I am so excited to have kid book bloggers, Oscar and Olivia, here today with their 10 Favorite Diversity Books for Kids. They’ve included both picture books and chapter books. Oscar is 9 years old; Olivia 12 years old. They blog collaboratively at Kid Book Review. Please check out their great blog! You can also find them on Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Goodreads, and Bloglovin’.
My brother (Oscar, age 9) and I (Olivia, age 12), have a book blog called Kid Book Reviewer where we review books and interview our favorite authors.
Our Top Ten Favorite Diversity Books for Kids
Being Jewish, we love reading books about other cultures, races, or religions. This children’s genre – called Diversity books – is quickly picking up speed and becoming more and more popular. Here’s a list of our Top Ten favorite Diversity Books.
1. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Olivia is a huge fan of Malala Yousafzai, especially after reading her book, I Am Malala. In Malala’s empowering story, she recounts how she stood up to the Taliban and fought for a girl’s right to education. Readers are gripped as Malala ultimately ends up putting her life in danger, but shows immense persistence when she continues fighting – and still is. A heart-wrenching, inspiring book that is a must-read for all kids – especially girls. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
2. Once by Morris Gleitzman
Once is the heartbreaking, fascinating story about a Jewish boy who is thrust into running from the Nazis and Hitler during World War II. Felix has always been happy with his parents – bookstore owners – until they tell him he needs to leave. They bring him to a Catholic orphanage, where Felix awaits their return… until he realizes there might not be one. Together with his journal (to write down all his adventures), Felix sets off in search of his parents… while the whole time, Hitler looms. This may seem like a dark book, but Felix’s voice lightens up the story and makes this a perfect introduction to the hardships Jews faced during World War II. This is a short read that will keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Felix is a fantastic protagonist that kids will root for and come to love and admire. A fantastic book that younger and older readers alike will enjoy. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This was one of the most impactful books we’ve ever read. Poetry books can sometimes be a little tedious to get through, especially for younger kids, but Woodson’s vivid poems light up the story and pull readers into Brown Girl Dreaming from page one. Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiography that recounts Woodson’s experiences growing up as an African American girl living in South Carolina circa 1960s. Woodson’s poems are heartfelt, informative, and beautifully written. We both learned so much from this meaningful book, and believe that this the perfect story for kids who want to delve deeper into the struggles African Americans have faced. [middle grade novel in verse, ages 10 and up]
4. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Another incredibly impactful book. Katie Takeshima lives with her older sister, Lynn, and her parents in a Japanese community in Iowa. Katie loves Lynn and her shining, hopeful look on the world, which really comes in handy when they move to Georgia and are faced with racism. But when Lynn begins to fall desperately ill, Katie must help her family always see the glittering light in the future. Readers will be completely engrossed in Katie’s heartbreaking story. What we loved in particular about this book is that it provides a lot of information on a pretty glossed-over group of American immigrants: the Japanese people. But Kira-Kira is so much more than that, too. Katie’s light, a hopeful voice keeps this story from becoming too dark, but understand that Kira-Kira’s ending becomes quite sad. Nonetheless, this is a wonderful book for kids age 9-14. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
5. Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd
Night on Fire was a really interesting read. Billie Sims (who is a girl) is a lovable, admirable main character who is struggling with the immense amount of racism in her Alabama town, Anniston. When she learns the Freedom Riders are passing through Anniston, she jumps at the opportunity to see them. But with the light, the Freedom Riders bring to Billie comes a night of fiery horror. And when everything is over, Billie must make the decision to stand by as her town rejects African Americans and the Freedom Riders, or set out on a journey to Martin Luther King, Jr. The most unique thing about this story is that Billie is not African American. She is a white girl – and fairly well-off one at that – talking about the inner turmoil she feels when she watches the everyday racism of Anniston. Young readers will really enjoy watching Billie fight for what is ultimately right and take a huge step out of her comfort zone. This is a great book for young and old readers alike since it’s pretty light and is an easy read, although it’s still beautifully written. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
6. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
We had both been urged to pick up this book for months – years, even – before we finally did. And boy, are we glad to have. The Breadwinner is a fascinating story about life in Afghanistan for women under the Taliban’s control. Parvana’s family has always been well off until her father – a history teacher – loses his job when his school is destroyed. Now, they live in a one-room apartment in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father works on a blanket in a marketplace, reading letters for those with no education. But one day, when Parvana’s father is arrested for having a foreign education, Parvana’s family is left without a means of money. Thus, Parvana must transform herself into a boy (girls are not allowed to work) and become the Breadwinner. This is an engaging story that readers of all ages will enjoy. Parvana is a likable character that kids will root for in her time of crisis. Overall, The Breadwinner provides a lot of information on how women were – and still are – mistreated in the world, while not appearing too dark. There’s also a lot on Afghanistan culture, which we both found extremely interesting. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
7. These Hands by Margaret H. Mason
This is a great picture book for readers under ten years old. Joseph’s grandpa can do almost anything in the world with his hands – throw a curveball, play piano, you name it. But he is not allowed to work at the Wonder Bread factory, because the factory bosses said white people would not want to eat bread touched by African Americans. In the end, Joseph learns that he can use his hands and join together with other children to help fight discrimination, so one day, he can do anything in the whole wide world. This is an inspiring book that really speaks to kids will its provocative language and beautiful illustrations. One of our all-time favorite picture books, even still today. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
8. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
We have no doubt you’ve heard of Wonder, but all the hype is really worth it. Auggie Pullman is an ordinary boy with an anything-but-ordinary face. His unique face has prevented him from going to school for eleven years, but all that is about to change. Auggie wants to make friends at his new school, but most of the other students can’t seem to get past his face. Throughout the book, readers learn about Auggie’s struggles with bullying and being left out. Told from the perspective of Auggie, his classmates, his sisters, and others, this poignant story with have readers cheering through tears for Auggie and his incredible heart. Every single kid should read this book to ultimately feel more compassion for people like Auggie. A fantastic, heartbreaking story that kids of all ages will love. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
9. Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
This picture book about the author’s experiences with dyslexia is an inspiring, meaningful book that all kids will enjoy. Young Trisha has just moved to a new school, running away from her label as “dumb,” which is due to her dyslexia. But her new school doesn’t seem to be any better – her new, special class is known as the “Junkyard” to the other students. When Trisha meets her teacher, though, everything changes. Trisha’s teacher helps her realize the inner genius in everyone, and how we are all capable of greatness. This is an incredibly inspiring story that will help kids understand that we are all one in the same. Even though it’s a picture book, the writing and beautiful illustrations apply to all ages. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
10. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
We’ve had this story read to us multiple times, all with different teachers, and each time, The Story of Ruby Bridges touches us and empowers us. Seven-year-old Ruby Bridges has just moved to New Orleans with her family when a judge orders her to attend an all-white school – the first African American child to do so. Ruby must rely on her strength and courage when she’s faced with mobs of angry parents refusing to send their kids to school with an African American girl. Ruby is a likable character who kids will look up to – she’s a great role model. This story is told beautifully and is lit up with George Ford’s vibrant illustrations. Readers will learn about the struggles African Americans went through to achieve equal rights and will understand the importance of education and how fortunate they are to go to school. Overall, a must-read story that never ceases to touch us. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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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.