The best books for kids who celebrate being, and believing in, themselves

The Books I Picked & Why

The Carrot Seed

By Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson

The Carrot Seed

Why this book?

This book has been continuously in print since 1945. That date is not a typo! The fact is that this book speaks across genders, races, and generations with the message of belief in oneself—even when everyone else tells you that you’re wrong. Children accustomed to the brightly colored illustrations in contemporary books may take a while to warm up to this gem, but this classic exploration of patience and the power of positive thinking deserves a shout-out. The garden theme works well for spring reading.


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Not Quite Snow White

By Ashley Franklin, Ebony Glenn

Not Quite Snow White

Why this book?

I have always loved theater and I was in school productions of Oklahoma, Bye Bye Birdie, and Damn Yankees. I was also one of the shortest kids in my grade—always. From kindergarten through high school. So I connected with the character that tries her hardest to win a role. And I celebrated when she didn’t let comments that she was too chubby, too tall (the opposite of my problem!), or too brown to play the part of Snow White keep her from pursuing her goal. I was fortunate to hear Ashley read in person at storytime, and saw the kids fall in love.


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Maximillian Villainous

By Margaret Chiu Greanias, Lesley Breen Winthrow

Maximillian Villainous

Why this book?

Maximillian is perfect for readers who want a funny story. The underlying message is cleverly woven in—clever like Maximillian who concocts a plan to try to keep a fluffy pet bunny (which, of course, is not an appropriate pet for a child in a family of villains). Kids want their parents to be proud of them, and sometimes that collides with their true desires, and this book masterfully shows that there is common ground, even when it appears there isn’t.


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Penguinaut!

By Marcie Colleen, Emma Yarlett

Penguinaut!

Why this book?

Penguins are adorable! Used in children’s books, they are the perfect stand-in for children. In many cases, using a non-child character makes it easier for a child to enjoy the story without focusing on the message. So, when a penguin announces to its zoo pals that it wants to explore space, kids just want to go along for the ride! The subtle messages of self-esteem, friendship, and community play off each other in the climax (no spoilers!)


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Blob

By Anne Appert

Blob

Why this book?

This recent title’s combination of silly and earnest has quickly become a favorite. Blob is able to shape itself into being anything it wants to be and it reminded me of my cloud character Lola. But unlike Lola, Blob isn’t sure at first what it wants to be, and the shapes it makes are a journey of self-exploration. As a grownup who has held many varied jobs over the years, the idea of not picking to be any one thing resonates with me. People, and blobs, get to be themselves, whatever that is.


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