50 MUST READ Diversity Picture Books

50 MUST READ Diversity Picture Books

I’ve chosen fifty of my favorite diversity picture books and wrote book descriptions in the style of a Haiku poem. It’s not exactly a Haiku exactly, but I’m following for form of 5-7-5.  I’ve broken the picture books into five categories:

  • 10 Diversity Picture Books Teaching Kindness
  • 10 Diversity Immigration Picture Books
  • 10 Diversity Picture Books to Encourage Empathy
  • 10 Diversity Picture Books About Unsung Heroes
  • 10 Diversity Picture Books about Amazing Artists

Let me know if you like this [weird] format because I have fifty more picture books in mind for a second version if requested. Thanks so much!

10 Diversity Picture Books Teaching Kindness
10 Diversity Picture Books Teaching Kindness

Finding the Music/En Pos de la Música by Jennifer Torres, illustrated by Renato Alarcão

breaking his guitar

helps to find abuelito

in everyone’s hearts

[bilingual Spanish picture book, ages 4 and up]

Mama, I’ll Give You the World by Roni Schotter, illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher

at her hair salon

luisa plans a surprise

for her single mom

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

The Girl with a Brave Heart by Rita Jahanforuz and Riotah, illustrated by Vali Mintzi

when kindness rewards

“Cinderella” in Iran

beauty revealed

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

in Tanzania

Saruni saves for a bike

to help his mother

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Coins saved forever

to buy a comfortable chair

for all to enjoy

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

had they been kinder

Maya might have stayed

and been their friend

[picture book, ages 5 and up]

The Best Eid Ever by Asma Mobin-Uddin , illustrated by Laura Jacobsen

to celebrate Eid

Aneesa decides to give

to those with much less

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Never Say a Mean Word Again by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard

in medieval Spain

prevent mean words with wisdom

befriending instead

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu

Sam’s lucky money

not enough for his desires

help homeless instead

[picture book, ages 5 and up]

The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella, illustrated Simone Shin

bicycle travels

from U.S. to Africa

loved and used

[picture book, ages 8 and up]

10 Diversity Immigration Picture Books

10 Immigration Picture Books

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

escape from war is hard

by foot, in hiding, by boat

will this be new home

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Pancho Rabbit and Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh

hope papa returns

gone north two years for work

danger everywhere

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Mali Under the Night Sky by Youme Landowne

Laos civil war

her family brings memories

to the new country

[picture book, ages 5 and up]

Encounter by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Shannon

warn against strangers

they want gold not your friendship

to take all they can

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Here I Am by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

from Korea by plane

a modern immigration

is still very hard

[wordless picture book, ages 5 and up]

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

vastness of ocean

Japan to America

torn between two worlds

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Sumi’s First Day of School Ever by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Joung Un Kim

 the first day of school

when you don’t speak the language

but still make a friend

[picture book, ages 3 and up]

Mamá The Alien by Rene Colato Lainez, illustrated by Laura Lacamara

alien from space

is this my mama’s secret

residency card

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

My Name is Sangoel by Karen Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock

no one can pronounce

this part of me from Sudan

my proud Dinka name

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

lonely school field trip

like a green apple, unripe

but ready for friends

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

10 Diversity Picture Books to Encourage Empathy

10 Diversity Picture Books to Encourage Empathy

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

bus ride with grandma

she sees beauty all around

old sights seen anew

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

the bully is gone

from a game of Simon Says

because of a lisp

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

The Can Man by Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback

competing for cans

ask what is more important

a skateboard or food

[picture book, ages 7 and up]

Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch, illustrated by Peter Sylvada

whale pod in trouble

thousands trapped in frozen water

music to save them

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

three new immigrants

new to English, new to school

how will they fit in?

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

which name is better

mine or one you can pronounce

that’s my decision

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

new shoes with Jim Crow

not possible to try them

time for a new plan

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Maddie’s Fridge by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel

when to break promise

tell and help friend’s empty fridge

or will she be mad

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane Evans

see his strengths as well

understanding autism

my brother Charlie

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Karen Clarkson

a rock hit her eye

blinded but not forever

forgives racism

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

10 Diversity Picture Books About Unsung Heroes

10 Diversity Picture Books About Unsung Heroes

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

trash can empower

Gambian women believe

upcycled treasures

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq by Jeanette Winter

with books in danger

librarian moves them, twice

30,000 books

[picture book, ages 7 and up]

Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib

small loans changes lives

pull women from poverty

10 billion loaned

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

she gets trees planted

to help people of Kenya

30 million trees

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

her powerful voice

inspired those fighting for change

sweet and strong in song

[picture book, ages 9 and up]

Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mary Cronk Farrell

she died a martyr

organize labor unions

garment and mining

[picture book, ages 10 and up]

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by  Sean Qualls

it didn’t matter

physical disability

bike across Ghana

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Dom Lee

banned from pubic pools

didn’t stop him from diving

back to back gold metals

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

a typing contest

victory for Civil Rights

though just in high school

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, illustated by Melissa Sweet

shirtwaist factories

with appalling conditions

Clara organizes

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

10 Diversity Picture Books about Amazing Artists

10 Diversity Picture Books about Amazing Artists

Trash ArtistA Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J. H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Detroit’s crumbling streets

Tyree transforms trash to art

community heals

[picture book, ages 5 and up]

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

he decides quite young

museums will hang his art

graffiti art fame

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J.L. Powers, illustrated by George Mendoza and Hayley Morgan-Sanders 

blindness didn’t stop

George from winning races or

becoming artist

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographed by Tim O’Meara

Frida Kahlo dreams

plays, knows, realizes that

she expresses life

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

with his camera

Gordon shows segregration

fighting racism

[picture book, ages 5 and up]

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

outsider artist

he began at 81

sharing memories

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

The Magic Horse of Han Gan by Chen Jiang Hong

horses leap off page

China, 1200 years hence

Han Gan’s horse rides off

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain by Deborah Kogan Ray

rise from poverty

self taught artist paints mountain

with thirty six views

[picture book, ages 7 and up]

Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence by John Duggleby

Harlem streets buzzed

His Migration paintings soared

tells stories for all

[advanced picture book, ages 8 and up]

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh

born in land of frogs

wall murals celebrated

his country’s culture

[picture book, ages 6 and up]

p.s. For more related book lists:

African-American Pioneering Female Musicians

9 People Who Changed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Winner Picture Books

Multicultural Books for Kids: 60+ Book Lists

 To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

50 MUST READ Diversity Picture Books

I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay for postage and handling for my giveaways.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Cherries and Cherry Pits, really shows a slice of life in a neighborhood giving backstory to the people and their thoughts and leanings centered around unity (the cherry pits). It’s kind of the little kids version of Seed Folks, where a group comes together to make a neighborhood beautiful again by planting a small seed. I’ve read both for years. The metaphor provokes fabulous discussion, plus Vera shows kids the ways to developing character, looking deeply inside the souls and the lives of the people she describes. Love your list! Thank you!

  2. Such a great set of lists, Mia!! Thank you for sharing them. I’ll have to come back often & re-visit them for titles that I’m unfamiliar with.

  3. I enjoyed this post so much I pinned each of your pictures! Thanks for all these wonderful suggestions!
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Visiting the Ice CavesMy Profile

  4. Great list! We need more books like these! 🙂
    Erik Weibel recently posted…Perfect Picture Book Friday! I Am A Story by Dan YaccarinoMy Profile

  5. So many amazing books listed here! Thanks for sharing! I see many favorites. Here are a few more of my favs: Knock Knock My Dad’s Dream for Me, All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, Jacob’s New Dress, A Fine Dessert… too many to list. So excited for the future of diverse books! #ReadYourWorld 🙂

  6. Great Round up of lists. So much to explore here.
    Valarie recently posted…Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 Book Review Linkup!My Profile

  7. May

    I very rarely comment on things, but this is important and I just got done dealing with a situation from my girls hearing this book at a book club.
    I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the story ( it’s a long book) and then my comments. This is a longer comment due to the synopsis but please stick with this and see what the comments are.
    This story begins with a Cinderella-like beginning. With the girl’s mother dead and her father remarried a woman with a daughter and then he does and the stepmother makes his daughter do all of the housework. When the girl has alone time she likes to use the yarn- the only thing left of her mother’s- but it accidentally drops out the window and it ends up in the neighbors yard. The girl goes to retrieve it. The woman who answers the door when she goes to pick up the yarn tell the girl to break things and trash the kitchen, tear everything up in the garden and ruin it and then cut up the woman’s hair and mess that up too.
    The girl chooses not to do that and instead washes the dishes and fixes up the kitchen and then does the same for the garden and cleans the woman’s hair and braids it. The woman says now go dip yourself in the this pool 3 times and this pool three times and then you will be beautiful.
    The girl does as she is told and the book says that she was now very beautiful and when she went back home to her stepmother and stepsister they thought she was beautiful now and the stepmother told her biological daughter to do the same thing. So they went out and got yarn and threw some out the window until some landed in the old women’s yard and the daughter had to go there to ask for it back. When she did the woman told this daughter to do the same things: trash the kitchen and the garden and her the woman’s hair. So this daughter did exactly that. Ruined the kitchen and the garden and cut up the women’s hair. The woman then tells this daughter to dip herself in the pool 3 times and this other pool 3 times and she will be beautiful and because the daughter wanted to be more beautiful than her stepsister she stayed in each pool longer than she was supposed to and she backs ugly.

    I don’t care for reading stories to my children that teach my girls things Like this. I have a 6 year old girl and a 5 year old girl and a baby girl.
    1. Why read stories that have an adult telling someone to break things and ruin things and cut up someone’s hair…
    2. Why did the adult woman tell her she would be beautiful after she dipped herself in the pools- was she not beautiful already or was the fact that the girl had a beautiful heart and chose not to do those things beautiful enough or even physically was that adult woman saying that the girl was physically not beautiful enough?
    3. Why would the mother tell her daughter to do the same thing as the stepdaughter so she would be beautiful too —- what mother would tell her child that – it’s saying to the daughter she is not accepted the way she’s is and she needs to change – physically….really- please don’t read this to your girls or even your boys for that matter I can see how that would go as well… what is that teaching them?
    I could go on about the reasons why this book is wrong on so many levels. There may be some good things tucked in there and maybe even through A LOT of conversation with your children you could pull out something good and correct all of the terrible lessons this book teaches, but why when you don’t have to. There are many other stories that you could chose from that don’t require you to re-teach and correct and skip…
    it’s a terrible book for little girls in my opinion. I wouldn’t buy it or check it out from the library for my children, but if you do please read it alone before you read it to your little ones.
    I wish I had been able to read this before sending my children into book club this day. When discussing this book my 6 year old said to me,
    “ why didn’t the mother like how her daughter looked?” And
    “ Why is the mother not nice to her?”
    …. my 4 year old almost 5 year old was telling me about the story and she said
    “….and when she went into the pool she was really beautiful! I want to do that….”
    I think there is enough in the works that teaches our girls that they have to be a certain way to be beautiful- why do children’s stories teach this?????
    It’s so sad to me.

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