Young Adult Novels with Protagonists of Color

Young adult novels are written for teens ages 13-19, although many adults (myself included) enjoy them just as much. Here you will find a collection of Young Adult novels in which the main characters are people of color. Books marked with an * are #ownvoices novels, meaning that the author comes from the same community as the protagonist.

African American

  • The Friends by Rosa Guy*
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds*
  • All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds* and Brenden Kiely
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds*
  • Solo* by Kwame Alexander

Asian-American

  • All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg (Vietnamese-American)
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Lo* by F.C. Yee

Latino/a

  • Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero*
  • Shadowshaper and Shadowhouse* Falls by Daniel José Older
  • Wild Beauty* by Anna-Marie McLemore

Native American

  • Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac* (Apache)

Other

  • A Thousand Nights  and Spindle  by E.K. Johnston (dark-skinned fantasy)

Muslim-American

  • Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali*

*#ownvoices

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International Middle Grade Fiction

Middle Grade fiction is written for children from 8-12. Confident readers who want to take an armchair tour of the world can curl up with these great books set outside the United States. As with all my book lists, this is a work in progress and I encourage readers to leave suggestions for me in the comments. Books labeled with an * are #ownvoices narratives, meaning that the author is either from the country in which the story is set, or is a first generation citizen of their birth country.

Multiple Countries

  • Refugee by Alan Grantz (tells the interlocking stories of refugees from Nazi Gernmany, Cuba in the 1990s, and today’s war in Syria)

Afghanistan

  • One Half from the East* by Nadia Hashimi

Australia

  • The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

China

  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

India

  • Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh, illustrated by Manjunath Kamath

Japan

  • The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworh ( 1931 Newbery Medal)

Russia

Sudan

  • A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane Evans

Sweden

Zimbabwe

  • The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer (1995 Newbery Honor Book)

 

Middle Grade Fiction with Protagonists of Color

Middle Grade Fiction is for readers between nine and twelve. The following are middle grade novels I have read that feature protagonists of color. This list is part of my on-going book list project, in response to the Cooperative Book Center’s statistics regarding the lack of diversity in children’s books. Books marked with a * are #ownvoices books, meaning that the author belongs to the same community as the protagonist. I will be adding to this list as I read more books. Please leave suggestions in the comments!

African-American

  • One Crazy Summer* by Rita Williams-Garcia (2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Award, 2011 Judy Lopez Memorial Award Honor Book)
  • P.S. Be Eleven *by Rita Williams-Garcia (2014 Coretta Scott King Award)
  • After Tupac and D Foster* by Jacqueline Woodson (2009 Newbery Honor Book, 2009 Bank Street College of Education Josette Frank Award )
  • Money Hungry* by Sharon G. Flake (2002 Coretta Scott King Author Honor)
  • Locomotion* by Jacueline Woodson (2004 Coretta Scott King Author Honor)
  • The House of Dies* Drear by Virginia Hamilton
  • Toning the Sweep* by Angela Johnson (1994 Coretta Scott King Award)
  • Crossover* by Kwame Alexander (2015 Newbery Medal, 2015 Coretta Scott King Author honor book)
  • Ninth Ward* by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Coretta Scott King Author Award 2011)
  • As Brave as You* by Jason Reynolds (Schnieder Family Book Award 2017, Coretta Scott King Author Honor 2017)
  • Oddity by Sarah Cannon

Native American

  • The Birchbark House* by Louise Eldrich (2006 American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Middle School Book)

Indian-American

  • Same Sun Here* by Silas House and Neela Vaswani

Latino/a

  • The Circuit: Stories From the Life of a Migrant Child* by Francisco Jiménez
  • Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco by Judith Robbins Rose
  • The First Rule of Punk* by Celia C. Perez

Middle Eastern 

  • Whichwood* by Tahereh Mafi (fantasy story with elements of Middle Eastern culture)

Asian-American

  • Spirit Hunters* by Ellen Oh

You may also be interested in my Picture Books with Protagonists of Color, Picture Books with Racial or Ethnic Diversity, and International Picture Book lists.

International Picture Books

Continuing my series of book lists to help parents find multicultural children’s books, the following is a list of picture books set outside the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom.  All of these books have human protagonists; while animal stories from around the world can be interesting, they do not address the fundamental problem of the lack of diversity in children’s publishing.

Picture books range widely from stories you can read to your baby to long tales for early elementary students. I have broken the list down by age group.

Continue reading

Queer Picture Books

Families come in many forms and our children deserve books that reflect that. The following is a list of queer picture books, by which I mean books that feature gay and lesbian parents, gender non-conforming and trans* children, or other GLBTQ characters. These books are important, not only for children in the queer community, but also for children who are raised in more hetero-normative families. This list focuses on story books that feature queer characters.

The list is divided by age group, and where I felt more explanation is necessary I have included a brief summary in parentheses.  This list is work in progress and will grow as I continue to find and read more queer picture books. Please leave your suggestions in the comments!

Ages 1-3

  • Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson
  • Daddy, Papa, and Me by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson
  • This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
  • They He She Me: Free to Be by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew SG (Shows a diverse group of people for each pronoun, including ze and tree. The end has a guide for parents on using gender inclusive pronouns)

Ages 4-6

  • Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brennan (Chloe is sad when Uncle Bobby is getting married, but comes to love her new Uncle Jaime)
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (the true story of two male penguins and their egg)
  • King and King by Linda Haan, illustrated by Stern Nijland (The Prince rejects all the princesses in favor of another prince)
  • Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case (Jacob’s mom helps him make a dress)
  • Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant (Morris likes his tangerine dress because it swishes and is a great color; faces teasing at school)
  • Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman. Illustrated by Maria Mola (Casey loves all things sparkly; the older boys tease him but his big sister defends him)
  • Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jess Walton. Illustrated by Dougal MacPherson (Errol’s teddy bear is sad until she confides that she is actually a girl teddy, not a boy teddy and changes her name to Tilly)
  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. Illusrtated by Suzanne DeSimone (A story of unconditional love a mother has for her gender nonconforming son)
  • Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack (A prince and a male knight find true love together)
  • A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss (The Pence family’s bunny finds his true love with another boy bunny. Proceeds from the book benefit the AIDS action network)
  • A Peacock Among Pigeons by Tyler Curry. Illustrated by Clarione Gutierrez
  • From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by  Kai Cheng Thom. Illustrated by wai-yant li and kai yun ching (Miu Lan is neither a girl or a boy. They are happy and loved, but have some difficulty when they start school)
  • Worm Loves Worm by J.J.  Austrian. Illustrated by Mike Curato (When Worm and Worm get married who will be the groom and who will be the bride?)
  • A Tale of Two Dadies by Vanita Oelschlager. Illusratated by Kristin Blackwood
  • A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager. Illustrated by Kristin Blackwood
  • Home at Last by Vera Williams. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. (Lester finds a forever home with Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert)

Ages 7-9

  •  In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco (Life with Marmee and Meema as told by the oldest of three adopted children)
  • 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Rey (Bailey dreams of dresses but her family insists that she’s a boy)
  • Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

 

This post is part of my Diversity in Children’s Literature list series.

Picture books that show disability

Ableism is perhaps one of the most systemic forms of discrimination within children’s literature. Defined as discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities, ableism manifests in children’s literature largely through omission. There just aren’t that many books for children or young adults that include characters with disabilities, let alone feature them prominently. While you can find a few books about kids with autism and learning disabilities, these are generally published by foundations and are explicitly pedagogical. While books that tell “day in the life of a person with _____ disability” are important, we also need stories where disability is just one aspect of a person’s multifaceted identity.

The following is an incomplete list of picture books that have one or more characters with a disability. An asterisk next to a book’s title indicates that the protagonist of the story has a disability. Titles without an asterisk either have a secondary character with a disability or are simple picture books for toddlers and preschoolers that do not have a protagonist. Links are to reviews on this blog. Please leave suggestions for other books to include in this list in the comments.

Picture books that show disability

Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter (shows a girl who uses a wheelchair)

Touch and Tickle by Sanja Rešček

*Brian’s Bird by Brian’s Bird by Patricia A. Davis, illustrated by Layne Johnson (the protagonist is blind)

*Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas (in the American edition Jessica uses a wheelchair; in the Australian edition she does not).

*King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Kromer (the protagonist uses a wheelchair)

*Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Patrice Barton (the protagonist uses a wheelchair)

 

Picture books with Racial or Ethnic Diversity

The second post in my Multicultural Book List series showcases non-narrative picture books that don’t really have a protagonist and feature a diverse cast of people. These are picture books aimed primarily at toddlers and preschoolers. These are all books that have read and include illustrations of people of various skin colors, racial and ethnic identities, disabilities, and family structures. If you know of a book you would like to see on this list, please leave a comment below.

Ages 1-3

  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
  • Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
  • The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It by Laura Freeman
  • Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  • Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz
  • Now I’m Big by Karen Katz
  • Touch and Tickle by Sanja Rešček
  • Flip-a-Face: Baby Talk by Sami
  • What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Theile, illustrated by Ashley Bryan
  • Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
  • Clap Hands by Helen Oxenbury
  • Feelings by Susan Canizares
  • Sleepy ABC by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Karen Katz
  • My Nose, Your Nose by Melanie Walsh

Ages 4-6

  • Brothers and Sisters by Ellen B. Senisi
  • Toys Galore by Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake
  • If You’re Happy and  You Know It, by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Sophie Flatus
  • Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter
  • Bread, Bread, Bread  by Anne Morris, photographs by Ken Heyman
  • Hats, Hats, Hats by Anne Morris, photographs by Ken Heyman
  • Houses and Homes by Anne Morris, photographs by Ken Heyman
  • Smiling by Gwenyth Swain
  • Wash Up by Gwenyth Swain
  • Only You by Robin Cruise, Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

If you like this post, you may also like my list of Picture Books with Protagonists of Color.