Reads for Students Worried About Fitting In

Everyone faces some level of anxiety about being liked, fitting in, or finding their own place in the world. For children and teens that have just started getting into the swing of school for the year, this is especially true.

fitinThese are some books about children struggling with fitting in and finding their own worth in the face of new situations and bullies. More often than not, our main characters discover that everyone has the same worries and that standing out is not such a bad thing. As a bonus for readers that are not facing some of these fears, reading books about others struggling can help them empathize with siblings or classmates. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinellifitin2
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renée Russell
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Locker Hero by Rachel Renée Russell
The Detention Club by David Yoo
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yangfitin4
The Loser List by H. N. Kowitt
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart
Warp Speed by Lisa Yee
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Callie’s Rules by Naomi Zuckerfitin6
The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
The Odd Squad: Bully Bait by Michael Fry
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Massfitin7
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

There are so many wonderful books about fitting in and standing out that I only touched the surface here. Do you have a favorite from your childhood, or that you have recently discovered, that you would like to recommend? If so leave the title in the comments so the rest of us can check it out too.

The Cover Was Blue.

How many times has someone recommend a book, or you saw a book on the shelf and did not have time to read it, and you thought you would remember the author or title when it came time to find it and read it yourself? It happens to us too. We know exactly who wrote that book or series, at least until someone asks us. When that happens, we use our skills and look it up, even though we feel like we should already know the answer.

bluebooksSometimes no one can remember enough of the author or title to do the necessary searching to figure out the answer. Often times at this point all any of us can remember is the color or image on the cover. For some reason, the cover in these cases is almost always blue. So, here are some of the most popular books that might fit the bill if you are looking for a popular read and all you can remember is that the cover was blue. I have noted any books shelves in or children’s room with a J, and any books shelved in our young adult or teen area with a YA.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
The Selection by Kiera Cass (YA)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (YA)
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (YA)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (J)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (J)

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Eragon by Christopher Paolini (YA)
Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (YA)
The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This is only a small portion of possibilities, as blue seems to be a very popular color for book covers. Are you still searching or need a different cover color? Comment with the information you do have and I will do my best to find the book for which you are searching!

Classic Spinoffs

Have you read any classic books? Even if you haven’t, you can still enjoy the books on this list. These are inspired by classics as they tell the stories of supporting characters, are prequels or sequels to the classic stories, or even retell the classics themselves. Read them all!

gertrudeandclaudius Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike  
This prequel to Hamlet tells the story of Gertrude Queen of Denmark before the action of Shakespeare’s Hamlet begins. Updike brings to life Gertrude’s girlhood as the daughter of King Rorik, her arranged marriage to the man who becomes King Hamlet, and her middle-aged affair with her husband’s younger brother.


MadameBovarysDaughter Madame Bovary’s Daughter by Linda Urbach
This continuation of Flaubert’s classic Madame Bovary finds twelve-year-old Berthe cast off by society in the aftermath of her mother’s suicide and sent to live with her impoverished grandmother, from where she eventually rises through the ranks of Charles Worth’s famed fashion empire.


thebeekeepersapprentice The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King   
In 1914, a young woman named Mary Russell meets a retired beekeeper on the Sussex Downs. His name is Sherlock Holmes. The Great Detective is no fool, and can spot a fellow intellect even in a fifteen-year-old woman. So, at first informally, then consciously, he takes Mary as his apprentice.


julietsnurseJuliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen   
A new telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, from the perspective of Juliet’s nurse. In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappelletti’s darkest secrets.

ruthsjourney Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig
A prequel to one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of all time, Gone with the Wind. The critically acclaimed author of Rhett Butler’s People magnificently recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, from her days as a slave girl to the outbreak of the Civil War.


revenge Revenge by Stephen Fry  
This brilliant recasting of the classic story The Count of Monte Cristo centers on Ned Maddstone, a happy, charismatic, Oxford-bound seventeen-year-old whose rosy future is virtually pre-ordained. Handsome, confident, and talented, newly in love with bright, beautiful Portia, his father an influential MP, Ned leads a charmed life. But privilege makes him an easy target for envy, and in the course of one day Ned’s destiny is forever altered.

thehistorian The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A woman discovers that the past of her family is connected to the stories of Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired Dracula and must decide whether to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.


deankoontzfrankenstein Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son
This is a retelling of Frankenstein set in New Orleans. In the 19th century, Dr. Victor Frankenstein brought his first creation to life, but a horrible turn of events forced him to abandon his creation and fall away from the public eye. Now, two centuries later, a serial killer is on the loose in New Orleans, and he’s salvaging body parts from each of his victims, as if he’s trying to create the perfect person. But the two detectives assigned to the case are about to discover that something far more sinister is going on…

widesargassosea Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys  
Jean Rhys brings into the light one of fiction’s most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane EyreSet in the Caribbean, its heroine is Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Rochester. In this best-selling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

monsignorquixote Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
When Father Quixote, a local priest of the Spanish village of El Toboso who claims ancestry to Cervantes’ fictional Don Quixote, is elevated to the rank of monsignor through a clerical error, he sets out on a journey to Madrid to purchase purple socks appropriate to his new station. Accompanying him on his mission is his best friend, Sancho, the Communist ex-mayor of the village who argues politics and religion with Quixote and rescues him from the various troubles his innocence lands him in along the way.

There are many, many more books that are inspired by the classics. Sometimes even classics are inspired by other classics! What are your favorite classic spinoffs?

Staff Picks for Conquering Concepts with Kids

concept1Sometimes a book or series is so striking to me that I have to share and recommend the books to anyone I think would also appreciate it. One series for young readers is on my recommended list for everyone who works with Preschool through first grade level learners who need to tackle or reinforce important concepts. Jane Brocket has a series of great books called Clever Concepts. They tackle things like color, texture, and shape. Things that are important but can be hard to explain fully, because of the vast amount of possible examples. Each of the books includes full color photographs and clever text that does a great job of exploring the topics in ways that make the ideas a little more accessible to young readers.

Spiky, Slimy, Smooth: What Is Texture?
Ruby, Violet, Lime: Looking for Color
Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What are Patterns?
Circles, Stars, and Squares: Looking for Shapes
1 Cookie, 2 Chairs, 3 Pears: Numbers Everywhere
Cold, Crunchy, Colorful: Using Our Senses
Rainy, Sunny, Blowy, Snowy: What are Seasons?
Stickiest, Fluffiest, Crunchiest: Super Superlatives

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conceptbtmI really love this series and immediately began singing its praises to everyone who would listen, including those who order our children’s books and the members of the library staff who also work in elementary schools.

If these books only whet your appetite on conquering concepts with the children in you life you could also take a look at: 10 Hungry Rabbits: Counting and Color Concepts by Anita Lobel, Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett,
You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, Hello, Squirrels!: Scampering Through the Seasons by Linda Glaser, You Can’t Taste a Pickle with Your Ear by Harriet Ziefer, or any number of the board books from DK, National Geographic or Scholastic.

Getting Past Captain Underpants

My son was not as instantly attracted to books and reading as myself or his little sister. While he loved picking out books and being read to, once it came time to read on his own he was easily discouraged. He had the skills to read, but had trouble sitting still or focusing on decoding the more challenging words. I offered him every style of easy reader and early chapter book imaginable. Thankfully, as a librarian with many friends that happen to teach, I had plenty of resources. The book that finally caught his attention is one that many try to steer clear of because of its silly and sometimes disgusting humor. However, if he was going to read, and do so happily, I was going to encourage it regardless of the book in question.

captainunderpantsAs you might have guessed, that book was Captain Underpants. He has now read the boxed set of the series through more than a few times, and expanded to other books, all of which I like much better. Now he still loves that silly humor, but he also loves jokes and anything vaguely monster, hero, or adventure. So, for fellow parents that fear the draw of the Captain, there are some great follow up books that a fan might easily and happily transition to. The number of easier chapter books and graphic novels that will appeal to the fans of Captain Underpants is growing, with volume and quality. If you are trying to ease your young reader away from the underwear clad superhero, here are some great options to keep them reading. If the book belongs to a series, which most of them do, I have listed the first book in that series. And on a side note, do not be afraid to introduce harder books via audiobooks! I hooked both my kids on the Magic Tree House series by listening to the audio book collection in the car.captainsquish

Squish 1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Introducing SQUISH—a new graphic novel series about a comic book-loving, twinkie-eating grade school AMOEBA trying to find his place in the world (or at least trying to make it through a school day).

Sardine in Outer Space by Emmanuel Guibert
Sardine and her uncle, Captain Yellow Shoulder, sail their ship, The Huckleberry, across the universe meeting up with monsters and aliens in order to confront Supermuscleman, who is trying to take over the galaxy.

captaingeorgeGeorge Brown, Class Clown: Super Burp by Nancy E. Krulik
When fourth-grader George starts at a new school, he vows to become a model student instead of the class clown he has always been, but just as his plan is going really well, he is overtaken by a magic burp that turns him back into a mischief-maker.

The Fake Cape Caper by Greg Trine

Melvin Beederman, superhero in charge of Los Angeles, attends the Superhero’s Convention in Las V egas, leaving his young sidekick to keep Los Angeles safe from evil bad guys and bullies.

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight
Fourth-grader Frankie Piccolini has a vivid imagination when it comes to cleaning his disastrously messy room, but eventually even he decides that it is just too dirty.

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There is an increasing number of wonderful books for this reading level and age group as of late. If you have already read all of these and are still looking for me you might also want to try: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne, The High and the Flighty by Catherine Hapka and Lisa Rao, Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy: The Hero Revealed by William Boniface, Notebook of Doom: Rise of the Balloon Goons by Troy Cummings, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Wiley & Grampa’s Creature Features by Kirk Scroggs,Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon, Looinverse: Stranger Things by David Lubar,  My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara, Galaxy Zack: Hello Nebulon by Ray O’Ryan, and Attack of the Giant Hamster by Paul Harrison.