Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to culture. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about culture.
Our list includes chapter books. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about culture, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Brown Girl Dreaming to popular sellers like The Boy on the Wooden Box to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Gauntlet.
We hope this list of kids books about culture can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South.
When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube, they know it is up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed.
Moishe was thirteen when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and he was sent to Auschwitz. His home was ravaged, his family torn apart by illness and abduction. Years of brutality drew on as Moishe moved from one labor camp to the next. Finally, towards the end of the war and at the peak of Moishe’s deepest despair, a simple act of kindness by a group of courageous Czech women redeemed his faith that goodness could survive the trials of war: That was the day it rained warm bread. Deftly articulated and beautifully illustrated, this is a strong addition to the ever-important genre of Holocaust testimonies.
Through narrative and photographs, Eloise Greenfield highlights important aspects from a few hundred years of the lives of African American midwives and the people they selflessly served. Greenfield incorporates expressive poetry, which is paired with the evocative art of Daniel Minter to bring the powerful story of midwifery to life. The poem “Africa to America” begins the journey, while “The Women,” concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.
A New York Times bestseller Like the classic heroines of Sarah, Plain and Tall, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, Ada is a fighter for the ages. Her triumphant World War II journey continues in this sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning The War that Saved My Life When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. Who is she now? World War II rages on, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, move with their guardian, Susan, into a cottage with the iron-faced Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded home is tense. Then Ruth moves in. Ruth, a Jewish girl, from Germany. A German? Could Ruth be a spy? As the fallout from war intensifies, calamity creeps closer, and life during wartime grows even more complicated. Who will Ada decide to be? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?
Ice Breaker - In the 1930s, only white figure skaters were allowed in public ice rinks and to compete for gold medals, but Mabel Fairbanks wouldn’t let that stop her. With skates two sizes too big and a heart full of dreams, Mabel beat the odds and broke down color barriers through sheer determination and athletic skill. After skating in ice shows across the nation and helping coach and develop the talents of several Olympic champions, Mabel became the first African-American woman to be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
For Black Girls Like Me - I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark. Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena- the only other adopted black girl she knows- for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one true friend. Through it all, Makeda can’t help wondering: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me? Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.
The Eleventh Trade - From debut author Alyssa Hollingsworth comes a story about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new place to call home. They say you can’t get something for nothing, but nothing is all Sami has. When his grandfather’s most-prized possession—a traditional Afghan instrument called a rebab—is stolen, Sami resolves to get it back. He finds it at a music store, but it costs $700, and Sami doesn’t have even one penny. What he does have is a keychain that has caught the eye of his classmate. If he trades the keychain for something more valuable, could he keep trading until he has $700? Sami is about to find out. The Eleventh Trade is both a classic middle school story and a story about being a refugee. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth tackles a big issue with a light touch.
Neekna and Chemai - Neekna and Chemai are two little girls growing up in the Okanagan Valley in the time before European contact. Through these two friends, we learn about the seasonal life patterns of the Okanagan First Peoples. The girls spend time with Great-Grandmother, who tells them about important ceremonies, and they gather plants with Neekna’s grandmother. Grandmother explains how bitterroot came to be an important food source, and why the people give a special ceremony of thanks at its harvest. Grandmother also tells the story of how a woman was changed to a rock to watch over the Okanagan Valley. Neekna understands how important it is that she has received the knowledge passed down for generations, from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother.
Perseus and the Olympians face off against the evil, nasty Medusa, who can turn them all to stone with just one look.
Imani is adopted, and she’s ready to search for her birth parents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way. Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. Then her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, and Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adoptive family of her own. And as Imani reads the diary, she begins to see her family, and her place in it, in a whole new way.
Traces the story of Holocaust survivor Leon Leyson, who was the youngest child in his family and possibly the youngest of the hundreds of Jews rescued by Oskar Schindler.
Will Demon’s latest quest bring down the wrath of Zeus? Demon’s life on Mount Olympus has never been busier. Thanks to the awful heroes down on Earth, he has a whole slew of injured beasts to care for. And worse still, the goddess Psyche wants Demon to “borrow” Zeus’s prized eagle for an urgent mission. But is her task worth the risk of offending the king of the gods?
Demon has always counted on his magical medicine box to help him cure the sick beasts on Mount Olympus. But Chiron, his new healing master, insists Demon learn to find the cures on his own. Demon’s new skills are soon put to the test when he must save an ailing phoenix—or face the wrath of its fiery guards!
Gods of the North - Odin, the ruler of the Asgardians, has an important mission for Demon. Goldbristle, the gods’ prized shining boar, is losing his light. Now Demon must travel to Asgard in the North to search this cold, snowy land for anything that might cure this beast.
Sif and the Dwarfs’ Treasures - From the authors of the Goddess Girls series comes the second book in a brand-new series steeped in Norse mythology, magic, adventure, and friendship. Twelve-year-old Sif is goddess of the harvest, with her abilities woven into her long, blonde hair. She also has special prophetic powers—she is a seer—but is reluctant to share them after a mishap years ago caused a big rift in a friendship that meant a lot to her. And Sif is determined to not let that happen again! But when the mischievous Loki cuts her hair in a horrible prank gone wrong, Sif orders Loki to fix it. Without her hair, the crops in the land of Midgard—which supplies the wheat for food in Asgard Academy as well—are in danger of dying off. With Sif and Freya, Loki goes to ask for help from the dwarfs, specifically, the sons of Ivaldi who are all skilled blacksmiths and strikes a bargain with them. They hammer and spin gold into fine golden strands along with a spear and a ship that will grow to full size once in water. On his way back through the cave, Loki gets an idea for how to get more treasures by playing one set of dwarfs off against another. Envious of the work of the sons of Ivaldi, the dwarfs Brokk and Eitri say they can do better. Loki replies that he doesn’t think they can and that, furthermore, he’ll stake his head on it. Is that a bet that Loki will regret? And will Sif be able to restore her magical powers to prevent the drought in Midgard?
Halfway Normal - Twelve-year-old cancer survivor Norah struggles to fit in at middle school after two years of treatment, but she finds her voice with the help of new friend Griffin, who shares her love of mythology.
The Night Diary - Shy twelve-year-old Nisha, forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India, tries to find her voice and make sense of the world falling apart around her by writing to her deceased Muslim mother in the pages of her diary.
When the god of war leaves his smelly, unhappy battle dragon with Demon, he must figure out a way to cure the beast without his magic medicine box.
Discover Norse mythology through the enthralling exploits of all-powerful Odin, mighty Thor, and the trickster Loki.
When he returns to Olympus from Asgard, Demon must calm a groggy volcano monster while figuring out what is wrong with the unicorns.
A beautifully written, timeless tale by Cao Wenxuan, best-selling Chinese author and 2016 recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. Sunflower is an only child, and when her father is sent to the rural Cadre School, she has to go with him. Her father is an established artist from the city and finds his new life of physical labor and endless meetings exhausting. Sunflower is lonely and longs to play with the local children in the village across the river. When her father tragically drowns, Sunflower is taken in by the poorest family in the village, a family with a son named Bronze. Until Sunflower joins his family, Bronze was an only child, too, and hasn’t spoken a word since he was traumatized by a terrible fire. Bronze and Sunflower become inseparable, understanding each other as only the closest friends can. Translated from Mandarin, the story meanders gracefully through the challenges that face the family, creating a timeless story of the trials of poverty and the power of love and loyalty to overcome hardship.
Steeds of the Gods - Demon is getting used to his role as the official Beast Keeper to the gods on Mount Olympus. The gods are getting used to him, too—until Helios and Poseidon decide to involve him in a feud! The two gods are planning a race to see which of their steeds are the fastest. Both vengeful gods have requested Demon’s help, but he can choose only one.
The Professor and the Puzzle - Nancy and her friends are on an epic quest to discover the identity of a treacherous Greek scholar in this fifteenth book of the Nancy Drew Diaries, a fresh approach to the classic mystery series. Nancy, Bess, and George are excited to attend Oracle College’s annual Greek mythology themed gala. But the festive spirit turns troubled when a student falls from the balcony mid-speech. Nancy’s investigations quickly reveal this was a case of collegiate sabotage. Can she find the campus menace before someone else gets hurt?
The Cryptid Catcher - Thirteen-year-old Clivo Wren learns that his recently deceased father was not an archaeologist as he was told, but rather a cryptid catcher, known for finding elusive mythological creatures, and now Clivo must pick up where his father left off and track down a cryptid whose blood grants immortality before the knowledge falls into the wrong hands.
My Year in the Middle - Miss Garrett’s classroom is like every other at our school. White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other. I’m one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference. In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu’s talent for running track makes her a new best friend—and tests her mettle as she navigates the school’s social cliques. Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. Trouble is, Lu’s old friends have been changing lately—acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu’s newfound talent for running track. Lu’s secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham, but in 1970 Red Grove, Alabama, blacks and whites don’t mix. As segregationist ex-governor George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state—and in the classroom—mean that Lu can’t stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what’s right and to choose friends who do the same?
Having proven himself capable of caring for the mythical creatures that dwell on Olympus, eleven-year-old Demon is summoned by the great god Hades to the Underworld to tend to Cerberus, the three-headed dog Guardian of the Underworld, which has been beaten by Demon’s nemesis, Heracles.
Jason is ready to win the famous golden fenders, but it’s not going to be easy. He has to take on the likes of Perseus and The Hydra in a freestyle event. While he is doing wheelies and donuts, one evil official is trying to make sure Jason gets crushed by his completion. ThunderTrucks combines Greek mythology and monster trucks, using action-packed text in the early chapter book format to keep young readers racing to finish. A glossary, author and illustrator bios, and additional Greek myth information round out these exciting early chapter books.
Nobody told Odysseus about the monster truck competition in Troy, but when he tries to join the fun he finds that hero ThunderTrucks are not allowed in—but Odysseus comes up with a clever plan to get past the dump truck cards and enter the contest.
A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this “compassionate, timely novel” (Booklist, starred review) from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns. Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized. Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
The holiday season is here, and the kids in Room 3B are learning about all the different ways people celebrate. In addition to Christmas and Hanukkah, there’s Kwanzaa, Three Kings’ Day, Korean New Year, and more. All the talk about holidays has everyone feeling festive. Everyone, that is, except Harry. He doesn’t seem to care about the holidays, the class pet, or even the new student in class. It’s clear that something is bugging Harry, but what could it be?
The Chupacabras of the Río Grande - The fourth book in the fully illustrated, globe-trotting middle grade fantasy-adventure series about mythical creatures and their cultures of origin, from the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor’s Tale. Elliot and Uchennna have only just returned from their most recent Unicorn Rescue Society mission when they (along with Jersey!) are whisked away on their next exciting adventure with Professor Fauna. This time, they’re headed to the Mexican border to help another mythical creature in need: the chupacabras! The Chupacabras of the Río Grande is co-written with David Bowles, author of the Pura Belpré Honor-winning book, The Smoking Mirror!
Tales of the Greek Heroes (Puffin Pixels) - Embrace your inner geek with Puffin Pixels Puffin Pixels is a collection of classics featuring pixelated, 8-bit video game cover artwork in the Minecraft style. Some of the oldest and most famous stories in the world–the adventures of Perseus, the labors of Heracles, the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts, are vividly retold in this single, connected narrative of the Heroic Age, from the coming of the Immortals to the first fall of Troy. With fresh dialogue and a brisk pace, the myths of this version are enthrallingly vivid.
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table - Embrace your inner geek with Puffin Pixels Puffin Pixels is a collection of classics featuring pixelated, 8-bit video game cover artwork in the Minecraft style. King Arthur is one of the greatest legends of all time. From the magical moment when Arthur releases the sword in the stone to the quest for the Holy Grail and the final tragedy of the Last Battle, Roger Lancelyn Green brings the enchanting world of King Arthur stunningly to life.
Two Roads - In 1932, twelve-year-old Cal must stop being a hobo with his father and go to a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, where he begins learning about his history and heritage as a Creek Indian.
Even though she only left Mumbai a few months ago, Shivani isn’t feeling like such an outsider anymore. She likes her new school. She finally has a best friend. But when her mother volunteers for the school’s annual fundraiser, Shivani is sure she will completely embarrass her. Especially if she cooks one of the “stinky” dishes that Shivani loves but is too ashamed to eat in front of her friends. On the day of the fair, the moment Shivani walks into the gym she knows her worst fears have come true: the unmistakable scent of Indian spices is in the air. But then she sees that dozens of people are lined up at her mom’s stall. It’s the most popular one!
Little Athena finds herself on a Wizard of Oz inspired adventure in this first Little Goddess Girls story—part of the Aladdin QUIX line! After a strange and sparkly storm carries her away from home, Athena finds herself in a land filled with magic, talking animals, and incredible objects with magical powers—the land of Mount Olympus! When Athena arrives, she’s greeted by the talking Owlies and is paired with very special magical sandals—sandals with powers that Medusa, a green, snake-haired girl, wants for herself! A glowing goddess (of hearth and home) named Hestia appears and warns Athena that if Medusa gets her snakes on those sandals, she’ll surely use its powers to make trouble for Mount Olympus! But Athena has more important things on her mind—like going back home! Determined to find her way back, Athena heads off on an adventure through the magical landscape of Mount Olympus to try and elude Medusa—and find her way back to the mortal world once and for all with the help of the great and powerful Zeus!
When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school, she is confused, frightened and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns in charge at the school, who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene’s parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law?
Eleven-year-old Demon had never met his father, the god Pan, until the day he was whisked away to the stables of Olympus and charged with looking after all of the mythical creatures there, a task which is complicated by the tempestuous gods and goddesses and Heracles, who keeps killing the immortal beasts.
The third book in the fully illustrated, globe-trotting new middle grade fantasy-adventure series about mythical creatures and their cultures of origin, from the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor’s Tale. Elliot and Uchenna, along with Jersey, are back for their next adventure with Professor Fauna, searching out and rescuing a new mythical creature.
Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition - New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.
Beyond the Green - “After twelve-year-old Britta’s family fostered Chipeta, a Native American baby, for four years, Chipeta’s birth mother has the right to take her back. In 1979 Utah, Britta can’t imagine life without her beloved little sister, and so she grows determined to do whatever she can to keep her sister and to eventually understand how complicated and important family is—in all its forms”—
My Chocolate Year - In 1945 Chicago, as her Jewish family anxiously awaits news of relatives left behind in Europe, ten-year-old Dorrie learns new recipes in the hope of winning a baking competition at school. Includes recipes for various foods, from chocolate pudding to chocolate mandelbread.