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Feeling Different

None of us are exactly the same but being noticeably different can damage children's self esteem, make it difficult for them to feel accepted in a group and cause them to be a target for bullies. These stories provide a starting point for discussing the issue either individually or with a group of children. You'll find some others on our self esteem page.

Billy Back to Front
by Sam McCullen
(Hodder)
Everybody in Billy’s village knows him because Billy is different. That makes everyone else laugh but not Billy - all he wants is one day of not feeling different. Help is seemingly at hand when he encounters Maurice the Magician and his magic mirror. The mirror gives Billy a chance to see things in another way – even his difference.
  Sam McCullen’s idiosyncratic mixed media artistic style is perfect for the character he has created and will make this distinctive book appeal across a wide age range. Vive la difference!
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Freckleface Strawberry
by Julianne Moore, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
(Bloomsbury)
There was a little girl much like other little girls but for two things: she had red hair and freckles – lots and lots of them. So, people called her Freckleface Strawberry, and that made her feel really fed up. She tried getting rid of them, but nothing made any difference; they stayed right where they were. A mask covered them completely so the comments stopped. But was that the end of Strawberry’s problems? It takes the reaction of a baby in the park to make Strawberry realise that freckles aren’t the problem she thought they were.
  A story about being or, more importantly, feeling different told with humour and sensitivity. The limited colour of the illustrations give a slightly old-fashioned feel to the book, but the sentiment is timeless.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Looking After Louis
by Lesley Ely, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
(Frances Lincoln)
A very positive story told from the viewpoint of a girl in Miss Owlie’s class. Newcomer to the class, Louis, has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He reacts to things differently from the other children, repeating what is said and often seeming to stare into space. His classmates try hard to include him in their activities and, as they do so, they learn best how to accommodate his particular needs both inside and outside the classroom.
Polly Dunbar celebrates the uniqueness of every individual in Louis’ class with her quirky pictures of life both in the classroom and playground and there is an informative postscript on Autism Spectrum Disorder written by a psychologist on the final page. A picture book that should be widely shared in every primary school.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Red Sky in the Morning
by Elizabeth Laird
(Macmillan Children's Books)
Everything changes when Anna's new baby brother, Ben, arrives. She adores him but he is profoundly disabled because of hydrocephalus. The book intermingles the ups and downs of adolescence with the story of her relationship with Ben and her reaction to his death at the age of 2. In the process, it looks particularly deeply at Anna's unwillingness to tell her friends about Ben. Told in the first person, it's a well written, strongly emotional but unsentimental book which gives a clear account of the impact of a sick child on a family. Have the tissues handy.
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Best Friends
by Rachel Anderson Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
(Collins Jets)
When Jessy's sister brings her friend, Becky, home for tea, Jessy feels left out, jealous and angry. If Anna can have a special friend, then Jessy wants one, too. Rachel Anderson is such a sensitive writer, and gives us a warm, involving story with a satisfying ending. The equally sensitive illustrations reveal what Rachel omits from the text - Jessy has Down's Syndrome.This story explores the feelings and reactions not just of Jessy, but of Anna, Becky, and Mum, too and shows how such a situation can be difficult for everyone.
(reviewed by Valerie Wilding)
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Flop-Ear
by Guido Van Genechten
Cat's Whiskers
All the other rabbits make fun of Flop-Ear whose right ear insists on drooping down no matter what he does to try and make it stick up so he can be like them. Just when he is in despair a visit to the doctor makes him do some thinking about being different. On the way home he meets the other rabbits again but it seems that they too have been doing some thinking. The smudgy style pictures outlined with thick black line appeal strongly to the very young.
Ages 3-6
(Reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Am I really different?
by Evelien van Dort and Gerda Westerlink
(Floris Books)
When a ladybird with only one spot is bullied by some of the others, she reacts by running away. After a worm and an ant can't see why one spot is a problem, she asks the wise old ladybug for advice and learns that no two ladybirds are exactly the same - they are each unique and special just like her. This gentle picture book with softly coloured illustrations has a realistic depiction of playground style bullying, an obvious moral and a happy ending which leaves the bullies feeling silly.
Ages 3-6
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Adaline Falling Star
by Mary Pope Osborne
(Scholastic)
Adaline Falling Star is the daughter of the most famous scout in the American West and an Arapaho woman. After the death of her mother, she goes to live with her white relatives who can't cope with her mixed inheritance so she goes in search of her father. Written in the first person, this fast moving story combines plenty of action with a sensitive handling of Adaline's feelings about her background, other people's prejudice and the loss of her mother. A clear font and good spacing between the lines help make the text accessible, even for reluctant readers.
Ages 8-12
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