Norman ever fly again! This is a beautifully illustrated story about learning to be yourself and one for bolstering children’s self confidence.
Age range: 3-6
Giraffes Can’t Dance, Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees
What’s it about?: You’ve heard of having two left feet, well how about having four of them! Gerald the Giraffe longs to dance along with the other animals at the Jungle Dance. There’s just one problem. Bandy-legged, spindly and with a neck that’s waaaaayyy too long, Gerald just can’t dance! The other animals tease and bully him and soon Gerald feels that maybe, just maybe, giraffes don’t really dance at all. But with a little help from a wise old cricket, Gerald soon learns how to dance to his own rhythm. Andreae and Parker Rees beautifully communicate the book’s underlying messages of individuality and inclusivity- “we can all dance when we find music we love.”
Age range: 3-6
The Boy In The Dress, David Walliams
What’s it about?: The story focuses on Dennis, the 12-year-old star of his school football team who’s lived with his annoying brother and trucker father ever since his mother left the family two years ago. Missing his mum, Dennis finds her dress and decides to try it on. It’s a perfect fit. But wearing a dress to school, that’s a whole new ball game and against the rules! With the help of fellow pupil and budding designer, Lisa, they hatch a plan to bend the rules and turn Denis into ‘Denise’, Lisa’s French pen pal. Can they keep Denise’s identity under wraps and how will his family react to his new look?
Age range: 9-11+