10 Picture Books You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of by Creators of Color

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Mikkaka Overstreet

Senior Contributor

Mikkaka Overstreet is from Louisville, Kentucky by way of Saginaw “Sagnasty”, Michigan. She has been an educator since 2006 and earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction in 2015. By day she is a mild-mannered literacy specialist. By night she sleeps. In between, she daydreams, writes fiction, and reads books. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and cats.

Prepare yourself for an unapologetically diverse book list! All the books on this list are written by authors of color, many are illustrated by artists of color, and most feature characters of color. #sorrynotsorry

In all seriousness, creators of color need and deserve our support. The publishing industry is challenging to break into, and that difficulty is compounded for authors and illustrators with marginalized identities. Furthermore, authors of color are often paid less than their white counterparts.

Children’s books are among the most important genres in need of diversification. Children from diverse racial backgrounds need to see themselves reflected in books. Conversely, children from dominant cultures need to see others represented in various and multifaceted ways. Unfortunately, books about and especially written by people of color still do not reflect our population.

I am proud to write for an organization that is intentional about highlighting marginalized writers. All people deserve to tell their own stories and have those stories heard. For too long, the powerful have shaped the narratives about marginalized populations. I’m hopeful that our efforts at Book Riot are helping to right that wrong.

A surprising, but super cool, side effect of writing for Book Riot is that people share books with me all the time. Often, I receive under-the-radar gems that I would never have found on my own. Thus, I figured readers might appreciate the opportunity to check out some of these lesser known titles.

10 Picture Books You (Probably) Missed

cover of Christopher changes his name

Christopher Changes His Name by Itah Sadu and Roy Condy

While most of the books on this list are relatively new, I decided to start with this hidden gem. I discovered this book when I was planning a teaching unit about names and I’ve loved it ever since. Throughout this humorous tale, young Christopher keeps changing his name after being inspired by historical and cultural icons. Ultimately, he realizes how special he is, just as he is.

cover of always anjali

Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth and Jessica Blank

With a name like Mikkaka, I empathize with characters like Anjali. While Christopher changes his name because it’s too common, Anjali has the opposite problem. When she gets a new bike, she can’t find her name among the novelty license plates. Additionally, kids begin to make fun of her name. Ultimately, however, Anjali learns to appreciate her name and celebrate her culture.

cover of Phenomenal AOC

Phenomenal AOC by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Loris Lora

This picture book biography is a beautifully illustrated account of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s journey to politics. It chronicles AOC’s rise from a child in the Bronx to becoming the youngest congress member in United States’ history. Rich with references to her Puerto Rican heritage, this book is an inspirational look at the life of a truly phenomenal woman.

cover of Three Bunny Sisters

Three Bunny Sisters by Raveena, Diya, and Amisha Duggal

Three human sisters under the age of 13 wrote this cute story to inspire others. With an impressive resumé of charity work, the Duggal sisters are all about giving back. Thus, the bunnies in their book learn how to help other bunnies in need.

cover of One Hundred Percent Me

One Hundred Percent Me by Renee Macalino Rutledge and Anita Prades

What are you? Where are you from? Most children of immigrants hear questions like this daily. The multiracial main character in this picture book definitely does. However, rather than letting other people define her, she proclaims that she is 100% herself.

cover of Wutaryoo

Wutaryoo by Nilah Magruder

Similarly, the creature at the center of this picture book is one-of-a-kind. There are no other animals like her. She searches the world for answers, finding adventure along the way.

cover of the kite pf dreams

The Kite of Dreams by Pilar López Ávila, Paula Merlán, and Concha Pasamar

Children across the world play with kites. In this story, we see children from various countries playing and dreaming. The kites carry their dreams high into the sky. This book offers a glimpse into many different cultures. If you enjoy this one, you may also like López Ávila’s With a Butterfly’s Wings.

cover of sper satya saves the day

Super Satya Saves the Day by Raakhee Mirchandani and Tim Palin

When Satya wears the cape her super mama made for her, she feels unstoppable. However, when she has to face a day without her super apparel, she is worried it won’t go well. This is an adorable story about facing your fears and being your true self.

cover of The Color of Your Skin

The Color of Your Skin by Desirée Acevedo and Silvia Álvarez

When Vega’s classmate asks to borrow her “skin-colored” colored pencil, Vega wonders whose skin he means. She thinks of all the people she knows and the range of colors that match them. This is a very cute exploration of racism in everyday language and it’s handle beautifully and in an age-appropriate way.

cover of I am Ruby Bridges

I Am Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges and Nikkolas Smith

For decades, we’ve been telling and retelling the story of Ruby Bridges. As a civil rights icon, young Ruby was the first Black child to attend her local all-white elementary school. Now, Ruby Bridges tells that story in her own words, through the eyes of her 6-year-old self. This is undoubtedly a must-read.

cover of Zigglebee

Zigglebee by Lana Bailey

Okay, so this one is a bonus and an exception. It’s not a picture book yet. The young author, Lana Bailey, composed five stories within the book’s pages, leaving space for readers to illustrate. Lana’s twin sister, Laila, has Jacobsen syndrome and is nonverbal. However, Lana learned that Laila enjoyed interacting with her through art and storytelling. Her book invites readers to connect and create, using our imaginations.