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Literally Cultured’s 2019 “12 Days of Diverse Christmas Books” Reboot!

As I plan for this year’s winter book list and blog post of diverse titles, I couldn’t help but reminisce on the books I shared from last holiday season! This upcoming 2020 list will focus on a wider array of winter holidays and traditions, whereas last year’s picks were specifically chosen for Christmas.

Tis the season for warming up with a good book…and REPRESENTATION! Enjoy!

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison & Illustrated by Frank Morrison

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and a mother and daughter are enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season. The little girl hears sleigh bells ringing and carolers singing. She smells chestnuts roasting–CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!–and sees the flashing lights of the department store windows–BLING! BLING! BLING! She spreads the spirit of giving wherever she goes. And when she reaches Santa, she tells him her Christmas wish–for peace and love everywhere, all the days of the year.

Long Ago, on a Silent Night

Written by Julie Berry & Illustrated by Annie Won

Long ago, in a dusty barn, a mother took a child in her arms, wrapped him snug, made his bed in the hay. He was her gift that Christmas Day. There’s no sweeter gift than a life so new. My best gift, little one, is you.

In this poignant and lyrical story by Printz Honor recipient Julie Berry, the miracle of Christmas and the promise in every new child come together in a luminous celebration of unconditional love and hope. With tender, incandescent illustrations by Annie Won, the wonder of the nativity story and the marvel of every baby come alive in a wholly extraordinary book for families everywhere.

Roc and Roe’s 12 Days of Christmas

Written by Nick Cannon & Illustrated by AG Ford

Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey’s twins, Roc and Roe, decorate their Christmas tree with their “pip” version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

From an angel with sparkly, shiny wings to four skiing snowmen to twelve chugging choo-choos, Roc and Roe have a frolicking time getting ready for the holidays.

The Twelve Trains of Christmas

Written by Chrissy Bozik & Illustrated by Joe Bucco

This fun picture book shares twelve kinds of trains presented in the style of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” song

“On the third day of Christmas Santa gave to me, three streetcars, two maglevs, and an electric train with a fir tree. Choo-choo!”

A World of Cookies for Santa

Written by M.E. Furman & Illustrated by Susan Gal

A World of Cookies for Santa takes readers across the globe to see all the treats that await Santa on Christmas Eve. Head to the Philippines, where children leave out puto seko cookies and ginger tea for Santa; jet to Russia for a honey-spice cookie; then set out for Malawi for a sweet potato cookie! When you’ve returned home, the journey’s still not over—M. E. Furman provides recipes for children to bake some of Santa’s cookies for themselves.  
 
A World of Cookies for Santa is a multicultural celebration that families will return to year after year.
Winner of the American Book Fest Best Book Award and the Moonbeam Book Award!

Walk This World at Christmastime

Written by Big Picture Press & Illustrated by Debbie Powell

Let’s take a stroll around the world,
to all four corners of the globe.
Peek through windows, open doors,
watch as Christmastime unfolds . . .

A collection of global cultures, Walk This World at Christmastime illustrates the ways people around the world celebrate Christmas. Travel to a new set of countries with every turn of the page. Lift the numbered flaps for all the fun of an Advent calendar in a format to be read again and again.

A Very Noisy Christmas

Written by Tim Thornborough & Illustrated by Jennifer Davison

Some think that Christmas was a “Silent Night”. Far from it. It was filled with shouting, singing and screaming! It was as noisy as any of our Christmas celebrations.

This fun and fresh retelling of the Christmas story comes with sound effects so that children can join in as parents read to them. But it also shows children that at the heart of the Christmas story is something we should all be quiet and see: God’s son Jesus was born, so that we can be friends with God forever. Now that’s something worth shouting about!

Christmas Makes Me Think

Written by Tony Medina & Illustrated by Chandra Cox

The young narrator of Christmas Makes Me Think is thrilled with the holiday’s prospects: the presents he’s wishing for, the big tree he’s hoping to get, the cake he’ll bake with his grandmother. But he begins to wonder. What about the people who don’t get presents, or don’t even have a place to live? He soon realizes that he can make a difference by giving some of his presents to kids who have none. Chandra Cox’s bright collage art adds beauty to Tony Medina’s thoughtful message about community and caring.

Silent Night (The Christmas Choir)

By Lara Hawthorne

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright

Celebrate the magic of Christmas with this beautifully illustrated book, based on the world’s best-loved carol. Rediscover the Nativity Story in all its glory—from quaking shepherds to heaven-sent angels—as the song lyrics are brought to life on every spread. The world’s diversity is reflected in a cast of characters with a range of skin tones. A gorgeous book for all the family to share during the festive season.

Christmas in Lagos

Written by Sharon Abimbola Salu & Illustrated by Maria Nikla

It is ten days to Christmas, and also the last day of school.  Ranti, a six year old girl who lives in the West African city of Lagos, Nigeria, sits in class and listens to her classmates describe all the exciting, far-away places they will visit during the Christmas holidays.  Many of them will travel abroad for Christmas with their families.

Ranti feels left out, and believes that her Christmas will be the most boring Christmas ever because she will be spending it in the city where she lives: Lagos.  Because there is no snow in Lagos, she won’t go ice skating or build a frosty snowman.

However, with the encouragement of her class teacher, Miss Ani, Ranti starts a Christmas journal where she details all the amazing things that take place in the city of Lagos during Christmas.  Although there is no snow in Lagos, and no tower to visit, Ranti develops a newfound appreciation for Lagos, and discovers all the exciting reasons that make Christmas in Lagos so special. 

An Angel Just Like Me

Written by Mary Hoffman & Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Haw Hu

An inspiring text and festive illustrations highlight the story of Tyler’s quest to find a Christmas tree angel who does not have golden hair and pink skin, but rather looks like him and his family, is a unique Christmas story that celebrates ethnic diversity.

Snow Globe Wishes

Written by Erin Dealey & Illustrated by Claire Shorrock

As the worst snow storm of the year rolls in, one family hunkers down together in a cozy blanket fort for the night. A little girl makes a wish on a snow globe and, in the morning, the sun rises on a winter wonderland–beckoning all outside. And what if, on this snow-filled day, families shake their busy lives and everyone goes out to play? A lyrical holiday story about wishes and community and snow–lots and lots of snow.

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A Book List for Our Youngest Citizens: Future Voters & Change-makers

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As we anxiously await Election Day 2020 there is no better time to begin addressing questions such as these with our “future voters”:

What does it mean to be a good citizen?

What does it mean to be American?

and most importantly…What really makes America great?

This curated list of texts cover a variety of topics around citizenship, equality, voting rights, presidents, etc., as well as countless trailblazers and changemakers who forged a path to a more equal and just country. With these books we encourage our youngest citizens to remain hopeful and believe in the possibility of improving so that they, and future generations, will live in a better country and world than we do now.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Written by Rob Sanders & Illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr

Protesting. Standing up for what’s right. Uniting around the common good—kids have questions about all of these things they see and hear about each day. Through sparse and lyrical writing, Rob Sanders introduces abstract concepts like “fighting for what you believe in” and turns them into something actionable. Jared Schorr’s bold, bright illustrations brings the resistance to life making it clear that one person can make a difference. And together, we can accomplish anything.

V is for Voting

Written by Kate Farrell & Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald

V Is for Voting is an ABC book that introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

An engaging introduction to the tenets of democracy, V Is for Voting is a playful, poetic, and powerful primer about the importance of voting and activism. 

The Night Before Election Day

Written by Natasha Wing & Illustrated by Amy Wummer

Wave your flags! It’s time to vote! Election Day is right around the corner in the latest big moment to be celebrated in Natasha Wing’s best-selling series.

Yes! It’s almost here. And the big question is: Who will be our next president? Will our leader be a he or a she? A young citizen gives her take on politics and Election Day in this charming story (featuring a colorful sticker sheet!), told in the style of Clement C. Moore’s holiday poem.

Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America

Written by Deborah Diesen & Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

A right isn’t right
till it’s granted to all…

The founders of the United States declared that consent of the governed was a key part of their plan for the new nation. But for many years, only white men of means were allowed to vote. This unflinching and inspiring history of voting rights looks back at the activists who answered equality’s call, working tirelessly to secure the right for all to vote, and it also looks forward to the future and the work that still needs to be done.

Vote for Our Future!

Written by Margaret McNamara & Illustrated by Micah Player

Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, Stanton Elementary School closes for the day. For vacation? Nope! For repairs? No way! Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote! After all, voting is how this country sees change–and by voting today, we can inspire tomorrow’s voters to change the future.

The Power Book: What is it, Who has it, and Why?

Written by Claire Saunders, Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, Minna Salami, Mik Scarlet, and Hazel Songhurst & Illustrated by Joelle Avelino, Forward by Roxanne Gay

What makes you the boss of me? What makes a king a king, or a queen a queen? Why can some people vote for their leaders, but other people can’t? Does having lots of money make you powerful? Why are there fewer female scientists, leaders, and artists than men in history books?

These are things that kids wonder about. The Power Book answers these and other questions in a relatable way for young people, including thought-provoking discussions on challenging topics, like war, bullyingracismsexism, and homophobia. You will gain an understanding of your place in your family, your school, and the world, and will discover ways in which you can use your own power to shape the future.

I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference

Written by Mark Shulman & Illustrated by Serge Bloch

I Voted explains the concept of choosing, individually, and as a group, from making a simple choice: “Which do you like better, apples or oranges?”, to selecting a class pet, to even more complicated decisions, like electing community representatives.

You may not always get want you want, but there are strategies to better your odds!

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z

Written by Irene Latham & Charles Waters, Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

How can we make the world a better place? This inspiring resource for middle-grade readers is organized as a dictionary; each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect. For each word, there is a poem, a quote from an inspiring person, a personal anecdote from the authors, and a “try it” prompt for an activity.

Get Up, Stand Up

Adapted by Cedella Marley & Illustrated by John Jay Cabuay

A heartfelt and meaningful book that brings Bob Marley’s music to life in a new way: As a young girl goes on with her day in school, she comes across several instances of teasing and intimidation. But with loving action and some help from her friends, she’s able to make things right for herself and others.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

Written by James Weldon Johnson & Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

Written by civil rights leader and poet Johnson in 1899, this anthem is sung throughout America. The song is recognized as a testimonial to the struggle and achievements of African-American people – past, present, and future. Featuring stunning, emotionally charged paintings by an award-winning illustrator, this picture book is a treasure for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

When Penny Met Potus

Written by Rachel Ruiz & Illustrated Melissa Manwill

From debut author Rachel Ruiz, When Penny Met POTUS is a unique and clever picture book about a young girl whose mother works for the president of the United States. Penny has heard the term POTUS over and over but doesn’t know what it means―and her imagination runs wild! When she spends a day at the office with her mother, she asks a few questions, looks around, and tries to discover just who―or what― POTUS is.

Americans

Written by Douglas Wood & Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles

What really makes Americans great?

Americans are different from one another in many ways. But despite these differences, Americans share certain ways of doing and being that hold us all together. From the Fourth of July to the Bill of Rights, Douglas Wood and Elizabeth Sayles share the story of what it is to be American.

Grace for President

Written by Kelly DiPucchio & Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

“Where are the girls?” When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!

This timely story not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system but also teaches the value of hard work, courage, independent thought — and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Granddaddy’s Gift

Written by Margaree King Mitchell & Illustrated by Larry Johnson

When her granddaddy becomes the first Black registered voter in their small Mississippi town, Little Joe learn about determination and courage in the face of prejudice.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Don Tate

John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

Vote!

Written & Illustrated by Eileen Christelow

Eileen Christelow’s Vote! has everything you need to know about voting and how our democracy works—parties, voter registration, campaigns, rallies, debates, Election Day, even recounts! Topics are presented in a clear, kid-friendly graphic format as the story of a local election unfolds, with hilarious commentary by the candidates’ pets.

Rebel Voices: The Global Fight for Women’s Equality and the Right to Vote

Written by Eve Lloyd Knight & Illustrated by Louise Kay Stewart

A timely, beautiful and bold compendium of women around the world who said times up on inequality. Rule Breakers. Risk Takers. Rebel Women. Law Makers. This book is a celebration of women standing up, speaking out, and sticking together to battle inequality and win the vote. In January 2017, more than 3 million women around the world marched, demanding their voices be heard and their rights defended. Rebel Voices is a book about historical events, but truly for our times.

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Written by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

Based on the true story of one family’s struggle for voting rights in the civil rights–era South, this moving tale shines an emotional spotlight on a dark facet of U.S. history.

Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn’t a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what’s coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening—and sure enough, everyone is lined up at the town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn’t be more proud. But can Michael be patient when it seems that justice just can’t come soon enough? This powerful and touching true-life story shares one boy’s perspective of growing up in the segregated South, while beautiful illustrations depict the rural setting in tender detail.

This Is America: The American Spirit in Places and People

Written by Don Robb & Illustrated by Joy Pratt

What is America? It’s the special places that remind us of important events. It’s the people who have dedicated themselves to improving our country. And most of all, it’s the ideals and beliefs that we share. Informative text and bold scratchboard illustrations pay homage to our country’s past and present.

Features a diverse collection of historical figures from science, entertainment, politics, and education.

ABC What an Informed Voter You’ll Be! 

Written by Modern Kid Press & Illustrated by Jacy Corral

In this A to Z overview of American government, children will be introduced to the structures of government, influential leaders in US history, and individual freedoms afforded to all people.

With topics ranging from the Constitution to Democracy to the Electoral College, complex subjects are simplified with engaging writing and eye-catching illustrations. Even young elementary children will be excited to learn what it means to be an American!

Small and mighty, this book will help raise up the next generation of engaged, informed, VOTING Americans prepared to exercise their democratic rights.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice.

So what do you do with a voice like that?

Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice.

What Does It Mean to Be American?

Written by Rana DiOrio & Elad Yoran, Illustrated by Nina Mata

What does it mean to be American? Does it mean you like apple pie or fireworks? Not exactly.

This patriotic picture book is perfect for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Election Day, or any day you want to share with your child what it means to be an American. After all, Fourth of July isn’t the only time to celebrate what makes America special!

While politics seem to divide our country into the two opposing teams of red and blue, one truth remains: we are all Americans. But what does that mean?

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders

Sixteen award-winning children’s book artists illustrate the civil rights quotations that inspire them in this stirring and beautiful book. Featuring an introduction by Harry Belafonte, words from Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. among others, this inspirational collection sets a powerful example for generations of young leaders to come. It includes illustrations by Selina Alko, Alina Chau, Lisa Congdon, Emily Hughes, Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Innosanto Nagara, Christopher Silas Neal, John Parra, Brian Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls, Dan Santat, Shadra Strickland, Melissa Sweet, and Raúl the Third.

The Teachers March!: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History

Written by Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace, Illustrated by Charly Palmer

Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were viewed with great respect in the city. Could he convince them to risk their jobs–and perhaps their lives–by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? On January 22, 1965, the Black teachers left their classrooms and did just that, with Reverend Reese leading the way. Noted nonfiction authors Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace conducted the last interviews with Reverend Reese before his death in 2018 and interviewed several teachers and their family members in order to tell this story, which is especially important today.

Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote

Written by Veronica Chambers & The Staff of The New York Times

Who was at the forefront of women’s right to vote? We know a few famous names, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but what about so many others from diverse backgrounds—black, Asian, Latinx, Native American, and more—who helped lead the fight for suffrage? On the hundredth anniversary of the historic win for women’s rights, it’s time to celebrate the names and stories of the women whose stories have yet to be told.

How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea

Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti & Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

From Newbery Honor medalist Susan Campbell Bartoletti and in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America comes the page-turning, stunningly illustrated, and tirelessly researched story of the little-known DC Women’s March of 1913.

Bartoletti spins a story like few others—deftly taking readers by the hand and introducing them to suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Paul and Burns met in a London jail and fought their way through hunger strikes, jail time, and much more to win a long, difficult victory for America and its women.

Citizen Baby: My Vote

Written by Megan E. Bryant & Daniel Prosterman, Illustrated by Micah Player

Citizen Baby knows a thing or two about voting. It’s important to meet the candidates (they love babies!) and to call voters. Plus, you get a sticker at the polls! Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about voting in this adorable, informative board book.

Citizen Baby: My President

Written by Megan E. Bryant & Daniel Prosterman, Illustrated by Micah Player

What does the president do all day? Citizen Baby knows! Learn all about the most powerful person in the world from the most powerful person in the household. Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about the presidency in this adorable, informative board book.

We Came to America

Written & Illustrated by Faith Ringgold

From the Native Americans who first called this land their home, to the millions of people who have flocked to its shores ever since, America is a country rich in diversity. Some of our ancestors were driven by dreams and hope. Others came in chains, or were escaping poverty or persecution. No matter what brought them here, each person embodied a unique gift—their art and music, their determination and grit, their stories and their culture. And together they forever shaped the country we all call home. Vividly expressed in Faith Ringgold’s sumptuous colors and patterns, We Came to America is an ode to every American who came before us, and a tribute to each child who will carry its proud message of diversity into our nation’s future.

Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker 

Written by Patricia Hruby & Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

“What do you hope to accomplish?” asked Ella Baker’s granddaddy when she was still a child.
Her mother provided the answer: “Lift as you climb.”

Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.

When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

Written & Illustrated by Maya Gonzalez

Bullying is real, but we can change the story by changing the focus. Begin with yourself. Begin the journey of art activist. You are the artist. You are the storyteller. Change yourself. Change the world!

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

Written by Kate Messner & Illustrated by Adam Rex

Who will be the NEXT president? Could it be you? When George Washington became the first president of the United States, there were nine future presidents already alive in America, doing things like practicing law or studying medicine.

When JFK became the thirty-fifth president, there were 10 future presidents already alive in America, doing things like hosting TV shows and learning the saxophone.

And right now—today!—there are at least 10 future presidents alive in America. They could be playing basketball, like Barack Obama, or helping in the garden, like Dwight D. Eisenhower. They could be solving math problems or reading books. They could be making art—or already making change.

Her Right Foot

Written by Dave Eggers & Illustrated by Shawn Harris

If you had to name a statue, any statue, odds are good you’d mention the Statue of Liberty. Have you seen her?

She’s in New York.
She’s holding a torch.
And she’s in mid-stride, moving forward.
But why?

In this fascinating and fun take on nonfiction for kids, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential of an entire country’s creation.

What Can A Citizen Do?

Written by Dave Eggers & Illustrated by Shawn Harris

This is a book about what citizenship—good citizenship—means to you, and to us all: Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community—and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Written by Barack Obama & Illustrated by Loren Long

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.

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35 Diverse & Inclusive Books for ‘Back to School’

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Hello Literally Cultured Readers!

Wow! I can’t believe a new school year is upon us, and whether a teacher, parent, or a caregiver — will be one that will surely be different than we have ever experienced before. I myself am gearing up for returning to school as full-time online teacher. Among the myriad of concerns I have, probably the biggest one is how to effectively build an online classroom community.

While building community was at the forefront of my mind in curating this list, as you know, representation and diversity in my picture book selections has always been my top priority. I kept these two goals in mind when selecting the books on this list. Even as a 4th grade teacher, picture book read alouds are a MUST. I am always looking for new or new (to me) titles that will resonate with my students and my own children — and in this case, that touch upon important social situations, emotions, feelings, and interactions within the school setting. Additionally, because many teachers like myself will not be in a brick and mortar classroom, I have included online versions of the texts that are available to read for free (for educators) on Epic.com. Click on the Epic logo when you see it to be redirected to the book on the website.

Still want more? Check out my “Back to School” book list from 2019 here!

Thank you for continuing to explore my book recommendations and I hope you have a safe and fun start to the school year!

Happy Reading,

Shannon

All Welcome Here

Written by James Preller & Illustrated by Mary GrandPre

The bus door swishes
Open, an invitation.
Someone is not sure . . .

The first day of school and all its excitement, challenges, and yes, anxieties, are celebrated here in connected haiku poems. A diverse cast of characters all start―and finish―their first days of school, and have experiences that all children will relate to.

ABC Ready for School: An Alphabet of Social Skills

Written by Celeste Delaney & Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

C is for cooperate. G is for grow. P is for play! This friendly and reassuring alphabet book helps young children (and those who care for them) consider, explore, and discuss a wide range of skills related to school readiness. Kids preparing for kindergarten or preK will learn social skills from A to Z, building or reinforcing their knowledge of the alphabet at the same time. Charming art brings the skills to life with encouraging scenes of fun and learning in the classroom, on the playground, and more. A special section for adults presents ideas for helping children get ready for this big change and have a successful start to school.

Grandmother School

Written by Rina Singh & Illustrated by Ellen Rooney

Every morning, a young girl walks her grandmother to the Aajibaichi Shala, the school that was built for the grandmothers in her village to have a place to learn to read and write. The narrator beams with pride as she drops her grandmother off with the other aajis to practice the alphabet and learn simple arithmetic. A moving story about family, women and the power of education―when Aaji learns to spell her name you’ll want to dance along with her. Based on a true story from the village of Phangane, India, this brilliantly illustrated book tells the story of the grandmothers who got to go to school for the first time in their lives.

When Charley Met Emma

Written by Amy Webb & Illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard

When Charley goes to the playground and sees Emma, a girl with limb differences who gets around in a wheelchair, he doesn’t know how to react at first. But after he and Emma start talking, he learns that different isn’t bad, sad, or strange–different is just different, and different is great!

This delightful book will help kids think about disability, kindness, and how to behave when they meet someone who is different from them.

Butterflies on the First Day of School

Written by Annie Silvestro & Illustrated by Dream Chen

Rosie can’t wait to start kindergarten—she’s had her pencils sharpened and her backpack ready for weeks. But suddenly, on the night before the big day, her tummy hurts. Rosie’s mom reassures her that it’s just butterflies in her belly, and she’ll feel better soon. Much to Rosie’s surprise, when she says hello to a new friend on the bus, a butterfly flies out of her mouth! As the day goes on, Rosie frees all her butterflies, and even helps another shy student let go of hers, too.

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Written & Illustrated by Anna Kim

Danbi is thrilled to start her new school in America. But a bit nervous too, for when she walks into the classroom, everything goes quiet. Everyone stares. Danbi wants to join in the dances and the games, but she doesn’t know the rules and just can’t get anything right. Luckily, she isn’t one to give up. With a spark of imagination, she makes up a new game and leads her classmates on a parade to remember! Danbi Leads the School Parade introduces readers to an irresistible new character. In this first story, she learns to navigate her two cultures and realizes that when you open your world to others, their world opens up to you.

I Am Because I Choose

Written by Patrice McLaurin & Illustrated by Dian Wang

I Am Because I Choose is an engaging picture book that encourages children to embrace their most amazing SUPERPOWER which is their power to CHOOSE! Each page demonstrates how children can become whatever it is that they choose to be while highlighting the positive consequences that can result from making good choices! The book is also a wonderful Social Emotional Learning tool that can be easily used to help facilitate the core competencies of SEL. It fosters an understanding of the important connection between behavior and personal choice, thus promoting self-awareness, which consequently results in better decision making. Furthermore, it emboldens children with the knowledge that they get to choose how they behave and empowers them by allowing for ownership of their choices. This will ultimately work to assist children in eliminating the urge to blame others for what it is that they choose to do. 

a kids book about bullying

Written by Elizabeth Tom

Sometimes kids can be mean. Really mean. While sticks and stones might break some bones, words will always hurt more.  This book explores how hard bullying can be and how complicated it can be to call it what it is when it’s happening.  

Our Class is a Family

Written by Shannon Olsen & Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

Teachers do so much more than just teach academics. They build a sense of community within their classrooms, creating a home away from home where they make their students feel safe, included, and loved.

With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.

I Promise

Written by LeBron James & Illustrated by Nina Mata

Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close.

I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today.

Where’s Rodney?

Written by Carmen Bogan & Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Rodney is that kid who just can’t sit still. He’s inside, but he wants to be outside. Outside is where Rodney always wants to be. Between school and home, there is a park. He knows all about that park. It’s that triangle-shaped place with the yellow grass and two benches where grown-ups sit around all day. Besides, his momma said to stay away from that park. When Rodney finally gets a chance to go to a real park, with plenty of room to run and climb and shout, and to just be himself, he will never be the same.

I’m Gonna Push Through!

Written by Jasmyn Wright & Illustrated by Shannon Wright

Hold your head high. No matter what stands in the way of your dreams, remember this: YOU can push through anything!
If someone tells you it’s too hard, don’t you 
ever listen. You tell them, “I’m gonna push through!”

Inspired by a mantra written for her third-grade students, Jasmyn Wright’s uplifting call to “push through” is an invitation to young readers to announce their own power and to recognize and reaffirm that of others, regardless of setbacks. Her empowering words not only lift children up, but show them how to lift themselves up and seize their potential.

Your Name is a Song

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow & Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.

My Name is Bilal

Written by  Asma Mobin-Uddin MD M.D. & Illustrated by Barbara Kiwak

When Bilal and his sister Ayesha move with their family, they have to attend a new school. They soon find out that they may be the only Muslim students there. When Bilal sees his sister bullied on their first day, he worries about being teased himself, and thinks it might be best if his classmates didn’t know that he is Muslim. Maybe if he tells kids his name is Bill, rather than Bilal, then they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal’s teachers and also Muslim, sees how Bilal is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy grappling with his identity.

S is for School

by Greg Paprocki

An ABC primer that introduces your brilliant baby to what to expect when they’re ready to go to school.

Lots of kids look forward to going back to school each fall. This collection of 26 illustrations featuring words from A to Z will introduce toddlers to what all the fuss is about in a unique and engaging way. Included are artist Greg Paprocki’s colorful and wonderfully detailed illustrations that bring to life concepts from the school bus to the classroom, including activities, school subjects, friends, classmates, and teachers.

Oopsie-Do!

Written by Tim Kubart & Illustrated by Lori Richmond

From Grammy Award–winning musician and TV host Tim Kubart and illustrator Lori Richmond comes a lively picture book debut that reassures children that it’s okay to make mistakes!

When a girl drops her snack or scrapes her knee, does she get upset? No! She says, “Oopsie-do!” Readers will delight as they follow along and call out the OOPSIE-DO! refrain throughout the story.

Goodbye Brings Hello

Written by Dianne White & Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

There are many ways of letting go. 
With each goodbye, a new hello.

From being pushed on a swing to learning how to pump your legs yourself, from riding a beloved trike to mastering your first bike ride, from leaving the comforts of home behind to venturing forth on that first day of school, milestones are exciting but hard. They mean having to say goodbye to one moment in order to welcome the next.   
  

The Unicorn Came to Dinner

Written by Lauren DeStefano & Illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

The unicorn smells nice, but she is very rude. She never waits for an invitation to come over―she walks right in and tracks heart-shaped hoof-prints across the carpet. She sits in Elizabeth’s chair and makes a complete mess of the house. She even sleeps in Elizabeth’s bed.

But the unicorn is no ordinary unicorn . . .

In The Unicorn Came to Dinner, author Lauren DeStefano and illustrator Gaia Cornwall invite parents and their kids to talk about feelings―especially worries and anxiety―and ultimately about how to be yourself.

All Are Welcome

Written by Alexandra Penfold & Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

Discover a school where—no matter what—young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.

a kids book about belonging

Written by Kevin Carroll

This is a book about belonging. It tackles what it’s like when you feel like you belong to a group or family or team and what it’s like when you don’t. It addresses what it feels like when you don’t fit in, or when others don’t want you around. This book teaches kids how to belong to themselves and how that helps them belong anywhere.

Fun and Games: Everyday Play

Written by Celeste Cortwright & Illustrated by Sophie Fatus

Follow a diverse group of children as they enjoy their favorite games! Readers can delight in familiar play like hide-and-seek to more unusual activities like tangrams, all while learning about the importance of taking turns and participating. Includes educational endnotes about the cultural origins of the featured games and toys.

From Far Away

Written by Robert Munsch & Saoussan Askar, Illustrated by Rebecca Green

When Saoussan immigrated with her family from war-torn Lebanon, she was only seven years old. This picture book tells the story of how she had to adjust to her new home in Canada. She describes the frustration of not understanding the teacher when she started school, not knowing how to ask to go to the bathroom, and being terrified of a Halloween skeleton. This is the perfect book to help kids empathize with immigrant children whose experiences are very similar to Saoussan’s.

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth

Written by Patricia C. McKissack & Illustrated by Giselle Potter

If telling the truth is the right thing to do, why is the whole world mad at Libby?

“Tell the truth and shame the devil,” Libby’s mama has told her. So whatever is Libby doing wrong? Ever since she started telling only the truth, the whole world seems to be mad at her. First it’s her best friend, Ruthie Mae, who gets upset when Libby tells all their friends that Ruthie Mae has a hole in her sock. Then Willie gives her an ugly look when she tells the teacher he hasn’t done his homework. It seems that telling the truth isn’t always so simple.

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller & Illustrated by Jen Hill

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind?

From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference―or at least help a friend.

With a gentle text from the award-winning author of Sophie’s Squash, Pat Zietlow Miller, and irresistible art from Jen Hill, Be Kind is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.

The Day You Begin

Written by Jacqueline Woodson & Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Book or Bell?: The Story of a boy, a great book, and a loud bell

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Ashley Spires

The first page has Henry hooked. The second page has him captivated. The third page . . .

BBBBRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG! . . . will have to wait. That is, unless Henry ignores the bell, stays put, and keeps on reading the most awesome book.

By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry sets off a chain reaction unlike anything his school or town has ever seen. Luckily, Mayor Wise, Governor Bright, and Senator Brilliant know exactly what the situation calls for: A louder bell. MUCH louder.

My Panda Sweater

Written by Gilles Baum & Illustrated by Barroux

A quirky kid doesn’t mind too much when classmates tease her for dancing in her beloved sweater with panda ears. When she outgrows the sweater and donates it, she starts to think about the stories behind the clothing she sees. When she sees her panda sweater again, this time being worn by a new classmate who recently moved to town looking for a safer place to live, she knows she’s found a new dance partner. Brought to life by sweet, quirky artwork by beloved French illustrator Barroux, this timely story addresses difficult topics, such as immigration, with a light, engaging and child-friendly approach. It also offers the perfect opportunity to start conversations about a wide range of important subjects for social-emotional growth: bullying, friendship, sharing, new experiences and self-confidence.

Our Favorite Day of the Year

Written by A.E. Ali & Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

Musa’s feeling nervous about his first day of school. He’s not used to being away from home and he doesn’t know any of the other kids in his class. And when he meets classmates Moisés, Mo, and Kevin, Musa isn’t sure they’ll have much in common. But over the course of the year, the four boys learn more about each other, the holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and what they like about school. The more they share with each other, the closer they become, until Musa can’t imagine any better friends.

Greetings, Leroy

Written by Itah Sadu & Illustrated by Alix Delinois

The first day at a new school is nerve-wracking enough, never mind when it’s in a new country! In this lively picture book from award-winning storyteller Itah Sadu, Roy realizes he may come to love his new home as much as he loves his old home.

Rulers of the Playground

Written & Illustrated by Joseph Kuefler

One morning, Jonah decided to become ruler of the playground.

Everyone agreed to obey his rules to play in King Jonah’s kingdom . . .

Everyone except for Lennox . . . because she wanted to rule the playground, too.

I Got the School Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison & Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Summer is over, and this little girl has got the school spirit! She hears the school spirit in the bus driving up the street–VROOM, VROOM!–and in the bell sounding in the halls–RING-A-DING! She sings the school spirit in class with her friends–ABC, 123!

The school spirit helps us all strive and grow. What will you learn today?

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices

Written by Sally Derby & Illustrated by Mika Song

In a unique narrative, readers meet a diverse group of six children ranging in age from Kindergarten through fifth grade. With nerves and excitement each child gears up for a new school year by hustling in the morning, meeting new teachers and new classmates during the day, and heading home with homework and relief by day’s end.

Simple, bright illustrations focus on each child and his/her worries, hopes, and successes on the first day of school.

David Jumps In

Written by Alan Woo & Illustrated by Katty Maurey

This lyrical tale, written in simple free verse, tells how a game with roots in ancient China — called elastic skip in this story — helps a boy find his footing on his first day at a new school.

It is David’s first day at his brand-new school. He doesn’t know anyone. At recess, he stands alone and watches the other children enjoying their activities on the playground, from practicing soccer moves and climbing monkey bars to playing hopscotch and daydreaming in the grass. Bundled deep inside David’s pocket is a string of rubber bands, knotted and ready for a game of elastic skip. But will anyone want to try that game? he wonders. Will anyone want to play with him?

Ruby’s Walk to School

Written by Kathryn White & Illustrated by Miriam Latimer

It’s Ruby’s first day at school, and it feels like there are beasts lurking around every corner! How will Mom help her find her courage? Ruby and Mom’s adventures open the door for caregivers to ask children about their anxieties about new experiences.

Lola Goes to School

Written by Anna McQuinn & Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Lola and her family prepare for the first day of school the night before, then get up early, take pictures, and head to class. Lola puts her things in her cubby, chooses her activities, reads, plays, and has a snack. Before she knows it, it’s time to sing the good-bye song and rush into Mommy’s arms for a warm reunion. A comforting, cheerful read that demystifies the school day for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

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Multiracial Representation: Books highlighting interracial families & the biracial experience

Featured

At this point I’m sure that it is no secret that I am a momma of three biracial (black and white) boys, and am constantly looking for books that they can connect to. The following selection of picture books directly accomplishes one of the following:

  1. biracial and/or multiracial identity and addressing the concept of race
  2. books that depict multiracial and interracial families as characters within typical children’s book narratives

Not only is it important for my sons to see themselves in the books they read but it is also equally important for their non-biracial counterparts and peers. All children should have access to books that don’t depict BIPOC characters as a monolith or in stereotypical narratives. These books are great starting points for conversation with young children inside and outside the classroom, helping to foster understanding, acceptance, and eventually celebration of those that are different than themselves.

Mixed Me!

Written by Taye Diggs & Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Mom and Dad say I’m a blend of dark and light:
“We mixed you perfectly, and got you just right.”

Mike has awesome hair. He has LOTS of energy! His parents love him. And Mike is a PERFECT blend of the two of them.

Still, Mike has to answer LOTS of questions about being mixed. And he does, with LOTS of energy and joy in this charming story about a day in the life of a mixed-race child.

I’m Mixed!

Written by Maggy Williams & Illustrated by Elizabeth Hasegawa Agresta

Growing up as a biracial child, Maggy Williams had three options: she could identify as black, white, or mixed. She chose to embrace her multiracial heritage because she was taught that she could. Her hope is that this book will help children to realize that it is possible to integrate their multiple racial identities.

black is brown is tan

Written by Arnold Adoff & Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Brown-skinned mama, the color of chocolate milk and pumpkin pie. White-skinned daddy, not the color of milk or snow, but light with pinks and tiny tans. And their two children, the beautiful colors of both.

For an all-American family, full of joy, warmth, and love, this is the way it is for us / this is the way we are

When it was first published in 1973, black is brown is tan featured the first interracial family in children’s books. Decades later, Arnold Adoff’s and Emily Arnold McCully’s picture book continues to offer a joyous and loving celebration of all the colors of the race, now newly embellished with bright watercolor paintings that depict a contemporary family of the twenty-first century.

Me and My Family Tree

Written by Joan Sweeney & Illustrated by Emma Trithart

Who is part of your family? How are they related to you? 

In this edition of Me and My Family Tree, with new art by Emma Trithart, a young girl uses simple language, her own childlike drawings, and diagrams to explain how the members of her family are related to each other and to her. Clear, colorful, detailed artwork and a fill-in family tree in the back help make the parts of the family–from siblings to grandparents to cousins–understandable to very young readers.

Mixed: A Colorful Story

Written & Illustrated by Arree Chung

In the beginning, there were three colors . . .

Reds,

Yellows,

and Blues.

All special in their own ways, all living in harmony―until one day, a Red says “Reds are the best!” and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds?

A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match: Marisol McDonald no combina

Written by Monica Brown & Illustrated by Sara Palacios

My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.

Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don’t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess—she’ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess, thank you very much. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

Unfortunately, they don’t always make sense to everyone else. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just be one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.

I Am Mixed (I Am Book)

Written by Garcelle Beauvais & Sebastian Jones & Illustrated by James C. Webster

Jay and Nia are the children of two worlds, and as they will discover, they can enjoy the best of both. From Mommy’s jazz beats to Daddy’s classical piano, we will dance with the twins through a book that explores what it is to be of mixed ancestry, proving that a child is more than the sum of their parents.

Spork

Written by Kyo Maclear & Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

When you’re a little bit spoon and little bit fork, where do you go when the table is set? A funny “multi-cutlery” tale for everyone who has ever wondered about their place in the world.

Spork is neither spoon nor fork but, rather, a bit of both. His (spoon) mother and (fork) father think he’s perfect just the way he is. Only, Spork stands out. All the other cutlery belongs with those like themselves, and they all have a specific purpose. Spork tries fitting in with the spoons, and then with the forks, but he isn’t quite enough like either. Instead, he watches from the drawer at dinnertime as the others get to play with the food and then enjoy a nice warm bath in the sink. But one morning, a “messy thing” arrives. A thing that has obviously never heard of cutlery customs or table manners. Will Spork finally find his place at the table?

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

Written by Selina Alko & Illustrated by Sean Qualls

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.

This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!

Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids

Words & Art by Kip Fulbeck

From beloved writer and artist Kip Fulbeck, author of Part Asian, 100% Hapa, this timely collection of portraits celebrates the faces and voices of mixed-race children. At a time when 7 million people in the U.S. alone identify as belonging to more than one race, interest in issues of multiracial identity is rapidly growing. Overflowing with uplifting elements—including charming images, handwritten statements from the children, first-person text from their parents, a foreword by Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng (President Obama’s sister), and an afterword by international star Cher (who is part Cherokee)—this volume is an inspiring vision of the future.

Lulu the One and Only

Written by Lynnette Mawhinney & Illustrated by Jennie Poh

Lulu loves her family, but people are always asking: What are you?

Lulu hates that question. Her brother inspires her to come up with a power phrase so she can easily express who she is, not what she is.  

Includes a note from the author, sharing her experience as the only biracial person in her family and advice for navigating the complexity of when both parents do not share the same racial identity as their children.

Maisie’s Scrapbook

Written by Samuel Narh & Illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher

As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada’s tall tales. Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba.They come from different places, but they hug her in the same way. And most of all, they love her just the same. A joyful celebration of a mixed-race family and the love that binds us all together.

Two Mrs. Gibsons

Written by Toyomi Igus & Illustrated by Daryl Wells

Two Mrs. Gibsons is author Toyomi Igus’s tender and touching tribute to the two most important women in her life, her Japanese mother and her African-American grandmother. In it, Toyomi celebrates the richness of growing up biracial. From her grandmother’s big bear hugs to her mother’s light caresses, from playing with her grandmother’s fancy Sunday-meetin’ hats to trying on her mother’s kimono, the author conveys the warmth of these special relationships.

Black White, Just Right!

Written by Marguerite W. Davol & Illustrated by Irene Trivas

This simple story celebrates how the differences between one mother and father blend to make the perfect combination in their daughter. As this little family moves through the world, the girl notes some of the ways that her parents are different from each other, and how she is different from both of them. With each difference she lists, she highlights the ways that their individual characteristics join together to make her family. The fact that her mother is African American and her father is white is just one of the many interesting things that make this little girl and her family “just right.”

An African Princess

Written by Lyra Edmonds & Illustrated by Anne Wilson

I walk tall and say, “I’m Lyra. I’m an African princess. That’s me.”

Lyra’s mama tells her that she’s a princess from Africa. But at school the kids poke fun and call her silly. How many African princesses have freckles and live on the tenth floor? But on a visit to the Caribbean, Lyra meets her Taunte May, who shows Lyra how she is one in a long line of princesses from Africa. Based on author Lyra Edmonds’s own life and beautifully illustrated with Anne Wilson’s richly textured art, this is the wonderful story of a child who learns to be proud of who she is.

I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother

Written & Illustrated by Selina Alko

In this delightfully engaging picture book, our narrator, big brother, uses his boundless imagination to wonder what his new sibling will look like.

Baby brother or sister, will you look like me? I blend from semisweet dark
Daddy chocolate bar and strawberry cream Mama’s milk.
My hair is soft crunchy billows of cotton candy.
I’m your peanut butter big-brother-to-be.

Selina Alko’s lyrical and jazz-like text, matched with the vibrant energy of her illustrations, perfectly captures the excitement of a new baby for an older sibling, while celebrating the genuine love of family.

Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color

Written by Monique Fields & Illustrated by Yesenia Moises

A young biracial girl looks around her world for her color. She finally chooses her own, and creates a new word for herself―honeysmoke.

Simone wants a color.

She asks Mama, “Am I black or white?”

“Boo,” Mama says, just like mamas do, “a color is just a word.”

She asks Daddy, “Am I black or white?”

“Well,” Daddy says, just like daddies do, “you’re a little bit of both.”

For multiracial children, and all children everywhere, this picture book offers a universal message that empowers young people to create their own self-identity.

Real Sisters Pretend

Written by Megan Dowd Lambert & Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

This warm, engaging story, which unfolds entirely through the conversation of two adopted sisters, was inspired by the author’s own daughters, whom she overheard talking about how adoption made them “real sisters” even though they have different birth parents and do not look alike.

Marvelous Maravilloso: Me and My Beautiful Family

Written by Carrie Lara & Illustrated by Christine Battuz

The world is full of different colors…hundreds of colors, everywhere.
People are different colors too. Our colors make us beautiful and unique.
Mommy says it is part of our culture and the big word diversity — diversidad.

Marvelous Maravilloso follows a young girl as she finds joy in the colors of the world all around her. Her vantage point is particularly special as she comes from a bi-cultural family, and is able to appreciate the differences between her parents, as well as her own unique and beautiful color. As she is coming into her own identity and exploring what this means for her, she comes to appreciate how all families are uniquely beautiful.

Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers about celebrating the different kinds of people and families there are in the world.

The Heart of Mi Familia

Written by Carrie Lara & Illustrated by Christine Battuz

Follow a young girl as she works with her abuela and her grandma to create a wonderful birthday present for her brother that celebrates her multicultural family and honors both sides and generations of her family. This follow up to the award winning Marvelous Maravilliso: Me and My Beautiful Family is a must-read for all families.

French Toast

Written by Kari-Lynn Winters & Illustrated by Francois Thisdale

Phoebe―half Jamaican, half French-Canadian―hates her school nickname of “French Toast.” So she is mortified when, out on a walk with her Jamaican grandmother, she hears a classmate shout it out at her. To make things worse, Nan-Ma, who is blind, wants an explanation of the name. How can Phoebe describe the color of her skin to someone who has never seen it? “Like tea, after you’ve added the milk,” she says. And her father? “Like warm banana bread.” And Nan-Ma herself? She is like maple syrup poured over…well…

In French Toast, Kari-Lynn Winters uses descriptions of favorite foods from both of Phoebe’s cultures to celebrate the varied skin tones of her family. François Thisdale’s imaginative illustrations fill the landscape with whimsy and mouthwatering delight as Phoebe realizes her own resilience and takes ownership of her nickname proudly.

“Daddy Why Am I Brown?”: A healthy conversation about skin color and family

Written by Bedford Palmer & Illustrated by Winda Mulyasari

Joy lives in a diverse world and comes from a multicultural family. It is only natural for her to have some questions. Join Joy as she learns how to describe skin color, and about how her skin color can tell her about where her family is from, but not really about who they are. “Daddy Why Am I Brown?” is meant to be a starter conversation on how kids can learn to talk about skin color in a way that is kind, thoughtful, and healthy. And in the process, they learn a little bit about how to understand the difference between race, ethnicity, and culture.

Biracial, Multiracial & Interracial Representation in Picture Books

Oscar’s Half Birthday

Written & Illustrated by Bob Graham

Oscar is six months old today, but the truth is that no one can wait for his whole birthday. So there’s nothing else for Mom and Dad to do but pack some sandwiches, park Oscar in his stroller, and take older sister Millie — handmade fairy wings attached — to the “half country” of their urban park for a half-birthday party. As always in the warm, quirky world of Bob Graham, the joy is in the details — a stop in a graffitied tunnel as the train rushes overhead; the expressions on Oscar’s face as he watches a single leaf fall; the little half candle on his cake; and the impromptu gathering of admiring park visitors who join, one by one, in the hearty birthday song. With his jaunty watercolors full of charming surprises and a gently humorous text, Bob Graham creates an endearing, unconventional family readers will be happy to meet, and they’ll be tickled to join in their celebration.

Ten Tiny Tickles

Written & Illustrated by Karen Katz

From one tiny tickle on a lovely little head to ten twirling tickles on tender tubby toes, this book counts up the number of tickles each member of the family gives from one to ten! This charming Karen Katz board book with a counting concept is perfect for sharing with even the youngest readers!

Fussy Freya

Written by Katharine Quarmby & Illustrated by Piet Grobler

The old Freya loved nothing more than a delicious meal. The new one has suddenly decided that food is not nice and that she won’t take a single bite that night, or the next night, or the next! Before long, Mum and Dad are at their wits’ end. But Grandma and Grandpa have seen the problem before, and they may hold the key to changing the stubborn little girl’s mind. Fussy Freya uses a whimsical narrative and charming illustrations to explore a common childhood problem. In the process, it sensitively depicts a multicultural family and its cuisine, showcasing both parents’ and grandparents’ relationships with a child.

Shopping with Dad

Written by Matt Harvey & Illustrated by Miriam Latimer

It’s Saturday, and one small girl and her Dad are heading for the supermarket while Mom is working. It’s so exciting! How can she contain herself? She tries but she can’t! An enormous sneeze sets in motion a small calamity, and Dad gets the blame. But when his daughter speaks up and takes responsibility for her actions, the mood changes… Fast-paced, funny with a simple, uplifting message, this playful rhyming read-aloud is guaranteed to have you laughing out loud!

Cinnamon Baby

Written by Nicola Winstanley & Illustrated by Janice Nadeau

A contemporary fable about a magical remedy for a baby who won’t stop crying. Miriam is a baker whose bread is full of smells to make your nose twitch and tastes to make your tongue tingle. Miriam’s own favorite cinnamon bread so delights Sebastian, a musician who enters her shop, that he buys it every day for a year and then asks her to marry him. After a baby is born to the happy couple, all is blissful until their bundle of joy begins crying. And crying. Only when the two are almost at wit’s end does Miriam suddenly know, looking down at her baby curled up like a little raisin, exactly what she must do. A celebration of the bond between mother and child and an ode to the power of our senses, each delectable word and image of this beautifully told and illustrated story will be savored.

Twenty Yawns

Written by Jane Smiley & Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

As her mom reads a bedtime story, Lucy drifts off. But later, she awakens in a dark, still room, and everything looks mysterious. How will she ever get back to sleep?

Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley’s first picture book, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Lauren Castillo, evokes the splashy fun of the beach and the quietude of a moonlit night, with twenty yawns sprinkled in for children to discover and count.

Anna Hibiscus’ Song

Written by Atinuke & Illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Anna Hibiscus is so filled with happiness that she feels like she might float away. And the more she talks to her mother and father and grandfather and grandmother and aunties and cousins about it, the more her happiness grows! There’s only one thing to do…Sing!

Blackout

Written & Illustrated by John Rocco

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, “Mommm!” His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can’t work on her computer, and Dad can’t finish cooking dinner. What’s a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights–in stars that can be seen for a change–and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun–talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.

Bringing Asha Home

Written by Uma Krishnaswami & Illustrated by Jamel Akib

It’s Rakhi, the Hindu holiday special to brothers and sisters, and Arun wishes he had a sister with whom to celebrate. Soon it looks as if his wish will come true. His parents are going to adopt a baby girl named Asha. She is coming all the way from India, where Arun’s dad was born.The family prepares for Asha’s arrival, not knowing it will be almost a year until they receive governmental approval to bring Asha home. Arun is impatient and struggles to accept the long delay, but as time passes he finds his own special ways to build a bond with his sister, who is still halfway around the world.With warmth and honesty, this tender story taps into the feelings of longing, love and joy that adoption brings to many families. Readers will find reassurance knowing there is more than one way to become part of a loving family.

A Most Unusual Day

Written by Sydra Mallery & Illustrated by E.B. Goodale

Today is a very unusual day! Caroline wakes up late, forgets her socks, and feels strange all the way to school. She tries to help her teacher, but everything is mixed up today and all Caroline manages to do is make a great big mess. Finally, the school day ends and Caroline rushes outside to greet her parents, who are having a rather extraordinary day themselves. In their arms they hold Caroline’s new baby sister, who has just arrived from far away.

Sydra Mallery’s debut picture book is a loving celebration of family, adoption, and sisters. Exquisitely realized by the acclaimed illustrator E. B. Goodale, this charming adoption story is perfect for anyone welcoming a new brother or sister into the family.

Teddy’s Favorite Toy

Written by Christian Trimmer & Illustrated by Madeline Valentine

A mom goes to great lengths to rescue her son’s favorite doll in this delightful tribute to treasured toys—and mothers.

Teddy has a lot of cool toys. But his very favorite doll has the best manners, the sickest fighting skills, and a fierce sense of style.

Then one morning, something truly awful happens. And there’s only one woman fierce enough to save the day. Can Teddy’s mom reunite Teddy with his favorite toy?

Life with My Family

Written by Renee Hooker and Karl Jones & Illustrated by Kathryn Durst

When a young girl gets frustrated with her chaotic life at home, she imagines what things would be like if her family were animals instead. Would life be better as a pod of pelicans, a pride of lions, or a herd of buffalo? Or is it ultimately a family of humans that she needs? In this beautifully illustrated book, young readers learn the names for groups of animals through a sweet, whimsical narrative that focuses on the importance of family.

Forever Rhen: A Story About Divorce

Written by Sandra Athans & Illustrated by John Joseph

Rhen’s parents are getting a divorce, and Rhen worries about the change. Find out what changes and what stays the same.

Our World is Whole

Written by Gail Bush & Illustrated by Jennie Poh

One little girl knows that our world is whole because the connections between us all makes it so–from the family cat to the chatty neighbor to Mom and Dad and cousin Jerry. Our World is Whole is a lyrical meditation on mindfulness that celebrates interconnectedness and the ways we support one another and keep our world whole and spinning.

Here and There

Written by Tamara Ellis Smith & Illustrated by Evelyn Daviddi

Can you hear the music all around you? In this touching picture book, Ivan finds healing and hope in nature’s music and beauty while experiencing the early stages of his parents’ separation. When he realizes that birds sing their enchanting songs both here at his mom’s house and there at his dad’s house, Ivan takes his first step toward finding the freedom and joy to sing along, whether he’s here or there. This tale of personal growth will provide a much-needed mirror for children in times of change — and an important reminder for all that there’s beauty everywhere you look.

The Good Dog

Written & Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld

When a puppy in need of a friend follows a kind girl into town, he lands himself into all sorts of trouble. He gets lost. He’s nearly run over. And he gets chased out of a bakery for being a “bad dog.”

But when the pup and the girl reunite in the park and she leaves behind her favorite doll, the puppy has a chance to prove just what a good dog he really is!

Peace & Love, Shannon

I Am Every Good Thing: Q & A with author Derrick Barnes

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As a mom of three Brown boys, my pursuit of books with positive representation of Black and Brown boys is neverending… and Derrick Barnes answered the call. He quickly become one of my go-to authors, and following Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and King of Kindergarten… I found myself anxiously waiting for “what’s next?”.

And let me tell you, he did not disappoint.

I Am Every Good Thing, another collaboration between Derrick Barnes and illustrator Gordon C. James, releases September 1, 2020…and you should probably go ahead and preorder it now. My immediate response to Derrick when I first read it was: “Are you considering making this in wallpaper? I think I need to plaster my sons’ walls with all of these positive words and images about boys just like them”.

Summary: The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

I knew I wanted to do something special to not only highlight this book, but honor Derrick and hear directly from him the inspiration behind this life changing book. I am forever grateful for his willingness to answer my questions, but even more grateful that he has chosen to channel his gifts into books that portray my sons for who they are and all they dream to be…and written by someone who looks like them.

I am forever grateful for his willingness to answer my questions, but even more grateful that he has chosen to channel his gifts into books that portray my sons for who they are and all they dream to be…and written by someone who looks like them.

Literally Cultured: What inspired you to begin/finish writing this book? 

Derrick Barnes: I began this book, as a poem, after the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer in 2012. I didn’t finish it, but I picked it back up after Michael Brown and Tamir Rice were both murdered in 2014. I finally reworked and finished it after H&M put out an international ad, where a little African boy wore a green hoodie that read ‘Coolest Monkey In The Jungle‘. Enough was enough. If anyone is going to tell the story of what it means to be a Black boy in America, it’s going to be us, not them; not the media, not pop culture, not corporate America. Us.

Literally Cultured: What do you hope readers will take away from reading I Am Every Good Thing?

Derrick Barnes: Two things: 1) Black boys all over the planet have loved ones that are grooming them, preparing them, teaching and guiding them towards extremely bright futures. We love our sons and want nothing but the best for them. And 2) Black boys are not a monolith. I have four sons and they are all totally different. No matter where Black boys come from, I along with the people that love them want them to win in life. They are not living breathing stereotypes that fit like jigsaw pieces into your biases, only useful for your entertainment, and to justify your ridiculous fears. They are human beings capable of extraordinary feats. 

Literally Cultured: As soon as I read the first page I was overcome with intense emotions, picturing my sons, and reflecting on the current world they face –how do you deal with the emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

Derrick Barnes: My job as an author of children’s books that highlight the brilliance of Black and Brown children primarily is to fill their lives with characters, stories, and affirmations. Period. I write in the same way that I raise my sons, and that is to say that we will be optimistic, hopeful, positive, and intent on making positive change in this world. I have no time to dwell in darkness, sadness or any other non-productive mindset. I’m about teaching truths and holding up a mirror to our babies to always remind them of how amazing they are.

Literally Cultured: Your son Silas was the inspiration for Crown, was there anyone in particular that was the inspiration or is featured in I Am Every Good Thing?

Derrick Barnes: This book’s protagonist was just an amalgamation of every Black and Brown boy in the world. Although, the cover model this time was the son of illustrator, Gordon C. James. His name is Gabriel.

Literally Cultured: What is your favorite page of the book, and why?

Derrick Barnes: My favorite page is probably the “Boom-Boom-Bap-Boom-Boom Bap” page. It was my homage to the Golden Age of hip-hop. Gordon did a great job of showing the lyricist as a superstar MC, having fun, controlling the crowd, and more than likely, spitting some socially conscious, positive lyrics.

Literally Cultured:  I am so thankful that my sons are able to reap the benefits of having texts that are written just for them, written by someone who looks like them…was there any author that influenced you or that you looked up to as a child (or growing up)?

Derrick Barnes: Langston Hughes. Period. He was a master poet, essayist, short fiction writer, and we’re both from Missouri. As I grew into my voice as a writer, I became more and more aware of the opportunity to carry on his tradition as a scribe that highlighted the beauty and the triumph of Black life in America. He is definitely one of my heroes.

My son, Langston, loves Derrick’s book “The King of Kindergarten”.

Literally Cultured: What do you hope your legacy will be as a writer?

Derrick Barnes: Legacy is so important to me. So important. All of us have been given a charge to do something with our lives to make it better than it was before we came. No matter what gifts or talents you’ve been blessed with, we should use them to lift people up. To help someone see themselves and their lives as being valuable. That’s how I see my work. When all of this is over, I pray that my work inspires generations of children to hold their heads high and to be the very best versions of themselves.

To help someone see themselves and their lives as being valuable. That’s how I see my work. When all of this is over, I pray that my work inspires generations of children to hold their heads high and to be the very best versions of themselves.

Derrick Barnes, author of I Am Every Good Thing

And one more of my favorite pages…

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Black Man, the Superhero

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Today marks the 4th anniversary of the murder of Philando Castile. I can’t say for sure what about his death specifically impacted me so much, but four years ago today, I felt myself slip into a deep depression that was nearly impossible to get out of. The feeling of despair, heartbreak, hopelessness, and fear I felt, is indescribable. Even now, I can feel bile creeping up from my stomach.

On July 6, 2016 I wept for Philando, his partner Diamond, his 4-year-old daughter, and his family…but also,

Eric Garner,

Dontre Hamilton,

John Crawford III,

Michael Brown,

Ezell Ford,

Laquan McDonald,

Akai Gurley,

Tamir Rice,

Charly Leundeu,

Eric Harris,

Walter Scott,

Freddie Gray,

Alton Sterling,

AND

ALL

THE

OTHERS.

Buy why Philando? Maybe it was the fact that he was my husband’s age at the time and also a public school employee, or that he had his concealed carry permit (which my husband also has), or was it his “wide-set nose” that made him fit the description from an armed robbery…

As I watched and listened to the police footage, the 40 seconds of dialogue that included saying and doing the EXACT things that my husband has practiced with me over and over again, in the chance that he would get pulled over — and then 7 shots.

7 shots.

Philando’s last words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”

And then despair set in, the complete loss and absence of hope. Is this truly the world my husband has to navigate every day? Is this really the future for my sons? How can I protect them? How can I make sure they know they are loved, valued, worthy?

You may be wondering what I am getting at, or where this is going… and I wish I could say there is a happy ending to this story. While I was able to eventually pull myself out of the darkest of places, I continue to find myself treading lightly around the same thoughts and feelings, the emotional landmines that have the power to suck me back in.

One would say the opposite of despair, is optimism. As a mother of three Brown sons, I have no other option than to find hope, and where I can’t find it, CREATE IT. This desperate need and desire led me to creating the project I am sharing with you today. While our country continues to grieve the unwarranted and senseless murder of Black men (and women) at the hands of the state, allies and activists have found their own ways of taking action and demanding justice. When reflecting on my own sphere of influence it only made sense to create something that would bring hope, not only for my sons, but for every Black and Brown boy, for every Black and Brown man.

Enter a new superhero, and more importantly the protagonist’s hero of my first children’s book, Black Man. “Black Man” is a superhero that my 4-year-old son, Langston, created using his imagination. After listening in on him playing with his brothers and always hearing “I’m going to be Black Man, he always wins!” or “Black Man is the best superhero!”, my curiosity got the better of me, and I finally asked who this “Black Man” was. That conversation is how the story begins.

As I have watched my son pretend to be “Black Man”, it was clear that many of his superhero characteristics and qualities come from the important Black men in his own life—whether personally known, or learned about. This book will be for each of us that have our own “Black Man” in our lives. Our everyday heroes, our superheroes, and everything in between—paving a path for a bright and promising future for all of the young Black and Brown boys who see the very best in them, and want to be them.

While I don’t have a release date for you (yet), what I do have is hope.

…and a small excerpt from the book.

“Ugh! Nothing is right in here! How am I supposed to pretend to be Black Man if I can’t dress up as him?” Langston said, as he rummaged through the costume box.

Momma poked her head into Langston’s bedroom. “What’s wrong, baby?”

“I am trying to play superhero and I can’t find anything in here to make me Black Man.”

“You mean Batman?” Momma questioned, thinking she hadn’t heard him correctly.

“No, no…not Batman, BLACK Man.” Langston responded confidently.

“Black Panther?” Momma tried again, still confused.

“Mom! I said Black MAN!”, this time a bit more annoyed.

Amused she began to question him, “Who is he? Is he from a book? Did you see him on a TV show? What are his superpowers?” Momma asked.

Langston shook his head and let out a sigh. “That’s too many questions Momma!”

He turned and looked at his reflection in the bedroom mirror, “He’s just Black Man, and he’s the greatest superhero of all time.”

JULY IS NATIONAL MINORITY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

Resources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

US Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Minority Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

How To Find A Therapist Who Focuses On Black Mental Health

One Way To Be An Ally Right Now? Support Black Mental Health.

‘Bear Our Pain’: The Plea For More Black Mental Health Workers