Lists · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

9 Picturebooks about individuality and self-expression


Nine Picturebooks about individuality and self-expression.


Mr Tiger Goes Wild – Peter Brown

Mr Tiger lives in a grey place where everybody looks and acts the same way. One day, Mr Tiger has an idea. He changes the way he walks, then the way he dresses. Then Mr Tiger goes WILD.

This book looks at freedom of expression and it also looks at boundaries. The world becomes a brighter place when everyone is free to express themselves. Mr Tiger learns about boundaries. Dressing and walking differently is one thing. Leaping across the rooftops is another.

Key Messages –

  • Individuality makes the world a brighter place
  • Pushing the boundaries of individuality can result in behaviour outside the social norm. There are limits to what other people will accept.



Elmer – David McKee

All of the elephants are grey. All except Elmer. It never matters that Elmer is a patchwork elephant because his jokes keep the other elephants happy. One day, Elmer hears someone say patchwork elephants are silly, so he finds a way to hide his colours until he realises the other elephants miss their friend.

This is one of the best-known picture books of the past 30 years. It is a story about celebrating individuality and looking beyond appearance.

Key messages –

  • Appearance doesn’t define us.
  • The things that are unique about us are a cause for celebration.



Up and Down – Oliver Jeffers

There are two friends who always do things together until Penguin decides there is something important he wants to do all by himself. Fly. At first, it seems impossible. Then Penguin signs up as a living cannonball.

The most important point of this story is that Boy doesn’t judge Penguin. He is there when Penguin wants to fly and he supports Penguin when flying turns out not to be the right thing. The best people in our lives are the ones who stand by us and support us whatever stage we are at. 

Key Message:

  • Although nobody can tell us who we are, the people we trust can guide and support us on our journey of self-discovery.


Tacky The Penguin – Helen Lester And Lyn Munsinger

Whatever the other penguins do, Tacky does it differently. Tacky is an odd bird. One day the hunters come. The other penguins run away but Tacky confront them straight on.

Tacky may seem like an oddball, but he has qualities and abilities which the other penguins admire. It takes time for them to look past the strange shirt and loud behaviour, but when they do they realise Tacky is a good penguin to have around. 

Key Message:

  • Don’t judge others on superficial grounds.



Spork – Kyo Mclear 

Forks are forks and spoons and spoons, but where does Spork fit in? One day he decides it is time to choose what he is – a spoon or a fork.

Key Message:

  • Everybody finds their place regardless of labels. This would also be lovely for discussion what we inherit from our parents. Children can feel pressured to live up to one parent or another and need to learn that we will be defined by our own actions and achievements.



Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Every year, the jungle dance is held, but Gerald feels because he can’t dance like the other animals. The other animals make fun of him when he hits the dance-floor. Away from the other animals, a kindly cricket plays music for Gerald to sway to.

Key Message:

  • The other animals have a narrow definition of dancing, but with a little encouragement, Gerald finds his own rhythm. When we make fun of other people it is often our own prejudice and preconceptions at fault.



Perfectly Norman – Tom Percival 

Norman has always been perfectly normal until one day he grows a pair of new wings. Should he embrace his wings and fly free or hide them away? Hiding the wings makes all his favourite things difficult and everybody notices that Norman is not himself.

Key Message:

  • Hiding our individuality can draw more attention to ourselves than embracing our differences.


The Lion Inside – Rachel Bright And Jim Field

Nobody ever notices Mouse. He is so impossibly small. Meanwhile, Lion has made himself head of the pack with his loud roar. Mouse decides he needs a loud voice. The only animal who can teach him to roar might eat him up. Is Mouse brave enough to approach Lion?

Key Messages:

  • Bravery and confidence aren’t about having the loudest voice. We can speak up for ourselves without changing who we are.



Petra  – Marianne Coppo

Petra is a rock and this is how she rolls. Everybody tells her she is just a rock but there are so many things she could be. Every time she receives a knock – being thrown across the garden, or taken into a bird-nest – Petra reinvents herself. However many times she transforms herself, Petra remains her happy self.

I love this story. No matter how many times Petra is told she can’t be anything other than a rock she reinvents herself. This is a story about resilience. It is also about not letting other people define you.

Key message:

  • You can decide who you want to be. Don’t let other people’s opinions define you.
Lists · Stationery

Bookish Stationery Guide – August 2018

Bookish stationery guide and wishlist

This week I took part in one of those memorable group conversations when someone produces something everybody else once. The thing in question was a set of Jackie Morris notecards. These were passed around the table and admired. Stoked. Snail-Mail may be in decline but people love beautiful notecards more than ever. 

Jackie Morris is one of my favourite artists, and I’m also pleased to include Dee Nickerson in this round-up. She paints introverts. Women with cats and books. Women who jump in the waves and dream of flying with the birds. I love her art more than I can possibly say and aspire to live like a woman in a Dee Nickerson painting. 

I own a small amount of bookish stationery. My Peter Pan Moleskine is my pride and joy – and still hasn’t been written in because I haven’t had thoughts which are worthy of its pages.

Here is my current bookish stationery wish list. Is there anything here you would like to own? Do you have any beautiful bookish stationery? Let me know in the comments below. 

Lists · Picture Books

8 Picture Books about friendship and getting-along


There is no better way to discuss problems with small children than via a picture book. Lots of children encounter conflict at some point or another in their friendships. The difficulty with finding a book to help is that most guides are not specific enough. All of these books are about conflict and resolution, but the characters fall out for different reasons – Rainbow Fish thinks too much of himself, George won’t share, Hummingbird doesn’t respect boundaries and Something Else wants a Friend who is just like himself. Although these books are about the same theme, their messages are slightly different. 

Here are eight picture books about friendship -getting along, falling out and sharing. Check the key messages to understand what the book is about. birdThree by the Sea – Mini Grey

Cat, Dog and Mouse live by the sea. They get along just fine until a stranger arrives and offers them a free gift. He whispers things in their ears until Cat, Dog and Mouse no-longer trust each-other. Can they resolve their quarrels or is this the end of their life together? 

Key message – Don’t let anyone or anything come between an established friendship. 


Sharing A Shell – Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks 

Crab finds a new shell to live in but he doesn’t want to share it with anyone. Then a purple blob works its way in, then a brush. The trio realises they can help each other and it is the start of a new friendship. Life in the rockpool proves tough and crab decides he needs new housemates. What will it take for the three to make friends? 

Key message – We bring different things to a team 


Hector And Hummingbird – Nicholas John Frith

A hummingbird makes friends with a bear called Hector who loves the peace and quiet. When Hummingbird gets too noisy, Hector stomps off to be alone, but he finds he misses his friend. A story of difference, compromise and the need to give each other space.

Key message – Learn and be comfortable with each other’s boundaries. 


The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister 

Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in all the seas. He doesn’t have time to play with the ordinary, non-sparkly fish. When he refuses to share his sparkling scales the other fish stop trying to play. Suddenly Rainbow Fish is all alone. Could making friends be more important than being special? 

Key message – It is better to be ordinary and have friends than special and alone. 


Grumpy Frog – Ed Vere

Frog’s not grumpy. Not at all. Lots of things make Frog annoyed and he likes to win but he isn’t grumpy. The genius of this book is how we see Frog’s monologue pushing everyone else out of the story.

Key message – When we are grumpy we forget to listen to other people’s perspectives. 


Hortense And Shadow – Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

Hortense hates her shadow. It jumps out in unexpected places and frightens her. When Hortense shuts her shadow out of her life she thinks she is safe – but she reckons without a team of bandits. Who will save Hortense? 

Key message – We should overlook minor annoyances because friends are there to help in the darkest of times. 


This Is Our House – Michael Rosen and Bob Graham 

George’s cardboard house is for himself. It isn’t for people with red hair, girls, small people, twins, people with glasses or people who like tunnels. One by one, all of George’s friends are refused entry. Then they build a house of their own. George finds himself on the receiving end. George must rethink his attitude before his friends will let him in. 

Key message – If we make other people unwelcome nobody will want to play with us. This could also open some discussion about excluding people by traits – do we want a world in which certain groups feel unwelcome? 


Something Else – Kathryn Cave

Something Else is different to everyone else. His clothes are different, his food is different and he even plays different games to everyone else. Something Else retreats home. The same night, there is a knock at the door. Something is just like Something Else, but Something Else isn’t certain he wants to be friends with someone who is not like himself. 

Key message – we don’t have to be the same to get along. This would be useful if children are having difficulty with inclusivity.