The best children’s books on accepting imperfection

Claire A. B. Freeland Author Of What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake: A Kid's Guide to Accepting Imperfection
By Claire A. B. Freeland

Who am I?

I am a child psychologist and an award-winning author of several books for children and teens related to emotions, behavior, and the science behind them. I believe children love to see themselves in books and to learn about others. Making complex information clear and watching children light up with understanding is my goal for every book I write.


I wrote...

What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake: A Kid's Guide to Accepting Imperfection

By Claire A. B. Freeland, Jacqueline B. Toner, Janet McDonnell (illustrator)

Book cover of What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake: A Kid's Guide to Accepting Imperfection

What is my book about?

Explorers investigate places they have never been before. These explorers might take a while to make their discoveries. They might have trouble understanding their maps. They might make wrong turns. They might need to start their expedition all over again! If explorers could not accept their mistakes and keep going, they might never make any discoveries! Does this sound like you? If you have trouble accepting mistakes, if you try to be right all the time, or if you worry about being less than the best, this book is for you!

What to Do When Mistakes Make You Quake guides children and their parents through the emotions underlying a fear of making mistakes using strategies and techniques based on cognitive-behavioral principles. This interactive self-help book is the complete resource for educating, motivating, and empowering children to cope with mistakes — so they can explore new territory without fear!

The books I picked & why

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Abracadabra!: The Magic of Trying

By Maria Loretta Giraldo, Nicoletta Bertelle (illustrator),

Book cover of Abracadabra!: The Magic of Trying

Why this book?

One aspect of accepting imperfection is to recognize that new skills take practice. In this sweet tale, Little Owl believes he should automatically possess the ability to fly. His woodland friends teach him that practice and effort are required. The abracadabra magic turns out to be persistence in the face of failure. Young readers will embrace the “try, try again” message. This charming story and delightful illustrations will resonate with young children. There is also a note to parents and caregivers by a psychologist that delves into raising kids to develop perseverance.

Abracadabra!: The Magic of Trying

By Maria Loretta Giraldo, Nicoletta Bertelle (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abracadabra! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All of the little birds have learned to fly... except Little Owl. The others explain that it's easy: all he has to do is say "abracadabra!" At first, it doesn't work, and Little Owl thinks the "magic" word is broken! But as he gets better and better, he realizes that the real magic is in himself. This book teaches children how to face challenges and keep trying, despite setbacks. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" with tips for encouraging kids to persevere.

Named in 'The Best Spiritual Books of 2018' by Spirituality & Practice.


The Book of Mistakes

By Corinna Luyken,

Book cover of The Book of Mistakes

Why this book?

As an artist, Corinna Luyken knows that mistakes happen. But some children crumple their papers and toss them with each perceived error. The Book of Mistakes demonstrates how mistakes are part of learning and growing. The illustrator takes each mistake and incorporates it into an expanding drawing until, voila, there is a magnificent two-page spread. But, she doesn’t stop there. The ending will surprise and delight and leave young children with the confidence to go make their own mistakes.

The Book of Mistakes

By Corinna Luyken,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of Mistakes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this memorable picture book debut about the creative process, and the way in which "mistakes" can blossom into inspiration

One eye was bigger than the other. That was a mistake.
The weird frog-cat-cow thing? It made an excellent bush.
And the inky smudges... they look as if they were always meant to be leaves floating gently across the sky.

As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this…


The Most Magnificent Thing

By Ashley Spires,

Book cover of The Most Magnificent Thing

Why this book?

The Most Magnificent Thing captures the process of trying and failing and trying and failing until irritation mounts. The story demonstrates how to manage frustration in order to persist and pursue goals. Every reader will identify with the unnamed main character’s emotional journey. And all will want a sidekick like the main character’s spunky puppy. The illustrations are marvelously compelling. Don’t be surprised if your child charges off to create their own most magnificent thing.

The Most Magnificent Thing

By Ashley Spires,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Most Magnificent Thing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog.

The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in…


Beautiful Oops!

By Barney Saltzberg,

Book cover of Beautiful Oops!

Why this book?

The imaginative Beautiful Oops! is a fun, artistic romp with an interactive design. There are many creative ways of engaging the child, such as lift-the-flap, look through the hole, and so forth. All are in the service of how to incorporate mistakes into your art, and presumably into your life. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be a family or a classroom that describes inconsequential mistakes as beautiful oopsies? I suspect that far fewer meltdowns would ensue.

Beautiful Oops!

By Barney Saltzberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beautiful Oops! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We all make mistakes - grown-ups and children alike. But little kids sometimes have trouble dealing with their mistakes, whether it's a piece of artwork they've torn by accident, or juice they've spilled on their favorite drawing. In this book, every page begins with a 'mistake' that ultimately unravels, lifts out, or pulls up to become a surprising work of beauty. Kids see firsthand as they go through the book that any smudge, smear or stain can lead to something absolutely marvelous - with a little imagination. Inspiring and inventive, this interactive board book teaches a valuable lesson: 'When you…


A Whale of a Mistake

By Ioana Hobai,

Book cover of A Whale of a Mistake

Why this book?

A Whale of a Mistake is written in the second person reaching into the hearts of the listener. With lyrical text and gorgeous, expansive illustrations, the author and illustrator address the feelings that accompany making mistakes and places that experience in a broader context. The aim is to help the reader gain perspective and self-acceptance, that the world isn’t perfect, and neither are you. 

A Whale of a Mistake

By Ioana Hobai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Whale of a Mistake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When you make a mistake-a big mistake, a HUGE mistake-it can weigh you down or even swallow you whole! As one kid finds herself swept away by her whale of a mistake, she takes readers along on a journey of emotions. When the girl pauses to stare at the night sky, she realizes something important: there are as many mistakes in the world as stars in the sky, and maybe she can handle it after all. As the seemingly huge whale begins to shrink, the girl embraces her mistake and finds her way back to solid ground.

Through clever wordplay…


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