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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Librarians and book experts also recommend:
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by Rafael López
- No Matter What by Debi Gliori
- Silly Wonderful You by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
- That’s Me Loving You by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Teagan White
- Love You Forever by Robert Munsch; illustrated by Sheila McGraw
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney; illustrated by Anita Jeram
- The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd
- Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado; illustrated by Toni Goffe
- I Already Know I Love You by Billy Crystal; illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles
- Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton
- What’s Special about Me, Mama? by Kristina Evans; illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
- I Love You Because You’re You by Liza Baker, illustrated by David McPhail
- Me I Am by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Christine Davenier
- Love by Matt De La Peña; illustrated by Loren Long
- No One Else Like You by Siska Goeminne; illustrated by Merel Eyckerman
- I Love You for Miles and Miles by Alison Goldberg; illustrated by Mike Yamada
- You Made Me a Mother by Laurenne Sala; illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
- An Awesome Book of Love by Dallas Clayton
- Mother, Mother I Want Another by Maria Polushkin Robbins; illustrated by Jon Goodell
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco; illustrated by William Nicholson
- The Way Meat Loves Salt by Nina Jaffe; illustrated by Louise August
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn; illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox; illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
- Someday by Alison McGhee; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
- If Kisses Were Colors by Janet Lawler; illustrated by Alison Jay
- When I Carried You in my Belly by Thrity Umrigar; illustrated by Ziyue Chen
- I Am Human by Susan Verde; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
- A Hug is for Holding Me by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Lisk Feng
- Captain Starfish by Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys
- Lights, Camera, Carmen! by Anika Denise, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gómez