Literally Cultured’s Best Picture Books of 2020!

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If you’re like me, then when you hear “2020” you tend to flinch a little bit. Beyond the obvious turmoil and heartache created by Covid-19, so many of us faced unimaginable obstacles and challenges that we are just thankful to have made it through another day. However, despite the troubles of the outside world, there was light we could depend on in the darkness…BOOKS!

2020 brought us some of the most beautiful and inspiring picture books to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Take a look back at my favorite releases of each month, as well as my favorite book of the year…or maybe even the decade!

Written by Nikki Grimes & Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

It’s bedtime. But Mommy’s little one is not sleepy.

He growls like a bear, he questions like an owl, he tosses his mane like a lion. He hunts for water like a sly wolf, and hides like a snake.

Mommy needs to wrangle her sweet creature in bed so that the whole family can sleep. From tigers to squirrels to snakes, the little boy dodges around his bedtime, until he is tired enough to finally sleep. His imaginative animal friends weave their way through the illustrations, eventually joining him in curling up for the night.

For those seeking children’s books about diversity, this loving depiction of everyday shenanigans is sure to become a bedtime favorite. Bedtime for Sweet Creatures is an African American children’s book that celebrates imagination, playful moments, and the love between a Black mother and child.

FebruaryThe Paper Kingdom

Written by Helena Ku Rhee & Illustrated by Pascal Campion

When the babysitter is unable to come, Daniel is woken out of bed and joins his parents as they head downtown for their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. But the story is about more than brooms, mops, and vacuums. Mama and Papa turn the deserted office building into a magnificent kingdom filled with paper. Then they weave a fantasy of dragons and kings to further engage their reluctant companion–and even encourage him to one day be the king of a paper kingdom.

The Paper Kingdom expresses the joy and spirit of a loving family who turn a routine and ordinary experience into something much grander. Magical art by Pascal Campion shows both the real world and the fantasy through the eyes of the young narrator.

Written by Keilly Swift & Illustrated by Jamie Margolin

There’s a lot that can be changed by just one person if know what to do.If you are a kid with big dreams and a passion for what is right, you just might be a world-changer in the making! Through ideas as small as creating a neighborhood lending library to as important as public speaking and how to talk about politics, How to Make a Better World is a practical guide to activism for children.

Well-written and divided into sections on You, Community, Environment, and more, this educational book helps children to look at what they might like to achieve, and the logical approach makes it easy to navigate if you want to tie topics up with school projects.

Brightly illustrated inclusive art makes this factbook as visually appealing as its message. You can easily jump around without any loss of comprehension and dip in for short or longer periods. Learn about tricky social interactions like friendship fallouts, or bullying and how to maneuver them, or find out how to go about creating activist campaigns to tackle climate change or social injustice.

If kids are to think positive thoughts and be part of movements for positive change, they need to be encouraged to do it. This book is full of wonderful facts about the world, presenting such positivity as cool, sensible, exciting, and achievable. The perfect starter book to activism for kids.

AprilA New Kind of Wild

Written & Illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang

For Ren, home is his grandmother’s little house, and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild.

For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there’s always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there’s always someone to share in her adventures.

When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend.

MayWhat is Light?

Written by Markette Sheppard & Illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

Light can be so many things! The twinkle of a faraway star, a firefly captured in a jar, a mother’s love, a turtle dove…

Through this thoughtful and celebratory book, young readers will discover the special glow in everything from nature to the smiles of loved ones. Each page reveals a different sparkle found in a child’s simple but extraordinary world. The light revealed on the final page makes a fitting finale for this sweet, bright tale.

JuneAntiracist Baby

Written by Ibram X. Kendi & Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

From the National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist comes a new picture book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves, now with added discussion prompts to help readers recognize and reflect on bias in their daily lives.

Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby‘s nine easy steps for building a more equitable world.

With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.

Written by Zetta Elliott & Illustrated by Noa Denmon

There is a place inside of me
a space deep down inside of me
where all my feelings hide.

Summertime is filled with joy―skateboarding and playing basketballuntil his community is deeply wounded by a police shooting. As fall turns to winter and then spring, fear grows into anger, then pride and peace.

In her stunning debut, illustrator Noa Denmon articulates the depth and nuances of a child’s experiences following a police shooting―through grief and protests, healing and community―with washes of color as vibrant as his words.

Here is a groundbreaking narrative that can help all readers―children and adults alike―talk about the feelings hiding deep inside each of us.

Written by Nikki Grimes & Illustrated by Laura Freeman

When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”

As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard. And now this dedication has led her all the way to being elected Vice President of the United States.

Told in Nikki Grimes’s stunning verse and featuring gorgeous illustrations by Laura Freeman, this picture book biography brings to life a story that shows all young people that the American dream can belong to all of us if we fight for one another.

SeptemberSometimes People March

Written & Illustrated by Tessa Allen

Sometimes people march
to resist injustice,
to stand in solidarity,
to inspire hope.

Throughout American history, one thing remains true: no matter how or why people march, they are powerful because they march together.

Written by Tami Charles & Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to Black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.

Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughs, through the hardship of adolescent struggles, and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter. Accompanied by illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree, All Because You Matter empowers readers with pride, joy, and comfort, reminding them of their roots and strengthening them for the days to come.

November A Kids Book About Systemic Racism

Written by Jordan Thierry

Systemic racism is incredibly difficult to understand—even for grownups! This book was made to help kids understand what systemic racism is and how it’s built into laws, schools, stories, and other institutions in a way that collectively makes life much harder for people of color.

Jordan Thierry is a documentary filmmaker, activist, and storyteller. He has worked for over a decade to highlight the stories of people of color and working to undo the ongoing legacy of systemic racism in the U.S.A.

Written by Lyn Sisson-Talbert & David E. Talbert

A heartwarming picture book story based on the song “The Square Root of Possible” from the Netflix holiday film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey! A holiday tale set in the snow-covered town of Cobbleton, Jingle Jangle follows eccentric toymaker Jeronicus Jangle (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker) whose fanciful inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when a betrayal by a former protégé (Keegan-Michael Key) leaves Jeronicus withdrawn and down on his luck, it’s up to his bright and adventurous granddaughter, Journey (newcomer Madalen Mills) — and a singularly magical invention — to save the day. From the imagination of writer/director David E. Talbert and featuring original music by John Legend, Philip Lawrence, and Davy Nathan, Jingle Jangle reminds you that anything is possible…if you believe.

Picture Book of the YearI Am Every Good Thing

Written by Derrick Barnes & Illustrated by Gordon C. James

I am
a nonstop ball of energy.
Powerful and full of light.
I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader.

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!

Literally Cultured read aloud of “I Am Every Good Thing” by Derrick Barnes.

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60 Diverse Picture Books to Celebrate the Holiday Season

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All the Colors of Christmas

Written by Matthew Paul Turner & Illustrated by Gillian Gamble

It’s God within
a baby’s skin
on that very first Christmas Day.
 
All the colors come together when readers are reminded that Christmas is YOU—you’re a part of the story, the joy and the glory! Matthew shows us again and again that the holidays are nothing without being with the people we love, celebrating treasured traditions, and making new memories—all in vivid color.

Always Together at Christmas

Written by Sara Sargent & Illustrated by Mark Chambers

Christmas will always mean love.
Even if love looks a little different this year.

As families and communities come together–and stay apart–in creative ways this holiday season, bring comfort and joy to children with this story about a Christmas like no other. Always Together at Christmas highlights different family traditions and the ways they’re changing in 2020: from Santa’s elves practicing social distancing to opening presents via Zoom on Christmas morning. And it even includes ideas for new quarantine-appropriate Christmas traditions!

The sweet and cozy illustrations add classic touches, making this book the perfect gift to share with family and friends from across the miles.

This Is the Stable

Written by Cynthia Cotten & Illustrated by Delana Bettoli

A gorgeous, poetic new version of the Nativity story

Wondrous things are happening in this humble little stable. The animals are gathering round. Shepherds and wise men and angels are coming from afar. All of them are flocking to see the Christ child, born this night in Bethlehem.

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.

Christmas in Lagos

Written by Sharon Abimbola Salu & Illustrated by Maria Nikla

A delightful and charming story celebrating Christmas in Lagos, a modern West African city.  This picture book explores the sights and sounds of Lagos at Christmas through the eyes and words of a little Nigerian girl writing a Christmas journal.

The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story

Written by Joanne Oppenheim & Illustrated by Fabian Negrin

Originally native to Mexico, beautiful poinsettia plants decorate homes around the world every holiday season. But few people who love the plant’s deep red tones know the traditional Mexican tale about how the poinsettia first came to be. This narrative transports readers to Old-World Mexico and into the arms of a young girl as her trust leads her straight into a miracle. A beautiful alternative to the traditional nativity story, this book is a wonderful evocation of Mexican customs and culture

Winter Wonderland (National Geographic Kids)

Written by Jill Esbaum

Each year, as days grow shorter and trees become bare, the world outside seems to slow and darken. But for children, this time of year is magical. The frosty air crackles with play and laughter. There’s a sense of excitement as snow and cold weather make for outdoor adventures that aren’t possible any other time of year. This charming picture book, the latest in National Geographic’s popular Picture the Seasons series, is a vibrant celebration of winter traditions. 

Over the River and Through the Wood

Illustrated by Emma Randall

In this stunning paper-over-board picture book, a blustering wind stings the toes and bites the nose, but hearts are warm and there’s lots to eat–for ’tis Thanksgiving Day! Bundle up as you navigate a winter wonderland of sparkling snow-covered trees and adorable woodland creatures in this cherished holiday tale. Coupled with Emma Randall’s delightful illustrations, the familiar poem-turned-song is the perfect way to celebrate the season. Just remember to leave room for pumpkin pie!

The First Day of Winter

Written & Illustrated by Denise Fleming

Alive with swirling snow and lots of outdoor fun, the first ten days of winter bring special gifts for a special friend. This cumulative tale will have children chanting along as they discover all the trimmings needed for the most perfect snowman ever!

12 Days of Christmas (The Christmas Choir)

Illustrated by Lara Hawthorne

Celebrate the magic of Christmas time with this well-loved traditional poem, The Twelve Days of Christmas, beautifully illustrated by Laura Hawthorne.

Take a walk through each beautiful scene brimming with details that will remind you of the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Perfect to read with your true love.

Oh no Mr. Snowman!

By Make Believe Ideas, Ltd.

Katy and her brother build a magical snowman. When it gets too cold to play outside, they go into the house – but Mr. Snowman wants to come in, too!

What follows is a humorous tale as Mr. Snowman tries to sneak in without anyone noticing. Everywhere he goes, things freeze! From crystals on the dinner plates, to icebergs in the bath, Mr. Snowman is found and asked to leave every time.

But at the Christmas Eve party, something goes wrong. The desserts won’t set and the ice-cream melts! Can Mr. Snowman save the day?

Roc and Roe’s Twelve 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 Night Before Christmas

Retold & Illustrated by Rachel Isadora

Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora sets her colorful, unique version of this well-known Christmas poem in Africa, capturing the anticipation and excitement of the holiday in her stunning collages. Children will pore over the enchanting artwork–brimming with special touches like traditional African toys and a Santa who sports dreadlocks–as they chime along with the familiar rhyming text.

Jackie’s Gift

Written by Sharon Robinson & Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Young Steve Satlow is thrilled when his hero Jackie Robinson moves onto his block. After the famed second baseman invites Steve to a Dodgers game, the two become friends. So when Jackie hears that the Satlows don’t have a Christmas tree, he decides to give them one, not realizing the Satlows are Jewish. But Jackie’s gift helps these two different families discover how much they have in common.

‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish

Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong & Illustrated by Sara Palacios

It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

Where Would Santa Go?

Written by Julia Inserro & Illustrated by Natalie Merheb

If you could travel the world, where would you go? How about Antarctica, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Nepal, Egypt, Iceland and Oman? Now who do you take with you? How about the most famous world traveler who’s seen it all?

Join Santa in this playful sleigh-ful Christmas adventure as he shows you all his favorite places around the world from his magic sleigh on Christmas Eve. Now you can answer the question, Where Would Santa Go?

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

Written by Maya Angelou and Illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

Angelou’s beautiful, moving, and beloved poem, which she first read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, now comes alive as a fully illustrated children’s book, celebrating the promise of peace in the holiday season. In this simple story, a family joins with their community—rich and poor, black and white, Christian, Muslim, and Jew—to celebrate the holidays.

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.  

Under the Christmas Tree

Written by Nikki Grimes & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Presented from an African-American perspective by a Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, a holiday tale provides readers with twenty-three charming poems that capture the joy and happiness of one family’s Christmas celebration.

Long Ago, on a Silent Night

Written by Julie Berry & Illustrated by Annie Won

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.

Damon and the Magic Christmas Tree

Written by Tash Creates & Illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Damon and the Magic Christmas Tree teaches children about the delights of Christmas and Hanukkah. Damon will show readers how to recognize the joys that can be found all around them. This smart, sweet little boy dreams of being a superhero. His dream comes true as he brings light and laughter to your family this holiday season.

My First Kwanzaa

By Karen Katz

Hooray! Hooray!
It’s time to get ready for Kwanzaa.”

During the seven days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in!

The Square Root of Possible: A Jingle Jangle Story

Written by Lyn Sisson-Talbert & David E. Talbert

A charming picture book story based on the Netflix holiday film Jingle Jangle, starring Phylicia Rashad, Forrest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose, Keegan Michael Key, and newcomer Madalen Mills, about an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention, that if they can get it to work in time for the holidays, could change their lives forever.

Walk This World at Christmastime

By Big Picture Press & Illustrated by Debbie Powell

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.

When Christmas Feels Like Home

Written by Gretchen Griffith & Illustrated by Carolina Farias

After moving from a small village in Mexico to a town in the United States, Eduardo is sure it will never feel quite like home. The other children don’t speak his language and they do not play fútbol. His family promises him that he will feel right at home by the time Christmas comes along, when “your words float like clouds from your mouth” and “trees will ride on cars.” With whimsical imagery and a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary, Gretchen Griffith takes readers on a multicultural journey with Eduardo who discovers the United States is not so different from Latin America and home is wherever family is.

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa

Written by Donna L. Washington & Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Li’l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won’t celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows what to do! He’ll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway. He looks under a pile of logs, in the field, and in the pond and along the way meets Groundhog, Momma Field Mouse, and the frogs—but he doesn’t find anything for Granna Rabbit.

Maybe I’m just too little to help Granna Rabbit celebrate Kwanzaa, Li’l Rabbit thinks. Or maybe he just needs a little help from his family and friends.

Native American Night Before Christmas

Adapted & Written by Gary Robinson and Illustrated by Jesse T. Hummingbird

An innovative retelling of the classic Christmas tale, Native American Night Before Christmas presents a whimsical look at a Native American Christmas Eve, when Old Red Shirt (the Indian Santa Claus) comes a-calling on his wooden sleigh pulled by a team of flying white buffalo. Jesse Hummingbird’s inspired illustration transform the author’s playful adaptation into a fresh and modern work of art. A delight for people of all ages and cultures. Winner of the 2010 Moonbeam Award for Holiday Books.

Grandma’s Gift

By Eric Velasquez

This prequel to Eric Velasquez’s biographical picture book Grandma’s Records is the story of a Christmas holiday that young Eric spends with his grandmother. After they prepare their traditional Puerto Rican Christmas celebration, Eric and Grandma visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a school project, where he sees a painting by Diego Velasquez and realizes for the first time that he could be an artist when he grows up. Grandma witnesses his fascination, and presents Eric with the perfect Christmas gift-a set of paints-to use in his first steps toward becoming an artist. 

King Island Christmas

Written by Jean Rogers & Illustrated by Rie Munoz

Winter is closing in on Alaska’s King Island, and soon the Eskimo villagers will be cut off from the world for many months. That suits them fine — but only if they can first brave a rough and windy sea to fetch the new priest in time for Christmas. 

Elijah’s Angel

Written by Michael J. Rosen & Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

Michael and Elijah are friends, but when Elijah gives Michael one of his special carved angels, Michael doesn’t know what to do. How can he possibly take home a Christmas angel, a forbidden graven image–especially on Chanukah? “A strikingly illustrated story that tenderly bridges the boundaries of age, race, and religion.”–American Bookseller

An Angel Just Like Me

Written by Mary Hoffman and Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa 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.

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht & Illustrated by Jarvis

Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. 

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood

Written by Virginia Hawk Sneve & Illustrated by Ellen Beier

Virginia’s old coat is too small. The cold South Dakota wind blows across the Rosebud Indian Reservation, making her shiver as she walks to school. Virginia dreams of a new coat arriving in the Theast boxes–parcels of clothing from churches in The East. But, she knows she may not have a chance for a coat this year. Her father is the village Episcopal priest, so her family chooses last, and as Mama always says, The others need it more than we do. Generosity and unexpected joy remind Virginia of the importance of community within this story from the author s childhood.

Our Favorite Day of the Year

Written by A.E. Ali & Illustrted 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.

A Pinata in a Pine Tree

Written by Pat Mora & Illustrated by Magaly Morales

An award-winning author and a rising star artist have put a festive Latino twist on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” populating it with piñatas in place of partridges, plus burritos bailando (dancing donkeys), lunitas cantando (singing moons), and much more, all displayed in the most vivid colors imaginable. In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga, whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book’s conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story. This joyous fiesta will warm even the coldest of hearts.

Simonie and the Dance Contest

Written by Gail Matthew & Illustrated by Ali Hinch

Simonie loves to dance! When he sees a sign for Taloyoak’s annual Christmas Jigging Dance Contest, he can’t wait to enter. But practising is hard work, and Simonie starts to worry that he won’t do a good job in front of all his friends and neighbours. Luckily, with a little advice from his anaana and ataata, and some help from his friends Dana and David, Simonie learns how to listen to the music and dance the way it makes him feel. When the time comes for the contest, he’s ready to dance his very best. Based on the annual Christmas dance contest in the community of Taloyoak, Nunavut, this heartwarming picture book shows how a lot of hard work―and a little inspiration―can go a long way.

Miracle on 133rd Street

Written by Sonia Manzano & Illustrated by Marjorie Pricemon

It’s Christmas Eve and Mami has bought a delicious roast for a Christmas feast. But, oh no! It’s too big to fit in the oven. Jose and Papa need to find an oven big enough to cook Mami’s roast. As they walk from door to door through their apartment building, no one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. So they head down the street to find someone willing to help, and only when they do, lo and behold, the scent—the itself magical smell—of dinner begins to spread, and holiday cheer manifests in ways most unexpected.

Danny’s Christmas List

Written by Tieska Jumbo & Illustrated by Aquil Khan

When Danny and his family visit a local Christmas market, he finds himself in a chance encounter with Santa. With his list in hand and Santa all alone, Danny sees a chance he must take. Can you guess what Danny asks? Join Danny and Santa in this heartwarming tale that is sure to be a Christmas classic!

Grace at Christmas

Written by Mary Hoffman & Illustrated by Cornelius van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Grace loves Christmas – acting out the nativity story, opening presents, celebrating with Ma, Nana and Paw-Paw. But this Christmas Nana announces they will have visitors from Trinidad. Grace is horrified! She does NOT want to share the day with another little girl she doesn’t even know. But after some wise words from Nana, Grace’s generous spirit shines through. And in the end, as they all share a special surprise, Grace thinks it could be the best Christmas ever!

Celebrate Kwanzaa (National Geographic Kids)

Written by Carolyn Otto

Celebrate Kwanzaa continues the spectacular Holidays Around the World series by focusing on this African-American holiday, which falls during the festive, gift-giving season and is celebrated by families, communities, and schools throughout America. With succinct, lively text and beautiful photographs, the book celebrates African-American culture and helps us to understand and appreciate this special holiday.

Silent Night (The Christmas Choir)

Illustrated by Lara Hawthorne

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.

Amadi’s Snowman

Written by Katia Novet Saint-Lot & Illustrated by Dimitrea Tokumbo

When he runs off to the market instead of sticking around for a reading lesson, he encounters a much-admired older boy secretly reading at a book stall, and then Amadi becomes intrigued by a storybook with pictures of a strange white creature that has a carrot for a nose. Unable to shake his questions about the snowman, Amadi discovers the vast world reading can open up―especially for an Igbo boy of Nigeria.

N is for Navidad

Written by Susan Middleton Elya & Merry Brooks and Illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Bienvenidos! to a celebration of Christmas, Latino-style! From the ngel (angel) hung above the door to the zapatos (shoes) filled with grass for the wise men s camels, each letter in this festive alphabet introduces children to a Spanish word, and each colorful page takes them through another joyous aspect of the 22 days of the traditional holiday. Vibrant art from acclaimed illustrator Joe Cepeda beautifully complements the lively, rhythmic text to bring the reader a wealth of heritage and a season of light! Feliz Navidad!

12 Days of Christmas

Illustrated by Rachel Isadora

Set in Africa, this beautiful rendition of the classic Christmas carol has a unique twist: colorful icons illustrate the various gifts repeated in each verse of this cumulative song, creating a rebus-style text that gives young children a fun way to follow along and chime in with the lyrics. The gorgeous, wonderfully detailed collage illustrations, comprised of colorful kente cloth and cut paper, feature tribal drummers and dancers, traditional clothing and native wildlife, making every scene as visually striking as the last.

A Coqui and the Three Wise Men: From Boriquen to Bethlehen

Written by Lara Mercado and Armando Valdes & Illustrated by Nivea Ortiz

From Boriquén to Bethlehem: A Coquí and the Three Wise Men” is the story of a magical coquí (a tree frog native to Puerto Rico) who traveled with the Magi to the first Christmas. The coquí’s call helps the Magi find the little Baby Jesus. In gratitude, the Kings promise to yearly visit the children of Puerto Rico, and to find them wherever they may be if they hear the coquí’s song.

Count with Santa

By Angela Y. Nixon

This book combines simple counting with fun similar to game “I Spy”. A perfect book for your little learners. They’ll develop focusing skills while try to find the cute Christmas objects. As your child looks through the vibrant Christmas-themed pictures he or she will count their numbers 1-10. Your child will have so much fun reading repeatedly number book they won’t even know they’re learning! They’ll also develop the ability to concentrate, as well as their observational skills. This is a delightful book for parents, grandparents, teachers and friends to share with their children

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!

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written by Mitali Perkins & Illustrated by Sara Palacios

It’s almost time for Christmas, and Maria is traveling with her mother and younger brother, Juan, to visit their grandmother on the border of California and Mexico. For the few minutes they can share together along the fence, Maria and her brother plan to exchange stories and Christmas gifts with the grandmother they haven’t seen in years. But when Juan’s gift is too big to fit through the slats in the fence, Maria has a brilliant idea. Here is a heartwarming tale of families and the miracle of love.

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.

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.

My Baby Loves Christmas

Written by Jabari Asim & Illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker

Baby loves candy canes wrapped in bows.

Baby loves jingle bells.

Baby loves snow. . . .

Celebrate all the lovely things that Baby discovers about Christmas. This board book, the perfect gift for a new baby, features rhythmic poetry from Jabari Asim and adorable art from Tara Nicole Whitaker.

Ming’s Christmas Wishes

Written by Susan L. Gong & Illustrated Masahiro Tateishi

Ming wishes for three things at Christmas. First, to sing in the school Christmas choir. Second, to have a Christmas tree like the one in the department store window. And third, to feel she belongs somewhere.

Tree of Cranes

Written & Illustrated by Allen Say

As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy’s very first Christmas.

Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee

Written by Jerdine Nolen & Illustrated by Barry Moser

One holiday season Ellie makes three wishes: that her parents will see that her friend Billy Lee is not imaginary; that snow will fall on Septon’s Creek for the first time in fifty years; and that joy will return–especially to her parents, who always seem worried lately. Billy Lee always says, “There is magic in believing something good with all your heart.” When Ellie begins to believe, all kinds of miracles occur, from broken tree lights twinkling again, to angel shapes appearing in snow, to the biggest one of all: a baby brother arriving soon.

The Nutcracker in Harlem

Written by T.E. McMorrow & Illustrated by James Ransome

This jazz-inspired reinvention of The Nutcracker is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season.

In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.

Chita’s Christmas Tree

Written by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard & Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Papa and Chita leave downtown Baltimore in a buggy to find a Christmas tree in the deep woods.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Written by C.C. Moore & Jayla Joseph

The classic Christmas poem. Twas the Night Before Christmas. (A Visit From St Nicholas)By Clement Clarke Moore. This is the original story featuring African American Characters.

Christmas for 10

By Cathryn Falwell

The cheerful, busy family that prepared the delectable meal in “Feast for 10” now gets ready for Christmas. A simple counting format frames all the festivities, from one star at the top of the Christmas tree to ten hands stringing popcorn, then counting once again from one wreath to ten folks wishing peace for all. There’s a special job for everyone: Grandmother reads a story, Mom bakes and her children taste, Dad and Sister wrap baskets for the needy, and everyone, even the littlest, joins together to sing carols. Inviting, cleverly patterned cut-paper illustrations complement simple rhymes as this special family make the preparations part of their Christmas celebration.

The Christmas Truck

Written by J.B. Blankenship & Illustrated by Cassandre Bolan

When celebrating a special Christmas tradition things go awry. Papa, Dad, their amazing kid, and one fabulous grandmother work together and implement a plan to save Christmas for a child they have never met.

The 12 Trains of Christmas

Written by Chrissy Bozik & Illustrated by Joe Bucco

This book is pretty simple: 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!” It features a different train for each number and my kid loves seeing them all. I also like that it helps with ordinal numbers.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow

Written by Cathy Camper & Illustrated by Kenard Pak

One winter morning, Lina wakes up to silence. It’s the sound of snow — the kind that looks soft and glows bright in the winter sun. But as she walks to her grandmother’s house to help make the family recipe for warak enab, she continues to listen. As Lina walks past snowmen and across icy sidewalks, she discovers ten ways to pay attention to what might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

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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.