35 Diverse & Inclusive Books for ‘Back to School’

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Hello Literally Cultured Readers!

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading,

Shannon

All Welcome Here

Written by James Preller & Illustrated by Mary GrandPre

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

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

ABC Ready for School: An Alphabet of Social Skills

Written by Celeste Delaney & Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

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

Grandmother School

Written by Rina Singh & Illustrated by Ellen Rooney

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

When Charley Met Emma

Written by Amy Webb & Illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard

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

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

Butterflies on the First Day of School

Written by Annie Silvestro & Illustrated by Dream Chen

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

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Written & Illustrated by Anna Kim

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

I Am Because I Choose

Written by Patrice McLaurin & Illustrated by Dian Wang

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

a kids book about bullying

Written by Elizabeth Tom

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

Our Class is a Family

Written by Shannon Olsen & Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

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

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

I Promise

Written by LeBron James & Illustrated by Nina Mata

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

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

Where’s Rodney?

Written by Carmen Bogan & Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

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

I’m Gonna Push Through!

Written by Jasmyn Wright & Illustrated by Shannon Wright

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

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

Your Name is a Song

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow & Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

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

My Name is Bilal

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

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

S is for School

by Greg Paprocki

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

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

Oopsie-Do!

Written by Tim Kubart & Illustrated by Lori Richmond

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

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

Goodbye Brings Hello

Written by Dianne White & Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

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

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

The Unicorn Came to Dinner

Written by Lauren DeStefano & Illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

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

But the unicorn is no ordinary unicorn . . .

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

All Are Welcome

Written by Alexandra Penfold & Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

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

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

a kids book about belonging

Written by Kevin Carroll

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

Fun and Games: Everyday Play

Written by Celeste Cortwright & Illustrated by Sophie Fatus

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

From Far Away

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

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

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth

Written by Patricia C. McKissack & Illustrated by Giselle Potter

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

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

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller & Illustrated by Jen Hill

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

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

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

The Day You Begin

Written by Jacqueline Woodson & Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

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

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

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

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Ashley Spires

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

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

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

My Panda Sweater

Written by Gilles Baum & Illustrated by Barroux

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

Our Favorite Day of the Year

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

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

Greetings, Leroy

Written by Itah Sadu & Illustrated by Alix Delinois

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

Rulers of the Playground

Written & Illustrated by Joseph Kuefler

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

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

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

I Got the School Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison & Illustrated by Frank Morrison

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

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

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices

Written by Sally Derby & Illustrated by Mika Song

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

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

David Jumps In

Written by Alan Woo & Illustrated by Katty Maurey

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

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

Ruby’s Walk to School

Written by Kathryn White & Illustrated by Miriam Latimer

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

Lola Goes to School

Written by Anna McQuinn & Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

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

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Multiracial Representation: Books highlighting interracial families & the biracial experience

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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

Book List: It’s Never Too Early to Introduce Diversity & Activism into Your Home Library

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This curated book list is targeted towards our littlest readers. These book picks are full of diverse, positive messages and images that depict a wide range of people, lifestyles, and experiences. Whether you are seeking to create a more diverse and inclusive collection for your little one, or looking to purchase a baby shower gift— this list is for you!

Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference by David Heredia

Say hello to heroes! This book introduces preschoolers to 50 men and women of color who have changed the world!

A perfect book for tomorrow’s leaders, Little Heroes of Color educates and inspires by showing readers 50 trailblazers from a range of races and ethnicities. Bold colors and simple captions bring the youngest readers face-to-face with those who’ve shaped history and broken boundaries in science, the arts, government, and more.

Love the World by Todd Parr

What the world needs now is love–and who better than Todd Parr to share a message of kindness, charity, and acceptance. Touching upon themes including self-esteem, environmentalism, and respect for others, Todd uses his signature silly and accessible style to encourage readers to show love for themselves and all the people, places, and things they encounter.

Mixed: A Colorful Story 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.

Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne

For all the littlest progressives, waking up to seize a new day of justice and activism.

Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world.

This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. With bright playful art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscrapper is more blue.

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. 

The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents’ values of community, equality, and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books.

Brave by Stacy McAnulty

An empowering picture book for all kids that demonstrates to children that they can be real-life superheroes and that all kids have what it takes to be brave.Superheroes seek adventure, never give up, and stay calm when others are afraid. Superheroes are brave. But they aren’t the only ones.

Kids are brave every day. When they are told they are too little, but accomplish something big. When they check for monsters under the bed, just in case. When they face something uncertain, whether a thunderstorm or a hospital visit. When they stand up for what’s right, even when it means facing consequences.

Love is You and Me by Anna W. Bardaus

This adorable book helps young children to remember that love — whether between a parent and child, best friends, or even a dog and a mouse — is the most wonderful offering of all. Love Is You and Me is a vibrant, uplifting title perfect any time of day, any time of the year.

One Love by Cedella Marley

One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right: Adapted from one of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs, One Love brings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics to life for a new generation. Readers will delight in dancing to the beat and feeling the positive groove of change when one girl enlists her community to help transform her neighborhood for the better. It’s a testament to the amazing things that can happen when we all get together with one love in our hearts.

Colors of Me by Brynne Barnes

Intriguing collage illustrations frame this playful rhyme told through the eyes of a curious, creative young child who determines the whole world is full of color. Would I climb a tree striped orange and blue? Does the rain have a color when it makes a puddle? If flowers had no color, would they smell as sweet? The child comes to realize and appreciate a world filled with all colors that paint the earth and sky–and decides she’d like to be them all.

No! My First Book of Protest by Julie Merberg

Little ones who love to say “No!” can chime in while they learn about iconic activists from Frederick Douglass and Alice Paul to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala.

Each spread introduces an iconic figure—such as Gloria Steinem or Cesar Chavez—along with a super simple summary of the actions they took to change the course of history. Activists of all ages will learn about the abolitionist movement, civil rights, women’s rights, and more! Detailed, colorful art will thoroughly engage toddlers and preschoolers. And the chance to join the refrain on every spread “NO, NO!” is sure to please the tiniest protestors. (A mini history of protest movements at the end of the books is a handy cheat sheet for parents!)

Every Little Thing adapted by CedellaMarley

A beautiful book that brings Bob Marley’s beloved song to life for a new generation: Every family will relate to this universal story of a boy who won’t let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three special little birds. This cheerful book will bring a smile to faces of all ages—because every little thing’s gonna be all right

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

Be who you are!
Be proud of where you’re from.
Be a different color. Speak your language.
Wear everything you need to be you.

Who better than Todd Parr to remind kids that their unique traits are what make them so special? With his signature silly and accessible style, Parr encourages readers to embrace all their unique qualities.

Skin Again by Bell Hooks

Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free.

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children’s activities for all cultures, such as swimming in the ocean, hugging, catching butterflies, and eating birthday cake are also provided. This delightful picture book offers a wonderful venue through which parents and teachers can discuss important social concepts with their children.

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Is there anything more splendid than a baby’s skin? Cocoa-brown, cinnamon, peaches and cream. As children grow, their clever skin does, too, enjoying hugs and tickles, protecting them inside and out, and making them one of a kind. Fran Manushkin’s rollicking text and Lauren Tobia’s delicious illustrations paint a breezy and irresistible picture of the human family — and how wonderful it is to be just who you are.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

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.

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates

Who better than Sesame Street to teach us that we may all look different on the outside—but it’s important to remember that deep down, we are all very much alike. We all have the same needs, desires, and feelings. Elmo and his Sesame Street friends help teach toddlers and the adults in their lives that everyone is the same on the inside, and it’s our differences that make this wonderful world, which is home to us all, an interesting—and special—place. This enduring, colorful, and charmingly illustrated book offers an easy, enjoyable way to learn about differences—and what truly matters. It is an engaging read for toddlers and adults alike.

Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children

From Guatemala to Bhutan, seventeen vibrantly colored photographs embrace our global diversity and give glimpses into the daily life, traditions, and clothing of babies from around the world. Simple text in Spanish and English teaches the littlest readers that everywhere on earth, babies are special and loved.

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont

High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves—inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here’s a little girl who knows what really matters.      

At once silly and serious, Karen Beaumont’s joyous rhyming text and David Catrow’s wild illustrations unite in a book that is sassy, soulful . . . and straight from the heart. The sturdy board book is just right for little hands. 

I Love Me by Sally Morgan & Ambelin Kwaymullina

I Love Me is a vibrant, multi-colored, and award-winning board book that teaches kids one of life’s most important lessons: self acceptance.

The 2019 Children’s Picture Book Silver Nautilus Book Award winner. “I love my eyes, I love my nose, I love the way my curly hair grows!” Acclaimed Australian creators Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina celebrate individuality and joyous self-esteem in bouncy, rhythmic prose and lively color. I Love Me is inclusive, fun, simple, and contains a necessary lesson for all about the positivity of self love.

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20 Children’s Books Celebrating Blackness

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As a mother of three biracial boys, it has always been of the utmost importance to have a wide selection of books that not only represent themselves and the people they love and know in a positive light, but to also celebrate all of the beautiful and wonderful things about their Black identity.

While it is crucial that my boys grow up surrounded by positive images reflecting who they are, it is just as crucial, if not more so, that other children (specifically white children) are exposed to the same images and stories.

As parents and educators we have a duty and responsibility to introduce and surround ALL children with these stories at a time in their life when ideas of right and wrong are more simple; a time free of all of the grown-up created “gray areas”. The time before their minds and hearts are convoluted with the opinions and beliefs of others who may only share a singular story about a certain group of people. More importantly, before they are exposed to the negatively biased, often violent, and sometimes horrific images of Blackness that we see in the media today.

With books like the ones I am sharing below, my hope is that the children reading them will have enough positive narratives of Blackness in their ally arsenal that they are strong enough to call out the hate and racism they are sure to see as they grow older.

Together let’s take control of the narrative now, before it’s too late.

My People by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’s spare yet eloquent tribute to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today.

My Brown Skin by Dr. Thomishia Booker

Diversity in children’s books matters. Stories are a child’s first steps into their imagination. Hey Carter! Children’s Book Series allows your child to READ IN COLOR. Each book in the Hey Carter! Children’s Book Series references a King. This hidden meaning is a reinforcement that our children deserve respect. We must remind our children that they are powerful and amazing. “My Brown Skin” is a heartwarming story about embracing who you are. A child’s first words of confidence and pride. 

Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson

All children deserve to see themselves represented positively in the books they read. Highlighting the talent and contributions of black leaders and changemakers from around the world, readers of all backgrounds will be empowered to discover what they too can achieve. Strong, courageous, talented, and diverse, these extraordinary men and women’s achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream…whatever it may be.

Skin Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry

From the Creators of Hair Like Mine, Skin Like Mine is a fun, easy-to- read for beginners as well as advanced readers. An entertaining yet creative way to address and celebrate diversity among young children. Guaranteed to make you smile and a bit hungry.

Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Tom Feelings

In this compelling collection of words and pictures, the voices of thirteen major poets, including Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Walter Dean Myers, rise in response to the dazzling vistas and emotionally vivid portraits of award-winning artist Tom Feelings. A unique and moving collaboration that celebrates the sustaining spirit of African creativity. 

Mommy, Am I Brown? by Deandra Abuto

“Mommy, Am I Brown?” begins as a normal day in the park with Eli and his mother. His curiosity is sparked when they grab his favorite treat. As they experience the day, he soon realizes that he is connected to the world in more ways than he realized.

*Sidenote: As you can tell, my own Eli was more than elated to share this book with you all!

Our Children Can Soar by Michelle Cook

This is the seed of a unique and inspirational picture book text, that is part historical, part poetry, and entirely inspirational. It symbolically takes the reader through the cumulative story of the US Civil Rights Movement, showing how select pioneers’ achievements led up to this landmark moment, when we have elected our first black President. Each historical figure is rendered by a different award-winning illustrator, highlighting the singular and vibrant contribution that each figure made.

Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive.

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs

A timely book about how it feels to be teased and taunted, and how each of us is sweet and lovely and delicious on the inside, no matter how we look.

The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon

Told by a succession of exuberant young narrators, Magnificent Homespun Brown is a story — a song, a poem, a celebration — about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin.With vivid illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, Samara Cole Doyon sings a carol for the plenitude that surrounds us and the self each of us is meant to inhabit.

Black Magic by Dinah Johnson

Black is a look, a taste, a speed, an emotion. It’s the surprising stripes on a zebra, the taste of dark chocolate, the scary, exciting feeling of going inside a tunnel, and a mother’s voice as her daughter falls asleep.

In this celebration of the African American spirit, Dinah Johnson and R. Gregory Christie paint a picture of “black” that is vivid, varied, and proud.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

M is for Melanin by Tiffany Rose

M is for Melanin
shining in every inch of your skin.
Every shade, every hue.
All beautiful and unique.

Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they’re in.

Be bold. Be fearless. BE YOU.

Look What Brown Can Do! by T. Marie Harris

A must have for every Brown child who’s still dreaming about what to be when s/he grows up!”Foster your little one’s imagination and encourage them to dream big with this modern Black History book created to inspire brown children everywhere.

This book is a perfect conversational tool for parents, teachers, caretakers, and anyone looking to help lovely Brown children understand the greatness that can be achieved in every shade of Brown. No matter the child’s interests, be it painting, dancing, science, music, writing, athletics … “Look What Brown Can Do!” captures an array of accomplishments from yesterday’s and today’s Black heroes.

Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring by Nancy Churnin

Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn’t see any artists who looked like her. She didn’t see any paintings of people who looked like her, either. As a young woman studying art in Paris, she found inspiration in the works of Matisse and Gaugin to paint the people she knew best. Back in Philadelphia, the Harmon Foundation commissioned her to paint portraits of accomplished African-Americans. Her portraits still hang in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

*Check out our Youtube read aloud here!

Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea by Joyce Carol Thomas

National Book Award winner Thomas celebrates the beauty and heritage of African Americans in a lyrical collection of poems. Couched in language that is learned yet emotional, the verses focus on family life, love, freedom and dreams.

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers

Join acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers in a heartwarming celebration of African-American childhood in words and pictures. Sharing favorites from his collection of long-forgotten turn-of-the-century photographs, and punctuating them with his own moving poetry, Mr. Myers has created a beautiful album that reminds us that “the child in each of us is our most precious part.”

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney

I am Black / I am Unique / I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream / and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar…
Using simple poetic language and stunning photographs, Sandra and Myles Pinkney have created a remarkable book of affirmation for African-American children. Photographic portraits and striking descriptions of varied skin tones, hair texture, and eye color convey a strong sense of pride in a unique heritage. A joyous celebration of the rich diversity among African-Americans.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin

Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? is a journey into the often forgotten contributions of African-American inventors, that contributed to the American landscape. It chronicles the school day of a little boy, highlighting different inventions that he uses throughout the day, all of which were invented by African-Americans.  The book comes complete with brief biographies about each inventor as well as fun activities to promote and encourage reading comprehension. 

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30+ Asian American & Pacific Islander Picture Books to read online with Epic!

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The month of May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than the stories and illustrations from beautiful picture books! While many of us are still social distancing and participating in distance learning, the website Epic! is a FREE RESOURCE for educators! If you haven’t heard of Epic!, I am more than elated to share it with you!

Epic! is an award-winning subscription service, which gives millions of families and classrooms instant, unlimited access to thousands of books, videos and quizzes from leading publishers to help kids everywhere read, learn and grow. Additionally, because of Covid-19, home accounts are FREE until June 30th. This is a great opportunity to check out Epic! and all of its amazing titles!

For AAPI Heritage Month, I have curated the following titles into a collection on Epic! that can be accessed here. If you don’t have an account yet, no worries! You can sign-up at this link.

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

On Saturday mornings, Sumo Joe is a gentle big brother to his little sister. But on Saturday afternoons, he and his friends are sumo wrestlers! They tie on makeshift mawashi belts, practice drills like teppo, and compete in their homemade dohyo ring. They even observe sumo’s ultimate rule: no girls allowed! But when Sumo Joe’s little sister wants to join in the fun, Sumo Joe is torn between the two things he’s best at: sumo, and being a big brother. [Japanese American]

Grandmother’s Visit by Betty Quan

Grandmother lives with Grace’s family. She teaches her how to measure water for rice. She tells her stories about growing up in China and together they savor the flavors of her childhood. Grandmother says goodbye when she drops Grace off at school every morning and hello when she picks her up at the end of the day.

Then, Grandmother stops walking Grace to and from school, and the door to her room stays closed. Father comes home early to make dinner, but the rice bowls stay full. One day, Grandmother’s room is empty. And one day, Grandmother is buried. After the funeral, Grace’s mom turns on all the outside lights so that Grandmother’s spirit can find its way home for one final goodbye. [Chinese American]

A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

It’s 1942. Sam’s class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don’t want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko’s family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship? [Japanese American]

‘Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis

Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built.

“This is the land that’s never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana’s luau.” [Hawaiian]

When I Found Grandma by Saumiya Balsasubramaniam

When Maya’s grandma makes a surprise visit from thousands of miles away, Maya is delighted. But her excitement doesn’t last long. When Grandma picks her up from school, she wears fancy clothes and talks too loudly. Grandma’s morning prayer bells wake Maya up, and she cooks with ingredients Maya doesn’t usually eat. Plus, Maya thinks cupcakes taste better than Grandma’s homemade sweets.

Maya and Grandma try to compromise, and on a special trip to the island Grandma even wears an “all-American” baseball cap. But when Maya rushes off to find the carousel, she loses sight of her mother, father and grandmother. She is alone in a sea of people — until she spots something bobbing above the crowd, and right away she knows how to find her way. [Indian American]

Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore

Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish. With Mama’s help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won’t notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot carefully– while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking. [Filipino]

Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk

2019 Colorado Book Award Finalist Recognized in The 50 Best Multicultural Picture Books of 2018 Mela sets out to explore the river outside her village but quickly ends up in trouble when her little boat is swept downstream and into the dense jungle. She encounters a crocodile, a leopard, and some monkeys, offering each a prize return for helping her find her way home but the animals snatch up their rewards without helping Mela back to her village. Just when she’s about to give up, an elephant shows Mela that kindness is its own reward. This new fable is told with authentic Thai customs and includes an author’s note with more Thai traditions and language. [Taiwanese]

A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang

As the seasons change, so too does a young Hmong girl’s world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for? [Hmong]

The Tsunami Quilt by Anthony D. Fredericks

April 1, 1946 – an enormous tsunami wave strikes Hilo, Hawai’i, causing death and destruction. Even those islanders who are fortunate to have survived find their lives forever altered. Young Kimo loves his grandfather very much – they go everywhere together, sharing island stories and experiences. But there is one story his grandfather has yet to share and that is the reason behind their yearly pilgrimage to Laupahoehoe Point. Here, in silent remembrance, Grandfather places a flower lei atop a stone monument. It is only after his grandfather’s sudden death that Kimo learns the story behind their annual visit and the reason for the sadness that has haunted his grandfather throughout the years. [Hawaiian]

Mooncakes by Loretta Seto

Mooncakes is the lyrical story of a young girl who shares the special celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival with her parents. As they eat mooncakes, drink tea and watch the night sky together, Mama and Baba tell ancient tales of a magical tree that can never be cut down, the Jade Rabbit who came to live on the moon and one brave woman’s journey to eternal life. With a gentle focus on the importance of family, Mooncakes is both a perfect book for parent and child to read together and an ideal choice for schools and libraries. [Chinese]

Pele and Poli’ahu retold by Malia Collins

Long, long ago, on the Island of Hawaii, there lived two beautiful goddesses. Pele, the goddess of fire, lived on the slopes of Mauna Loa. Poliahu, the goddess of snow, lived on the snow capped peaks of Mauna Kea. So begins the retelling of the classic Hawaiian legend a tale of fire and ice when Pele ventured off her fiery mountaintop to make mischief and challenge Poliahu to a sled race down the snowy slopes of Mauna Kea. It is a story about the power of nature, the power of wills, the power of skill, and an explanation of why the Big Island, to this day, is and island of contrasts. [Hawaiian]

Yoga in the Jungle by Ramiro Calle

Yoga in the Jungle is a wonderful tale of friendship that unfolds in the vibrant jungle of India, introducing young readers to the practice of yoga. While mimicking the body language of the exotic animals in the story, the beautifully illustrated yoga poses will help children to improve their poise and concentration, nurturing a learning process that will fill them with peace, happiness and a sense of being connected to nature. [Asian Indian]

Sadako’s Cranes by Judith Loske

Based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, Sadako’s Cranes tells the story of her battle with leukemia. When Sadako hears of a Japanese legend which says that a person who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish, she begins folding cranes. Her wish was simply to live. [Japanese]

Maggie’s Chopsticks by Alan Woo

Maggie comes from a family of unique individuals, all with their own opinions and style, each one of them willing to give advice on how the child should hold her new chopsticks. Maggie listens to all of them in turn, weighing her options. Grandmother suggests using chopsticks in a rather forthright way, while Sister suggests a more graceful approach. As Maggie begins to worry that she may never find her own style, her father suggests that she be herself. Because of his encouragement, she is able to find just what works for her. Maggie comes from a traditional Chinese family, and she clearly wants to make them proud. [Chinese]

Mali Under the Night Sky: a Lao Story of Home by Youme Landowne

This book is a 2011 Skipping Stones honor book and the true story of Laotian American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Before the war began, Mali lived an idyllic life in a community where she felt safe and was much loved. But the coming war caused her family to flee to another country and a life that was less than ideal. What did she carry with her? She carried her memories. And they in turn carried her across the world, sharing where she is from and all that she loves with the people she meets. [Laotian]

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim

In this clever picture-book retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Chinese New Year starts with Goldy Luck’s mother asking her to bring turnip cakes to their panda neighbors, the Chans. Goldy heads next door, promptly spilling her plate of turnip cakes as she walks in the front door; from there, things unfold as might be expected. She eats up Little Chan’s rice porridge, breaks his rocking chair, and falls asleep on his futon. Goldy Luck’s conscience gets the better of her, though, and she learns some valuable lessons about friendship and being a good neighbor. 

In Andal’s House by Gloria Whelan

As a young boy in Gujarat, India, Kumar sometimes feels like he lives in two worlds. First there is the old world where people and their choices are determined by prejudice and bigotry. But then there is the second, modern world: in this world Kumar can be friends with whomever he chooses and his future looks bright. As part of the annual Diwali celebration, Kumar is invited to the house of his classmate Andal to watch fireworks. Andal is from a high-caste Brahmin family so Kumar is especially pleased to be included. But there in Andal’s house, Kumar’s two worlds collide in a very unpleasant way. Instead of being welcomed as a guest, Kumar is sent away, forbidden to join the festivities. Angry and hurt, Kumar is left questioning his place in Indian society. Where does he fit in? To which world does he really belong? [Asian Indian]

Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch

Growing up in New York City, Hiromi Suzuki missed spending time with her father, a sushi chef who worked long hours in the family’s Japanese restaurant. So one day when she was eight years old, Hiromi begged her father to take her to the Fulton Fish Market, where he bought fresh fish. Hiromi was fascinated by what she saw and learned; by the time she was thirteen, she was ready to take the next step. She asked her father to teach her to make sushi. Little did Hiromi realize that her request would lead her to the forefront of a minor culinary revolution, as women claimed their place in the once all-male world of sushi chefs. [Japanese American]

Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by Uma Krishnaswami

A young boy spots a baby tree growing in the middle of a dusty path in his village. He carefully places rocks around it as the local mango seller rushes past shouting, “Out of the way! Out of the way!” As the tree grows bigger, people and animals traverse the path until it becomes a lane, flowing like a river around the tree — getting out of its way. Over time, the lane becomes a road, and a young man crossing the road with his children remembers the baby tree from long ago. By the time he is an old man, the tree has become a giant. The city traffic continues to rattle past, noisier and busier than ever, but sometimes the great tree works its magic, and people just stop, and listen. [Asian Indian]

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service by Annette Bay Pimental

Tie Sing was born in the mountains. The mountains were in his blood. But because he was of Chinese descent at a time in America when to be Chinese meant working in restaurants or laundries, Tie Sing’s prospects were limited. But he had bigger plans. He began cooking for mapmakers and soon built a reputation as the best trail cook in California.
 
When millionaire Stephen Mather began his quest to create a national park service in 1915, he invited a group of influential men—writers, tycoons, members of Congress, and even a movie star—to go camping in the Sierras. Tie Sing was hired to cook.
 
Tie Sing planned diligently. He understood the importance of this trip. But when disaster struck—twice!—and Tie Sing’s supplies were lost, it was his creative spirit and quick mind that saved the day. His sumptuous menus had to be struck and Tie Sing had to start over in order to feed the thirty people in the group for ten whole days. His skills were tested and Tie Sing rose to the challenge.
 
On the last night, he fed not just the campers’ bodies, but also their minds, reminding them to remember and protect the mountains. [Chinese American]

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki

As a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania in the 1940s, Chiune Sugihara had a chance to help thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust through Japan, but it was against his government’s orders. When his five-year-old son Hiroki asked, “If we don’t help them, won’t they die?” Sugihara decided to assist the refugees. [Japanese]

Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries by Emily Arnold McCully

In 1841, Japan had been closed to the outside world for 250 years, and anyone who tried to return to the country after leaving it could be executed. So when the small fishing boat on which fourteen-year-old Manjiro was working was shipwrecked, he despaired of ever returning to his village. The captain of the American whaling ship that rescued Manjiro took a special interest in him, inviting him to come live in Massachusetts. There, Manjiro was treated like Captain Whitfield’s son, and he began to feel as though Massachusetts was his second home. Still, he never gave up his dream of finding a way to return to Japan and see his mother again. [Japanese American]

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin & June Jo Lee

“Sohn maash” is the flavors in our fingertips. It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods. For Chef Roy Choi, food means love. It also means culture, not only of Korea where he was born, but the many cultures that make up the streets of Los Angeles, where he was raised. So remixing food from the streets, just like good music—and serving it up from a truck—is true to L.A. food culture. People smiled and talked as they waited in line. Won’t you join him as he makes good food smiles? [Korean American]