Multiracial Representation: Books highlighting interracial families & the biracial experience

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

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