Illustrated Books to Help Children Embrace Their Differences – New York Times

More inanimate empathy arrives in Michael Hall’s “Red: A Crayon’s Story.” Though his wrapper reads “Red,” the book’s hero is an erroneously labeled blue crayon who can’t color a fire engine or a stoplight with any kind of verisimilitude. When a new purple friend asks for his help with an art project, Red’s friends and family finally see his true color.

I’m O.K., You’re O.K.

Jewel tones and childlike drawings add to the joy quotient in “The Okay Book,” Todd Parr’s relentlessly affirmative, warmly oddball book. “It’s okay to have no hair,” reads one page. “It’s okay to wear what you like,” reads another. I wish my favorite line from the book, “It’s okay to put a fish in your hair,” could replace the banal phrase, “It takes all kinds,” as an offbeat expression of acceptance.

It’s All Relative

Two books about families tell stories about belonging, in very different styles. The flying squirrel in Zachariah OHora’s antic “My Cousin Momo” doesn’t fit in with the cousins he’s visiting: He thinks hide-and-seek is an opportunity to find mushrooms; he wears a giant muffin costume when his cousins dress as more recognizable superheroes. Heartache comes before acceptance for the saucer-eyed Momo.

An interspecies separated-at-birth story with plot twists and a happy ending, “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon shows the joy and freedom felt when someone — in this case a bat raised by a family of birds — is allowed to be herself.

Class Acts

Hidden talents are uncovered in two empowering school stories. In “I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard,”Jennifer K. Mann’s sympathetic and stellar portrait of Rose, who struggles in school yet longs for recognition, reveals a girl who feels like a misfit yet eventually discovers herself as an artist.

The cleverly rhyming “The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade” written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson tells the story of the unobtrusive, uncommonly observant Sally McCabe who finds her voice when she speaks up for compassion and unites her school.

Friend Requests

Two sensitive books about outsiders learning to make friends show kids the way in. Dennis, a silent boy who mimes in “Be a Friend” by Salina Yoon, prefers pretending to tangible play. His style is smart and creative, but it can be lonely when other children climb trees while you prefer to act like one. One day, though, Dennis kicks an imaginary ball. When a girl named Joy catches it, a friendship takes shape.

In Jack and Michael Foreman’s simple, spare story “Say Hello,” a lonely, disconsolate boy on the sidelines is unsure how to break into a game. A serendipitous moment with a dog and red ball helps the boy to join in the fun and understand that he is not alone.

Yours truly,
Match Book

Do you need book recommendations? Write to matchbook@nytimes.com.

Check out Match Book’s earlier recommendations here.


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