What’s NOT Okay: Thoughts on Todd Parr’s “It’s Okay to Be Different”

Todd Parr_Its Okay To Be Different Page

We are fans of Todd Parr’s children’s books, such as The Family Book, which I have written about before (Banning Books that Promote Tolerance?). His It’s Okay to be Different is similar to his other books with vibrant, simple illustrations and an inclusive message. My youngest daughter, who is 21 months old, loves it. She carries it around the house and screams, “Mine!,” whenever anyone else tries to read it. This selfish stage is not okay, but it’s cute to see her so excited about one of her books.

This book is a good choice for little kids, despite a few faults. In particular, the book mixes serious, universally-true messages, like, “It’s okay to be a different color” and “It’s okay to be adopted,” with less important ones, like, “it’s okay to eat macaroni in the bathroom,” which most certainly is NOT true in my house. It’s just not okay to mix food with what goes on in the bathroom.

Overall, though, the book conveys a meaningful message for all of its readers: everyone is different, and it’s okay to be who you are.

What’s not okay is the bigotry underlying this one-star Amazon review of Parr’s book, calling it “Gay Propaganda” (click on it to see a clearer image):

Its Okay To Be Different_One Star Amazon Review

I thought the reviewer could be a troll, but their other reviews suggest not.

The book is about accepting differences in general with only one page devoted to non-traditional families: “It’s okay to have different moms/It’s okay to have different dads.” That could refer to families with same-sex parents, step-parents, or parents of backgrounds that might make them seem “different,” such as in interracial families like mine.

I hope that the reviewer’s children embrace the inclusive message of the book rather than their parent’s bigoted opinions. Unfortunately, though, the power of books to teach important lessons about tolerance and acceptance is likely limited in households that not only fail to reinforce those messages but instead actively strive to undermine them.

31 thoughts on “What’s NOT Okay: Thoughts on Todd Parr’s “It’s Okay to Be Different”

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  3. I’ve read similar reviews for the “A is for Activist” book which has been dismissed by many as “socialist propaganda” and the book titled “What makes a baby” by Corey Silverberg.

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  8. I agree with the “no food in the bathroom” thing. Yuck!!

    That Amazon review is so horribly offensive. I do forget sometimes that there ARE people who are actually that hateful. 😦

    1. I live in a progressive community in a majority-minority city and so I often forget that there are people with the type of narrow-minded views expressed in that one-star reaction to Parr’s book. That person probably also lives in a community that reinforces his views, probably making Parr’s book a “rude” awakening for him (and hopefully, an eye-opening experience for his children). Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Well, by the time the bath water finishes filling up the tub, the macaroni will probably be cold. So there’s a reason the two don’t mix that well. (And in the picture, the bowl looks dangerously close to falling in).
    I am glad that this book informs young readers that it is okay to be who you are–it’s probably one of the best things you can ever do. Now we just need to work on some of the older readers. Thanks for spreading the message.
    –JW

    1. My kids actually prefer their macaroni cold (when it clumps together!).

      Todd Parr’s books are wonderful for little kids, who are much more likely to embrace the inclusive message than older folks. Over the summer, there had been rumors that one of Parr’s other books (The Family Book) had been banned from a library. If true, that’s very concerning because the children who need exposure to these types of ideas are the ones whose parents aren’t likely to read it to them at home.

  10. I am really surprised to be honest with you that Amazon does not take this down. I review for them occasionally and I usually put glowing reviews on books because I am not going to read a book to the finish if I do not like it. However, once when I reviewed some cable wires (HDMI) that I received and put in a constructive criticism about them not working with all my technology equipment- the Amazon gods stripped that baby down in no time flat….May be there is some $$$$ involved in this somewhere…I do my reviews absolutely free so who knows….Thanks again for a great blog post.

    1. It’s interesting to hear that Amazon deleted one of your reviews. I’ve written negative reviews, too, but I think they remain (I haven’t checked, though). As for the negative review of Parr’s book, it’s definitely unfair, but if that’s what the guy really thought about the book, then it should remain with ample comments and “unhelpful” votes.

  11. Agree 100%. It is definitely NOT okay to eat in the bathroom. Eeewwww…. Yeah, it sounds like that reviewer is reading way more into it than the author had intended. I don’t see that statement as secretly foisting some “gay agenda” onto kids. I think how one interprets the statement is more reflective on one’s own thinking than the author’s intention, whatever it might be. A person may dislike something, but it doesn’t give them the right to be hateful. I can’t see how this review was merited. Apparently neither do 80 other people. 😉

    1. Yeah, the reviewer was definitely reading into the book. Todd Parr’s books are all about acceptance (including acceptance of non-traditional families), but he has a pretty light touch with vibrant colors and fun illustrations. I really wish he hadn’t included the macaroni in the bathtub one, though. I’m stuck telling my kids, “all of the examples in this book are true, EXCEPT for this one!” It undermines the authority of the book.

  12. I never thought of it in quite that way, but I do see where often the messages in books are too often “preaching to the choir”. I suppose at some point “the point” is when the choir becomes the norm, and the bigots and racists disappear.

    1. The whole idea of bringing food into the bathroom makes me cringe! I either skip over that page (which my children usually catch) or I have to say, “but that one’s really not okay.” It undermines the authority of the book.

      1. I was told a story about a co-worker a few years back, wherein she took a Subway sandwich into the communal bathroom. Everyone hearing this gagged. This was an HVAC company, and all the sweaty, oily, dirty guys used that one restroom, same as the office people.

        But then, there was also the story about her falling asleep on the toilet…

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