Best Children’s Books Promoting Body Positivity, Compassion, Diversity, and Activism!

Home Body Politics Best Children’s Books Promoting Body Positivity, Compassion, Diversity, and Activism!

Having worked exclusively with youth for the past 10 years, I have realized how true Whitney’s classic adage, “I believe the children are our future,” (that I sang for my voice recital in 3rd grade!) really is – this includes all aspects of life needing radical change, but most important for me when working with children, is supporting to help them formulate Body Positive conceptions of self and others from a young age. The sad truth is that more often than not, the children I work with have already internalized the Fat Phobia of today’s society, either creating negative thoughts about themselves or about other people they encounter based solely upon appearance. I have been called Fat (in a mean-spirited, bullying type way) by children as young as age 2 – and have taken many years to formulate my general body positive response to this:

I am fat; you are skinny (but it’s not ok to make fun of some one because of how they look). There are medium sized people too – every size and shape you can imagine! How boring would it be if every BODY looked the same?!

It is important for me to note here that this took years of practice, self-reflection, and beyond therapy, actually becoming a Somatic Psychotherapist myself (bridging the mind-body connection in therapy with the use of touch and alternative practices aside from just talking) who wants to focus one part of my practice on working with children – I firmly believe the truth is that many parents and many adults do not know how to handle these situations when they arise, because of the self being confronted by the child’s conception is not one’s adult self, but in fact one’s child self full of all the shame that existed during that time; shame that still may not be processed as an adult due in part to societal constraints. {*I am also thrilled to officially announce that the writing of my own Body Positive children’s book with a therapeutic lens and a goal of womyn’s empowerment is in the works, and I have chosen to partner with fellow Somatic Psychotherapist and amazing artist/illustrator, Kristin Fialka in this revolutionary endeavor! Don’t worry, you know I will keep you posted as the project progresses!}

It is also important for me to own that my conception of Body Positivity encompasses all facets of self related to living and loving in your body, in the world – so beyond including books that specifically address body love and acceptance, I’ve chosen books that speak to other potentially unique experiences that children may have, thereby “normalizing” (i.e. de-isolation from thinking they are the only ones having this lived experience or being teased etc.) and celebrating each of these facets of self, which society and mainstream media often don’t even include – diversity of all kinds: body, health, race, sexuality, differently abled-ness, varying family structures, and role models!

1. Amanda’s Big Dream



Author: Judith Matz (K.I.T Website / Facebook)

Illustrator: Elizabeth Patch (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter)

I WISH this book existed when I was growing up – it discusses the story of a little girl who quits her ice skating dreams because her coach comments on her weight, and I couldn’t relate more! Transitioning from being an underweight to “overweight” child, I remember expressly quitting many after school sports and activities (softball, volleyball, dance, and gymnastics to name a few) I would have normally loved if it weren’t for the limited uniform sizes or shame I felt when my tight hot pink leotard accented with gold frills didn’t look the same on my body as it did on most of my peers.

(Purchase book: Here)

[Related Article: 7 Body Positive Tips Never Going Out of Style]

2. A is for Activist


Author and Illustrator: Innosanto Nagara (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter)

A is no longer just for “Apple,” – there’s a new Alphabet book in town and it is revolutionary! This book is for the children of parents who unapologetically fight for what they believe in and want to infuse the same activism in their children; bringing to light extremely important equality and social justice issues. Awesomely, Nagara lives right here in Oakland (!) who says on his site: “I’m a founding member of Design Action Collective, a worker owned cooperative design studio in Oakland that is dedicated to ‘serving the Movement'” – we are grateful to have your voice being worn so strongly in our community Innosanto!

(Purchase book: Here)

3. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future



Author: Kate Schatz (K.I.T  Website / Facebook / Twitter)

Illustrator: Miriam Klein Stahl (K.I.T Website)

Speaking of revolutionary alphabet books, even I want this latest and greatest work of Feminist writing! I highly appreciate the highlighting of extremely important historical female figures that are not praised in mainstream media or literature. For example, featuring the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller and leaving the letter X “For Women Whose Names We Don’t Know” – honoring the spirit of the countless female activists whose name didn’t go down in history but whose work has been just as important. Also – we have more Bay Area reps with Kate who is the Chair of the School of Literary Arts at Oakland School for the Arts, where she teaches fiction, poetry, and journalism to 9th-12th graders, and Miriam; Bay Area artist, educator and activist co-founder of the Arts and Humanities Academy at Berkeley High School where she’s taught since 1995 – WE LOVE SUPPORTING LOCAL TALENT and are so honored to do so with these inspiring humyns (thank you for your passion and dedication)!

(Purchase book: Here / Website )

* Be sure to head to Laurel Bookstore ( 1423 Broadway, Oakland CA) for the Rad American Women A-Z Reading  Saturday April 25 at 11 am.*

4. Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body


Author: Dr. Christiane Northrup (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter , with Kristina Tracy (K.I.T Hay House Bio / Amazon Bio)

Illustrator: Aurélie Blanz (Website / Facebook)

This book is entirely based upon the premise that helping girls learn to love and accept their bodies in all of their uniqueness at a young age, can help them flourish as they grow. The value of learning to love yourself unconditionally is one that all children can benefit from (*I do realize this list is coming from my female identified feminist perspective and I’m sure there are more resources for boys as well*)

(Purchase book: Here)

5. I Love My Hair


Author: Natasha Anastasia Tarpley (K.I.T Website / Facebook )

Illustrator: E.B. Lewis (Website / FacebookTwitter)

Having a book that features a Black girl embracing and loving her hair while also highlighting its connection to her heritage is an extremely important example to set and resource to provide for girls who are often underrepresented and taught to want something other than what they have (often in America it involves idealized “white person” hair: straight, smooth, long, often blonde – or associating afro-textured hair with negatively associated terms)! *Check out a wonderful interview with the author on important site The Brown Bookshelf.

(Purchase book: Here)

6. I am Jazz


Authors: Jessica Herthel (Website / Facebook / Twitter) and Jazz Jennings (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter)

Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas (K.I.T WebsiteFacebook / Twitter)

I recently came across this book while nannying – having the 6 year old girl I work with read this amazing book aloud was a special moment, especially as her father brought it down to share with me enthusiastically. It reminds me of the inherently accepting quality of children when presented with facts (which adults have already infused all of their emotional baggage into giving it a charge that doesn’t yet exist for a child) – for example, in this book Jazz states simply, “I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called Transgender. I was born this way!” Imagine if society today had read this book when we were all children – a concept that has been made so marginalized could have very easily been accepted as part of the norm (I can’t wait to see all this book’s current little readers grow into adult Trans advocates)!
“I hope this book will help them to be who they are and stay true to themselves,” Jennings told PEOPLE Magazine in an interview last year; ” I want them to know it’s OK to be different and unique, and that they should be proud of themselves and who they are.” I highly encourage everyone to check out Jazz’s family documentary about her transitioning journey as well!

(Purchase book: Here)

7. ALL Todd Parr books especially: “We Belong Together” “It’s Ok To Be Different”


Author and Illustrator: Todd Parr (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram)

This is the only book on the list using a rainbow of colors and shapes to depict various humyns in various bodies having universal experiences (even when they can feel isolating and unique) – and I think this is important to note, because it can even more deeply tap into children’s imaginations (in my opinion) as it doesn’t restrain them to the physical realities of life, and thereby actually expands the possibilities of life’s reality.

(Purchase book: Here)

8. Almost Zero (a Dyamonde Daniel book)


 Author: Nikki Grimes (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter)

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie (K.I.T. Website / Facebook)

This is the third book in a series by Coretta Scott King Award winning author Nikki Grimes, and was recommended to me by Sada’s niece who truly loved it! The message of being grateful for what we have combined with showing compassion for the needs of others is really hit home in a heartfelt tale of the complexities children face in the overstimulating society of today – also importantly depicted in Christie’s beautiful illustrations of this universal American phenomenon manifesting through a non-white main character!

(Purchase book: Here)*this was one of the books I wasn’t able to locate directly from the publisher or on an indie bookstore site/location – it is an important factor to consider when purchasing these books, as opposed to hopping right on Amazon, which takes a large cut right off the top. WYV wants to encourage the financial support of writers artists as much as possible!

 9. I Like Myself!

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Author: Karen Beaumont (K.I.T: Website), Illustrator: David Catrow (K.I.T. Website, Twitter)

I’ve come across this wonderful book while working, but this time around I found it amongst an amazing list of “Ten Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls” on a very important blog for all girls and their parents: A Mighty Girl, and I encourage ya’ll to go give that list a look as well as it includes even more titles plus a guide for parents; aptly describing “I Like Myself”: “High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves — inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here’s a little girl who knows what really matters.” If that doesn’t make you smile, doesn’t the cover illustration?!

(Purchase book: Here)

10. Mommy, Mama, and Me


Author: Lesléa Newman (K.I.T Wesbite / Facebook / Twitter)

Illustrator: Carol Thompson (K.I.T Website / Facebook)

This books hits my heart and my uterus hard – it represents a potentially realistic visioning of what mine and my partner Sada’s future could look like, and seeing it represented so simply and honestly brings me immense joy! Again, in combining the potentially unique factor of having of two moms with the very every day experiences of most toddlers like playing hide-and-seek and taking a bath – the family structure may look different, but the infinite love is the same! *Lesléa is also the author of “Heather Has Two Mommies”, which I also highly appreciate and recommend – Thank you for depicting a family that resonates with my soul, reminding me that this life is possible despite all the societal obstacles, which is inspiring beyond language! (Mothers and young adult readers can read another of her very important books, “Fat Chance” addressing the fat phobia epidemic through the main characters experience of bulimia due to her desire to be the thinnest girl at school.)

(Purchase book: Here)

11. The Lemonade Club


Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter)

As someone who spent 9 years of her medical care at a Children’s Hospital, it was important for me to include a book that addressed the very real experience of childhood illness for some youth. This story details the best friendship of two girls and the bond that is shared and support that is held when one of them is diagnosed with Cancer. Even if the child themselves is not sick I believe it is an important part of life to address, and could help them a great deal relationally as well as moving through rather than freezing into, the potential trauma of the experience. If the writing style or illustrations look familiar that may be because the amazing Patricia has written and illustrated more than 50 children’s books thus far – we here at WYV can’t wait for more!

Two of My Childhood Favorites:

*The Giving Tree


Author: Shel Silverstein (K.I.T Website / Facebook / Twitter)

I included this selection, because it truly helps children foster a deep sense of love and caring for the Earth – illustrating how much nature cares for us daily. This message of sustainability is a pervasive one that can related back to self-love, making the cycle of life connection in the process, not to mention being conveyed by the illustrious Shel Silverstein…a creative touchstone for many of mine and my friends’ childhood memories (does the sidewalk ever really end?). Just reading the first sentence hits my heart with such force it leaves me in loving tears: “Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy…”

Purchase 50th Anniversary Edition Here!

*Everyone Poops



Author and Illustrator: Tarō Gomi (K.I.T Website / Facebook)

Plain and simply put with zero qualms, I really love this straight-forward approach to bathroom talk, which can take on a shameful nature for children, especially as they transition to adulthood. At a certain point, it’s like society acts as if adults don’t “poop” because it’s not something that one is supposed to talk about. As someone with Crohn’s Disease, whose digestive system is the prime source of complication and pain, it has often been a deep route of shame just because of the location of the illness. I remember being young and wishing my disease could be in a societally neutral body part like the arm so that I didn’t have to feel like hiding all the time. Also, I was taught to use the medically correct term Bowel Movement from a very young age, and as an adult actually believe proper labeling of bodily functions and parts fosters a body positive healthy connection with our bodies from a young age (i.e. there is no shame in calling it a Vagina or saying that you urinated from it, girls and womyn)!

Purchase book: Here

Do you have a favorite childhood book that we missed? Sound off in the comments below.