In 2008, I started really looking at picture books again for the first time since I was a child myself.
In the 12 years between then and now, it’s been amazing to see how much more diversity is represented in the books that are being published (obviously, there is still a long way to go, but there has been serious progress in the past decade) and I love that as I read picture books with my girls, they can see children from all different backgrounds reflected in those stories.
The books in this list aren’t ABOUT diversity – instead, they are stories about childhood, family, and adventures that feature multicultural children.
Add these books to your bookshelves, check them out from the library, and read them with your children so they can see all kinds of children growing up, playing, learning and exploring the world around them.
And if you have other favorite multicultural titles to add to this list, please leave them in the comments – I appreciate so much this wonderful community’s help in introducing me to more books I might not find on my own!
20+ Wonderful Multicultural Children’s Books
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. Alma has six names which seems like WAY too many for a little girl. But when her father patiently explains where each of her six names come from, she realizes six names might not be so bad after all. (This one snagged a Caldecott Honor last year!)
Saturday by Oge Mora. In this sweet book, a little girl and her mother look forward all week to their special Saturdays together. But this particular Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong. (Thank You, Omu! is another of her books – it got a Caldecott Honor last year and it is fantastic).
How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios. Building a sandcastle is tricky but using code to build one? That’s pretty clever! This book does a remarkable job showing some of the fundamentals of how computer coding worked and my girls LOVED it.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat. A young boy visits his grandfather, but since they don’t speak the same language or have much in common, their visits are fraught with tension. Until they discover a shared love of drawing (albeit with very different styles) and for the first time, they can both see a connection to the other. SO good.
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington. Mae Jamison grew up dreaming of going into space. Her teacher suggested that maybe she pick something more realistic. Maybe a nurse? But Mae’s parents told her she could do anything she wanted, if she was willing to work hard enough, and. . . .she did. My girls were SO into this book.
Imagine! by Raúl Colón. This wordless book is BRIMMING with life and joy, as a young boy visits the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the famous paintings come to life, joining him for a day exploring New York City.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. This book scooped up so many awards last year and for good reason – it is stunning. A mother and her small child come to the US which they find extremely difficult to navigate since they don’t speak English. But then they discover the public library and a whole new world opens up to them. I mean, of course this one spoke to my librarian heart.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. This picture book told in verse uses traditional Fry Bread as a way to showcase life for modern Native American families. It is so warm and wonderful (the book, not fry bread, although it could be said of both).
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Jaime Kim. When you are wondering about something, who better to ask than your beloved grandfather? When the little girl in this story starts being asked about where she’s from, she turns to her grandfather who gives her an answer she wasn’t expecting.
Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus. Lubna’s best friend is a pebble who she can talk to and share her worries and fears and stories with. But when another little boy arrives at the World of Tents, Lubna recognizes that he might need Pebble even more than she does.
Have you Seen Elephant? by David Barrow. You know we love seek and find books in our house and this one is darling about an Elephant who really wants to play hide and seek. Not only can you find him on each page, but also keep your eyes open for the dog and tortoise who are also excellent hiders.
Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards, illustrated by Claire Almon. I’m pretty sure I read this one at least 50 times to my girls when we checked it out from the library. They LOVED this story of two girls getting together for a play date with their dolls, but one of them wants the dolls to play princesses while the other girl wants their dolls to be secret agents. Is there any way they can play together?
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. The first day of kindergarten is a big day in the life of any child and the hero of this book is READY for it. He’s ready to join the kingdom of kindergarteners who are going to learn and play together and then, go home and tell his parents all about his day.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero. This was one of my FAVORITE picture books published in 2019 about a little girl and her father going for a motorcycle ride around their neighborhood in Corona, California. This book is so engrossing, with both the text details and the illustrations making me feel like I’m right there on the motorcycle ride with them.
Grandma’s Purse by . My girls were super into this book about a little girl who is THRILLED when her grandmother comes to visit (just like most of us are!). And of course, the best part is Grandma’s purse that holds all sorts of special treasures, waiting to be discovered!
Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez Neal. When a new baby arrives to a couple, they spend the next few weeks snuggled in at home, enjoying getting to know their new family member. This is the perfect baby shower book or gift for new parents.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin. I’m a long time fan of Grace Lin (her Ling & Ting books are some of our favorites), and this picture book about a little girl and her mom who make a mooncake every month is so delightful!
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James. For everyone who has ever felt the joy of a fresh hair cut and wanted to walk out singing, this book is for you.
Alfie: The Turtle that Disappeared by Thrya Heder. Nia has a pet turtle named Alfie and when Nia turns seven, Alfie disappears. But he isn’t lost – he’s just trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his beloved girl.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Jabari is READY for the high dive. Almost. But . . . . maybe he could use a little encouragement from his patient dad before he leaps into the water.
Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel. Does your child have a specific clothing item they want to wear non-stop? (For Star, it was her rainbow-striped swimsuit two summers ago). For Jameson it’s his favorite green pants. But then he’s asked to be in his cousin’s wedding, which means a tuxedo. And a tuxedo means . .. no green pants.
And if you’d like a printable copy of this list of multicultural children’s books that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!