Read and Learn: Culturally Diverse Children’s Book Publishers and Imprints
A few months ago, I explored the current state of diversity in children’s book publishers. While I discovered that there have been some advancements in kidlit’s portrayals of children of colour, there definitely hasn’t been enough. Many “diverse” books are coming from white, straight, cis creators, and so there is still a lack of titles written and illustrated by people who are members of the communities being portrayed. While any increase in multicultural representation is beneficial, authenticity is even more important than just visibility. When people read about their own culture, it is often the nuances of the experience that are relatable.
Given those findings, I wanted to search out the specifically diverse publishers and imprints (divisions of publishing companies) focusing on children’s lives. All of these companies share a mission to print diverse books, prioritizing authentic portrayals of the varying experiences of racial and cultural identities as well as showing a myriad of genders, sexual orientations, and abilities. Below, I’ve compiled a list of diverse children’s publishers and imprints that you need to seek out.
Agate Bolden publishes adult and children’s books by and about African Americans. Right now they only have one children’s book, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, which is written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James. Written in a cheeky rhyming style, it’s about the experience of a young Black boy getting a barbershop haircut and it’s a well-deserved multi-award winner.
Originally, Barefoot Books was a small indie publisher out of England. Since 1992, the company expanded out of its owners’ homes, all the while retaining its desire to create quality stories that champion kindness and honour diversity. In 2012, Barefoot Books won the IPG Diversity in Publishing award for “sustained commitment to cultural and ecological diversity,” and their books continue to be insightful, eco-minded and culturally diverse.
Beach House Publishing
Beach House Publishing is a Hawaii-based company that publishes activity books, board books, and picture books about the island’s “culture, history, ethnic landscape, and geography.” This is essential work they’re doing, given Lee & Low’s most recent findings about how few books are being published by and about Pacific Islanders.
Not only do they have a great name, but Flamingo Rampant is also doing important work. They publish “feminist, racially-diverse, LGBTQ positive children’s books, in an effort to bring visibility and positivity to the reading landscape of children everywhere.” The founders wanted the books to advocate values like racial justice and disability pride while remaining upbeat and positive.
Greystone Kids is a Canadian publisher that creates “high-quality, visually compelling, beautifully written, and sustainably produced picture books for young readers and nonfiction books for middle grade readers.” I am a huge fan of their Indigenous picture books by Julie Flett — any of those should be checked out ASAP. Greystone Kids’ imprint, Aldana Libros, specifically prints international authors and illustrators. Alfredo Soderguit’s The Capybaras was a recent standout read.
Groundwood Books is another Canadian publisher that produces amazing, award-winning children’s books portraying varying cultures, races, abilities, sexual orientations, and genders! They produce so many incredible reads, but I have a soft spot for Sara O’Leary and Qin Leng’s A Family Is A Family is A Family — it has supported me through many Pride storytimes!
Lantana Publishing promotes “diversity and inclusion, social and racial justice, female empowerment, empathy, mindfulness and wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and more.” Their books are beautiful and thoughtful, and a recent title I dug was Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona and Anna Cunha.
Lee and Low Books
Lee and Low is the largest U.S. publisher of multicultural children’s books. Minority-owned, Lee and Low have made it their mission to publish thoughtful and authentic picture books for 30 years. Also, their Diversity Baseline Survey is a key tool in measuring the publishing industry’s racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup. Most importantly, they redo the survey every four years, allowing for an increased understanding of how the industry is changing. They have an imprint, Tu Books, for middle grade and YA.
Lil’ Libros‘s catalogue of board books introduces easy bilingual reads and Latin American culture. Along with simple board books about historical figures and places, they also feature telenovelas, the loteria, and stories about Latin American kids’ lives.
Make Me A World
Artist and writer Christopher Myers is the creative director of Random House’s Make Me a World imprint. Myers describes the goal as “[w]e strive to imagine a universe in which no young person is invisible, in which no kid’s story is erased, in which no glass ceiling presses down on the dreams of a child.” They’ve produced acclaimed picture books like Snow Angel, Sand Angel by Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Ashley Lukashevsky, and award-winning YA like Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet.
Mango and Marigold Press
Mango and Marigold Press publishes stories about the South Asian experience, ensuring that they are authentic and accurate. They cover holidays such as Diwali, Eid, and Ramadan, and they focus on topics like self-empowerment and mindfulness.
A Simon & Schuster-owned publishing imprint, Saalam Reads produces uplifting books about Muslim life. They release picture books, middle grade, and YA across a variety of genres and styles. A recent favourite of mine, their award-winning Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed, is a wonderful story about community and sharing traditions.
Kwame Alexander’s HarperCollins imprint, Versify, has produced so many wonderful books about multicultural children’s experiences. Lamar Giles’s Legendary Alston Boys series is a delight, and I also adored Sofiya Pasternack’s Anya and the Dragon two-book series. Plus picture books like ¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge by Raúl the Third are so wacky and great.
All in all, these 13 diverse children’s book publishers and imprints are creating very exciting work. Explore their catalogues, get to know their featured authors, and you will find yourselves reading your way through an abundance of first-rate stories. For even more, Charnaie Gordon’s Here Wee Read has curated an even longer list that is well worth going through. So, happy exploring! I know you will find some great stuff out there.