30 Kids Books That Feature Diverse Characters

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When it comes to kids’ books, it’s important to make sure your reading list offers a wide array of diverse characters; it’s an easy way to show budding readers that while human beings come in all shapes, sizes and colors, we all have the same emotions and feelings. And, it’s a great way for kids to see another side of things and experience things through a different set of eyes. We’ve rounded up 30 epic books for kids that feature diverse protagonists, scroll down to see them all and order your favorite today!


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Most Perfect You

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"You are all of my favorite things." Irie doesn't like her hair, so when she asks to cover it up with a beanie in the middle of summer, it starts a conversation of all the amazing things her mother sees in her. Inspired by a real story from author Jazmyn's Simons' daughter, this sweet tale is inspiring and uplifting. Ages: 4-8


The Year We Learned to Fly

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Like the stories passed down in Black Folktales, a brother and sister learn to fly in the midst of tough times in this short tale. With the help of Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator Rafael López, the duo follow their grandmother's advice and use their imaginations to escape to places of beauty and adventure. Ages: 5-8


Fly

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Africa has signed up for a Double Dutch competition. The only problem? She's never done it before! Can she dig deep into the same skills her grandmother had as a jump rope legend and show the world what she's made of? Ages: 4-8


best bestime books alice in wonderland

Bedtime Classics: Alice in Wonderland

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The classic story of Alice in Wonderland is reimagined as part of a new series of board books that take famous books and re-tell them with inclusive and charming illustrations. Other books in the series include The Wizard of Oz and Jack and the Beanstalk. Ages: 3 & up.


Last Stop on Market Street

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It all starts with a question—“Nana, how come we don’t got a car?”—and the story of young C.J. and the wisdom his grandma imparts is off and running, just like the bus they ride down Market Street after church on Sundays. This simple story about the perspective only grandparents can give their grandkids won the Caldecott Honor award in 2016. Ages: 3-5.


best bedtime stories tomorrow most likely

Tomorrow Most Likely

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Dave Eggers is at it again with his newest release for kiddos ages 3-5, Tomorrow Most Likely. Publishing this month from Chronicle Books, this new read illustrated by Lane Smith reinvents the classic bedtime book. Instead of focusing on what happened that day, the little boy protagonist focuses on the future and imagines all the fun, dreamy and whimsical things that might happen tomorrow. Ages 3-5


best bedtime books astronaut annie, books about space

Astronaut Annie

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As Annie prepares for career day at her school, she talks to her family about their hopes for her future as she plans her future career as an astronaut. Suzanne Slade's book will satisfy your curious kiddos with bonus material about famous female astronauts and facts about the moon, all accompanied by enchanting illustrations by Nicole Tadgell. Ages: 4-7


Daniel's Good Day

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From Ezra Keats award-winning author/illustrator Micha Archer comes the next adventure for a young boy named Daniel. This time, as Daniel makes his way to grandma's, he ponders what makes it a "good day," and stops to ask various members of his community to find out. For his friend Emma, a steady wind for her kite makes it a good day, for the gardener it's bees on flowers, for the crossing guard, it's everyone home safe. Follow this charming tale to find out what makes a good, or better yet, a perfect day for Daniel. Ages: 3-6


Julian Is a Mermaid

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Julian’s life is forever changed on the day he sees the brilliant costumes and colorful hair of Coney Island Mermaid Parade participants riding home on the subway. This epic book for kids proves that anyone can be a mermaid. Ages: 4-8 years


How to Code a Sandcastle

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Pearl is trying to build the perfect sandcastle, but she is not having any luck with fellow beach-goers ruining her efforts. That's when Pearl turns to a robot named Pascal to teach her computer coding concepts to build a foolproof sandcastle. Ages: 4-8


Thunder Boy Jr.

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Even if you don’t have a “jr.” in your family, your kids will relate to Thunder Boy’s frustration and overwhelming desire to change his name. Compellingly and humorously, he works his persuasive magic on his captive audience (that’s you!), making the case for a name change to “Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth”… or how about “Full of Wonder?” Add in the fantastic artwork of Yuyi Morales, and it’s easy to see why this book has earned its place on seven best book lists! Ages: 4-8


Merci Suarez Changes Gears

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Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal. Sixth-grader Merci Suarez isn’t like the other kids in her private school in Florida. She’s a scholarship student. Instead of spending her weekends on a boat like the other kids, she performs community service to help pay for her free tuition. A sensitive coming of age chapter book that perfectly encapsulates the joy and uncertainty of the middle school years. Ages: 9-12


The Seekers

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We're not sure what's the best part of this stunning picture book: the original story based on mythology from the artists' native Mumbai or the stunning illustrations created by Hari & Deepti, two paper-cut artists who bring the story of a brother and sister who leave their home valley to save their village, and along the way, through the myth of Silver Fox and Fire Wolf, learn the true importance of balance. Ages: 4-8


best bedtime books sulwe

Sulwe

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Written by Kenyan-born actress Lupita Nyong'O, this is as much her personal story as it the story of young Sulwe, a girl whose skin is the color of midnight. The stunningly gorgeous illustrations by Vashti Harrison are reason enough alone to want this book in your library, but the story itself is beautifully told; it's about differences, acceptance of oneself no matter how we think others see us, it's about wanting to fit in and yet being unique. A vital message for every kid out there, regardless of race or gender. Read it today with your kids. Ages: 4-8


Parker Looks Up

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Written by Parker Curry (age 4) and her mama, Jessica Curry, with an afterword by Michelle Obama, this is the sweet story of Parker Curry, a young girl, who went to the National Portrait Gallery one afternoon with her mom. She saw prancing horse, blooming flowers, a bushy mustache ... but before she went twirling off toward home, Parker Curry looked up. There on the wall, she saw the magnificent portrait (by Amy Sherald) of Michelle Obama. Parker didn't just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen, a woman with regality, beauty, truth and self-assurance, a woman who looked like her. This moving story will delight any young dreamer; it's a great addition to any home library or classroom. Ages: 4-8


Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist Scientist

https://www.amazon.com/Ada-Twist-Scientist-Andrea-Beaty/dp/1419721372?tag=

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She's a curious kid, that Ada. Constantly asking "why," and forever conducting experiments to get to the bottom of her questions, Ada may frustrate her parents with the neverending mess, but what's important is that she doesn't stop until she gets the results. One in a series that includes Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer, Ada is a wonderful role model for all girls interested in science. Ages: 5-7


Freedom Soup

$14 BUY NOW

Join a Haitian grandma and her granddaughter in the kitchen as they make their traditional New Year's Soup, aka Freedom Soup, and learn the story of Haiti's independence. Includes a delicious recipe for you to try at home. Author Tami Charles pays homage to her heritage while Jacqueline Alcántara highlights the joy and richness of the culture with her gorgeous illustrations. Ages: 5-9


Books for Kids About Racism

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

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Who was Katherine Johnson? This book will tell you: she is said to be one of the greatest minds of all time! She worked in the 1950s for the NASA space program and was such a brilliant mathematician that she figured out the math needed to send a rocket to the moon in her head. She didn't even use a computer or a calculator. This book will teach kids about her early life as a child growing up in a small town in Virginia that didn't even have a high school for African Americans (schools were segregated then), how her family moved to a town with a high school she could attend, and about her incredible career as a scientist and mathematics marvel. Ages: 6-8


Little Whale: A Story of the Last Tlingit War Canoe

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Part of what makes this chapter book such an exciting one isn’t the fact that it’s about a young Tlingit boy who stows away in his father’s canoe. It’s the fact that it’s mostly true. Based on a tale passed down from his grandfather, author Roy Peratrovich, Jr. skillfully weaves his family’s history into the story of 10-year-old Keet, and his wild adventures on the stormy sea and beyond. Ages: 7+


The Night Diary

$12 BUY NOW

In 1947 India, 12-year-old Nisha is not sure where she belongs as a half-Muslim, half-Hindu, in her country. When her father decides to leave Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark on a long and challenging journey to find a new home. The hopeful and personal story of this family is told through Nisha's letters to her mother. Ages: 8-12


Birchbark House

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Cuddle up with this modern classic that was a National Book Award Finalist. Set in 1847, the story follows the day-to-day life of Omakayas, better known as “Little Frog,” after she was orphaned by a Small Pox outbreak and was eventually taken in by an Ojibwa family. Your kids will love hearing her tales of tanning moose hides, picking berries and even encountering bear cubs in vivid detail. Ages: 8 & up


Books for Kids About Racism

Other Words for Home

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In this Newbery honor book, you'll meet 12-year-old Jude, who has left her seaside home in Syria to escape the country's brutal civil war. She and her mother leave her father and brother behind as they head for Cinncinati to stay with relatives. Jude will experience being labeled as "Middle Eastern" for the first time, but she'll also discover new friends, a school musical that's worth taking the risk and finally understand that home can be in more than one place. Ages: 8-12


Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

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Sal and Gabi didn't meet under the best circumstances, but that doesn't stop them from high adventure. When Gabi discovers Sal can reach through time, she wonders––can it bring back her mother who's passed away? This Cuban-inspired sci-fi story by Carlos Hernandez is just what your middle schooler ordered. Ages: 8-12


Books for Kids About Racism

Front Desk

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Mia Yang has a few secrets: she lives in a motel, her parents clean the motel rooms and hide immigrants, and she wants to be a writer, not a mathematician. Loosely based on author Kelly Yang's childhood, this powerful story addresses poverty, systemic racism, stereotypes and more. Although this story takes place in the '90s, many of the heartbreaking stories told here remain true for immigrants and minorities today. Ages: 9+


Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

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Fans of Percy Jackson will be thrilled by this Rick Riordan Presents series, written by Kwame Mbalia. Mbalia does for African mythology and folk tales what Riordan has done for Greek mythology. The hero in this story is seventh grader Tristan Strong, who isn't feeling very strong after the death of his best friend, Eddie. During Tristan's summer stay at his grandparents home in Alabama, Eddie's journal (which is precious to Tristan) is stolen by a strange creature. Tristan chases after it, and "accidentally" punches a hole into a land rich with monsters, haunted ships and boiling seas. Mbalia weaves black American folk heroes like John Henry and Brer Rabbit with African gods and mythos. Our editor's 9-year-old devoured this book, laughing out loud along the way, and is now eagerly awaiting book two! Ages: 8-12


The Crossover

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Written in a fast-moving verse that mirrors the pace of bouncing balls on the basketball court, this Newbery Award-winning novel follows the lives of two brothers, Josh and Jordan Bell, as they navigate life both on and off the court. Ages: 10-12


Kira-Kira

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This Newbery Award-winning book follows Katie and her family as they leave Iowa and move to Deep South Georgia in the 1950s. One of only 31 Japanese-American families in town, Katie, her older sister Lynn and hard-working parents will encounter racism at school and work, and when tragedy befalls the family, Katie must stay strong for everyone. A sobering historical fiction tale worth reading. Ages: 10-14


Books for Kids About Racism

The Hate U Give

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16-year-old Starr Carter is constantly trying to find the balance between the fancy prep school she attends and the poor neighborhood in which she lives. When she witnesses the death of her childhood friend at the hands of the police, that balance is shattered. The protests, the hate and the confusion that follow are achingly similar to current events. A heartbreaking tale, this poignant first-person narrative is a great way to start or continue a conversation with your tween about the Black Lives Matter movement. Ages: 12 & up


Poet X

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The lyrical language of this novel by Elizabeth Acevedo makes reading Xiomara’s story easy, although her life was not. She’s a scrapper, who came into this world fighting, even though her mother would prefer she didn’t. She’s got poetry in her veins, so it’s no wonder she’s invited to join her school’s slam poetry club. But will Mami let her? Ages: 12+


Books for Kids About Racism

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come

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From Newbery Award-winning novelist Mildred D. Taylor comes the end of the Logan family saga that began with Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. In All the Days Past, Cassie Logan is all grown up and trying to find her place in the world. Her journey takes her to Toledo, California, law school in Boston and finally, back to Mississippi in the '60s to help with voter registration. She will be witness to the rise of the civil rights movement, which is preceded by racist American white society, and the often violent confrontations that bring about historical change. Ages: 14+

—Gabby Cullen, Amber Guetebier, Allison Sutcliffe and Karly Wood

 

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29 Books for Kids About Racism, Inequality & Injustice in America

 

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