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Books About Friends With Big Differences

Use these books to teach your children the value of differences.

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These days, there is no shortage of situations that can divide friends with just a word, a gesture, or a click of a keyboard. Use these books to teach your children that differences among friends are not only to be tolerated, but can also enhance relationships.

Melia and Jo

by Billy Aronson and Jennifer Oxley (HMH Books, 2018)

Melia is a scientist, but most of her inventions are unfinished. She tries to figure out how to make a paper airplane fly fast and far when she meets Jo. Jo is an artist, and can offer a different way of thinking to make her invention a success. This story, recommended by the Denver Public Library, shows the importance of different types of minds along with the benefits of STEAM-focused curriculum.

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Cookie and Broccoli: Ready For School

by Bob McMahon (Dial Books, 2020)

Cookie is outgoing and Broccoli is shy, and the two react differently to the same situations as they navigate the first day of first grade. When Broccoli discovers that Cookie has shy moments, too, they invite all their classmates to join the Shy Friends Club.

I Love You (Almost Always)

by Anna Llenas (Sterling Children’s Books, 2020)

In this pop-up book, Ralph is a roly-poly and the “king of camouflage,” while Rita is a firefly, “the brightest light in the sky.” They know they are different and that’s why they are friends. Until one day, the characteristics that make Ralph and Rita unique become annoying to the other. Ralph tries to soften his shell a little and Rita tries to fly more slowly, because in the end, they still love each other.

Same, Same But Different

by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (Henry Holt and Company, 2011)

Recommended by Denver Public Library children’s librarian Gigi Pagliarulo, this story features two boys, one from India and one from the United States, who become pen pals. Despite living in different countries and having different cultures, they discover they have a lot of similarities, too, like climbing trees, owning pets, and going to school.

The Cool Bean

by Jory John; illustrated by Pete Oswald (HarperCollins, 2019)

One bean laments how the other beans from his pod somehow became the “cool beans,” while he mostly stayed the same. He feels left out, until one by one, the cool beans help him when he drops his lunch, scrapes his knee, and loses his place in class. In the end, he learns that, despite differences, coming to the aid of another is what really makes someone cool.

Jasper & Scruff: The Cool Cat Club

by Nicola Colton (Tiger Tales, 2020)

The first book in a new chapter book series for young readers, Jasper the cat is stylish and organized, while Scruff the dog is much less so. Jasper has the perfect plan to impress the members of the Sophisticats, until the muddy-
pawed Scruff comes along.

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Can We Be Friends?

by Erica Sirotich (HarperCollins, 2020)

Through rhyming text, learn about five unexpected (and real life) animal friendships. There’s the hippo and the tortoise from Kenya, the elephant and the sheep from South Africa, and others. Read additional details about these unusual animal friendships in the back of the book.


Librarians and book experts also recommend:


Melia and Jo: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Cookie and Broccoli: Penguin Random House. I Love You: Sterling Publishing. Same, Same but Different: Macmillan. The Cool Bean and Can We Be Friends?: HarperCollins. Jasper & Scruff: Tiger Tales.

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