Applauding Individuality – Picture Books that Celebrate Being Different

Young children don’t always notice differences in people, at least not in the passively aggressive way some adults are inclined to do. Sadly, the recognition of characteristics dissimilar to their own either physical or behavioural is largely a mindset learned from their environment. Picture books like these do a tremendous job of challenging erroneous mindsets and applauding individuality. They are charming and direct, yet subtle and entertaining enough to read repeatedly.

Along Came A Different by Tom McLaughlin

Dramatically different (pardon the pun) from anything else McLaughlin has produced before, this avant-garde picture book cleverly combines colour recognition (with emphasis on the primary colours), geometry and social acceptance all in one neat entertaining package. Several groups of differents converge into one community space but despise one another because reds, blues and yellows just don’t match. Rules are established and boundaries are enforced. Life is tense and restrictive. Until one day, quite unexpectedly, a really different different comes along, radically altering their perceptions and igniting a massive appreciation of how being different is actually better. Friendship prevails and happiness blooms.

This story told in few words and bold striking characters, relays a simple premise of live and let love. It suggests to children that you can be any shape, size, or colour and still have a voice. You can like any type of music and have friends who love oranges even if you do not. You are unique and therefore amazing. It’s that simple. A modern day classic that welcomes differences and embraces change. Magnificent. Timely. Recommended.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books May 2018

My Storee by Paul Russell and Aska

Australian NAPLAN advocates turn away now for this tremendous picture book blithely ignores language conventions and unapologetically dismisses sticklers for rules. I love how it also challenges every spell check on the planet.

Derived from the author’s own experience with dyslexia, My Storee is a beautifully refreshing expose of encouraging creativity for creativity’s sake by forsaking the bounds of perfect spelling and correctness; paradigms that can severely road block learning and advancement for a person afflicted with dyslexia.

A young boy is a master storyteller but is afraid to let his dragons loose at school for fear of grammatical reprimand. That is until a teacher with extreme foresight, long hair and very loud shirts breezes into his life and gives him permission to be who he is and shine. Thank you Mr Watson.

Full marks for this book, which screams thinking outside of the box, applauds alternative teaching approaches and champions creative verve to the nth degree. I love it, every word and every ridiculously bold bright illustration. Viva la Mr Watsons, wherever you are out there. We need more like you. My Storee is concrete reinforcement of embracing who you are and all that you have, or have not, with verve and positivity.

EK Books August 2018

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

If the paradoxical title doesn’t pique your curiosity, the minute you plunge into the end pages of this extraordinary picture book, you’ll be wondering what comes next. Julian is a boy, entrusted in his Nana’s care, whom LOVES mermaids. One day, during a long boring bus ride the visitation of three ethereal looking women spur Julian’s imagination into magnificent motion enlivened by his book reading. Despite his rather pedestrian surroundings and the broody nonchalance of his Nana, Julian envisages himself as a magnificent mermaid, going to remarkable lengths to replicate their splendour.

The element of power this book possesses lies within Julian’s grandmother’s reaction to his altered ego. It is a priceless and potent purport for being true to yourself.

Love’s lavish illustrations exploit the barely supressed extravagance of this book by tempering glorious colour (of the mermaids and festivities) with the more subdued tones of Julian’s environment, a kind of yin and yang of acceptable and out of the ordinary. This is definitely one to share and explore further with children from four years of age upwards.

Walker Books Australia June 2018

Old Hat by Emily Gravett

I’m not exactly sure what Harbet is, a kind of dog-inspired goofy youngster, but his alluring need to fit in and keep up with the Jones or in this case his fad-following friends who happen to be extinct species, is both hilarious and immediately recognisable. The fact that Harbet is undefinable (a bit like Pluto) is the point of difference in this tale of trying hard to fit in. Dripping with dramatic irony, Old Hat highlights the beauty of being different and dancing to the beat of your own uniqueness. Suffused with Gravett’s usual comic twists and turns and supported by her almost Seuss-like illustrations, this one is highly recommended for children from three upwards and anyone who loves exciting headwear. Celebrate your own style with Old Hat.

Two Hoots imprint Pan Macmillan Australia July 2018

Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett

Take one adorable, fluffy grey squirrel, all alone and desperate beyond measure for someone to share his days with and mix with a rather scruffy, questionable grey…other squirrel and you have the start of a beautiful friendship. This is the story of Pat and Cyril who rejoice in their newfound friendship with all the gay abandon you’d expect of two creatures intent on living a life of joie de vivre. That is until their park companions do their utmost to point out the Pat is not the squirrel Cyril believes him to be.

When the sun finally dawns on Cyril that Pat is in fact a rat, he quickly ditches his best buddy. However, try as he might, fun and games are no fun and games alone especially when you try to outwit and outrun your archenemy, Slim. Thankfully, Pat the rat’s stalwart friendship saves the day, and Cyril, proving you can’t always judge a rat by his reputation.

This is another sublime rhyming masterpiece from accomplished author illustrator, Emily Gravett that champions quirky friendships and the notion that some things are more important than being the same, or listening to others. Wholesome, winsome, and wonderful. Delightful for 3 – 6 year-olds.

Two Hoots imprint Pan Macmillan Australia July 2018

Lucia & Lawrence by Joanna Francis

This sweet picture book from newcomer , Joanna Francis swells with charm and will appeal to all those whose heads work better in the clouds (pink billowy ones preferably) as well as those who prefer to be buried in facts and figures. It’s about Lucia, ardent dreamer and part-time rainbow chaser, her butterfly wings are as much her character as they are her costume. Lawrence is her neighbour, full time book worm and mathematician. Numbers and pragmatism beat his drum.

It seems the two are incompatible yet they soon form a ‘warm, bubbly friendship‘ that satisfies them both. Is it enough though to surmount Lawrence’s social discomfort? Together they find a way to combine and overcome their differences and relaunch their friendship journey.

Lucia & Lawrence not only embraces individuality and friendship, it extols the virtues of creativity and how two differents can converge to create a greater whole.

Beautiful illustrations imbued with rich detail and an ice-creamy colour palette  complete this book which would make a great shared story for 3 – 6 year-olds.

New Frontier Publishing June 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books - you'll find them all here at Boomerang Books. Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker and semi-professional chook wrangler. She believes picture books are food for the soul and should be consumed at least 10 times a week.

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