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

Who am I?

A former microbiologist and attorney turned children’s book author, I’m delighted to advocate for children’s self-confidence and critical thinking skills in literature. I like to write about things that I know, to share my passion, and about things I don’t know—to learn more. Stories have been an escape and a learning tool for me and I want to share stories that do the same for children today.


I wrote...

Lola Shapes the Sky

By Wendy Greenley, Paolo Domeniconi (illustrator),

Book cover of Lola Shapes the Sky

What is my book about?

Lola Shapes the Sky tells the story of a playful cloud named Lola. She isn’t like the other clouds in the sky. She would rather make shapes than weather. Rain? Nope. Shade? Nope. Snow? Nope. The other clouds bully and then abandon Lola. But the people on the ground remind Lola that there’s value in what feels right to her. Standing up for herself, Lola shows that clouds that make beautiful shapes and clouds that make weather can co-exist.

The books I picked & why

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The Carrot Seed

By Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson (illustrator),

Book cover of 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.

The Carrot Seed

By Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrate 75 years of The Carrot Seed with a new foreword from Caldecott Honor picture book creator Kevin Henkes!

When a little boy plants a carrot seed, everyone tells him it won't grow. But when you are very young, there are some things that you just know, and the little boy knows that one day a carrot will come up. So he waters his seed, and pulls the weeds, and he waits...

This beloved classic celebrates patience, determination, and believing in yourself. First published in 1945 and never out of print, the timeless combination of Ruth Krauss's simple text and…


Not Quite Snow White

By Ashley Franklin, Ebony Glenn (illustrator),

Book cover of 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.

Not Quite Snow White

By Ashley Franklin, Ebony Glenn (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Not Quite Snow White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A picture book for magical yet imperfect children everywhere, written by debut author Ashley Franklin and perfect for fans of such titles as Matthew A. Cherry's Hair Love, Grace Byers's I Am Enough, and Lupita Nyong'o's Sulwe.

Tameika is a girl who belongs on the stage. She loves to act, sing, and dance-and she's pretty good at it, too. So when her school announces their Snow White musical, Tameika auditions for the lead princess role.

But the other kids think she's "not quite" right to play the role.

They whisper, they snicker, and they glare.

Will Tameika let their harsh…


Maximillian Villainous

By Margaret Chiu Greanias, Lesley Breen Winthrow (illustrator),

Book cover of 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.

Maximillian Villainous

By Margaret Chiu Greanias, Lesley Breen Winthrow (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn't have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max's disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers…


Penguinaut!

By Marcie Colleen, Emma Yarlett (illustrator),

Book cover of 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!)

Penguinaut!

By Marcie Colleen, Emma Yarlett (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Orville lives at the zoo, surrounded by animal pals who go on exciting
adventures. A hang gliding rhino! A deep-sea diving giraffe!

Orville struggles to keep up, until one day he concocts an adventure
all his own: build a spaceship and fly to the moon all by himself.

Can one tiny penguin get there alone? Or will Orville find that sometimes
you need a little help from your friends?

Marcie Colleen's playful text and Emma Yarlett's charming, whimsical
illustrations are sure to delight both children and their parents.


Blob

By Anne Appert,

Book cover of 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.

Blob

By Anne Appert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A humorous picture book featuring a blob (n. a creature that can be anything they want) about embracing who we are and the many things we can be.

Blob is a creature of indeterminate kind. Blob can be a giraffe, cotton candy, and even an octopus. It's not until a certain someone continuously calls them "Bob" that Blob starts to question who they really are.

After a series of funny yet enlightening discoveries about all the possible things they can be, Blob realizes that the best thing to be is . . .

Blob.

(With the L.)

Author, artist, and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in good and evil, self esteem, and gardening?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about good and evil, self esteem, and gardening.

Good And Evil Explore 88 books about good and evil
Self Esteem Explore 66 books about self esteem
Gardening Explore 69 books about gardening

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lord of the Rings, A Clockwork Orange, and Swan Song if you like this list.