Be Yourself: Gender Expression and Individuality in Picture Books

We love diverse and inclusive picture books that help families and children feel represented, confident and happy. In the last few years, there has been a trend in children’s literature towards teaching children how to accept each other for both our similarities and our differences, as well as breaking through common gender stereotypes. Here are some recent titles that address this vital topic in ways that are simple, straightforward and refreshingly accepting:

I Love My Colorful Nails by Alicia Acosta
Ben liked painting his nails until some of the kids at school started teasing him. When his Dad realized why Ben was sad, he decided to paint his nails too. 

Neither by Airlie Anderson
Because Neither is unlike both the rabbits and birds of the Land of This and That, it sets out to find a new place where all kinds of creatures are welcome.

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold
Gender-creative Riley knows just what to wear for every occasion during a busy week with family and friends.

Except When They Don't by Laura Gehl
Illustrations and simple, rhyming text challenge the idea that boys and girls should each wear only certain colours or play with certain toys, and encourage them to be true to themselves.

Big Boys Cry by Jonty Howley
As they walk to his new school, a frightened Levi and his father learn that it is okay for big boys to cry.

A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy
Encourages every boy to embrace all of the things that make him unique and to be curious, brave, kind, thoughtful and more.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley
Inspired by the true story of Mary Edwards Walker, a trailblazing doctor who was arrested many times for wearing pants, this fresh, charming picture book encourages readers to think for themselves while gently challenging gender and societal norms.

Dress Like A Girl by Patricia Toht
By showing girls dressed in space suits, police officer uniforms and laboratory coats, this book explores the concept of dressing "like a girl" and proves that girls can be anything they want to be.

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