A common experience of childhood (and beyond) is feeling that you don’t belong. Maybe you don’t have the right clothes, know the right jokes, or just aren’t “cool” enough (or at least you feel this way). On a more insidious level, children who look or act different (because of, for example, race, class, religion, or gender norms) grow to feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Following is a collection of books for children about not fitting in. These lovely and often funny books are a great way to start a conversation with young children about how differences can be beautiful and sources of pride.
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Books for Children About Not Fitting In
Unstinky is one of my son’s favorite books because it’s all about wanting to be gross and stinky! Bud is a bug that just can’t find his stink. Whenever he’s in a stink contest, he puts out smells like fresh baked bread or flowers instead of gym socks or armpit! Bud is embarrassed, until a new friend helps him discover his real talent. A really funny look about not fitting in
Twig is a beautifully illustrated book about a stick insect on her first day of bug school. She is excited to make friends, but bug school is so busy that no one notices her – especially because she is tall and thin just like a twig! Heidi becomes more and more isolated, until a near mishap with another student finally pushes her to cry out. Once she has everyone’s attention, the others realize that her camouflage was working a little too well! The teacher comes up with a clever way everyone can help Heidi stand out more, by weaving her a beautiful scarf. I love the detailed illustrations of the insects, which are so realistic yet filled with emotions.
Piggy: Let’s Be Friends! is a very sweet story that will help young readers feel more at ease in situations when they feel they are not fitting in. Poor Miles the mole wants to make friends, but he’s just too nervous, especially when he has to venture above ground. Big-hearted Piggy persists in searching for a way to help Miles feel at home – and even take part in an underground tea party with his new friends! One thing I love about this book is that even though some of the characters make fun of Miles at first because he is so different, but they soon come to see that he was just looking for friends. Together, they all work together to make things right with Miles.
How many children’s books have an endorsement from a famous comedian? Thanks to author Elliott Kalan’s time as a writer on The Daily Show, Horse Meets Dog has just that – an enthusiastic endorsement from Jon Stewart! And it’s not just empty praise. This wildly funny book describes an encounter between a horse and a dog, both of whom see the other as a bad version of himself. For example, Horse sees Dog as a very odd looking horse, while Dog sees Horse as an awkward, overgrown dog. An absurd lesson for kids about appreciating others for who they are, rather than who we think they should be.
Stellaluna is a well-loved classic about a baby bat who ends up in a bird’s nest. In a way, it is a re-telling of the ugly duckling tale, as Stellaluna feels there is something wrong with her, that she can’t be like her adopted siblings. She is forced to sleep in the nest at night instead of hanging upside-down by her feet during the day and even (gulp!) eats insects instead of the fruit she craves. Then, one fateful night, she discovers a group of bats and learns that she has talents that her bird brothers and sisters don’t, like the ability to see at night. When he is finally reunited with his bat mother, the story comes full circle.
One aspect I love about this book is that when Stellaluna first lands in the best, the baby birds are fascinated by her habits. They even try hanging by their feet, until their mother discovers them and forbids them – and Stellaluna – from doing it again.