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Friendship and Diversity: Books For Kids

Reading about friendship helps us learn how to be a good friend. While friendship can change as we age, it's essence remains the same; friendship is loyalty, fun, communication, support, compassion, and love. Enjoy our list of our favorite books showing the joy, journeys, hardships, and value of friendship! We hope you might even make a few (book) friends along the way.

“Reading for me, is spending time with a friend.” – Gary Pauls

My Year in the Middle book
#1
My Year in the Middle
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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?

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse book
#2
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
Written by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

A classic in the making, this heartwarming story about empathy and imagination is one that families will treasure for years to come. Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse--the best and most beautiful horse anywhere. But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse? The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn't get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important. Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

Best Friends: We Are A Family book
#3
Best Friends: We Are A Family
Written by Roger Priddy
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4

Like peas in a pod, and leaves in a tree, we all belong to a family! Whether they are big, or whether they are small, this charming book shows young readers that there are all kinds of different families to be found in the world around us, from a bunch of balloons, to eggs in a box, and fingers on a hand. Designed with a mixture of photographs and fun illustrations to engage little ones and make them smile, there are cute rhymes to read and share in this celebration of family in its many forms.

All about Cats book
#4
All about Cats
Written and illustrated by Monika Filipina
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A hilarious look at what cats get up to when humans aren't around. Contrasting personality traits are put side by side to show how cats - like people - are diverse. The book celebrates positive relationships and the power of the imagination.

Mira and the Big Story book
#5
Mira and the Big Story
Written by Laura Alary and illustrated by Sue Todd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Mira is a girl with big questions. She knows two different stories about the way the world came to be. Which story is right? Can they both be right? Is there room for more than one way to think about the world and our place in it? Follow her on an inspiring journey as she discovers a story big enough to include everyone. Along the way, Mira learns to respect and revere the traditions and beliefs of others. Teach children kindness and acceptance with this beautifully illustrated and compelling tale. It is sure to keep young ones enthralled.

Luis and Tabitha book
#6
Luis and Tabitha
Written by Stephanie Campisi and illustrated by Hollie Mengert
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Luis is an alley cat who has everything figured out . . . until he meets Tabitha, a beautiful indoor cat. Separated by a tragic glass door, Luis will do anything to be with Tabitha--even brave the dangers of a fire. With adorable illustrations and undeniable style, Luis and Tabitha is the story of two star-crossed kitties who prove that true love conquers all.

Cody and the Heart of a Champion book
#7
Cody and the Heart of a Champion
Written by Tricia Springstubb and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

In Cody’s life, some people keep her on her toes—just like Mother Nature, who is warm one day and snowy the next. Or like Cody’s brother, Wyatt, who has started wearing collared shirts because his girlfriend likes them. Meanwhile, Pearl has begun playing soccer and it’s all she can talk about. Spencer is busy creating a mysterious museum underneath GG’s house and he’s never around to play. And Spencer’s mom doesn’t look any different. . . . Could she really have a baby growing inside her? Maybe the baby is like Cody’s beloved ants, waiting patiently inside the earth for spring to arrive. It seems like everything around Cody is changing—from seasons to friendships—but if she can just navigate it all with her trademark enthusiasm and charm, maybe the most important things will stay the same.

Night on Fire book
#8
Night on Fire
Written by Ronald Kidd
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

Thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck—and helpless—in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views. But what starts as a series of angry grumbles soon turns to brutality as Anniston residents show just how deep their racism runs. The Freedom Riders will resume their ride to Montgomery, and Billie is now faced with a choice: stand idly by in silence or take a stand for what she believes in. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she once thought she knew, and with her own inherent racism that she didn’t even know she had.

My New Friend book
#9
My New Friend
Written and illustrated by Sterling Childrens
picture book
Recommend Ages: 1-3

Can a kitten and a parrot be friends? Meet some cute—and unlikely—animal pals! Friends come in all diferent shapes, sizes, and colors, and these animals are learning to befriend creatures that don’t quite look like them. With adorable photographs and clever, humorous text, this book helps children learn to embrace diversity.

Juna's Jar book
#11
Juna's Jar
Written by Jane Bahk and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Juna and her best friend, Hector, love to go on adventures in the park, collecting things to put in Juna’s empty kimchi jars. But then one day Hector unexpectedly moves away, and Juna is left wondering who will play with her. With the help of her special jar, Juna searches for her friend the world over. What Juna finds is that adventure—and new friends—can be found in the most unexpected places. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, Juna’s Jar is a heartwarming and whimsical celebration of friendship and the power of imagination.

The Reckless Club book
#12
The Reckless Club
Written by Beth Vrabel
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From award-winning author Beth Vrabel comes a new middle-grade Breakfast Club drama set in a old folks' home. On the last day of middle school, five kids who couldn't be more different commit separate pranks, each sure they won't be caught and they can't get in trouble. They're wrong. As punishment, they each have to volunteer one beautiful summer day-the last one before school-at Northbrook Retirement and Assisted Living Home, where they'll push creamed carrots into toothless mouths, perform the world's most pathetic skit in front of residents who won't remember it anyway, hold gnarled hands of peach fuzzed old ladies who relentlessly push hard candies, and somehow forge a bond with each other that has nothing to do with what they've done and everything to do with who they're becoming. All the action takes place in the course of this one day, with each chapter one hour of that day, as the five kids reveal what they've done, why they did it, and what they're going to do now.

All Kinds of Children book
#13
All Kinds of Children
Written by Norma Simon and illustrated by Diane Paterson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The author of All Kinds of Families presents the things that all children over the world have in common, including their need for food, clothes, people to love them, and the opportunity to play.

Ella Queen of Jazz book
#14
Ella Queen of Jazz
Written and illustrated by Helen Hancocks
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Ella Fitzgerald sang the blues and she sang them good. Ella and her fellas were on the way up! It seemed like nothing could stop her, until the biggest club in town refused to let her play… and all because of her colour. But when all hope seemed lost, little did Ella imagine that a Hollywood star would step in to help. The inspiring, true story of how a remarkable friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe was born – and how they worked together to overcome prejudice and adversity.

The Major Eights 1: Battle of the Bands book
#15
The Major Eights 1: Battle of the Bands
Written by Melody Reed and illustrated by Emilie Pepin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

Jasmine, Maggie, Becca, and Scarlet love jamming together, but are they ready to perform in front of a real audience in a Battle of the Bands competition? Find out in the first book of this early chapter book series! Jasmine, Maggie, Becca, and Scarlet love jamming together in Jasmine's basement. Maggie bangs on the drums, Becca strums her guitar, Jasmine plunks the keys of her keyboard, and Scarlet wails into her hairbrush mic. Even though they may not have the best equipment, or an audience, they have fun making music to their own beat. But when Jasmine's brother tells her about an upcoming Battle of the Bands competition, Jasmine thinks this could be their chance to prove they're a real band. Now she just has to convince the other girls. . . . With each book told from a different girl's perspective, this series is all about girl power, diversity, and marching to the beat of your own drum!

On the Playground book
#16
On the Playground
Written by Jillian Roberts and illustrated by Jane Heinrichs
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

On the Playground: Our First Talk About Prejudice focuses on introducing children to the complex topic of prejudice. Crafted around a narrative between a gradeschool-aged child and an adult, this inquiry-focused book will help children shape their understanding of diversity so they are better prepared to understand, and question, prejudice witnessed around them in their day-to-day lives and in the media. Dr. Jillian Roberts discusses types of discrimination children notice, what prejudice means, why it’s not okay, how to stand up against it and how kids can spread a message of inclusion and acceptance in the world around them.

Muddle & Mo book
#17
Muddle & Mo
Written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Muddle is a little confused - is best friend Mo, a duck or a goat? Is Muddle a duck or a goat? Fortunately Mo helps him work everything out. A gentle book about friendship and accepting differences.

Dance- Thompson book
#18
Dance- Thompson
Written and illustrated by Carol Thompson
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Let's dance! Enjoy the antics of this inclusive and diverse group of friends!

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!