Every child’s library should have two types of books: mirrors and windows. Mirrors show children characters that look like them, with families, cultural experiences, or religious practices like theirs. Windows show children characters and situations that are different than the ones they experience. That’s why diverse picture books are so important. (Don’t worry — we’ve got a list of diverse middle grade books coming soon!)
Ideally, every child will experience both in the books that they read. However, children of non-white cultures and marginalized groups have far more windows than they do mirrors in the world of children’s literature. The presence of diverse children’s literature has increased in the last few years, but there’s still long way to go. (For more details, I highly encourage you to check out the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s Publishing Statistics on Children’s Books about People of Color and First/Native Nations and by People of Color and First/Native Nations Authors and Illustrators.)
Every child benefits from a diverse, multicultural bookshelf. Whether you’re looking for more windows or more doors to add to your child’s library, I hope this list points you to some excellent diverse books that make your collection more inclusive.
101 Diverse Picture Books
[button link=”https://www.pinterest.com/pin/342273640430244679/” type=”big” newwindow=”yes”] Pin on Pinterest![/button]
[button link=”https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/fcb1/101+Diverse+Picture+Books+for+Kids.pdf” type=”big” newwindow=”yes”] Print/Screenshot List[/button]
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence — A little girl asks her grandfather how to say something in his Native language of Cree, but he is unable to answer. As a child, he was forced into Canada’s residential school system for native children, where he was not allowed to speak anything but English. The sweet granddaughter find a special way for her grandfather to connect to his stolen words. My boys loved this book and it led to some excellent discussion. You can also find this book on our list of Native American Children’s Books.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros — Rosealba goes on a magical trip with her grandmother, flying over New York City and seeing all of the sights. This book highlights the bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter, and it includes lots of Spanish vocabulary to expand your child’s knowledge.
Stitchin’ and Pullin’: a Gee’s Bend Quilt by Patricia C. McKissick — For decades, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have worked together to make quilts. The quilts keep their families warm, but they also provide a sense of community as the women gather to sing, stitch, and talk. This book of poems commemorates these beautiful quilts, many of which now hang in museums as works of art.
Father’s Rubber Shoes by Yumi Heo — Yungsu is having a hard time adjusting to life in America. He doesn’t have friends, and his father is too busy working to play with him. His father uses a story about a pair of rubber shoes to explain to Yungsu that he wants his son to have more than he did. Yungsu understands, and as he begins to make friends, his view of America changes.
Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats — Archie wants to enter the neighborhood pet show, but he has one problem: he can’t find his cat! He has to think fast to figure out a way to enter the show and win a prize. This is one of my all-time favorite children’s books!
Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton — Grandma Mimi’s visits are always so much fun! Her granddaughter loves everything about her Mimi, but one of her favorite things is exploring Mimi’s purse. There’s always something amazing inside, and a little imagination can make any token a treasure.
The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir Seghal and Surishtha Seghal — This book is a fun take on the classic “Wheels on the Bus” song. A tuk tuk (Indian taxi) takes the reader through a busy Indian street, and points out the sights along the way. The people, animals, and excitement make for a fun journey!
My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman — Lily sees Tamika every day at the pool, and she decides that she wants Tamika to be her best friend. However, Tamika already has a best friend, and she doesn’t seem too interested in Lily. Will Lily find a friend to call her own?
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan — This beautifully illustrated book teaches young readers about colors and about the key elements of the Muslim faith. Things like the prayer rug, the hijab, and the mosque are introduced in ways that are easy for all children to understand.
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robinson — As a young girl helps her grandmother in the garden, she asks about the things that make her grandmother unique: her long braid, her colorful clothes. Her grandmother explains about her experience in a Canadian residential school, where her native culture was not allowed to be expressed. This sweet story gently explains a difficult time in history in a way young children can understand.
The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isadora — This book takes a classic fairy tale and puts it in a new setting. A prince sets out to find the perfect princess to marry, but the process is not nearly as easy as he thought it would be. How can he discern which princess is real and which is just pretending?
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena — As CJ and his grandmother ride the bus across town, he has many questions. He doesn’t understand why they don’t have a car, or why he doesn’t have the cool gadgets other kids have. Grandmother helps CJ understand that his world is beautiful, and that material things don’t mean nearly as much as the people we love.
A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell — This story follows a First Nations family as they head out to forage for mushrooms and edible plants. Yayah, the grandmother, is able to share her extensive knowledge of plant life and the local environment with her young grandchildren.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi — Unhei is very nervous about starting school in America. She’s especially anxious about whether or not the kids at school will be able to pronounce her name, so she decides to pick an American name. When her classmates learn she will be choosing a new name, they all write down ideas for her and put them in a jar, hoping to help her pick the right one. But along the way, a new friend learns her Korean name and its special meaning, and soon Unhei has no need for a name jar. This book is also featured on our list of Diverse First Day of School books.
One Family by George Shannon — Family can be lots of things: big or small, with people of all different genders and cultures. It doesn’t matter what combination of people are in your family; what matters is the love that brings all of you together.
Yesterday I Had the Blues by Jeron Ashford Frame — A little boy explores his emotions in this gorgeously illustrated picture book. Yesterday he had the blues, but today he’s traded those blues for greens! This book explores emotions in a way that is easy for kids to understand.
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi — Lailah has moved far away to a new school in a new country. She worries that her new classmates won’t understand why she won’t be eating lunch at school during the month of Ramadan. A wise and helpful teacher and school librarian team up to help her find a way to explain her religion and help her new friends understand and respect her beliefs. You can also find this book on our list of Children’s Books About Ramadan.
My Sister, Alicia May by Nancy Tupper Ling — Rachel and Alicia are two sisters who are alike in many ways. However Alicia has Down Syndrome, which is sometimes hard for Rachel to deal with. Rachel can easily get resentful of the extra attention her sister requires, but more than anything, she loves and accepts Alicia.
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn — Lola loves Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, Lola and her mom head to the library to check out books, listen to stories, and have fun! This sweet book is a great tool for introducing young children to the magic of reading and libraries.
The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan — A little girl has to have a serious talk with her dad. She loves him, but she loves his spot in the big bed, too. Her solution is to give dad a cot to sleep on, so she can move out of her little bed and into the big bed with mom. This hilarious take on the child who wants to sleep in her parents bed is full of spunk and humor.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall — Jabari is ready to jump of the diving board at the swimming pool. Almost. He’s a strong swimmer, but he’s worried about his first jump. Luckily, his dad is there to encourage him and help calm his fears. This story of perseverance is encouraging to both kids and adults, and everyone will celebrate when Jabari takes his big leap! You can also find this book on our list of Diverse Summer Picture Books.
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds — Jerome, like a lot of kids, loves collecting. However, what he collects is pretty unique — Jerome collects words! He loves how words sound, how they feel, and the power they have to share a message. This book will help your child fall in love with words, too!
Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer — Sophie has two awesome grandmothers who both make awesome chicken soup. Bubbe’s Jewish chicken soup and Nai Nai’s Chinese chicken soup are both delicious, and both special in their own ways. Sophie decides to combine the two and make one delicious surprise that brings the family together.
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown — Little Ana loves books and stories, but she’s read the few books her tiny town has to offer. Ana’s life is changed for the better when a traveling library, pulled by a burro, comes to town. Ana discovers all new stories that she can read and share with her little brother.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn — Sam is so excited to spend the money he received in his leisees (red money envelopes) from his grandparents. However, there isn’t enough money to get the thing he really wants. Sam learns an important lesson about gratitude that kids from every culture will understand. This book is also featured on our list of Books About Chinese New Year.
Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen — This fun retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is set in the African-American church. Reverend Knight is puzzled by the fact that his 12 sons are wearing out their sneakers day after day. What if he knew that they were up all night dancing, instead of sleeping.
Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natahsa Anastasia Tarpley — Miles is a little nervous about his first trip to the barber shop with his dad. He’s unsure about getting a new haircut, and the noises from the clippers and scissors are a little scary. However, with the support of the other men in the shop, Miles bravely faces his first haircut, and loves the result.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown — Marisol McDonald is unique. She likes her burritos with PB&J, she likes to mix dots and stripes, and she is both Peruvian- and Scottish-American, meaning she has read hair and brown skin. Some people say that Marisol doesn’t match, but Marisol knows she’s perfect just the way she is.
Love Is by Diane Adams — This beautiful story chronicles the days of a little girl and her pet duckling. The girl tenderly cares for her pet with patience and grace. This book illustrates all the ways we can show love to others, and its simple sweetness will bring tears to your eyes.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê — A little boy goes to visit his grandfather, but he’s discouraged when their language differences keep them from communicating. When the boy sits down to draw a picture, he discovers a way he can bond with his grandfather that doesn’t require words.
I’m New Here Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien — Being the new kid at school is hard, but it’s especially hard when you’re starting school in a new country. This book follows three children from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia as they start school in the United States. With lots of support from their community, they are able to adapt to life in their new home while retaining their cultural identity. This is one of my favorite diversity picture books!
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love — When Julián sees three women on the street dressed as mermaids, he is captivated. When he gets home, he creates his own amazing mermaid costume, using things he finds around the house. Julián feels wonderful in his new outfit, but when Abuela finds him he’s also worried. What will Abuela say about the mess? And what will she think of Julián’s special costume? Abuela responds with an action of love and acceptance that will move you to tears. This book is included on our list of Books About Gender Identity.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller — When Tanisha spills grape juice on her dress, everyone laughs and Tanisha is embarrassed. Her classmate wants to show kindness, but she’s not sure how. This gets the classmate thinking about kindness, and all the ways one can be a good friend.
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima — Chibi is a shy boy from the mountains who is having a hard time fitting in at school. The other children tease Chibi because he is so small and different, and poor Chibi must go through his days alone. When the teacher, Mr. Isobe, arrives, he sees the potential in Chibi that no one else sees. His encouragement helps Chibi to shine.
Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer — Little Mary loves fashion, and in this rhyming story, she’s not afraid to express herself in what she wears. She helps some well-known nursery rhyme characters find their own special style, and even the classroom pet at school gets in on the fun. This is a great book for kids who love to dress up!
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold — This lovely book follows a classroom where everyone is welcome. Children from different countries, faiths, and backgrounds come together to learn, grow, and play. This book would be a great classroom gift for your teacher!
King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan — Malik is a young Pakistani boy who is excited to celebrate Basant, a festival honoring the first day of Spring. He’s most excited about kite fighting, and he dreams of capturing the most kites and becoming “king for a day.” He faces challenges from the bully next door, and he must use his wits and skill to save a young girl from his taunts. I really appreciate this thoughtful portrayal of a boy with a disability. This book is about so much more than the fact that Malik is in a wheelchair.
The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya — A young boy is fascinated by his mother’s bindi, and he has lots of questions about it. As the mother explains the significance of wearing a bindi, the little boy wishes for a bindi of his own. Even though bindi are traditionally worn by women, the mother lets her son wear one of his own, making him feel loved and accepted.
Hot Hot Roti for Dada-Ji by F. Zia — Aneel loves it when his grandparents visit, and he especially loves the amazing stories his grandfather, or Dada-ji, tells. Dada-ji tells a story of how hot, hot roti once gave him the strength of a Tiger, and Aneel is determined to fix some to see if roti will work its magic again.
Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima — Harriet loves to wear costumes everywhere she goes, and she’s especially excited to wear a costume to her birthday party. She goes out with her dads to get party hats for the celebration, and for the errand she dons a penguin costume. When she encounters some real penguines, she gets carried away — literally! Can she make it back to her dads and her party?
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal — Alma’s full name is Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, and she thinks it’s way too long for a little girl. When Alma asks her father about her long name, she learns of a rich family history that helps her take pride in her name and her heritage.
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët — This beautiful wordless picture book tells the story of a young girl who is treated poorly by a classmate, and shows how one child reaching out with kindness can start a movement of love. This one will bring tears to your eyes!
Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park — This book follows a little girl as she helps her mother make a traditional Korean dish. The rhyming story is upbeat and musical, and the book includes the author’s own recipe for bee bim bop, a dish made with rice, meat, and vegetables.
The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson — Being different can be hard, and sometimes feeling like we don’t fit in keep us from doing what we want to do. This lovely book is a reminder that we all feel like outsiders sometimes, but we can all find the courage to put ourselves in new situations or try new things. And when we have the courage to be ourselves, it can help others do the same! A great book for the first day of school, or any time your child is facing a change.
Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña — Carmela is excited that her birthday wish has come true: she is finally old enough to join her older brother as he runs errands for the family. As they travel through town together, Carmela finds a fluffy dandelion. Her brother encourages her to make a wish before blowing the fluff away. What wish should Carmela make?
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes — Follow a young African-American boy as he travels to the barbershop for a fresh haircut. As he sits with other men in the shop, he imagines what their lives might be like. His own haircut builds his confidence and self-esteem, and he feels as though he can tackle anything! This rhythmic story makes a great read-aloud.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow — Follow a sweet little girl as she plays with the flowing scarves her mother wears. Mommy has khimars in many different colors and patterns, and her daughter loves using them to dress up and play pretend. Every child who plays dress up in their parents’ closets can relate!
Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston — When Sakura’s father gets a job in America, her family moves from Japan to the United States. Sakura misses many things about home, but more than anything she misses her grandmother and the time they spent together. Sakura’s new friend Luke helps her adjust to life in a new place, and he finds a little piece of home that he can share with her to help her feel better.
Jamaica’s Find by Juanita Havill — Jamaica finds a winter hat and cute stuffed dog on the playground. She takes the hat to the lost and found, but she decides to take the stuffed toy home and keep it for herself. However, as Jamaica studies the well-loved dog, she has a change of heart and decides to take him back.
Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke — Sunday dinners at Grannie’s house are always full: full of food, full of family, and full of activity. But for little Jay Jay, the thing that Sunday is full of more than anything is love. This sweet book celebrates the loving bond between a boy and his grandmother.
Little You by Richard Van Camp — This sweet board book celebrates the potential for amazing things that lies in every young child. A great reminder that little ones are strong, powerful, wonderful, and special, this book is perfect for babies and toddlers.
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera — Get your tissues ready! This book tells the story of the author, an immigrant boy who struggled to learn English, and how he grew up to become the Poet Laureate of the United States. If Juan Felipe Herrera could do this, imagine what you could do one day! A beautiful and inspiring book.
Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman — Don’t you hate the notion that “pink is a girl color?” Me too. That’s why this book is so awesome. It goes beyond colors to talk about how things like baseball, unicorns, dress up, or cars are for anyone and everyone who enjoys them. This book is important for both boys and girls, because it teaches that the things we love aren’t determined by our gender.
Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood by James Baldwin — TJ is a young boy growing up in Harlem. As he plays on his block with his friends, he dreams of what adulthood will bring him. This book is Baldwin’s only children’s book, and this edition includes a forward and afterward by his niece and nephew.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales — This gorgeous book explores what it means to start a new life in a new place. It chronicles the author’s own journey from Mexico to the United States with her infant son, Kelly. No matter where we come from, we all have dreams, hopes, fears, and people we love. We are all dreamers.
What If… by Samantha Berger — A young girl explores all the ways that she can express herself. If she can’t draw, she’ll sculpt. She’ll even shape the fallen leaves into something beautiful! This lovely story speaks to the power of imagination, and the illustrations are truly beautiful.
Yes I Can! by Kendra J. Barrett — Carolyn loves many of the same things her classmates do; she’s like them in so many ways. One thing that makes Carolyn different is that she uses a wheelchair to get around. But this difference doesn’t mean she can’t do things; it just means she sometimes does them in a different way. This excellent book teaches what it means to be a good friend to someone with a disability.
You may also enjoy these Diverse Board Books for Babies and Toddlers!
Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez — Pilar loves dancing ballet more than anything. But when it’s time for auditions for her favorite ballet, she’s nervous and scared. Her worries distract her and keep her from focusing at school. But finally, she remembers to take a breath and use some coping mechanisms to get through this anxious time. A perfect book for kids who struggle with worrying!
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker — This beautiful wordless picture book tells the story of a family going on their first vacation without their beloved dog, Sascha. The young girl in the story is sad, but a special walk on the beach helps her cope with her feelings of grief and loss. This story would be best understood by school-aged children. This book is also featured on our list of Books About the Loss of a Pet.
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde — This sweet book shows the beauty of living, learning, and even making mistakes. A little boy shares all the ways in which he is human, and how he can use his words and actions to show compassion for others. I love this book because it does a great job of illustrating how we’re all connected, and how what we do affects others.
Not ‘Til Tomorrow, Phoebe by Julie Zwillich — Waiting is hard. Phoebe is constantly being told she has to wait for tomorrow: tomorrow Phoebe gets pancakes for breakfast; tomorrow she gets ice cream after school. But why does it take so long for tomorrow to come? Thankfully, Phoebe’s grandmothers has a special solution that makes tomorrow come faster.
A Lion’s Mane by Najot Kaur — This story is told by a young boy who is exploring his own identity. He is unique; he’s a Sikh, and he wears a dastaar. As we follow his thoughts, we learn not only about how a lion’s strength is symbolic in Sikh culture, but also what lions represent in other cultures. This book is a beautiful illustration of how we can celebrate the things that make us unique, while also finding the things that unite us.
Windows by Julia Denos — Told in the second person, this story encourages exploration. A young boy heads out to walk his dog in the evening, and as he walks, he watches his community transform. As he walks, we get to see the beauty of his diverse neighborhood as it moves from day to night. This beautifully illustrated book is a calm and peaceful read that’s perfect for bed time.
Kunu’s Basket by Lee DeCora Francis — Kunu wants to learn how to weave baskets, like his father, Muhmum, and all of the other men on Indian Island. However, Kunu can’t seem to get it right. He grows frustrated, and when his father offers help, Kunu only gets more upset. Muhmum encourages Kunu to keep trying, and to be gracious with himself. This fantastic story is an excellent lesson in perseverance, and is especially good for school-aged kids.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi — Early in the morning, Bao’s father wakes him so they can head to the pond to fish. Other people are fishing for sport, but Bao and his father have to catch fish to provide food for the family. While they fish, Bao’s father tells him about a different pond in their home country of Vietnam, and the difficulties they left behind there. This book is beautiful and powerful, and I give it my highest recommendation for reading to your school-aged kids.
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto — Maria is so excited for Christmas Eve! She’s especially excited to help make the tamales for Christmas dinner. However, her mood quickly turns when she decides to try on mother’s diamond ring for just a second…and she ends up losing it. What if it’s inside one of the tamales? This lovely book will introduce children to a Mexican family’s Christmas celebration, while at the same time exploring a familiar scenario of regret for breaking the rules.
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer — Stella doesn’t have a mom to bring to the Mother’s Day party at her school, and she’s not sure what to do about it. With some help from her friends, she decides to bring all of the people who take care of her, including her two parents, Daddy and Papa.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete — This book, based on the author’s own family, is told from the perspective of a sister whose twin brother has autism. Charlie’s brain works in a different way than most people’s, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, kind, or talented. Some things are hard for Charlie, but he also can do amazing things. Charlie is unique, and his family loves him just the way he is.
Remarkably You by Pat Zietlow Miller — “You might go unnoticed, or shine like a star, but wherever you go and whoever you are…don’t change how you act to be just like the rest. Believe in yourself and the things you do best.” This inspirational picture book features a diverse cast of characters, and a message that is perfect for kids of all ages — be yourself!
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander — This beautiful, poetic book encourages kids to read, whenever and however works best for them. A celebration of books and reading, this book is an excellent introduction to poetry for young readers, and the gorgeous illustrations add to the sense of wonder Alexander’s words evoke. This story is the perfect gift for any book lover, young or old.
Mitzvah Pizza by Sarah Lynn Scheerger — Ever since Hanukkah, Missy has been saving her allowance so she could treat Daddy to pizza on one of their special Saturdays together. However, when they get to the pizza shop, Missy meets a girl in line who needs help paying for her food. Missy has the chance to do a mitzvah, or good deed, for another person, and learns a valuable lesson about giving. This book was inspired by a real pizza parlor in Philadelphia where patrons can help pay for others meals.
Under My Hijab by Hena Khan — In this rhyming story, a little girl explores all the different ways the women in her family wear a hijab. Grandmother’s hijab is carefully folded under her chin; Mama tucks her pink hijab inside her doctor’s coat as she examines her patients. The little girl dreams about what she might grow up to be, and how she will wear her hijab to express herself.
Hands Up by Breanna J. McDaniel — What does it mean to put your hands up? This book follows a young black girl as she reaches up for her mother, reaches to grab a book off the shelf, reaches up to give high fives…as she grows, the things she reaches for are different, but she still puts her hands up. The book end with the young girl at a protest, standing alongside others to demand equal rights for all, with her hands up.
Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds — “The world needs your voice. If you have a brilliant idea… say something! If you see an injustice… say something!” This book is all about the power of using your voice! Author Peter H. Reynolds explores all the ways we can say something and use our voices for good. Saying something doesn’t just mean talking, you can speak through your artwork, your actions, your music, or your writing. I absolutely adore this book, and it’s dedicated to one of my personal heroes, Emma Gonzales.
Because by Mo Willems — Did you know that one small action can change the world? Because explores that concept in a impactful way. It highlights the power of our choices, the value of hard work, and how all of us are interconnected by the actions we take. Music is used to tell this story of “because,” but the concept relates to any area of life. Grown-ups will love this book as much as children; it made me tear up with emotion!
Holes in the Sky by Patricia Polacco — This book explores Polacco’s own childhood, and chronicles her family’s move to California. Trisha’s grandmother has just passed, and she’s dealing with grief while trying to adjust to her new home. Trisha finds a friend in her neighbor Stewart, and a surrogate grandmother in Miss Eula, who welcomes Trisha into their home. Together they work to help a neighbor, revive the garden during a drought, and to show love and friendship to their diverse neighborhood.
Going Home by Eve Bunting — Carlos’ parents tell him that the family is going home for Christmas — home being Mexico. But Mexico doesn’t feel like home to Carlos. He was born there, but he’s lived most of his life in the United States. Could Mexico ever feel like home for him? As Carlos meets family members and experiences the celebrations in the village of La Perla, he realizes that home is more than just a place. Home is a feeling, and the people that love you are what makes a place home.
Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales — This book is a letter full of love from a father to a daughter, explaining what it means to be both Muslim and Latina. He lets her know the types of questions she will most likely face, and encourages her to embrace all of who she is. As her father says, “Our prayers were here before any borders were.” This is a truly unique picture book that shows the complexity and beauty of having a multicultural identity.
America: A Book of Opposites by W. Nikola-Lisa — Written in both English and Spanish, this book features 10 different illustrators who use symbols of American to explore the concept of opposites. The gorgeous images paint a picture of America that is diverse and inclusive, all while teaching a basic understanding of what opposites mean.
Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman — Moses is hearing impaired, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy music! This book follows Moses and his school friends (who are also deaf) as they take a field trip to a children’s concert. Their teacher tells them there’s a special surprise at the concert, and the kids can’t wait to find out what it is! Children will love reading about Moses’ adventure, and will learn lots of new signs as they read.
Same, Same, but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw — Kailash and Elliott live in very different places, but many of the things they enjoy are the same. Through their pen-pal letters back and forth to each other, they learn about their different homes, but, more importantly, they learn about the man things they have in common, like their love for their pets. They are different, but they are also the same!
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale — Today’s architects and builders were once small children, building with blocks and other toys. This book shows all different kinds of children building with blocks alongside photos of beautiful buildings and structures. The book also includes references for all of the architecture featured, and quotes from celebrated architects and builders. It’s perfect for your little one who loves to build!
Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla — Sammy is having an awful day: the cafeteria ran out of pizza at lunch time, he got in trouble at recess, and he had to walk home in the rain. When he arrives home, he finds that his brother Benji, who is autistic, also had a bad day. Benji has a special box he hides in when he’s having a bad day, and Sammy finds himself getting jealous of Benji’s special space. How come no one cares when he has a bad day? It turns out someone does care, and the result is a special moment between brothers.
A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning — After her father died, Zettie and her mother moved from Jamaica to the United States. Mama is having trouble finding steady work, so Zettie and Mama must live in their car. Zettie is often scared, but her mother’s determination and bravery help her face the challenges of their situation. This book is both heartbreaking and beautiful, and it’s an excellent tool for discussing issues like poverty and homelessness with your children. I especially appreciate this book because it doesn’t romanticize poverty, but it also doesn’t strip the characters of their dignity.
A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu — Mei Mei watches her grandpa do Tai Chi in the garden, and decides she wants to join in the fun! She copies the moves that Gong Gong shows her, but adds her own style to each motion. Then, she shows Gong Gong some of the yoga positions that she has learned at school. This is a lovely story of sharing time with those you love and trying something new. It also has instructions for some of the motions feature in the story!
Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore — Cora loves being in the kitchen while her mother cooks, but because she’s the youngest, she never gets to really help with any of the important tasks. One day, when all of her older siblings have other plans, Cora finally gets her chance to be a real chef. She helps her mother cook pancit, her favorite noodle dish. She gets to do important things like shredding the chicken, and she is so proud of her work. The real test comes when Cora’s siblings get home; what will they think of her cooking? This fun book includes a recipe so you can make pancit at home!
Amazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins — This poetry anthology brings together the work of 16 celebrated children’s authors like Carole Boston Weatherford, Jane Yolen, and Nikki Grimes. Their words celebrate the emotions and experiences that unite all of us. It shows that, while there are all different types of people in the world, we all feel things like happiness, fear, anger, and love. The poems are short, but their words are powerful and impactful.
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin — Kameeka loves to hula-hoop, and she’s ready to challenge Jamara to be the Hula-Hoopin’ Queen of 139th Street. She’s so focused on her goal that she tries to skip out of her beloved neighbor Miz Adeline’s birthday party. When the party is almost ruined, Kameeka learns an important lesson about showing up for others.
Going Home, Coming Home by Truong Tran — Ami Chi is traveling with her family to Vietnam this summer, and she’s unsure about the trip. To her parents, Vietnam is home, but Ami was born in the United States, and visiting Vietnam doesn’t feel she’ll be “going back home.” However, when Ami arrives in Vietnam, she begins to understand that Vietnam is a part of her, even though she’s never lived there.
First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez — Chico and his family are migrant workers, moving all over California to harvest different types of crops. They’ve moved to a new town to harvest grapes, and Chico has enrolled in the third grade. He’s not particularly excited to go to school; he’d rather be working alongside his family. His first day of school is tough, but he is able to use the math skills he’s learned to best the bullies he encounters and build his confidence.
Seaside Dream by Janet Costa Bates — Cora is excited to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday, but she’s not sure what kind of gift to give. Grandma is so special, and Cora cannot think of a gift that is as special as Grandma is. A walk on the beach with Grandma helps Cora realize the perfect gift, and she’s able to do something that connects Grandma to her home country of Cape Verde.
Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen — Elizaebti has a new baby brother, and she decides that she needs a doll of her own to care for. She names her doll Eva, and she takes care of Eva in the same way that Mama cares for the new baby. This is a lovely story about welcoming a new sibling into the family.
The Have a Good Day Cafe by Frances Park and Ginger Park — Mike’s family operates a food cart where they sell things like bagels, orange juice, and hot dogs. When a similar cart sets up shop just down the street, the family worries that their business might fail. However, Grandma, who has just come from Korea to live with the family, has a great idea. Mike and Grandma wake up early, and instead of the traditional American treats, they cook Korean food to sell at the family food cart. This book is an excellent example about how we can learn about different cultures through the food they eat.
A Full Moon is Rising by Marilyn Singer — All around the world, different cultures recognize and celebrate the full moon. This book takes a look at several of these places and cultures, from New York City to the Bay of Fundy to Turkey to Israel and more. It also includes some facts about the moon and how it affects our life on earth.
Babu’s Song by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen — Bernardi lives in Tanzania with his grandfather, Babu. Babu makes toys, and Bernardi sells them at the market. They make enough to get by, but not enough to afford for Bernardi to go to school. One day, a tourist offers Bernardi a large amount of money for a toy — the only problem is, it’s the special music box that Babu made for him.
Allie’s Basketball Dream by Barbara E. Barber — Allie is so excited when her father brings home a basketball. She’s loved the game since her father took her to Madison Square Garden for the first time. She wants to be a professional basketball player one day. However, she faces some setbacks: the challenge of learning the game, the boys who refuse to play with her, her friends who think basketball is a “boys’ game.” Will Allie give up on her dream, or will she push through and keep trying?
Dear Juno by Soyung Pak — Juno’s grandmother lives far away, in Seoul. She can’t write in English, and Juno can’t write at all yet, but they find a way to communicate by exchanging letters and drawings. Juno’s parents read the letters to him, and he sends his grandmother drawings that show what is going on in his life. Because of his pictures, Grandmother knows Juno wants her to come visit. A toy plane sent in the mail shows Juno she is on her way.
In My Momma’s Kitchen by Jerdine Nolen — “Seems like everything good that happens in my house happens in my momma’s kitchen.” This sweet book shows that the family kitchen is more than a room; it is a gathering places where families come together. You’ll see a family celebrate weddings, college scholarships, late-night storytelling, and cooking together — all in the family kitchen. This book is a gorgeous celebration of African-American culture.
Armando and the Blue Tarp School by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Joseph — Armando and his family make their living as pepenadores, meaning the scavenge the city dump for items they can reuse, recycle, and resell to make money. Armando works hard for his family but he dreams of being able to go to school. One day Senor David comes to the dump, and he lays down a tarp and begins teaching the children at the city dump settlement. Armando learns math, reading, and art, his favorite. Armando has an opportunity to put his talents to work for the community, and the result is a real school building that the children can attend.
If you enjoyed this list of diverse picture books, you’ll love our newsletter! Sign up below:
This cover reveal is sponsored by The Children's Book Review. We're excited to participate in a cover reveal for the new book, What to Do About Your Monsters by Jessica Woo!...
For our first episode, I talked with my friend Keri about her experiences with adoption. Keri and her spouse are white, and their 7-year-old daughter is black. We talk about how Keri's journey...