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Books That Show Kids They Are Loved, Just As They Are

Recommendations from local book experts and librarians.

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In the recent documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Fred Rogers comments that there is often so much focus on what kids will be, rather than a focus on who they are. Years later in his 2002 commencement speech at Dartmouth College, he expressed a similar sentiment, in different words, to the graduates: “You don’t ever have to do anything sensational, for people to love you.” This month, as families and friends gather to exchange presents, perhaps the best gift for the children in your life would be the reminder that you love them, just as they are.

Rot, The Cutest in the World

by Ben Clanton (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017)

Author Ben Clanton proves that a story with themes about positive body image, acceptance, and love can be hilarious and fun for kids, too. Rot, the mutant potato, decides to enter the “Cutest in the World” contest but loses confidence when he realizes he’s up against some stiff competition: an itty-bitty baby bunny, a little-wittle cuddly kitten, and an eenie-weenie jolly jellyfish. Rot struts his stuff anyway, and wins the contest just by being himself.

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Julián is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love (Candlewick Press, 2018)

Julián adores the beautiful dress-up of the Coney Island Mermaid parade, and when his abuela discovers he’s turned the curtains and houseplants into a mermaid costume of his own, she embraces him with loving affirmation. Recommended by authors, illustrators, and children’s librarians at the Denver Public Library, this debut picture book has playful illustrations infused with warmth and character.

Rock What Ya Got

by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Kerascoët (Little, Brown and Company, 2018)

When an artist begins to draw, she thinks her creation can’t possibly be good enough the way it is, until her drawing speaks up, in rhyme: Excuse me, Lady Artist, ma’am, but I like me the way I am. Before you change one line or dot, can I try…to rock what I got? Recommended by local librarians, the illustrations combine realistic and cartoon elements among bright splashes of watercolor.

Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You

by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel & Friends, 2012)

Tillman’s book features a strong message of unconditional love, no matter how near or far away a loved one might be. “I am particularly fond of this title because Ms. Tillman went out of her way to make sure that the child, who romps across the beautifully illustrated pages, is gender neutral,” says Kim Barnes, teen/children’s collection development librarian for Jefferson County Public Library. “This book shows a child surrounded by starlight and always pictured from behind or in profile, frolicking with hippos, elephants, kangaroos, and other pleasingly perfect animals. It is ideal for an adult and special child to read while cuddled together enjoying each other’s company.”

Be Who You Are

by Todd Parr (Little, Brown and Company, 2016)

An author of more than 40 books, Todd Parr reminds kids that it’s their unique traits that make them special. In his signature bold and colorful style, Parr tells readers: “Be a different color…Wear everything you need to be you…Learn in your own way…Be proud of where you’re from…” and more. The book includes a note from Parr about his own childhood at the beginning.

If I Wrote A Book About You

by Stephany Aulenback; illustrated by Denise Holmes (Simply Read Books, 2014)

This book begins with the mom saying to her child: If I wrote a book about you and how wonderful you are, I would write it everywhere. The pages that follow show the mom writing “captivating” using the branches of trees, “entertaining” using toys scattered on the floor, “clever” with the crumbs from crackers, and more. Children will have fun seeking out descriptive words on every page, and be inspired to create words from different objects.

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