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Book Spotlight: Same, Same but Different

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

Written by: Joshua Lim

Published: July 16, 2022

Published in 2011, compared to some of the other spotlighted books, "Same, same but different" is a relatively old book; however, its applicability concerning diversity and multiculturalism remains as current as ever.

"Same, same but different" is a common expression in Southeast Asia. Some point to its origins in Thailand as the phrase matches the linguistic and cultural structure of Tinglish (Thai-English) (Wotton, 2019). The phrase has context-dependent meanings, but they generally mean to denote similarity. The titular phrase fits well: "through an inviting point-of-view and colourful, vivid illustrations, this story shows how two boys living oceans apart can be the best of friends."

Same, Same but Different: The Story

"Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They are pen pals. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they both love to climb trees, have pets, and go to school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Same, same. But different!"

Same, Same but Different: Classroom Use

One thing that I really like about this book is how the two boys form their connection by virtue of being pen pals, a seemingly dated concept much like the classroom pet. I think it is sad that these activities have waned with the times because they were staples of school. The good thing is that you can start a pen pal program in your class with an introductory reading of this book!

Coming out in 2011 means there are plenty of lessons available online such as good ole TeachersPayTeachers. Found here.

A preschool to Grade 2 Lesson plan, guides for educators/parents and families/community coordinators, and additional activities that are part of their wider Read for Success Program by the Literacy Network. Found here.

Antiracism lesson from our pals in the West Coast, Surrey Schools. Found here.

Kindergarten to Grade 3 cross-curricular lesson plan from the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation. Found here.

Same, Same but Different: Authors & About

Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw is the author and illustrator. She lives with her family on their homestead in the rural mountains of Northern New Mexico. In 2000 when Kostecki-Shaw was travelling in South East Asia, she jotted a saying, "same, same but different," that she kept hearing while in Thailand. Later in 2002, when travelling to Nepal and India, she learned the popular saying “same, same but different” was used to compare cultures. At Sunshine School in Bhaktapur, Nepal, she organized an art exchange with friends from the United States, which fuelled the idea for this book (Frostburg State University, 2012).

The book has been adapted into a virtual play by the New York City Children’s Theatre, written by Barbara Zinn Krieger and Maximillian Gill and directed by Sammy Lopez.

Henry Holt and Company is one of America's oldest publishing companies, founded more than 150 years ago. Throughout its years, it distinguished itself with a dynamic list of award-winning and bestselling fiction such as Hilary Mantel’s "Wolf Hall" trilogy, Susan Choi’s "Trust Exercise," Rick Atkinson’s "Revolution" trilogy, and more.

Same, Same but Different: Awards

This book has won various awards and recommendations primarily for its promotion of diversity:

  • Winner, Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award 2012

  • Winner, Ezra Jack Keats New Author Honour 2012

  • Winner, MD Frostburg State University Children’s Literature Centre Award 2012

  • Winner, South Asia Book Award 2012

  • Joint Winner, Illinois Monarch Award: K-3 Children's Choice Award Master List 2014

  • Nominee, Georgia Children's Book Award: Picture Storybook 2014

  • Nominee, Monarch Award: Grades K-3 2014

  • Nominee, Young Hoosier Book Award: Picture Book 2014


Frostburg State University. (2012). The Children's Literature Centre: CLC Book Award Banquet. Retrieved from

Wotton, C. (2019). 'same same, but different': The origins of Thailand's tourist catchphrase. Culture Trip. Retrieved from

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