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One of a Kind photo courtesy Penguin Random House; The Most Magnificent Thing photo courtesy Kids Can Press; Happy Dreamer photo courtesy Scholastic Inc.; Red: A Crayon’s Story photo courtesy HarperCollins Publishers; The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin photo courtesy The Innovation Press; Made by Raffi photo courtesy Lincoln Children’s Books

Books for Kids Who Think Differently

Recommendations from book experts and librarians.

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Years ago, author Robert Fulghum wrote about a time when he was in charge of leading a high-energy game with a large group of kids. To start the game, he called out to the children, “You have to decide now which you are—a giant, a wizard, or a dwarf!” But one little girl tugged on his pant leg and asked, “Where do the mermaids stand?” Fulghum writes: “She intended to participate, wherever mermaids fit into the scheme of things, without giving up dignity or identity. She took it for granted that there was a place for mermaids and I would know just where.” This month, our Read To Me column is dedicated to books for the mermaids, of all sorts.

One of a Kind

by Chris Gorman (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018)

Grammy-nominated drummer and founder of the band, Belly, Gorman tells the story of “a kid who’s always been a little different,” inspired by his son, and illustrated with Gorman’s own “screenprint-like images,” according to a Publisher’s Weekly review. The boy in the story likes being one of a kind, with his mohawk, leather jacket, and drumsticks. He realizes, though, that having unconventional tastes can be lonely, until you begin to find your tribe—other kids who are a little different, too.

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The Most Magnificent Thing

by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, 2014)

Kim Barnes, teen/children’s collection development librarian for Jefferson County Public Library, immediately thought of one of her favorite picture books, The Most Magnificent Thing, when it came to the topic of kids who think differently. “I love it so much because it features a young girl/inventor/engineer and beautifully depicts the creative process in the minds of the very young,” says Barnes. “Even though it is a few years old, it is still a very popular book in our library.”

Happy Dreamer

by Peter H. Reynolds (Orchard Books/Scholastic Inc., 2017)

When Lici McCuistion, Scholastic Book Fair field representative and Arvada mom of two read Happy Dreamer, she immediately became teary. “It reminded me of [my daughter] who ran away from the classroom door when the bell rang to start school…my girl who brings home more drawings than school work…my girl who tells the funniest stories, but hates to write,” she says. “Happy Dreamer is a celebration of the wonderful qualities that tend to be stifled in the name of order.” In an article by the author, he said the initials of the original title spelled ADHD—Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer. Though Reynolds himself was not officially diagnosed with ADHD, he believes he experienced many of its symptoms as a child. Reynolds writes: “This really is my story—a peek inside my mind to share how my brain works in its own wild and wonderful way.”

Red: A Crayon’s Story

by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers, 2015)

“What happens when others want to put you in a box that just doesn’t feel right?” asks Buffy Cummins, lead bookseller/assistant buyer at Second Star to the Right Books. The resulting story is told in Red: A Crayon’s Story, about a blue crayon who is mistakenly packaged with a red paper label. Everyone sees the red label and assumes he can color in red—but he cannot, no matter how hard he tries. The book encourages kids who think a little bit differently to be true to their inner selves. “We love this book around here!” Cummins says.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin 

by Julia Finley Mosca; illustrated by Daniel Rieley (The Innovation Press, 2017)

Temple Grandin, a visual thinker diagnosed with autism, grew up to become a powerful voice in modern science, as well as a prominent author and speaker on autism and animal behavior. Today, she’s a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Children can learn about her unique way of thinking through rhyming verse, in The Girl Who Thought in Pictures. The book, recommended by Amy Forrester, children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library, contains a letter from Dr. Grandin, facts, and family photos, too.

Made By Raffi

by Craig Pomranz; illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain (Lincoln Children’s Books, 2015)

Raffi is a quiet boy who likes to knit and sew. At first, he is teased for his hobby, but when it’s time for the school pageant, his skills come in handy for making a cape for the prince. Inspired by a true incident, Raffi’s cape becomes the star of the pageant, and Raffi gets the respect he deserves for his uncommon interest. “I wrote the book to support young boys and girls who are perceived as different because of their appearance or hobbies,” says Pomranz. “It will interest those who care about promoting diversity and embracing our differences, as well as all children seeking to fit in.”

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