Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Bodies come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and capacities. Would you like your child to learn to love their own body and accept others the way they are? Picture books are a wonderful tool to foster body positivity and tolerance, as well as to spark valuable conversations with your little one. (Plus, reading stories can actually lower levels of stress and pain and build emotional intelligence, setting children up to better navigate whatever life sends their way.) 

Children begin to develop self-esteem as early as age five, and positive representation is tied to higher self-esteem. That’s why we’ve put together a list of empowering stories that feature kids who look or feel different. Check out these beautiful picture books that encourage self-love and acceptance.

Jacob’s Eye Patch

by Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

This story follows Jacob, a young boy who wears an eye patch, as he hurries to visit a science shop and purchase the last light-up globe. Along the way, Jacob meets lots of people who are interested in his eye patch. While Jacob doesn’t usually mind explaining, today he is afraid that if he spends time talking with people, someone else will get the globe first. When he finally reaches the store and finds the globe, Jacob is more than happy to tell everyone about his eye patch!

In addition to providing great representation, Jacob’s Eye Patch is a wonderful tool to show children that sometimes people get frustrated because of outside reasons—not because they’re upset with the person they’re speaking to. It also teaches kids that it’s okay to set boundaries with curious strangers, a valuable but often overlooked lesson.



by Andrea Zuill

As a child, it’s easy to feel like the odd one out. Peer pressure can cause kids to feel self-conscious about the very things that make them special. In this book, we meet Sweety, an awkward mole rat who struggles to identify social cues, has hobbies that other kids find odd, and always seems to stick out. Sweety considers changing her hobbies and appearance so she can fit in, but when she visits her Aunt Ruth, who enjoys her hobbies, she realizes that being herself isn’t so bad—it’s actually great! If you’re looking for a book that teaches kids to unapologetically embrace their quirks, Sweety is a great role mole-del!


Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

By Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López

When you’re self-conscious, it often seems like everyone else fits in and you’re the one who doesn’t, when in fact others may be feeling exactly the same way. Kids, in particular, often don’t realize that everyone else has their own uncertainties and struggles. In this title by the Supreme Court Justice, a character named Sonia and her friends build a garden.

Each friend explains their differences—Anthony can’t walk, so he uses a wheelchair; Anh has a stutter and struggles to talk to people—and each page encourages children to think about their own experiences and emotions. With so many positive portrayals of different experiences, the book supports children to feel confident about their own and to consider how other kids might struggle.


It’s Okay to Be Different

by Todd Parr

Todd Parr’s beloved classic It’s Okay to Be Different sets babies and toddlers on the road to self-love, body positivity, and acceptance. This colorful book for very young children explains potential differences in simple terms, assuring little readers that it’s okay to “come from a different place,” “be a different color,” “wear glasses,” “have wheels” (i.e., use a wheelchair), be a variety of sizes, and so much more. It’s a beautiful way to teach kids early to accept others and themselves.


Not Quite Snow White

by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Sometimes, insecurities come from teasing or gossip. Bullying and mean comments can strip away a child’s confidence, but that doesn’t mean that they’re true! In Not Quite Snow White, we follow a little girl named Tameika who loves to dance and sing. When Tameika’s school hosts auditions for the school play, she’s excited to try out for Snow White. But the other kids soon begin to gossip that she’s too tall, too chubby, and too brown to be the princess.

Fortunately, Tameika realizes that she’s just tall enough, just chubby enough, and just brown enough to be a princess—and to be herself! Not Quite Snow White offers a powerful lesson in embracing what makes us special rather than trying to fit into a cookie-cutter mold.


Juan has the Jitters

by Aneta Cruz, illustrated by Miki Yamamoto

Sometimes, kids may feel insecure about their bodies; other times, they may feel insecure about what they do with their bodies. In Juan has the Jitters, Juan is dreading his school’s sports day, so he claps anxiously and organizes his room to attempt to cope with the stress.

When the big day rolls around, he’s excited to see that all of the events are well-suited to his skills. He still continues to clap to comfort himself, but that’s okay—everyone manages nervousness a little differently! Juan has the Jitters is an excellent book for children who might feel anxious about future events or worry about how their quirks could become embarrassing. Juan does not have to stop clapping to have a good day—he can be happy while embracing his individuality!


Her Body Can and His Body Can

by Katie Crenshaw & Ady Meschke, illustrated by Li Liu

In Her Body Can, Katie Crenshaw and Ady Meschke describe all the wonderful things that a girl can do—run, play, sing, smile, and so much more! This sweet rhyming story for young kids encourages readers to focus on what their bodies can do, rather than on what they’re not. It also teaches them to ignore unkind words and never let others’ opinions stop them from doing what they love. If you like Her Body Can, the duo recently released a follow-up book called His Body Can that celebrates what boys can do.


Skin Again

by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Skin Again is an abstract and poetic little tome that promotes the lesson that, while skin tells part of a person’s story, you have to look inside the person to really find out about them. It also reminds kids that some of our stories are real, while others are made up, but that’s okay—we all create a little bit of our personality.

Be aware that Skin Again may be a tougher read for some younger listeners to comprehend without help from you, but it offers a powerful springboard to talk with kids about the concept of self and others. It’s a lovely opportunity to chat about the fact that everyone has complicated stories that aren’t visible on the outside but are worth celebrating.



by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

In the modern classic Sulwe, a little girl is bullied because of her dark skin. Her family all has lighter skin, leading her to feel that she can’t even relate to them. Instead, she tries to lighten her skin tone. One night, a shooting star visits Sulwe and tells her about two sisters, Night and Day, who were treated very differently. People always complained about Night, so she ran away, but then everyone soon realized that Night and Day had to balance each other. Both were needed, both were equally important.

From that night on, Sulwe realized that she too was very beautiful. In Sulwe, Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o has created a lovely tool that can teach children not only to love and value all skin tones, but also that it’s okay to not always relate to their family—and that their family will ultimately support them.


Hello, Goodbye Dog

by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Hello, Goodbye Dog follows a young girl in a wheelchair, named Zara, and her dog Moose, both of whom love each other very dearly. Moose always gets upset when he has to say goodbye to Zara (and frequently causes mischief while trying to reunite with her). So Zara thinks of a plan to keep them from having to part: Moose goes to therapy dog school and is registered as a therapy dog!

Hello, Goodbye Dog is a wonderful book that encourages finding the unconventional upsides to difficult situations. It’s also a great way to introduce children without therapy dogs—especially those who are afraid of dogs—to the concept.


Looking for more recommendations? Check out our Bookshop.org page for curated reading lists!