Books That Celebrate Differences

As a teacher, and a mother of a petite with special needs, I find myself looking for books and ways to help build confidence and self esteem.  These books can be simple stories that have a special meaning, or perhaps a character that is relatable; but I have found that there are a few books that have been highly beneficial both in the classroom and at home.

When you’re little being different is so hard, when I was small I had tons of freckles and for some reason there was a little kid in my class who called me “Freckle Fred” and I was devastated every single time he said it.  Now I look back and sort of laugh, because it’s a weak put down and freckles are awesome, but my eight year old self was crushed.  During this time, I remember my mom reading Ferdinand to me and thinking about how he was different and how it was amazing that he was cool being who he was just sitting under that cork tree smelling flowers.  I also remember being mad that people tried to make him into something he wasn’t.

When Zoe was diagnosed with epilepsy, we quickly found that the world could be a cruel place and that many people, adults included, could be incredibly insensitive and probably not even think about it.  Her seizures made her special and different and made a lot of things really difficult.  We spent a lot of time reading books with strong female characters and messages about being yourself and not letting others get you down.  These are books about differences and celebrating those differences, which I think casts a wider net and allows for petites and families to use the books to talk about feelings and have really thoughtful conversations about the characters and how we might relate to them or their situation creating empathy.

Here is a list of some of our favorites that I hope will have the same impact they did for me and my petites.

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Ferdinand Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson (Grosset and Dunlap, 2011/ 75th aniversary edition) this is a classic and deserves a place on every petites’ bookshelf.  If you haven’t read it, it is all about Ferdinand who is a bull who loves to sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers.  He has no desire in being in the bull fights and prefers to stop and smell the flowers – going against all the other bulls and ideas about what bulls are supposed to be like.

Calvin Can’t Fly by Jennifer Berne and Keith Bendis (Sterling Children’s Books, 2015).  This is a lovely story about a starling named Calvin who prefers to read instead of learning how to fly.  His siblings and friends call him names and he doesn’t let it bother him, he continues to read and read.  When it does come time for him to migrate he encounters struggles, but what he has learned through his reading helps him to save the day.

Elmer by David McKee (Harper Collins, 1989) this is a classic.  Elmer is an elephant who isn’t like other elephants, he is a patchwork rainbow colored elephant.  This book is so special because it is about finding joy and laughter and Elmer is the elephant that brings that to his group of friends.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant (Groundwood Books, 2014).  This is one of my favorite books.  In this book Morris loves to wear the tangerine dress in his classroom dress-up box.  His classmates do not understand why Morris loves the dress so much and tease him for wearing a dress – since boys aren’t supposed to wear dresses or like girl things.  This is a touching story that celebrates little ones who are imaginative and love what they love regardless of if it has been traditionally for girls or boys.  We reviewed this book a while back, here.

Francis Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif (Candlewick, 2014).  This is another favorite book of ours, my oldest is what I call a sensitive soul.  What we loved the most about this little petite is that she loves to dance, but she is worried about dancing in front of others.  In the end she realizes that dancing makes her happy and that is what is important.  This book is one of our all time favorites!  Read more about of love of this book, here.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Mulberry Books, 2008)  This book is another that bolsters confidence in petites.  Chrysanthemum is a story of a little mouse who has a lovely name that she adores, until she goes to school and kids make fun of her.  This book is one that is highly relatable and has sold more than a million copies, because it is so poignant and such a fantastic way to talk about teasing and confidence.

The Pirate of Kindergarten by Georgia Ella Ryan and Lynne Avril (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2010)  Ginny is a kindergartener who has double vision and she has an amazing solution to her problem – an eye patch!  The stunning before and after illustrations are wonderful.  I love this story and think it is perfect for petites.  It builds empathy and helps little ones to see that they are not alone when it comes to struggling and differences.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little Brown, 2013) is about Mr. Tiger who is tired of being proper and bored with his daily life hindering who he wants to be.  He wants to be who he really is, he wants to roar, to walk on all fours and to wear clothes that he likes.  It is a great book about not feeling compelled to conform to everyone else’s idea of normal and to be true to who you are.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001)  Is it a darling story about a little girl who has buck teeth a voice that sounds like a toad.  She is fortunate to have an incredibly lovely grandmother who tells her “to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud”.  The petites love this story.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (Orchard Books, 2001).  Gerald wants nothing more to dance and dance, but he has two left feet, or rather four!  His friends tease him for wanting to dance when he is so terrible.  This book is all about building self confidence and being cool with being you.

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus and Jose Arugeo (Harper Collins, 1994).  Leo is a a late bloomer, he is not meeting traditional benchmarks and his father is worried, however his mom knows that Leo will get there in his own time.  A wonderful read that needs to be in the hands of petites to reassure them that we all grow, learn and develop on our own timeline.

It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) is an ode to acceptance and understanding.  This book celebrates needing help, being who you are and loving it, with trademark bright cheery colorful illustrations.



Finding Dory Inspired Book List

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We took the petites to see Finding Dory yesterday and it was FANTASTIC, I seriously cannot handle how amazing Pixar is at putting out such quality films.  The girls love the ocean and all the things that live beneath the surface, so when I started thinking about the books that we already have on our shelves that are tried and true and a few others that we borrowed from the library  it was quite clear that we needed to put together a list of our favorites.

 Breathe by Scott Magoon (Simon & Schuster, 2014) This book is all about Dory’s message, just keep swimming.  The story follows a baby beluga through out their day, a lovely message of play, swim and breathe.  Perfect for 2-7 year olds, also a really great first read book as the text is sparse.

1001 Things to Spot in the Sea by Katie Daynes (Usborne, 2009).  This is a really fun book that will keep kids busy for a while searching for all of the hidden items.  We love the Usborne 1001 books they are really well done, with fantastically busy pictures, perfect for 3-7 year olds.

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin (Flash Point, 2011) is a perfect book for transporting you to another world.  This book is full of mystery and intrigue, filled with opportunities to talk about “what if”.  This book is perfect for 5-9 year olds.

Commotion in the Ocean by by Giles Andreae and art by David Wojtowyez (Tiger Tales, 2002) is a silly read that will have your petites giggling in no time.  The poetic verses will be sure to capture the attention of your petites along with the vibrant colors, and you are set for an undersea journey with your petite.  Perfect for ages 2-6.

 24 Hours in the Coral Reef (DK Children’s, 2005)  This non-fiction book is so unique and so stunning in its gorgeous photographs, much like all the other DK books you’ve grown to love.  This book is a unique look at what happens hour by hour in a coral reef.  My girls find this book to be enchanting and love looking and talking about the pictures.  This book is geared toward 10-17 year olds because of its scientific text, however, with guidance this book can be accessed at a much younger age.
Usborne Lift The Flap Under the Sea by Jessica Greenwell and Peter Scott (Usborne, 2010) is a gorgeous book that your budding marine biologists will love.  This book is perfect for 2 year olds and up, however, if your petites doesn’t rip the flaps, then this can be for an even younger babe.

National Geographic Ocean Animals by Johnna Rizzo (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2016) is a gorgeous book filled incredible pictures to pique curiosity and help petites who are interested in learning more about the animals in Finding Nemo and Dory.  Get to know the real animals in this stunning fact filled non-fiction book is perfect for 8-12 year olds.

 Life in the Ocean:the story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012) is a gorgeous look at the life of Sylvia Earle.  This book is gorgeous, we have checked this book out from the library quite a few times.  It tells the story of how Sylvia’s passion for the ocean was sparked as a young girl in the Gulf of Mexico and how she went on to work as an oceanographer.  It is gorgeous and reminds me a little of Me…Jane which we love so much.  Perfect for the 4-8 age set.

 The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor by  Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen (Scholastic, 1994) let’s just start by saying who doesn’t love Ms. Frizzle?  Who doesn’t wish that she could be your teacher?  Okay, so lets talk about this book, it is just like all the other books, busy pages with little perfect conversation bubbles.  Ms. Frizzle with her fantastic wardrobe, and you get to learn about science in a fun way.  Yes, please.  These are tried and true books, perfect for budding scientists.  Suggested age range is around 4-8 years old.

Now for my favorite part, do you have a book that would fit perfectly into this list?  If you do, we would love to hear about it and add it.

Happy Reading!



Summer Reading!

I am so excited about our Summer Reading Challenge here at The Petite Stag.  We are avid readers in this house, we have books in every single room and spend a huge amount of time reading and talking about books.  So naturally we planned for what our summer reading might look like.

A few weeks ago I decided to find a summer reading challenge for my girls…let me tell you there are tons of amazing summer reading challenges and bingo’s out there, but none that really filled all the buckets that we were looking for, so we created our own!  Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.19.20 PMWe are so excited about this bingo board and all the potential for amazing reading to happen over the summer.  Of course, with any bingo you must have a chance to win prizes!  Right?  Or at least yell BINGO really loudly.

So here is what we’re thinking will be amazing, print out The Petite Stag Summer Reading Bingo and get reading!  We would love for you to share pictures of your petites reading and share it on Instagram with #petitestagsummerreadingbingo.  Each picture you share will count as one entry to win a bundle of our favorite books.  So the more pictures you share the better!

How the giveaway will work:

  • Each picture of your petite shared on Instagram with #petitestagsummerreadingbingo will count as one entry
  • picture of your bingo board with a BINGO or BLACKOUT will count as two entries
  • The the giveaway starts today, June 20th and will close on August 31st

We can’t wait to see what you’re reading!  We will also update what the prize book bundle entails in the days to come.

Happy first day of summer & happy reading!



Grandad’s Island

Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies (Candlewick Press, 2015) is a book that I have been thrilled to read, I adore the illustrations Benji Davies creates, they are vibrant and just jump off of the page.  Not to mention this is a book that deals with a little boy, Syd, who loves his Grandad.  Sid lives next-door to his Grandad and he knows just where the key is to be able to stop in and visit him anytime.  However, one day Syd stops by and his Grandad is not where he normally is, he is in the attic.

In the attic there is a secret metal door, once this is opened it leads to a ship and slowly the rooftops meld into the sea and they are off.  With exceptionally fun language “Steady she goes”, “Land Ahoy”that just makes this story all the more touching.  Once they arrive on the island there is lots of work to be done.  The island starts out shaded and dark, but soon with the help of the local inhabitants Syd and his Grandad have created quite a lovely spot.  Syd and Grandad explore the island and all that it has to offer; enjoying each others company and you assume they always have.  It is the most perfect place.  As Syd is preparing to leave this magical place he has so enjoyed with his Grandad; his Grandad says, “Syd, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.  You see…I’m thinking of staying”  As you would imagine Syd worries that his Grandad will be lonely, he assures him that no he won’t.  This spread in the book is by far one of the most glorious illustrations, it is bright, it is cheerful, all of the animals are there with smiles and perfect little spots have been created a chair with tea and gramophone and of course the lovely little shack that they worked on together.

This book is a wonderful look at love and loss in a way that petites can understand – as Syd sails away you feel that sense of loss.  For someone like me who barely needs a reason to cry, I found tears streaming down my face.  I love that attention is paid to the journey home and how it seemed much longer without Grandad.

Syd is home safe and sound and the follow day goes to check on Grandad, but he isn’t there, he runs to the attic to check there and the big metal door has vanished, it is then when a surprise comes…Syd has received a lovely surprise.

I think this book is a brilliant look at loss.  It is subtle, it is beautiful, heartfelt and overall a lovely sentiment on what loss looks like, how even though someone is not physically there, they are always with you.


If I Had a Gryphon…if only…

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If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle and art by Cale Atkinson (Tundra Books, 2016) is one of my new favorites!  This book is the answer for Harry Potter loving parents to prep there petites about all the possible mythological creatures that might just make the perfect pet.  The premise of this book is a little girl named Sam, she has just gotten her first pet and it’s a hamster, but it doesn’t really do anything exciting and to be honest is rather boring.  After Sam reads a book about Mythological Creatures (who doesnt love a book about a petite reading a book?), she decided that there are some more exciting pets, lets talk about some of these pets!  Unicorns, hippogriff, sasquatch, of course a gryphon…but then she considers some of the other magical creatures that might make a perfect pet; manticore, basilisk, kelpies, sprites, mermaids and more!

As an English teacher I love myths, they were some of my absolute favorite lessons to teach and this book enables me to teach the girls about some of these magical creatures, which I think is incredibly fun.  The illustrations in this book are perfection.  Sam is this amazing little girl who wears flannel, a knit cap and glasses!  I am smitten with this little girl, the illustrations perfectly capture her feelings and reactions to the different creatures and the troubles that they get into, Cale Atkinson perfectly captures these amazing feelings and emotions.  The conversations that we had about feelings was delightful as a bedtime read.  This book is filled with opportunities for full belly laughs.

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One particular page that got the petites giggling is the dragon:

If I had a dragon with a termpermental SNOUT, I’d need a fire extinguisher to put her sneezes out.

In the end Sam decides that a hamster might just be the perfect pet for her.

Happy Reading!

If you liked this book you may also enjoy:

 A Girl with Gumption: Julia’s House for Lost Creatures

The Airport Book…perfect for your next trip!

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The Airport Book by Lisa Brown (Roaring Brook Press, 2016) is a wonderful read.  This book is perfect for summer travel.

Last night as my husband read this to my girls we both looked at each other with that knowing look that this book is fabulous.  This book is fabulous for many reasons, the first – for any petite who has never traveled by plane before this book is fantastic in depicting the steps and things that will happen from leaving the house to arriving at your destination.  Immediately we both thought that this would be a perfect book for petites who might find air travel to be a struggle, to be a challenge, even petites who might be scared or need some practice to get ready for the big travel day.

The illustrations are busy and give you a sense of the feel of the airport.  The book exemplifies diversity, which I love!  The family that the reader follow is a family of four, Mom, Dad, older brother and toddler sister.  The family is biracial and like the rest of the illustrations this book does a wonderful job of giving a real world picture of all the people you might find at the airport (young, old, eccentric, multiple ethnicities, wheel chair users, seeing impaired with a guide dog).

The book completely prepares a little one for what air travel will look like from beginning to end.  It is perfect for petites ages 3-8, those who might need more support and planning to get ready for all of the noises and the bustle of air travel.  Or perhaps the perfect book for those who will be taking their first flight this summer.

Bon Voyage!

If you liked this post you might also enjoy:


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Field Guides for Petite Naturalists

Recently the petite and I discovered these amazing books Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World and Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces  of Country Life by Julia Rothman with help from John Niekrasz (Storey Publishing, 2015 & 2011).

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My girls love all things nature and can often times be found outside playing in the mud, field or on a hunt for beetles and frogs.  They both have little notebooks with pencils that they take just about everywhere we go and add all of their field notes and of course discoveries.  The amount of ‘why’ questions that they can cover in a day would make a graduate level professor weak in the knees.

Lets first discuss Farm Anatomy, which was Julia’s first book in this duo.  There are seven chapters;

  1. Breaking Ground (minerals, soil, predicting weather)
  2.  Raised in a Barn (barn styles, barn birds, farm buildings)
  3. Tools of the Trade (tractors, how to plant a field, in the toolshed)
  4. Plant a Seed (Tomato varieties, vegetable anatomy)
  5. Separating the Sheep from the Goats (Animal terms, breeds of animals, shearing sheep, Anatomy of a beehive)
  6. Country Wining and Dining (old fashion country kitchen, making cheese, butchering)
  7. Spinning a Yarn (natural dyes, flower press making, making candles).

These books are the perfect blend of science and art, you learn all about the different types of soil and how to rotate crops to different types of barn design and construction.  You’re informed about different types of farm equipment with interesting facts as well as lovely illustrations to go along with each topic.  For the Plant a Seed section you learn about when and what to plant, this book is a perfect primer.

The chapter that the petites found to be filled with the most interesting facts is Separating the Sheep from the Goats, in this post Rothman’s details all the different types of animals that could be found on a farm, breeds of cows, types of chickens and their combs.  The girls love looking at the different types of horses so much so Zoe asked if we could take the book and drive around our community and identify horse breeds.

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I like books that teach something and this book is filled with new learnings for the whole family.

Now let’s dive into Nature Anatomy, I can say with certainty that had this book been around when I was a little girl it would have been my absolute favorite and gone on all my expeditions with me.

This book also has seven chapters:

  1. Common ground (all about earth and landscapes)
  2. What’s Up? (atmosphere, weather, constellations)
  3. Come Close (Anatomy of flowers, bees, butterflies, ants)
  4. Take a Hike (trees, leaf ID, flowers, seeds, mushrooms, foraging)
  5. Creature Feature (animals in the neighborhood, the animal underground, Animals with antlers and horns, outstanding adaptations)
  6. A Little Bird Told Me (bird anatomy, eggs, owls, beaks)
  7. Head Above Water (water bodies, ecosystems, tidal zones, ponds, anatomy of jellyfish, seashells)

This book is a budding naturalists delight!  It covers just about everything.  With these two books in hand you cannot go wrong, your petite will have so much information you will be hearings…”Did you know…” all day long.

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What I love most about these books –

  • the illustrations are amazing, the colors, the layout, the design of the book – it’s a perfect field journal.
  • the information is highly beneficial for all kids to know – perfect primer
  • the information is presented in fun and quirky ways making it easily accessible to many ages.  My almost 3 year old loves to flip through and talk about the animals and plants.  My almost seven year old loves the facts and descriptions and of course reading it to her sister.
  • It is as if science and nature got together and made a perfect baby
  • Julia is clearly passionate about imparting learning, her chapters are highly curated with the perfect amount of information and art.

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I am also thrilled to say that another installment of her amazing work will be hitting shelves this November: Food Anatomy: the Curious Parts & Pieces of our Edible World.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as we do!
Happy Reading,


A roundup of all things BFG

I love Roald Dahl, his books are so much fun, I have had the wonderful pleasure of teaching his books and sharing them with many kids.  In fact one of my absolute favorite experiences teaching was with a 5th grade team that did reading groups all focusing on Roald Dahl texts, it was amazing!  The conversations that are generated from reading his books are so wonderful.  My most discouraged readers were in love with his whimsical and silly characters – I saw those struggling readers emerge into confident readers through his masterful prose.


Today I had a chance to see some of the recently released items to celebrate the upcoming BFG film produced by Stephen Spielberg in theaters July 1st.

The BFG  (1982, Jonathan Cape, but currently published by Puffin) The BFG is not your average giant, yes he is very tall 24 feet to be exact.  He is a big friendly giant, which is wonderful news for Sophie who was taken by him in the middle of the night when she caught him blowing dreams into the windows of sleeping children, had it been any other type of giant she would be in real trouble.  Sophie soon learns that the giants are off to eat some children, she decides she is going to stop them, of course, with the help of the BFG.  This book is geared toward 3-7th grade and might be a little frightening for younger petites, what with all the giants trying to eat children and all.

The Big Friendly Doodle Book (Grosset & Dunlap, 2016) This book is perfect, it is filled with original artwork from Quentin Blake.  Lovely excerpts from Dahl’s text as well as stickers.  This is the perfect place for imaginations to take flight.  This is geared toward 8-12 year olds.

The BFG’s Gloriumptious Journal (Grosset & Dunlap, 2016) I absolutely love this journal.  It is perfect for BFG fans ages 8-12 and I feel offers just enough space to be thoughtful in comments as well as not too long to be a burden.  Some of the questions that are asked will take you on a journey through the story and help you to relate even more with text to self questions to make strong connections.  Here are some sneak peaks inside:

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The BFG’s Gloriumptious Sticker Activity Book (Puffin, 2016) – these sticker books are so much fun. Perfect for anyone making summer travel plans, this would be a perfect activity for petites who are going to be on a plane or in a car for extended time.


Roald Dahl’s Story-Sketcher this story-sketcher is perfect for petites who are 6-8 years old, it is 128 pages featuring some of Dahl’s most popular stories.  A perfect introduction to Dahl and his creative mind.

And for the super fans of BFG, how could you possibly resist this Pop! Vinyl of The Big Friendly Giant?  I didn’t think so.  This fellow needs to be on your petites bookshelf, don’t you think?


Summer Reading Programs for Petites & The Whole Family


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As a former teacher, I spent a lot of time encouraging families to read over the summer even if just for 20 minutes a day over the summer.  There are so many really amazing and FREE programs out there that help make reading accessible.  Public libraries are a great place to start also some bookstores do fun reading programs as well.  Here are the reading programs happening in and around Seattle.  Happy Reading!

King County Library 

  • Starts June 1st and ends August 31st
  • Head to your local library to get all the documents you need to sign your petites and yourself up
  • Or you can download and print all documents from home and get started reading right away


Seattle Public Library

Astounding Tales of Nature! 

  • Starts June 27
  • Get your free Explorer’s Handbook filled with fun activities
  • Place your name on the Wall of Astounding Explorers by:
    • Completing 5 activities in the Explorer’s Handbook
    • Reading 30 or more days over the summer
    • Solving the Super, Secret Mystery Challenge
  • Attend free programs (one-offs and series) all summer long
    • Some programs will require pre-registration. Registration will open 2 weeks before the start of each workshop or series.

Barnes and Noble

Summer Reading Triathlon starts this weekend at all Barnes and Nobles’ nationwide.

  • Saturday June 4th at 11
    • The Opening Ceremony will feature such engaging activities as puzzles, code breaking, and other fun inspired by Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello series
    • along with giveaways (including stickers and bookmarks) based on beloved children’s books, while supplies last.
  • Pick up your reading journal
  • Read three books over the summer and earn a book from B&N for grades one – six
  • Here is the link for more information
  • ends on August 27th


University Bookstore

  • Its already started and goes through August
  • Pre -K to Grade 8
  • Get started by picking up your Summer Explorers reading log at our U DistrictBellevueMill Creek, or Tacomastore.
  • Stock up on summer reading with a coupon for 20% off your next kids books purchase.
  • After you read five books, bring your reading log back in to pick out a fun prize.
  • Read ten books and bring your completed reading log back to get a FREE book, cool button, and a coupon for $5 off your next kids books purchase.
  • Share your favorite books with others by writing your own reviews in your log or on our Young Readers’ Review cards.