Best Children's Books About Identity

15 Children's Books About Identity

Updated Jan. 19, 2019
Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon book
#1
Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon
Written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Nahid Kazemi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

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 My Room book
#2
In My Room
Written and illustrated by Jo Witek
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

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.

One and All book
#3
One and All
Written and illustrated by Elisa Gehin
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

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.

You Are Not a Cat! book
#4
You Are Not a Cat!
Written by Sharon G. Flake and illustrated by Anna Raff
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

This clever and hilarious story stars Cat, who starts out perfectly content and relaxed, and Duck, who infuriates him by meowing like a cat instead of quacking like Cat thinks he should. Written completely in dialogue, this minimalist text by award-winning novelist Sharon G. Flake (in her debut picture book) is fun to read aloud and easy enough for newly independent readers to enjoy on their own. Anna Raff’s humorous and deceptively simple artwork highlights the characters’ personalities, showing Duck’s quirkiness and good humor and Cat’s rising frustration as Duck impersonates a variety of animals, refusing to concede that he is, indeed, a duck. Duck’s silliness will appeal to children who enjoy pretend play, and older siblings will relate to Cat’s annoyance as Duck refuses to leave his side. This concise, funny story is ideal for multiple readings, with playful details in the artwork and humor that never fades.

Of Course They Do! book
#5
Of Course They Do!
Written by Marie-Sabine Roger and illustrated by Anne Sol
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

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.

No! book
#6
No!
Written and illustrated by Marta Altes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Husky book
#7
Husky
Written by Justin Sayre
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

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.

Blended book
#8
Blended
Written by Sharon Draper
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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.

Jack (Not Jackie) book
#9
Jack (Not Jackie)
Written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Holly Hatam
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

A Page in the Wind book
#10
A Page in the Wind
Written by Jose Sanabria
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

George Pearce And His Huge Massive Ears book
#11
George Pearce And His Huge Massive Ears
Written and illustrated by Felix Massie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Meet George Pearce - he's easy to spot, because of his huge massive ears. Having big ears has its advantages - nothing escapes George, and soon he is awash with information that he has picked up on the sly. The problem is, when so many other people's opinions start to fill your ears it's hard to hear the little voice inside your own head. Soon George is so disorientated by conflicting advice that he's overwhelmed. Can he find a way to reassert his identity? A fantastic follow up to Terry Perkins and his Upside Down Frown.

Honeybees and Frenemies book
#12
Honeybees and Frenemies
Written and illustrated by Kristi Wientge
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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.

Eraser book
#13
Eraser
Written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-9

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.

Come All You Little Persons book
#14
Come All You Little Persons
Written by John Agard and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

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.

Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems book
#15
Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems
Written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.