Picture Book Review: Being Different Is the Name of the Game by MeMe Taylor Davis

Five friends stand on a hill of green grass. The sun shines above them. There is an alligator, a female lion, a cat wearing a fruit hat, a monkey wearing large purple glasses, and a blue dinosaur. They all wave at the reader and are smiling.
Image description: Five friends stand on a hill of green grass. The sun shines above them. There is an alligator, a female lion, a cat wearing a fruit hat, a monkey wearing large purple glasses, and a blue dinosaur. They all wave at the reader and are smiling.

Being Different Is the Name of the Game by MeMe Taylor Davis, illustrated by Jorge Mansilla

From Goodreads: Being Different is the Name of the Game is story for children to identify differences in the animals. Read along as each character embraces their uniqueness and creates a community of friendship, acceptance, and a celebration of distinct qualities.

In addition to publishing a series of books geared towards supporting Black children, Melanin Origins has a series of books that are excellent for building empathy, respect, and social-emotional intelligence in children. Being Different is the latest in this (informal) series of books.

This will be hard for children to resist with bright, friendly colors and adorable animal kids on the cover. Right off the bat the book is hitting the right notes. Simple, snappy, rhyming text introduces each character making this a perfect read aloud for preschool and kindergarten age kiddos.

Each animal has something about them that makes them different from other animals like themselves. A blue dinosaur, a kind lion, long alligator ears, and even glasses.

The glasses is especially interesting. There are a handful of books that address children needing to wear glasses with the intent of normalizing it and introducing the idea to their peers. Certainly those books are worth reading, but the fact that glasses wearing is integrated into a number of other differences positions it in a larger context of diversity along with skin color, temperament, and physical appearance.

I know books that tackle diversity often use animals as a proxy for humans. That gets criticized for not being more explicit and while that is a valid argument, I think it can veer into the territory of wanting one perfect book to present diversity and discrimination to children. A one-and-done type resource. The reality is children need a host of resources that can act as entry points into lots of discussions about diversity and oppression. As with the books about glasses, this is a great book to have on shelves with other books that open conversations about difference. Pair it with The People You May See for a robust discussion about being respectful and accepting of human variety.

Schools with SEL curriculum and parents looking to up their kids acceptance of diversity should have this on their shelves. Kids will love the illustrations and positive message. I suspect it will be a favorite, read again and again. And again.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links)

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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