One of my favorite co-workers is about to have her first child. My team and I went through her registry, full of the expected baby sleep sacks, bottles, car seat holder, etc., etc., etc. Her family is from South Africa, and we have had many conversations about the different experiences that have led us to seek out antiracist and anti-kyriarchy resources. After the team picked out a couple of things, we still had a bit of money left over from what we had all kicked in to celebrate her new baby. I asked her if there was anything not on her registry that she’s been thinking would be good to have.
“This baby has a bunch of animal books, but what I’d really like are books that will help her learn to be a badass intersectional feminist and antiracist from the very beginning,” she said.
And thus was this list on children’s books about race and racial diversity begun. For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “about racial diversity” as “books about non-white children featuring diverse lives and cultures.” Let’s get started!
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali, and Haten Aly
Faizah is going to school with a new backpack and light-up shoes. Her sister Asiya is wearing hijab for the first time—a beautiful blue one. But not everyone thinks it’s beautiful, and the girls find new ways to be strong for each other in the face of hurtful words.
When We Were Alone by David A. Robinson and Julie Flett
A young girl begins to notice things about her grandmother while helping her tend her garden. When she asks about them, her grandmother tells her about when she lived in a residential school and all of the things that identified her with her Indigenous culture were taken away.
When We Were Alone deals with a very difficult time in history—one that many children will never learn about in school.
Where Are You From? by Yamille Saied Méndez and Jaime Kim
Anyone who has been asked, “no, where are you really from?” will appreciate this beautiful book describing the land a young girl’s family comes from. It is the result of a collaboration between Argentinian American author Mendez and South Korean illustrator Jaime Kim, and deals gently with a question many people dread.
Alma and How She got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has a LOT of names! When she asks her Papa why, she learns about the people she is named for, and how carrying their names lends her strength to create her own story.
Author’s Note: As a biracial Hispanic child with (only) five names, I would have loved this!
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison
Sulwe is a story about finding one’s inner beauty. Sulwe herself has skin that is darker than anyone else in her family, and she finds it confusing; she just wants to look like her mother and sister. A magical journey through the night sky helps her to see herself as beautiful.
Fry Bread: A Native American Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal
This is a lovely book written in verse by Maillard, a member of the Seminole nation. Fry bread is a staple in many indigenous families, and while it has different recipes and properties from kitchen to kitchen, it deliciously represents culture and community in a way that only a shared food can.
N.B. The Author’s Note gives a lot of information about the careful precision of Martinez-Neal’s illustrations. Teachers who use this book in classrooms recommend reading it to assist with interactive reading and questions for listeners.
Goodbye, My Island by Jean Rogers and Rie Munoz
Esther Atoolik’s village is getting smaller and there aren’t enough children to keep the school open. The village has to decide whether to remain on their tiny island in the Bering Sea, where their people have lived for hundreds of years, or to combine their village with another.
N.B. This book has a character in it with alcoholism, who serves to illustrate the effect that alcohol has on rural Alaskan villages. This may be challenging for some readers.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Mufaro has two beautiful daughters. One is sweet and kind, while the other is selfish and bad-tempered. When the Great King invites all the worthy and beautiful girls in the land to appear before him so he can choose a wife, Mufaro brings both girls. Which one will the Great King choose?
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is based on a Zimbabwean folktale, and earned Steptoe the Coretta Scott King Award for its depiction of African culture and history.
Join a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most important holidays in the Chinese year.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Zuri’s hair curls and kinks and goes every-which-way. She knows it is beautiful, and when her Daddy steps in to help style it for a special occasion, he has a lot to learn! Daddy loves his Zuri and her hair, so he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make them happy.
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles and Jacqueline Alcantara
Ti Gran and her granddaughter Belle are ringing in the new year with freedom soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution of 1791. As they cook, Ti Gran tells Belle the story of the Revolution, her family, and the soup itself.
Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth and Jessica Blank
Anjali is excited to get a license plate for her bike, but there is no plate with her name on it. When she gets bullied for her “different” name, she demands to change it, but her parents refuse. Anjali takes matters into her own hands, and along the way learns to carry her name with pride. A fantastic book for those of us who will never find our bike license plates, keychains, or other tchotchkes on a spinny rack at a store.
N.B. A quick google search turns up many options for a personalized plate, and as we all know, there are a lot of gift-giving focused holidays coming up!
Looking to expand your diversity library even further? Check out Danika’s list of 30 Children’s Books About Diversity That Celebrate Our Differences.