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Picture books with protagonists of color

Following the publication of the 2013 statistics on children’s books by and about people of color by the Children’s Cooperative Bookstore (CCBS) the showed that of 3,200 books surveyed only 93 were about black people (either Africans of any nationality or African-Americans), Walter Dean Meyers and Christopher Meyers wrote moving op-eds for the New York Times about what this disparity means for young people of color.  Both men are accomplished authors of children’s literature and their essays speak eloquently to the larger issues that the numbers in the CCBS study represent.

I often see parents posting in online forums for recommendations of multicultural children’s books. This blog post is the first in a series of book lists I am compiling to make finding books about under-represented groups of people a little easier to find. All of these lists are a work in progress, so please post suggestion in the comments and check back often for updates. All of the books listed here are books I have personally read where the main character is a person of color. Because racial, cultural, or ethnic identity is not always obvious if they are not the focal point of the story, I am including all picture books with protagonists of color in this list. When the protagonist’s racial, cultural, or ethnic background is explicit in the text or otherwise obvious, I have included it in parentheses in the list. Links are to reviews on this blog. Without further ado, the list:

Ages 1-3

  • Charlie Parker Played Bebop by Chris Raschka (African-American)
  • Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Phillip Stead
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka
  • In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming
  • Corduroy by  Don Freeman
  • A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
  • Good Morning Digger by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg
  • Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka
  • My People by Langston Hughes, photographs by Charles R. Smith, Jr. (African-American)
  • Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (African-American)
  • This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth (African-American)
  • Subway by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Karen Katz
  • Bear on a Bike by Stella Blackstone
  • I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
  • Whistle for Willy  by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Randy Cecil
  • Flower Garden by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Kathyrn Hewitt
  • Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi
  • Spring has Come by Taro Gomi
  • Rain! by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  • Dance! by Bill T. Jones, photography by Susan Kuklin (African-American)
  • Whose Toes are Those by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
  • Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
  • A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (holy family of color)
  • My Family is Forever by Nancy Carlson (Asian American, adoption)
  • Peekaboo Bedtime by Rachel Isadora
  • If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor (African-American)
  • Sleepy Boy by Polly Kanevsky, illustrated by Stephanie Anderson (African-American)

Ages 4-6

  •  Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson (African-American)
  • Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill (African-American)
  • I love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada, illustraded by Elivia Savadier (Latina, interracial family)
  • Quinito’s Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito by Ina Cumpiano, illustrated by Jose Ramirez (Latino)
  • The Twin’s Blanket by Hyewon Yum (East Asian American)
  • Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (African-American)
  • The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Anna Vojtech (Cherokee)
  • My Way/ A mi manera: a Margaret and Margarita story by Lynn Reiser (Latina)
  • One Green Apple by Eve Bunting (Muslim-American)
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch (African-American)
  • Dumpling Soup, by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu (Korean-American, Inter-racial family)
  • Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell
  • Jamaica Tag-Along by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brian (African-American)
  • Jamaica’s Blue Marker by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brian (African-American)
  • Read and Rise by Sandra Pinkney, illustrated by Myles Pinkney (African-American)
  • Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B. Williams (African-American)
  • A Piñata in a Pine Tree: a Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales (Latino/a)
  • My Little Car/ Mi Carrita by Gary Soto, illustrated by Pam Paparone (Latina)
  • We’re Sailing to Galápagos by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Gracia Restelli
  • Sweet Jasmine, Nice Jackson: What its like to be 2–And to be Twins! by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley
  • Quiet in the Garden by Aliki
  • Ten Days and Nine Nights by Yumi Heo (Korean-American, adoption)
  • Treasure Nap by Jaunita Havill, illustrated by Elivia Savadier (Latina)
  • Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (African-American/White inter-racial family)
  • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (Korean-American)
  • Lottie Paris Lives Here by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer (African-American)
  • Lottie Paris and the Best Place by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer (African-American)
  • Hannah is My Name by Belle Young (Chinese-American)
  • Jonathan and his Mommy by Irene Smalls (African-American)
  • Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Paul Howard (African-American)
  • Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch (Japanese-American)
  • The Question Song by Kaethe Zemach (Inter-racial family)
  • Brian’s Bird by Patricia A. Davis, illustrated by Layne Johnson (African-American)
  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  • Max and the Tag Along Moon by Floyd Cooper
  • Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colón. (Latino)
  • The Swing by Joe Cepeda (Latina)
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  • Big Red Lolipop by Rukhsana Khan (Pakistani-American)
  • The Color of Home by Marh Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Somali-American)

Ages 7-9

  • Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (African-American)
  • Busing Brewster by Richard Michaelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth (African-American)
  • The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, illustrated by George Shannon (Algonquin)
  • Grandma’s Records by Eric Velasquez (Puerto Rican)
  • All Different Now by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (African-American)
  • I dream of Trains by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Loren Long (African-American)
  • Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corrine J. Naden, Illustrated by Don Tate (African-American)

If you like this list, you may also like my list of non-narrative picture books with diverse casts, and my list of international picture books.  For more lists for different ages, see my book lists page.


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