Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to identity. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about identity.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about identity, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like No! to popular sellers like Blended to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Best Kind of Bear.
We hope this list of kids books about identity can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
When Nelly asks Bear what kind of bear he is, he isn’t entirely sure how to answer. So off he goes to find out. But none of the different bears he meets on his travels are like him. Grizzly bears don’t have stitching; polar bears don’t have tags attached to their bottoms; spectacled bears are not as soft and bouncy as Bear is; and sun bears never wear bow ties. Disheartened, he returns to Nelly . . . only to discover what kind of bear he is — her own special bear!
Leo’s papa stood in the doorway, gazing down at him. “Leo, you make gold from pebbles,” and the way he said it, Leo could tell that this was a good thing. He may have been given a bit part in the school play … but Leo dreams he is the biggest star on Broadway. Sure, his big, noisy family makes him feel like a sardine squashed in a tin … but in his fantasy he gets all the attention he wants. Yes, his papa seems sad and distracted … but Leo imagines him as a boy, tap-dancing and singing with delight. That’s why they call Leo “fog boy.” He’s always dreaming, always replaying things in his brain. He fantasizes about who he is in order to discover who he will become. As an actor in the school play, he is poised and ready for the curtain to open. But in the play that is his life, Leo is eager to discover what part will be his.
Eraser is always cleaning up everyone else’s mistakes. Except for Ruler and Pencil Sharpener, none of the other school supplies seem to appreciate her. They all love how sharp Pencil is and how Tape and Glue help everyone stick together. Eraser wants to create so that she can shine like the others. She decides to give it a try, but it’s not until the rubber meets the road that Eraser begins to understand a whole lot about herself.
Inspired by a school essay their daughter Kate wrote in the third grade, the author and illustrator behind Theodor Seuss Geisel Award–winner You Are (Not) Small have created a desktop drama about figuring out who you are, finding happiness, and the importance of second, third, and maybe even fourth chances.
From above earth, from above sky, from below earth, from under water, come all you little persons come exactly as you are.
Come little bird person, come little bee person, come little tree person - little persons from all over the world join together to celebrate the dance of life and love in this stunning poem from John Agard. Stunningly illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, this is a book that both little persons and big persons will treasure and pore over for a lifetime, and is a true poem of our time.
Hear thunder crash, feel your toes touch sand, and watch leaves drift softly away on a quiet stream. The simple poems in Breathe and Be help children learn mindfulness as they connect to the beauty of the natural world.
Mindfulness teaches us how to stay calm, soothe our emotions, and appreciate the world around us. Whether we’re watching tiny colored fish darting in the water or exploring the leaves, branches, and roots of a towering tree, the thoughtful words and the lovely art of Breathe and Be remind us how much joy we can find by simply living with awareness and inner peace.
No! - The little dog in this family works very hard to be good, but he doesn’t understand why his collar has the wrong name on it.
Of Course They Do! - Using sparse text and large, bright photographs, the book debunks commonly-held gender-myths. Misconceptions are stated matter-of-factly (Boys don’t cook.), but when the page is turned, each myth is proven false with playful language (Are you sure?) and a contradictory photo (a male professional chef). This jacketless book is perfect for young readers as well as read-alouds and will generate discussions about gender-based assumptions around play and work.
Blended - Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper. Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.
A Page in the Wind - A whimsical and moving story about discovering your purpose by José Sanabria. The last little newspaper on a newsstand wonders what its life will be like until a gust of wind sends its individual pages flying. Each page travels to a different place and experiences a vastly different life—from being used to clean a mirror and line the cage of a pet to being formed into a boat by a child and sheltering a homeless person from the cold—until, at last, the final page finds it’s true calling. Sanabria’s expressive art and thoughtful story reflect many ways our lives can be touched.
In this heartwarming picture book, a big sister realizes that her little sister, Jackie, doesn’t like dresses or fairies-she likes ties and bugs! Will she and her family be able to accept that Jackie identifies more as “Jack”? Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack. Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance.
Twelve-year-old Flor faces a bittersweet summer with a pageant, a frenemy, and a hive full of honey.
It’s the summer before eighth grade and Flor is stuck at home and working at her family’s mattress store, while her best friend goes off to band camp (probably to make new friends). It becomes even worse when she’s asked to compete in the local honey pageant. This means Flor has to spend the summer practicing her talent (recorder) and volunteering (helping a recluse bee-keeper) with Candice, her former friend who’s still bitter about losing the pageant crown to Flor when they were in second grade. And she can’t say no.
Then there’s the possibility that Flor and her family are leaving to move in with her mom’s family in New Jersey. And with how much her mom and dad have been fighting lately, is it possible that her dad may not join them? Flor can’t let that happen. She has a lot of work to do.
One becomes many in this beautiful book about the relationship between the whole and its parts. Bold illustrations, hand-lettered text, and gatefolds serve to order and illustrate collections of people, things, animals, and plants, offering young readers a better sense of their own place in the world.
Feeling both like a bird and yet other to himself, a young bird finds unexpected connection in the eyes of a little girl. is identification carries him into the human world, making him forget his flock for a time. He wonders about the nature of life: What does it mean to be a bird? What does it mean to feel different? What are the possibilities for transcending the self as which you are born? This is a sparse, thought-provoking story about belonging and selfhood.
In her room, one little girl can be anything she wants to be and go anywhere she wishes to go, all with the power of her imagination (and paper, markers, and crayons, of course!). She can go on safari or sail the seven seas. She can be a doctor, teacher, or high-powered businesswoman. The sky’s the limit! And when the day is over, she can become a little girl again, safe in her room. Like the classic Where the Wild Things Are, this latest addition to the Growing Hearts series celebrates imagination as a means to try on different identities and work through difficult emotions, all while having fun.
Husky - Twelve-year-old Davis lives in an old brownstone with his mother and grandmother in Brooklyn. He loves people-watching in Prospect Park, visiting his mom in the bakery she owns, and listening to the biggest operas he can find as he walks everywhere. But Davis is having a difficult summer. As questions of sexuality begin to enter his mind, he worries people don’t see him as anything other than “husky.” To make matters worse, his best girlfriends are starting to hang out with mean girls and popular boys. Davis is equally concerned about the distance forming between him and his single mother as she begins dating again, and about his changing relationship with his amusingly loud Irish grandmother, Nanny. Ultimately, Davis learns to see himself outside of his one defining adjective. He’s a kid with unique interests, admirable qualities, and people who will love him no matter what changes life brings about.