The world we live in is wonderfully diverse, and this list highlights children’s books that celebrate that diversity, particularly in their illustrations! Inspired by advice recently shared by author Christine Taylor-Butler—“In this time of stress people want to ‘flood’ their kids with books about racism. Please provide 20 joyful books for every one book on racism”—this list focuses on uplifting books that promote inclusivity.
We hope this growing list of kids books 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—we love to discover new books too!
You Be Mommy - One of life’s great ironies is that children fight sleep while their parents ache for it. Karla Clark’s playful picture book touches on this utterly relatable theme with humor and heart, providing a story mothers and children will delight in reading together at bedtime. Mommy’s too tired to be Mommy tonight. Can you be Mommy and hold me tight? Read me a story and pat my tummy? Wipe my nose when it gets runny? Check for monsters under the bed? Sing me a song and rub my head? She worked all day at the computer store. Came home to a big mess on the floor! Helped with homework—even MATH! Fed the dog and gave him a bath. Rhyming text makes for a great read-aloud as reader and listener wind down for bedtime. Parents and kids will both enjoy this wonderful story.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré - An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature. When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy. Brought to colorful life by Paola Escobar’s elegant and exuberant illustrations and Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lyrical text, this gorgeous book is perfect for the pioneers in your life. Informative backmatter and suggested further reading included.
Lola Loves Stories with Daddy - Bookworms big and small will be charmed by lovable Lola in this delightful sequel to LOLA AT THE LIBRARY that celebrates imagination and the love of reading. Lola loves to go to the library with her daddy. Every night she reads a new story, and the next day, she acts it out. One day she’s a fairy princess, the next day she goes on a trip to Lagos! She becomes a tiger, a farmer, a pilot. . . . what will Lola be next? Children and adults will love following along with Lola’s adventures. LOLA LOVES STORIES is a wonderful introduction to the power of reading and how it can inspire young minds at the earliest ages.
Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment - When Parker Curry came face-to-face with Amy Sherald’s transcendent portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, she didn’t just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen—one with dynamic self-assurance, regality, beauty, and truth who captured this young girl’s imagination. When a nearby museum-goer snapped a photo of a mesmerized Parker, it became an internet sensation. Inspired by this visit, Parker, and her mother, Jessica Curry, tell the story of a young girl and her family, whose trip to a museum becomes an extraordinary moment, in a moving picture book. Parker Looks Up follows Parker, along with her baby sister and her mother, and her best friend Gia and Gia’s mother, as they walk the halls of a museum, seeing paintings of everyone and everything from George Washington Carver to Frida Kahlo, exotic flowers to graceful ballerinas. Then, Parker walks by Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama…and almost passes it. But she stops…and looks up! Parker saw the possibility and promise, the hopes and dreams of herself in this powerful painting of Michelle Obama. An everyday moment became an extraordinary one…that continues to resonate its power, inspiration, and indelible impact. Because, as Jessica Curry said, “anything is possible regardless of race, class, or gender.” FOREWORD BY ARTIST AMY SHERALD
Want to see books about girls and women?
Hike - Take to the trails for a celebration of nature — and a day spent with dad. In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.
Lola Reads to Leo - Lola reads story books to her new baby brother Leo, and even though Mommy and Daddy are busy, they still have time to read to Lola at bedtime.
You See, I See: In the City - See the city through the eyes of a child and parent in this heartwarming exploration of a day spent together. You see a bustling city, I see adventure ahead! What will you see in the city? It depends on who you ask! As a parent and child visit the newspaper stand, the store, the park, and more, each points out what they can see . . . and their perspectives might surprise you! With spare, rhyming text and a bold limited palette, this simple board book captures the fun and tenderness of exploring new places together, and the joy of seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Don’t miss the first book in this series, You See, I See: On the Farm!
Allie All Along - Poor Allie! She’s in a rage, stomping and smashing, throwing a tantrum, and having a fit. Is there a sweet little girl hiding somewhere under all the angry layers? With the help of her understanding big brother, she’s able to calm down, bit by bit, and become herself again. The illustrations’ varying hues and vibrant colors capture the powerful feelings that young children can’t always express in words.
Our Favorite Day of the Year - A heartwarming picture book following a group of boys from different backgrounds throughout the school year as they become the best of friends. Musa’s feeling nervous about his first day of school. He’s not used to being away from home and he doesn’t know any of the other kids in his class. And when he meets classmates Moisés, Mo, and Kevin, Musa isn’t sure they’ll have much in common. But over the course of the year, the four boys learn more about each other, the holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and what they like about school. The more they share with each other, the closer they become, until Musa can’t imagine any better friends. In this charming story of friendship and celebrating differences, young readers can discover how entering a new friendship with an open mind and sharing parts of yourself brings people together. And the calendar of holidays at the end of the book will delight children as they identify special events they can celebrate with friends throughout the year.
Going Up! - Today is Olive’s birthday party, and Sophie and her dad have baked cookies. Sophie’s dad holds the platter so Sophie can push the elevator button for the tenth floor. But on the way up, the elevator stops to let the Santucci brothers get on. Then on the next floor, Vicky, Babs and their dog, Norman, get in. And as the elevator ascends, it keeps stopping, and more neighbors squeeze in to the crowded space: the Habibs, the Flores family, Mr. Kwan, Vi Tweedle with her Chihuahua, Minx. Everyone is going to the party! Playfully combining the excitement and anticipation of a party with children’s universal love of riding in elevators, Sherry J. Lee’s picture book story is ultimately about community and a sense of belonging. With characters from many cultural backgrounds, it showcases the everyday diversity that many urban children experience. Charlene Chua’s illustrations provide loads of funny details and visual narratives that aren’t in the text, making for a multilayered reading experience. The book’s tall, narrow trim size adds to the effect of the rising elevator.
Swashby and the Sea - From New York Times best-selling author Beth Ferry and Caldecott Honor winner Juana Martinez-Neal comes a sweet-and-salty friendship story perfect for pirate-lovers and fans of The Night Gardener. Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them. When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?
Want to see books about friendship?
What If... - Creativity, the power of imagination, and the importance of self-expression are celebrated in this inspiring picture book written and illustrated by real-life best friends. This girl is determined to express herself! If she can’t draw her dreams, she’ll sculpt or build, carve or collage. If she can’t do that, she’ll turn her world into a canvas. And if everything around her is taken away, she’ll sing, dance, and dream… Stunning mixed media illustrations, lyrical text, and a breathtaking gatefold conjure powerful magic in this heartfelt affirmation of art, imagination, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Mayhem at the Museum: A Book in Pictures - Paintings and sculptures come to life when a young girl visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her classmates. What starts as just another tour of the museum becomes a joyful parade as the art, which must not be touched, touches the young museum-goers in surprising ways. Images of works in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are beautifully illustrated as dynamic characters by Luciano Lozano Raya in this wordless picture book. Famous paintings and sculptures from throughout the museum will be recognizable to adults while the mischievous breaking of the fourth wall will delight younger readers.
Go, Grandma, Go! - Perfect for the grandmas who slide the slides, swing the swings, and love their grandchildren dearly, this charming board book celebrates the special relationship between grandmothers and their grandkids. Beep! Bop! Don’t stop! Go, Grandma, go! Climb high Touch the sky Go, Grandma, go! Grandma is on the go in this charming board book! From pushing the stroller, to swinging on the swings, to hiking up a mountain, grandma and grandchild are always having a ball! This board book perfectly captures the special bond that grandmothers have with their grandchildren.
A New Kind of Wild - This sweet author-illustrator debut celebrates imagination, the magic of friendship, and all the different ways we make a new place feel like home. For Ren, home is his grandmother’s little house, and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild. For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there’s always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there’s always someone to share in her adventures. When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend. Inspired by the stories her father told her about moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, Zara González Hoang’s author-illustrator debut is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of “home.”
Want to see books about imagination and play?
Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina - An inspiring picture book for little ballerinas everywhere! Ready to Fly is the true story of Sylvia Townsend, an African American girl who falls in love with ballet after seeing Swan Lake on TV. Although there aren’t many ballet schools that will accept a girl like Sylvia in the 1950s, her local bookmobile provides another possibility. A librarian helps Sylvia find a book about ballet and the determined seven-year-old, with the help of her new books, starts teaching herself the basics of classical ballet. Soon Sylvia learns how to fly—how to dance—and how to dare to dream. Lyrical, easy-to-read, and affecting text paired with bright, appealing illustrations make Ready to Fly perfect for aspiring ballerinas everywhere who are ready to leap and to spread their wings. Includes a foreword from Sylvia Townsend, a brief history of the bookmobile, an author’s note, and a further reading list.
Goodnight, Little Dancer - In this soothing, gentle rhyming picture book, author Jennifer Adams bids sweet dreams to the youngest readers who identify as ballerinas by day and tender, sleepy children by night. With luminous art from illustrator Alea Marley, Goodnight, Little Dancer is sure to send little ones to sleep with twirling, dancing dreams.
It’s time for bed now, little dancer.
Time to tell the world goodnight.
Let down your bun, shake out your hair.
Breathe in, relax, and dim the light.
I Got the Rhythm - On a simple trip to the park, the joy of music overtakes a mother and daughter. The little girl hears a rhythm coming from the world around her- from butterflies, to street performers, to ice cream sellers everything is musical! She sniffs, snaps, and shakes her way into the heart of the beat, finally busting out in an impromptu dance, which all the kids join in on! Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison and Connie Schofield-Morrison, capture the beat of the street, to create a rollicking read that will get any kid in the mood to boogie.
Want to see books about performing arts?
The King of Kindergarten - A New York Times betseller! A confident little boy takes pride in his first day of kindergarten, by the Newbery Honor-winning author of Crown. The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets.It sits and shines behind your head—like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten! Starting kindergarten is a big milestone—and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements—and then wake up to start another day. Newbery Honor-winning author Derrick Barnes’s empowering story will give new kindergarteners a reassuring confidence boost, and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s illustrations exude joy.
Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention - In this companion to the award-winning Izzy Gizmo, Izzy Gizmo returns (together with Grandpa and Fixer) in a charming and eccentric tale of ambition, perseverance, and finding your inner strength. Izzy Gizmo has been invited to Technoff Isle’s annual convention where the inventor of the best machine will win coveted admittance to the Genius Guild. Great inventors produce gadgets that can be put to good use, so Izzy Gizmo decides to build a recycling machine that mends broken tools. But with fearsome foe Abi von Lavish getting the best of her at every turn, can Izzy Gizmo and Fixer create the winning invention? Featuring the creative and much-loved heroine of color, this wonderfully exuberant story has serious points to make about the importance of make do and mend.
Want to see books about self-esteem?