This week’s blog presents a wonderful array of books about ‘fitting in’ that are sure to tantalise readers of all ages. Thank you, Maureen for this great selection of title exploring those awkward and difficult momenta and events that life throws at all of us.
Andrew Plant’s dedication in his book Jump (2020) says “For everyone who has ever felt they don’t fit in – we make the world interesting!” This fun book is about a small Quig living in an alien city who questions his skills because he can’t jump like the rest of his group. Eventually, he does better than they do when he takes a leap of faith and discovers that he can fly.
Many of us feel we don’t fit in. For some, it’s constant because they are so different to everyone around them. For most of us, it’s usually only some of the time, in certain situations. We wonder why we can’t do something, no matter how much we try and practise. Or we wonder why things are different for us.
Authors over the years have taken this emotion and written about it because it’s such a great starting point. Here are some I have enjoyed –not in any order, but as I thought of them.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012).
Auggie’s facial deformity prevents him from fitting in, when all he wants is to be the same as everyone else. Starting with Auggie’s narrative, the reader soon has other points of view of what and who Auggie is. This is a book about kindness and accepting people for who they are, not how they look. Middle school age
Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (2020).
All the young elephants show their skills to Elephant Almighty and are given their special name, but all Num-Num wants is to be himself, without emphasising his talents. He finally convinces the king that he is special and can become Elephant Me. Picture book
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (2001).
All the animals show their skills when the music is right, but Gerald’s long legs won’t match the rhythms of the music and he’s teased by everyone. Suddenly he finds his own song and succeeds. This book works really well despite my dislike of anthropomorphism. Picture book
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017).
Eleanor is completely happy with her life until she realises that speaking her mind, saying exactly what she thinks as she thinks it, is not acceptable to many people. She is self-sufficient until she finds her great love and realises she needs to accept other people. Older readers/adult
Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli (2002). Stargirl is the non-conformist new student who does everything differently to everyone else and things no one else would consider. She is kind and considerate (too kind and considerate as a teenager perhaps?) and indirectly encourages others to break from their own moulds. Older readers
The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (2020).
Maya, profoundly deaf, has to adapt to a hearing school after years of attending a school for the deaf. She learns that her deafness is part of her personality and that she is comfortable with that and doesn’t need to become part of the hearing world which a cochlear implant might achieve for her. Older readers
Spork by Kyo Maclear (2010).
Spork’s mum is a spoon and his dad is a fork and he doesn’t fit into the world of the cutlery drawer. He wants to be wanted, and that comes when a baby arrives in the household and Spork is the perfect utensil for him. Picture book
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (1991).
This book, its title shortened to THUG, is about systemic racism and the damaged US criminal system, that Black Lives Matter (becoming prominent again in 2020). Starr from a strong family unit witnesses the death of her unarmed friend Khalil at the hands of the police. She at first thought that her voice wouldn’t make a difference and finally realises she needs to speak out, which she does. Older reader/adult.
The 57 Bus: A true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives by Dashka Slater (2017).
While travelling on the 57 bus in California, Sasha, a white agender teen, had their dress set on fire by Richard, a black boy from the poor areas of town. This challenging story is the result of their regular 8 minute ride together. Richard has to overcome police stereotyping of him as a person and his perceives hate crime while Sasha has to convince everyone that they are not bitter or wanting to be avenged. A great story of compassion, about restorative justice and non-binary gender identity. Older older readers
Twig by Aura Parker (2016).
No one notices Heidi the twig insect on her first day at school, none of the other students, nor the teacher, because she blends in so well. She has to learn to stand out and become an individual in her own right. Lots of counting and visual searching activities throughout. Picture book.
Which important titles do you think I have missed out? What would you like to add to the list?
And most importantly, before I finish… I hope you have seen the announcement of the 2020 Book of the Year winners and honour books. As always a great choice from the judges. Please check out the results if you haven’t already done so. https://cbca.org.au/winners-2020
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader