Helpful books and films: self-esteem and feeling different

Over the last few weeks I’ve been scouring the web for titles of fiction books and films that either feature a character with a visible difference, or that touch on themes of interest and relevance.

I’ve been particularly interested to discover written and filmed works that others have found inspirational, comforting or just plain thought-provoking.

Human stories told in sound and light or committed to the page can be terrifically powerful, and I’ve had plenty of conversations about noteworthy movies or novels with people who have sought my help as a clinical psychologist. It’s often through such stories that we can begin to make sense of our own predicament, and better understand the perspective of others.

Discussion boards and online forums have been especially helpful in my searches. There’s a great thread on the Children’s Book Forum in the Amazon Customer Discussions Board. It invites suggestions for children’s books that deal with issues around self-esteem, the nature of beauty, and being different. The thread has been running since 2009, and in the course of 65 posts hundreds of book titles have been recommended, often with helpful reasons.

On the Katie Piper Foundation Forum there’s a spirited thread on ‘Movies, TV & so on…heros & heroines that look different…Unique!’. Better still, a thread entitled ‘Books for encouragement’ contains many titles that forum members have found positively helpful.

Moving away from forums, the wonderful Cooperative Children’s Book Center, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has produced an annotated book list on the theme of bullying, teasing and relational aggression. As the book list’s introduction states:

This selective bibliography offers titles that authentically address the issues of bullying, teasing, relational aggression, and school violence. […] The titles chosen here reflect themes of conformity, self-perception, and popularity in addition to stories related to school culture and tolerance.

Each book on the list has a brief profile and suggestion for age appropriateness, and the list is organised by US school years and whether the principal subject is an aggressor, target of aggression or an observer. There’s a wealth of great leads here.

If anyone reading this has other suggestions I’d love to hear them, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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