Five fantastic books about appreciating each other

Published on: 06 December 2022

Steven Butler, author of The Nothing to See Here Hotel series and Humbug: The Elf Who Saved Christmas, recommends some heartwarming books about appreciating the people around us.  

Hello, dear readers!

Christmas is creeping ever closer and I’m extremely excited to be sharing Humbug: The Elf Who Saved Christmas with you. It is my love letter to all the valiant NHS staff and key workers who toil away behind the scenes, keeping the rest of us ticking along without much thought for their hard work. We've really been reminded just how important these heroes are over the past few years, and it’s always a good thing to show people just how much we appreciate them… and appreciation comes in many guises. Whether it’s recognising an act of kindness, determination or courage, celebrating someone for who they are or understanding their differences, or just being thankful, I think the world can never have too much of it.

With that in mind, I have put together a list of five books which I think celebrate the act of appreciating others (in all its forms) beautifully. Ready to dive in? Let’s go…

Fight Back by A. M. Dassu

I have so many terrific things to say about this courage-filled book. I loved it! Aaliyah is a young Muslim teenager living a pretty ordinary life, until a local act of terrorism turns everything on its head. In a flash, neighbours start looking at her with suspicion, and she faces bullying and prejudice at school, and the dilemma of whether to be true to who she is or hide in the background and blend in. Feeling alone and outcast, Aaliyah soon comes to realise that many other kids from all kinds of backgrounds share the same fears of being judged and othered by society. This book is a great example of appreciating people for their bravery and finding joy in their differences. Definitely worth a read – but it’s for slightly older readers.

Pizazz by Sophy Henn

Any of the five books in this hilarious series are the perfect example for appreciating that not every hero is a big muscly man or slinky lady in a shiny catsuit, destroying foes with one hand and saving the universe in the blink of an eye. I really love the message of these stories. They champion the heroes that don’t necessarily look impressive, or might feel tired, reluctant or lazy from time to time. It’s all about appreciating the effort and the good deeds… plus they’re a proper giggle on every page.

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

For older primary readers, this book carries a powerful message about the fear of others, group prejudice, and the struggles of being a neurodivergent person growing up in a largely neurotypical community.

Addie, an eleven-year-old autistic girl, is campaigning for a memorial in her Scottish hometown to remember the women killed in witch trials centuries before. In doing so, she comes to notice more and more of the similarities between these figures from history and her own persecution for being different.

It is sweet and heartbreaking in equal measure and a great lesson in appreciating that everyone wears a kind of mask to hide parts of themself away from others, and that bullies are often in just as much pain as the people they torment. A highly recommended read.

The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold

If this story doesn’t make you cry and laugh, then cry, then smile, then cry again… nothing will! With A.F. Harrold’s masterful writing and Emily Gravett’s beautiful illustrations, this book is a real treasure and definitely belongs on my list. It is a pure and simple celebration of appreciating your best-best-BEST friends.

Ember and Ness are inseparable. They do everything together until the tragic day that Ness suddenly and very unexpectedly dies. What follows is a heartwarming quest story as Ember ventures into The Afterwards, determined to bring her friend back. This is an extraordinary example of love, bravery and appreciating those we care about.

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

For younger readers, this is (in my humble opinion) one of the most beautiful picture books EVER published. It tells the story of Julian, a little boy who, while riding on the subway with his grandma, sees three dazzling women dressed as mermaids as they head off to a street carnival.

Julian is captivated by what he’s seen and decides to cobble together his own mermaid costume when he gets home. At first, his grandma is unsure about Julian’s choice of outfit, but seeing the happiness it’s brought him, finally allows her grandson to wear his mermaid costume to the parade. That’s it… the book is that simple… but it’s one of the finest examples of appreciating that what might seem strange to us is utterly wonderful to someone else. Gorgeously illustrated and filled with kindness and humour, this is a must-have for children as well as book-loving adults.

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