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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
Book experts and librarians also recommend:
- Neither by Airlie Anderson
- The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
- Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael López
- On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne; illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
- Pink Is For Boys by Robb Pearlman; illustrated by Eda Kaban
- The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Mary GrandPré
- Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
- I Wanna Be a Cowgirl by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
- All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer; illustrated by Jennifer Zivion
- The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
- Archibald Frisby by Michael Chesworth
- Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
- Billy’s Booger by William Joyce
- Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh
- Coasting Casey: A Tale of Busting Boredom in School by Shannon Anderson; illustrated by Colleen Madden
- I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings; illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
- I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont; illustrated by Sonja Wimmer