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As the mother of two children of (varying shades of) color, I am always on the lookout for books that feature main characters of diverse backgrounds. Considering how important it is for kids to see people who like them in print and in the media, it is actually pretty shocking to me how few books feature characters that aren’t white (or aren’t animals for that matter, but that’s a different thing). And while I love books that explicitly teach kids about differences (Happy in My Skin and It’s Okay to Be Different being two of our favorites), my favorite thing is finding great books where the child’s ethnicity/race/culture is not the focus of the story, but simply a part of who the child is. The character might (and should!) live in a world that is cognizant of their culture, but they are going through things the common kid goes through- like getting a new pet, being scared of monsters, or participating in the school’s science fair.
So, here’s a list of our favorite children’s books that just so happen to feature children of color in a starring role.
1. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
This book may seem to be all about culture (it is written in both English and Spanish), but it also has a great storyline about a little girl who can be whatever she wants to be. From her red hair and brown skin to wearing green polka dots with purple stripes, Marisol McDonald doesn’t care if she matches, as long as she’s being true to herself.
2. Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
This book is simple but oh-so-sweet, with gorgeous illustrations full of color and short, rhyming verses. It’s a fun, short read that my daughter just loves.
3. Monster Trouble by Lane Frederickson and Michael Robertson
When Winifred Schnitzel runs into some Monster Trouble (She’s not afraid, they’re just not letting her sleep!), she puts on her thinking cap and finds a way out of the problem herself. She is a bold and clever little lady, and the rhyming words are fun for me to read. One of Lila’s favorites, for sure!
4. Too Many Mangos by Tommy Pakai and Don Robinson
This is the sweetest little story about sharing. When Kama and Nani have too many mangos to eat themselves, they share them with the neighbors, and get lots of fun surprises in return. The pictures are just too cute, and there’s plenty of culture without making a thing of it, if you know what I mean.
5. The Bot That Scott Built by Kim Norman and Agnese Baruzzi
I love this book, for both the storyline and the STEM tie-ins. Scott builds a spectacular robot for the science fair, but all kinds of chaos starts happening as soon as he introduces it. Luckily, he and his robot are able to save the day. Fun story structure and lots of silly happenings made my daughter giggle out loud, which is actually a rarity.
6. Mice and Beans by Pam Munoz Ryan
Abuela is trying to plan a birthday party, but things keep going astray. Little does she know the mice that she is fighting so hard to get rid of are both the problem AND the solution. Very cute, with just a few Spanish words sprinkled in, but the story is what really sings here.
7. City Shapes by Diana Murray
This story has illustrations that are just AMAZING. The pages are bright and simple, and each one focuses on a different shape for kiddos to find in a cityscape. It’s almost like a seek-and-find book, but with a storyline, too.
8. Not Norman by Kelly Bennett
Poor Norman is a little salty about getting a goldfish as a pet, when what he really wanted was a dog. Through the course of the story, he falls in love with his new pet, and so did my daughter.
9. You Can Do It, Too by Karen Baicker
We love this little board book that features a big sister helping her little brother to participate in her daily activities. It’s just a portrait of a normal day, but honestly, that seems to be what my kids relate to most of all (Especially since Lila is on a daily mission to mother her little brother within an inch of his life).
10. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beatty
Ada is a little girl with a passion for science. She is full of curiosity and “why,” and is a strong and bold little lady who goes after her dreams with abandon. A wonderful role model for kids everywhere, and once again, we are loving the STEM tie-in here.
Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books, one lucky winner (US and Canada only, thanks!) will receive their very own copy of “The Bot that Scott Built.” And trust us- you’re going to love it! To enter, all you need to do is follow our blog (the button is in the sidebar on a desktop, and below this post on your phone) and then comment below with your favorite children’s book. The contest will close next Friday, September 8th at Midnight, PST. Good luck, and happy reading!
Giveaway closed! Thanks to Sterling Books, who will be sending our lucky winner, Anitra, her own copy of The Bot That Scott Built. Thanks to all who participated, and make sure you are following our blog to ensure you never miss out on a Salty Mamas Giveaway!