It’s Sunday night and April must wait until Friday to visit her Grammie. Each day her mother keeps her busy—running errands, visiting Dad’s office, eating out at a diner. Wherever she goes the young girl notices the different people who surround her—a child using sign language, a woman in a wheelchair, a boy wearing a pirate hat (who we see from the illustration is black). She also comments on the variety of objects in her environment—the shops on Main Street that are all different shapes and sizes or the many kinds of fruit at the farmers market. And yet, despite all observed diversity she still finds ways in which the people young and old, male and female, black, white or Asian are “just like me.” While it would be easy to present this subject, which encompasses issues of prejudice, in overly dramatic terms, this author deals with the potentially sensitive material in a relaxed and understated manner. In many cases the differences aren’t even verbally stated, they’re only seen as with the boy in the hat or the racially and culturally mixed crowd at the market. This indirect approach places the focus on the stated similarities between the disparate groups, making the acceptance of differences comfortable and reasonable. The text concludes with a concrete metaphor for the pleasure of diversity—the flowers in Grammie’s garden, all different, all great. The illustrations use a clever technique to fully support the text. The people are rendered in full color while the background scenes are in simple black and white pencil line. This allows the reader’s attention to rest primarily on the characters in all of their individualized glory. The art is reminiscent of Jan Omerod: it captures emotions through the clarity of facial and body expression. As a bonus, both the hand signals for the sign language alphabet and the numbers from one to five in Braille are included on the appropriate pages. Overall this is a thoughtful and attractive presentation of a meaningful subject which will be of interest to preschoolers to early elementary age readers.—Martha Topol
School Library Journal
A sweet dose of bibliotherapy that explores the similarities and differences among people. The story is told from the point of view of a little girl anticipating a visit to her grandmother’s house. Every day as she waits, the girl and her mother go on an errand. On each of these trips, the child encounters someone who is different—someone who is either older, speaks another language, has a disability, or is of a different race—but who is doing the same thing she is. Acrylic paints highlight only a few items or people in each of the pen-and-ink illustrations, inviting children to take a closer look while reinforcing the story’s point. Tolerance and acceptance are difficult concepts to address for a young audience, and this book does it in a manner that can be applied to a number of situations.—Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY
More of a teaching text, Mitchell’s story is really a series of observations, ostensibly by a child, about how people differ and how they are the same. The narrator sees children speaking in sign language, which is not how she communicates, but she waves to one, who waves back. She sees a blind woman calling an elevator, and describes its Braille labels, but notes that the woman gets off at her floor, “just like me.” A bearded man at a lunch counter orders the same sandwich she does; she meets a woman who likes to draw, as she does. The lesson concludes:“Like the flowers in Grammie’s garden, they were all different from one another, and that’s what made them so great.” A well-intentioned work.
April can’t wait to take the train on Friday to visit Grammie, but it is only Sunday night. Each day of that week, April and her mom run errands, and each day April notices new things: on Monday, a girl on the bus using sign language; on Tuesday, the farmers’ market full of fruit in a great variety of colors and shapes, like the people who shop there. April notices a blind woman, a woman in a wheelchair, and a boy sporting a pirate hat. When she finally gets to Grammie’s, she sees how the garden next door has roses in straight rows, but Grammie’s yard is a riot of flowers. April thinks about the folk she has seen all week, and “like the flowers in Grammie’s garden, they were all different from one another, and that’s what made them so great.” The earnest, didactic text is considerably brightened by the engaging illustrations, in which the figures are in full-color acrylics, and backgrounds and landscapes in black-and-white graphite. Samples of braille and the sign language alphabet are included.
Booksellers This Week
This is a wonderful book that celebrates our differences while looking at the common factors people share. As a girl goes through a week, she meets a deaf girl, a blind woman, a woman in a wheelchair, African-American and Asian boys, and many other people who are in some way different from her. Yet, in each case, she finds something about them that makes them just like her. In the end, the girl compares the people she met to the flowers in her grandmother’s garden. The differences, she concludes, are what make them beautiful.—S.F.
American Booksellers Association Kids Pick of the Lists 1999
Read America! Collection 1999
Best Children’s Fiction, San Diego Book Awards 1999
Early Childhood News Directors Choice 2000
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People for 2000
Chosen as Best Children's Book, San Diego Magazine Book Awards 2000
Selected as outstanding by the Parent Council, Fall, 1999
As Seen On
The Today Show
NBC 7/39 San Diego
KUSI TV9 San Diego
ABC 10 San Diego
Reviews From Teachers and Parents
“Thank you for your wonderful presentation to Ramona Elementary students you are a fantastic presenter—you're interaction with students during your presentation is masterful. Thank you again for giving your time, talents and wonderful message.”
Coordinator, Media Services
Literacy and Student Achievement
San Diego County Office of Education
“Different Just Like Me will enrich my program because we seek out stories that teach bias awareness and/or appreciation of differences.”
Reviewer: Katy Bruns, the Peace Pals Coordinator at the Center For Peace Education
“Different Just Like Me” will enrich my program because we seek out stories that teach bias awareness and/or appreciation of differences. We have community volunteers (business professionals, students, parents, etc.) who volunteer 45 minutes once a week to read a book to elementary students that teaches the five major themes I mentioned previously.
We believe that a central factor in many student conflicts, particularly those involving students who differ from one another economically, culturally, by gender, and life experiences in general is often a lack of appreciation for and respect of diversity. Studies have shown that children as young as three years old demonstrate gender and racial biases. This is evidence enough that these biases must be addressed at an early age so they do not evolve into prejudice.
Knowing that intolerance and lack of cultural fluency will hinder students from playing a meaningful role in their neighborhood, future workplace, and the global arena, educators ought to encourage students to interact more freely with other world citizens. Different Just Like Me teaches students the critical skill of recognizing commonalties between self and others. Your book is a favorable resource in regards to both teaching and achieving tolerance.
Katy Bruns, Peace Pals Coordinator
Center For Peace Education
The following is a letter from Bridget McGinn, the Vice President of United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc. and a few examples of how the book was used:
The first annual International Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Week was held last fall, October 15-21, 2000. Brachial plexus injuries are nerve injuries which can result in full to partial paralysis of the arm, hand and shoulder. Approximately 2-3 per 1000 infants suffer brachial plexus injuries during the birthing process. Other causes of brachial plexus injuries include trauma such as car or motorcycle accidents, sports-related injuries, animal bites, and gunshot wounds.
As part of our Awareness Week 2000 effort we included information about “Different Just Like Me” so that parents and care givers could utilize the book in addressing their child’s classroom (or school) or other audience that included children. Many parents took the book to school or other venues and read it aloud. Story-telling was followed with lively discussions about ways that we are all different and alike.
The feedback from our community was wonderful, having the book available as a tool and resource was invaluable! So many of us know the importance of sharing these values with our children, but it is sometimes difficult to know exactly how to go about doing it...“Different Just Like Me” allowed us the opportunity to gracefully and joyfully relate important concepts to our children’s peers. We are so thankful to have this resource available, and we look forward to including it in our Awareness Week 2001 effort again this year!
United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc.
“I had chills by the time I finished reading it”
Reviewer: Pam, Librarian
I work in our local library, and was processing children’s books today. I’ve always been a sucker for the kid stuff, and when your book caught my attention, I decided to stop and read it before continuing with my work. I just have to compliment you on writing such a wonderful book. I had chills by the time I finished reading it. I can relate to your situation in a way; although my daughter doesn’t have the immediately apparent difference, she has a rare disease that is incurable, and it has changed the way she and I both look at the world. We are in our way, as you and your daughter are in your way, trying to “make a difference with our difference”.
Thanks for sharing such a great story with the world,
“We played the Same and Different game and that was a big hit”.
Reviewer: Melinda, Parent
I read your book in my daughter’s first grade class yesterday. They loved it. We played the Same and Different game and that was a big hit. All the kids had hands raised to share something observed as the same or different. I passed the book around so they could feel the braille and let them keep the book in class since they loved it so much. I made copies of the coloring book sheets for them too. It was perfect timing, since they are working on a unit on this very subject in first grade now. The teacher was so impressed with the book that she showed it to all the other teachers and they are going to see if they can get copies of it for the school. I advised her to check your site and that she could get it through Amazon. I gave her a copy of your downloads, that include the games, lesson plans, the skit and journaling ideas.
Little did I know that out of the heartbreak of your daughter’s vitiligo would come this beautiful book and learning opportunity....a gift to us all.
I stayed after my reading to help the children on a one-to-one with another project. About half way through my list of children, came a little girl with dark brown hair and short sleeves revealing large patches of lightened skin. I was glad she had your book read to her.
Blessings to you,
“No mom, I'm okay. I like being DIFFERENT.”
Reviwer: Charmaine Quidachay from San Diego, CA, Anthony’s Mom
I wanted to THANK YOU for coming out to Morning Creek and sharing your book with us. It was a very special part of the day. Anthony no longers thinks of his Brachial Plexus Injury as a disability. I asked if he wanted to be the same as other kids and have two hands that work. He said “No mom, I'm okay. I like being DIFFERENT.” You gave us more than just a story. You gave us compassion and understanding. Thank You!!!
“A great discussion starter for difficult topics”
Reviewer: Leah Katz from San Diego, California, Teacher
When I first read “Different Just Like Me” I thought to myself, “What a wonderful book and what a great way to begin discussions in my classroom about respecting each others' differences”. Never did I dream that this book would have the impact it had on my third grade class. The converstaions that were stimulated by this book were phenomenal! I was so impressed by how the book was able to open the door to the difficult topic of differences and acceptance. Children began to share their own experiences of times they felt left out or different. Children spoke about times when they felt uncomfortable around someone who was different then they were and they were unsure of how to handle that. I learned that my students had so many questions. They had finally found a safe opportunity to begin asking these questions. The children continued to refer to the book and make textual connectionns with this book throughout the year. It was obvious that the story had made a big impact on the children. Besides teaching a third grade class I also teach the Mainstreaming class for teachers at San Diego State University. I have reccommended this book to many teachers in the class as an avenue to begin the discussion about diversity in the classroom. I have heard such positive results from many of the teachers about how helpful it was to start the discussion with this book.
“A beautiful introduction to the very different children they would be meeting and playing with”
Reviewer: Jessica Catanzaro, 3rd Grade Teacher, Jamacha Elementary, El Cajon, CA
I am writing to say thank you, thank you, thank you for your very special book. I have a great love of all books and love to collect childrens books so this will always be a special treasure to me. I have shared your book with my third grade class and it has made its way into various classrooms around Jamacha Elementary. All of the children are excited to hear your story. My class was specially chosen to have P.E. with the special education class and your book was a beautiful introduction to the very different children they would be meeting and playing with. I am very proud of how my class has accepted their new friends and love to see them. I truly believe that your book helped pave the way for them to see that everybody is different but special. When I read the book to my class our school art teacher was in the room and enjoyed the story with us. She and the children made some predictions about your art work and they would like to know if they were on the right track. They believe that you drew the pictures in black and white and only colored the people so they would stand out and you could see the differences. Are they right??? Also they wanted to know why some of the pictures were completely colored? Perhaps you could e-mail us and let us know.
“Praising Diversity & Promoting Tolerance”
Reviewer: Jill, a parent from Palm City, FL.
When my daughter’s classmates starting inquiring about her mommy’s skin disorder, the children’s book came to my rescue! How often do you find a book that celebrates the differences that make us unique. Every parent & teacher should own a copy of this book! I plan to donate copies to my daughter's preschool and (future) elementary school libraries!
“Absolutely outstanding book for all kid's self-esteem”
Reviewer: Judy, a mother of two from California
I purchased this book for my six-year old daughter after a friend so highly recommended it. We both just LOVE it! The concept of not only accepting but celebrating everyone’s own individuality is exactly what we try to teach our own daughter. The text is easy to understand ,but doesn’t talk down to kids. The unique black and white illustrations with only the people in color just reinforces the similarity of all these different people. Your eye is not distracted by the background. It focuses immediately on the individuals that the main character, April, comes in contact with. My daughter, who is about April’s age, constantly asks questions as to why people are different colors, sizes & shapes, in wheelchairs, blind etc. She is fascinated by these differences. Ms. Mitchell’s book does such a beautiful job of presenting these differences but also pointing out the numerous similarities as well. The highlight for me was when my daughter proudly announced she could “sign” her name using sign language she learned while reading the book in bed one night. I think it is an absolutely beautiful book with such a loving message. I can't wait to tell my friends about it. We now eagerly await Ms. Mitchell's next book.
Respect for differences
Reviewer: Tanya W.
“Different Just Like Me” is an excellent book for teaching children about the differences in others and to respect the differences in others.
Reviewer: Mary from California. Parent and retired school teacher.
I found “Different Just Like Me” to be a positive, uplifting book that celebrates diversity in the human race. It is something that we should not be ashamed of but proud of because it makes living in this world so fascinating and interesting. It is an excellent book to read and discuss with young children for they will be the leaders of tomorrow and will need the tools and knowledge to have tolerance and understanding for all people in order to make this world a better place to live. Ms. Mitchell’s book definitely gives children an opportunity to explore and celebrate diversity now and hopefully into adulthood. It is a must for teachers of young children. Also, the illustrations are beautiful!
Reviewer: Roxanne from Green Bay, WI. Parent
In this book, Ms. Mitchell talks about one of the core values I wish to instill in my son. She is reminding us all to look beyond what is on the outside. A powerful message beautifully done.
“TWO THUMBS UP!!!!!”
Reviewer: Jodie from Albany, New York. Parent
I give this book two thumbs up!!!! It was inspiring, well written, and the artistic pictures were just out of this world. I bought this book for a personal reason; my 8-year-old daughter has vitiligo. This book has helped her realize that everyone is different in some way, shape or form.
“A Must for ALL - gives children self worth”
Reviewer: Jon from Baraboo, WI. Parent
I had to search for this book, finally ordered it from my local book store. My daughter took it to school as a way of teaching everyone in her class about the differences that she has and to help everyone realize that everyone is different in different ways. It’s simple and easy to read. Not preachy. Perfect for A family reading time to discuss the subject of differences in all people. It’s on a special display in our living room.
“The Perfect Message”
Reviewer: Joy from Anacortes, Washington. Parent
I originally bought this book because I have vitiligo too, but I’ll read it to my daughter for many years because of the important message it conveys. This book is also a pleasure to look at and I've enjoyed it very much. I hope that this will help teach my daughter, and others who read it, that everyone is different and that these differences must be celebrated! “Different Just Like Me” makes me feel good every time I read it.
“Essential reading for all teachers and their students!”
Reviewer: A teacher from San Diego, CA
Every teacher works with students who feel different in one aspect or another. This book touches the heart of all of these children and gives them new confidence. My class loved it and felt the message!
“This is a must book for teachers and education majors”.
Reviewer: A parent from Nashville, TN, that bought it for a teacher
What a delight this book is! I bought this for my daughter who is a Special Ed/Elementary Ed major, and she was thrilled to be able to use it with her classes. We read it together, and we were both genuinely touched with the sensitive, wonderful approach to being “different” she took, no doubt helped by their own personal experience. This is a beautiful, useful, and “hands-on” book.
“This book is for young and old alike!”
Reviewer: A mother from Redondo Beach, CA
This book was given to me as a gift and I placed it on my coffeetable for my grandchildren to enjoy. It turns out that my adult friends have enjoyed this book as well. I was indeed surprised and pleased when they bought copies for themselves and for gifts to friends that have something that makes them or their children different from others, or to have for their grandchildren to read. I am very proud of Lori Mitchell and her little daughter, April, for caring enough about differences to write this book. They are setting a wonderful example for all of us...after all - you are different - just like me! That’s what makes this world a wonderful place.
“A Rare Treat”
Reviewer: A parent from Torrance, California
This book is such a rare treat as it shows us differences in people through the eyes of a child who accepts those differences as unique and important contributions to the whole of mankind. The illustrations are glorious and bring out the beauty of loving each other for what we are and what we have to contribute; not for what we might appear to be. I especially liked the lesson of not having to choose between what we liked as the “best”, or “better than”. My three children and I thank the author/illustrator for this wonderful gift.
The following books include Different Just Like Me:
The Children’s Literature Lover’s Book of Lists by Joanna Sullivan
Promote Global Community Through Multicultural Children’s Literature by Stanley F. Steiner
Voices from the Margins: An Annotated Bibliography of Fiction on Disabilities and Differences for Young People by Marilyn Ward
Healing Stories by Jacqueline Golding Ph. D