Best Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read
Every summer I stress out about what picture and chapter books to get for my kids that they will like but are also exposing them — as only books can do — to the wide world all around them both past, present and future.
This summer, we are going to take a trip around the world by reading these multicultural books. What is great about this list is that it covers all the ages of my kids: from preschool through elementary school.
I will be sneaky and check out these books for them and leave them strewn about the house for them to examine when they are bored. I will keep you posted on what books my kids actually liked because that is a whole ‘nother list! See you at the library!
What are your favorite multicultural books for kids? Please share!
Best Multicultural Books for Preschool
Ada, Alma Flor and F. Isabel Campoy, selectors. English adapations by Alice Schertle.
¡Pio Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes. Illustrated by Viví Escrivá. HarperCollins, 2003. 64 pages. Ages birth – 6 years
Cumpiano, Ina Quinito, Day and Night = Quinito, dia y noche. Illustrated by José Ramírez. Children’s Book Press, 2008. 22 pages. Ages 2-5
Heo, Yumi. One Afternoon. Orchard, 1994. 32 pages. Ages 2 – 4
Morales, Yuyi. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book. Chronicle, 2003. 28 pages. Ages 4 – 7
Steptoe, John. Baby Says. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1988. Ages 1 – 3
Tarpley, Natasha Anastasia. I Love My Hair! Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. Little, Brown, 1998. 24 pages. Ages 4 – 8
Te, Ata. Baby Rattlesnake. Illustrated by Mira Reisberg. Children’s Book Press, 1989.
Thong, Rosanne. Round Is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes. Illustrated by Grace Lin. Chronicle, 2000. 32 pages. Ages 3-5
Wheeler, Bernelda. Where Did You Get Your Moccasins? Illustrated by Herman Bekkering. Peguis, 1986.
Williams, Vera B. More, More, More, Said the Baby: Three Love Stories. Greenwillow, 1990. 32 pages.
Best Multicultural Books for Ages 5-7
Cheng, Andrea Grandfather Counts. Illustrated by Ange Zhang. Lee & Low, 2000. 32 pages. Ages 4 – 8
Cisneros, Sandra. Hairs/Pelitos. Illustrated by Terry Ybånez. Knopf, 1994. 32 pages. Ages 3 – 7
Diakité, Penda. I Lost My Tooth in Africa. Illustrated by Baba Wagué Diakité. Scholastic Press, 2006. 32 pages. Ages 4-7
Greenfield, Eloise. Honey, I Love, and Other Poems. Illustrated by Leo & Dianne Dillon. Harper, 1978.
Harjo, Joy. The Good Luck Cat. Illustrated by Paul Lee. Harcourt, 2000. 32 pages. Ages 4 – 7
Look, Lenore. Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding. Illustrated by Yumi Heo. Anne Schwartz / Atheneum, 2006. 32 pages. Ages 3-7
McKissack, Patricia C. Mirandy and Brother Wind. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Knopf, 1988. Ages 4 – 8
Messinger, Carla and Susan Katz. When the Shadbush Blooms. Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden. Tricycle Press, 2007. 32 pages. Ages 4-8
Pinkney, Sandra L. Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children. Illustrated by Myles Pinkney. Scholastic, 2000. 28 pages. Ages 3 – 11
Tafolla, Carmen. What Can You Do With a Paleta? Illustrated by Magaly Morales. Tricycle Press, 2009. 32 pages. Ages 3 – 6
Vyner, Tim. World Team. U.S. edition: Roaring Brook Press, 2002. 32 pages. Ages 4 – 9
Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. Morning on the Lake. Illustrated by Karen Reczuch. Kids Can Press, 1998. 32 pages. Ages 5 – 8
Zepeda, Gwendolyn. Growing Up with Tamales = Los tamales de Ana. Translated by Gabriela Baeza Ventura (from the English). Illustrated by April Ward. Piñata Books / Arte Público Press, 2008. 32 pages. Ages 6-9
Best Multicultural Books for Ages 7-9
Ada, Alma Flor. My Name Is Maria Isabel. Illustrated by K. Dyble Thompson. Atheneum, 1993. 57 pages. Ages 7-9
Alarcon, Francisco X.From the Bellybutton of the Moon, and Other Summer Poems / Del ombligo de la luna, y otros poemas de verano. Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez . Children’s Book Press, 1998. 32 pages. Ages 7 – 10
Campbell, Nicola I. Shin-chi’s Canoe. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Groundwood Books / House Anansi Press, 2008. 40 pages. Ages 7-10
Cha, Dia and Chue and Nhia Thao Cha. Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey to Freedom. Denver Museum of Natural History/Lee & Low, 1996. 24 pages. Ages 8 – 11
Hamilton, Virginia. The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Knopf, 1985.
Lester, Julius. John Henry. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Dial, 1994. 40 pages. Ages 4 – 12
Look, Lenore. Ruby Lu, Brave and True. Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. An Anne Schwartz Book / Atheneum, 2004. 105 pages. Ages 5 – 9
Ortiz, Simon. The People Shall Continue. Illustrated by Sharol Graves. Children’s Book Press, 1988.
Perkins, Mitali. Rickshaw Girl. Illustrated by Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge, 2007. 91 pages. Ages 8-10
Ringgold, Faith. Tar Beach. Crown, 1991. Ages 5 – 11
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Indian Shoes. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. HarperCollins, 2002. 66 pages. Ages 6 – 9
Walter, Mildred Pitts. Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World. Lothrop, 1988. Ages 7-9
Woodson, Jacqueline. Show Way. Illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Putnam, 2005. 40 pages. Ages 5-9
Best Multicultural Books for Ages 9-12
Bridges, Ruby. Through My Eyes. Scholastic, 1999. 63 pages. Ages 9 and older
Bryan, Ashley. Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song. Photographed by Bill McGuinness. Antheneum, 2009. 58 pages. Ages 9 and older
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte, 1999. 245 pages. Ages 8 – 13
Erdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House. Hyperion, 1999. 235 pages. Ages 8 – 12
Grace, Catherine O’Neill and Margaret M. Bruchac, with Plimoth Plantation. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving. Photographed by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson. National Geographic Society, 2001. 48 pages. Ages 7 – 14
King, Casey and Linda Barrett Osborne. Oh, Freedom! Kids Talk About the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made It Happen. Knopf, 1997. 137 pages. Ages 8 – 14
Lin, Grace. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Little, Brown, 2009. 278 pages. Ages 8 – 11
Nye, Naomi Shihab, editor. The Tree Is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings from Mexican Artists. Simon & Schuster, 1995. 110 pages. Age 8 and older
Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard. Clarion, 2001. 152 pages. Ages 9 – 12
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising. Scholastic, 2000. 262 pages. Ages 10 – 14
Shange, Ntozake. ellington was not a street. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon & Schuster, 2004. 32 pages. Ages 6-18
Sheth, Kashmira. Boys without Names. Balzer & Bray, 2010. 320 pages. Ages 9-13
Skarmeta, Antonio. The Composition. Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano. U.S. edition: A Groundwood Book/Douglas & McIntyre, 2000. 36 pages. Ages 9 – 16
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Dial, 1976.
p.s. If you want to find more great multicultural books and authors, I have a whole category of posts on People of Color KidLit.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
13 thoughts on “Top 50: Best Multicultural Children’s Books”
I love, love, love multicultural children’s books! You have some of my faves on this list. I will definitely be sharing it:)
Thank you so much for sharing this list! I want to read a bunch of them with my kids this summer!
I wanted to add “Everyone Cooks Rice” and “Chicken Sunday”. Also we have been enjoying “The Kite”, a book about a boy in Nicaragua (or other Central American country, it doesn’t specify) who works in the market and whose mama is about to have a baby, and whose father died, who yearns for a kite from the toy stall at the market.
Thank you for your book suggestions! I will add them to the list.
p.s. I love Chicken Sunday too!
Awesome list! Thanks so much for including all age groups. My three kids will be checking some of these out this summer! Some of our all-time favorites are here, too, ready to be re-visited 🙂
Thank you! I can’t take credit for creating the list, but it’s such a good list that I wanted to share!
great list, thanks for posting it!
Thanks so much!
What a great resource! Just pinned.
Nice list! Don’t forget titles by classic award winning Asian American authors like Alan Say’s titles which are numerous and Yoshiko Uchida’s “the Bracelet” a good read that is a rare historical fiction for young readers which opens up a discussion about true life events surrounding the Asian American experience of the “relocation” camps that forcefully extracted 120,000 persons including children from their homes, schools and jobs only because of their race. Children need books like these to open their eyes to recognizing how to respect one another in a society that often lauds self-promotion, marginalization and disrespect for persons who are different in any way from the majority.
Thanks for your great book recommendations. I love multicultural books for kids too and I agree with you that it’s so important to expose children to different cultures through books.
This list is INCREDIBLE!!!!! 🙂 I absolutely love this list- I’m off to print it and take it to the library. A lot of my favorites are here, but so many new jewels, I can’t wait to read!
Thanks so much Becky! Each list is also a link that has more books in case you need more ideas. Just click on the title of each list.