Everyone feels different sometimes — because everyone is different! Our unique traits make life fun and beautiful, but that doesn’t mean being different is always easy. The authors of children’s and young adult literature know that self-acceptance can be a struggle; the S-Collection carries books for all ages about feeling good in your own skin, no matter your size, color, ability, or any other distinguishing feature. Body-positivity means there’s nothing you have to be except yourself — and that’s awesome.
To find picture books and novels about loving yourself, try a subject search of “juvenile fiction” combined with a subject or keyword search of “self-esteem” or “self-acceptance.”
To find books that highlight a specific unique trait, combine the subject search of “juvenile fiction” (or “juvenile literature” if you want non-fiction titles) with a keyword search like “racially mixed families” or “people with disabilities.”
Books for Beginning Readers
I Like Myself! 2004.
The little heroine of this story knows that she is no one but herself — and that is a good thing! Even with bedhead and yucky morning breath, she likes being her.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. B383i]
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina. 2011.
Marisol McDonald is a proud Peruvian-Scottish-American who loves tan skin with red hair, PB & J burritos, and wearing stripes with polka dots. Everyone knows that Marisol McDonald doesn’t match, and that’s just fine with Marisol.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. B8146ma]
Mixed Me! 2015.
The father of a mixed child, author Taye Diggs knows that being mixed can be just right! Mike, the main character, is a little boy who is the perfect “blend of dark and light” and loves seeing the evidence of both his mother and father in his appearance.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. D5694m]
Hoffman, Sarah and Ian.
Jacob’s New Dress. 2014.
Jacob loves playing dress-up at home and wants to wear a dress to school, too. His classmates think a boy in a dress is a little funny, but Jacob knows there’s no reason he shouldn’t wear what makes him feel good.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB SE. H672j]
The Colors of Us. 1999.
Lena is creating a self-portrait and plans to use just-plain-brown paint for her skin, but Lena’s mother, an artist, urges her to look more closely. Soon Lena sees that people come in more beautiful and nuanced colors than she could imagine. She isn’t just brown, she’s cinnamon!
[SSHEL S Collection SE. K159co]
Stand Straight, Ella Kate: The True Story of a Real Giant. 2010.
Ella Kate Ewing, a real-life girl born in 1872, had big dreams and a height to match. Her family always encouraged her to “stand up straight” and not hide her uniqueness, so Ella Kate used her tall frame to achieve fame and travel the world.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB Q. SE. K689st]
It’s Okay to be Different. 2001.
It’s okay to look different, to need help, to be adopted, and all the other characteristics that make humans individuals! The bright illustrations and positive messages in It’s Okay to be Different reinforce themes of self-esteem and acceptance.
[SSHEL S Collection SE. P246i]
I Love my Hair! 1998.
Keyana is more than a little sick of her hair, which hurts her head no matter how gentle Mama tries to brush. Mama reminds her how lucky she is to have such beautiful hair, and Keyana imagines all the amazing styles she can wear.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB SE. T176i]
Books for Middle Readers
El Deafo. 2014.
Author CeCe Bell tells the story of her own hearing loss and life with hearing aids in this graphic novel. Her Phonic Ear, a very useful and noticeable hearing aid, makes her different, but CeCe thinks of it as a superpower. She is…El Deafo!
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. 741.5973 B4132d]
The titular character of this classic coming-of-age story is a pretty teenager whose self-esteem and dreams of becoming a model are compromised when she is diagnosed with scoliosis and forced to wear a back brace.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. B625D]
Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome. 2015.
Kid President, of YouTube fame, is back to remind kids everywhere that they are awesome exactly as they are, and that they should use that awesomeness to do something world-changing!
[SSHEL S Collection S. 158 M7607k]
Auggie was born with a face that doesn’t look like other kids’, so he’s been homeschooled…until now. When Auggie joins the 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he must be prepared to defend his face from bullies. Wonder is a reminder to be kind to everyone, including yourself, and that when you’re different, it’s okay to stand out.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. P1712w, Residence Halls 813 P171wo]
12-year-old Davis is worried that no one sees him as anything but ‘husky.’ On top of his weight, he is wrestling with questions of sexuality as his friendships and family relationships change. Davis must learn to see himself as a unique individual with admirable qualities, no matter what transitions life throws at him.
[SSHEL S Collection S. SA997h]
The author, in graphic novel format, talks about the dental issues that marked much of her youth and how she learned to love her smile even with her “metal-mouth.”
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. T271s]
Books for Advanced Readers
45 Pounds, More or Less. 2013.
Ann Galardi lives her life by the numbers: She’s sixteen years old. She wears a size seventeen. Her mother is a size six. Her aunt is getting married in two months. It’s time to lose forty-five pounds. As Ann begins her mission, she realizes that in order to be truly healthy, she’ll have to learn to love herself exactly as she is.
[SSHEL S Collection S. B28f]
Laughing at My Nightmare. 2014.
Shane Burcaw, a 20-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy, describes his life with biting wit and humor as he brings readers through what it’s like to meet people, date, and study from his wheelchair.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB SB. B892b, Residence Halls 617.4 B892la]
The Skin I’m In. 1998.
Maleeka is self-conscious about her height and her dark skin, but a new teacher with vitiligo, a skin condition that causes discoloration in patches, helps her to find self-confidence.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. F5991s]
Fat Kid Rules the World. 2003.
Troy Billings is seventeen, depressed, and, let’s face it, fat. His life changes when he meets Curt, a homeless teenage musician who wants Troy to be the drummer in a new band. There are a few issues, though, since Troy doesn’t know how to play the drums, and Curt may or may not have a drug problem. Their unlikely friendship changes both their lives as Troy works towards self-acceptance.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. G561f, Uni High Fiction G56f]
Grover, Laurie Ann.
On Pointe. 2004.
Clare has been training her whole life to become a ballerina. When she learns that she is too tall to ever become a professional dancer and her beloved grandfather suffers a stroke, Clare’s identity is shaken and she learns to envision a new future.
[SSHEL S Collection S. G919o]
This science fiction series takes place in a world where teenagers undergo a surgery at sixteen to make them a “Pretty” — all of their distinguishing, “ugly” features removed and their brains altered to make them docile. Tally and her friends question the wisdom of the surgery and struggle to maintain their identities in the face of the Pretty regime.
[SSHEL S Collection and CCB S. W523u2011, Residence Halls 813 W523ug, Uni High Fiction W5233u]