Move Over, Dr. Seuss: 29 Children’s Books by BIPOC Authors to Add to Your Bookshelf
One of the first books I’ve ever read was Bears on Wheels, by Dr. Seuss. The artwork grabbed my usually-easily-bored toddler attention with fervor, and I remember feeling so proud of myself for being able to finish (and read aloud, no less) a book on my own. I’ve had many fond memories of reading Seuss books, and a lot of the whimsical flair in his characters and worlds and stylistic choices informed my own writing style in many ways.
Unfortunately, as with all things, growing up made me realize that Dr. Seuss was not as kind or as good as he’d made himself out to be, and that his stories—even with their outstanding imagination and beautiful artwork—revealed some dark echoes of that reality. It was a sobering realization, but one that also made me think of the other picture books that had shaped my imagination as a child.
Rainbow Fish and The Very Hungry Caterpillar ignited my love of colors, Arthur Read and Junie B. Jones drew me into the fun and awkward adventures of adolescence, and so many others taught me how to read in the first place (i.e If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, The Go to Bed Book, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, etc.).
What I didn’t really have growing up, though, were any books featuring kids that looked like me. And though eventually, as I became an adult, I did come to find stories that reflected my own experiences, I always wondered how I would have navigated certain aspects of life had I had that representation at an early age.
And now, as the current conversations surrounding Dr. Seuss and his problematic aspects are being brought to the forefront, I thought it would be important to shine a light on all the children’s books that are available now that are written to and from a lens of authentic diversity.
As I collected this list of diverse kids books by BIPOC authors, my heart warmed at all the possibilities available for young kids just beginning to come into their own and understand themselves, their identities—and hopefully feel less alone while doing it.
Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises
It’s the day of the Big Star Little Gala, and Stella’s hair just isn’t acting right! What’s a girl to do?
Simple! Just hop on her hoverboard, visit each of her fabulous aunties across the solar system, and find the perfect hairdo along the way.
Stella’s Stellar Hair celebrates the joy of self-empowerment, shows off our solar system, and beautifully illustrates a variety of hairstyles from the African diaspora. Backmatter provides more information about each style and each planet.
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, Alexandria Neonakis (illustrator)
This bedtime poem, written by internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts bestowed upon a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Lyrically and lovingly written, this visually stunning book is infused with the Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants.
Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne, Theodore Taylor (illustrator)
For all the littlest progressives, waking up to seize a new day of justice and activism.
Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world.
This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. With bright playful art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscraper is more blue.
Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris, Ana Ramírez González (illustrator)
One day, Kamala and Maya had an idea. A big idea: they would turn their empty apartment courtyard into a playground!
This is the uplifting tale of how the author’s aunt and mother first learned to persevere in the face of disappointment and turned a dream into reality. This is a story of children’s ability to make a difference and of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood.
Another by Christian Robinson
In his eagerly anticipated debut as author-illustrator, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King honoree Christian Robinson brings young readers on a playful, imaginative journey into another world.
What if you …
encountered another perspective?
Discovered another world?
Met another you?
What might you do?
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, Vashti Harrison(illustrator)
When mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to do his daughter’s hair in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters from former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestseller Vashti Harrison.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When mommy does Zuri’s hair, she feels like a superhero. But when mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to step in! And even though daddy has a lot to learn, he LOVES his Zuri. And he’ll do anything to make her—and her hair—happy.
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
Contando Con Frida by Patty Rodriguez,Ariana Stein, and Citlali Reyes (illustrator)
Inspired by one of Mexico’s most iconic painters, this book will introduce little ones to numbers and their first English and Spanish words.
Imagination Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry
From the creators of Hair Like Mine and Skin Like Mine… Imagination Like Mine, book three in the Kids Like Mine Series, will take children on an exciting journey page after page! Sure to capture young readers attention through rhyming and repetition while also encouraging Self Expression and building Confidence.
The Electric Slide and Kai by Kelly J. Baptist, Darnell Johnson (illustrator)
Kai is the only member of his family who can’t get the dance steps to the Electric Slide right. But Kai is determined to bust a move in this fun and sweet celebration of African American families.
Kai’s aunt is getting married, and everyone in the family is excited about the wedding…except Kai. For Kai’s family, weddings mean dancing to the Electric Slide — a groovy line dance with steps that Kai finds tricky to master.
More than anything, Kai wants to prove that he can boogie down with the rest of the Donovans and earn a cool nickname from his Granddad. With help from his family and a little encouragement from his new uncle, Kai is able to break through his nerves and break it down on the dance floor in this humorous contemporary story with all the right moves.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, Vashti Harrison (illustrator)
Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.
The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith, Gloria Felix (illustrator)
Mama and Daddy are heading out of town, which means Azaleah and her sisters get to spend the weekend at Auntie Sam’s. The girls can’t wait for their special weekend! Azaleah even decides to bake cookies to surprise her parents when they return. After all, as Mama says, “Cooking for someone is like giving them a gift.” But the cookies are a disaster! Azaleah is stumped. She’s sure she did everything right. Can Azaleah get to the bottom of the cookie catastrophe before Mama and Daddy get back?
A Sled for Gabo by Emma Otheguy,Ana Ramírez González (illustrator)
The Snowy Day meets Last Stop on Market Street in this heartwarming classic in the making about a young boy who is in a new town and doesn’t have much, but with the help of a loving community discovers the joys of his first snowy day.
On the day it snows, Gabo sees kids tugging sleds up the hill, then coasting down, whooping all the while. Gabo wishes he could join them, but his hat is too small, and he doesn’t have boots or a sled.
But he does have warm and welcoming neighbors in his new town who help him solve the problem in the sweetest way possible!
I Sang You Down From The Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, Michaela Goade (illustrator)
As she waits for the arrival of her new baby, a mother-to-be gathers gifts to create a sacred bundle. A white feather, cedar and sage, a stone from the river…
Each addition to the bundle will offer the new baby strength and connection to tradition, family, and community. As they grow together, mother and baby will each have gifts to offer each other.
Tasha Spillett-Sumner and Michaela Goade, two Indigenous creators, bring beautiful words and luminous art together in a resonant celebration of the bond between mother and child.
Ana and Andrew by Christine Platt
Ana & Andrew are always on an adventure! They live in Washington, DC with their parents, but with family in Savannah, Georgia and Trinidad, there’s always something exciting and new to learn about African American history and culture.
Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham
From Caldecott honoree LeUyen Pham, Outside, Inside is a moving picture book celebrating essential workers and the community coming together to face the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Something strange happened on an unremarkable day just before the season changed.
Everybody who was outside . . .
. . . went inside.
Outside, it was quieter, wilder, and different. Inside, we laughed, we cried, and we grew.
We remembered to protect the ones we love and love the ones who protect us.
While the world changed outside, we became stronger on the inside and believed that someday soon spring would come again.
Stay This Way Forever by Linsey Davis, Lucy Fleming (illustrator)
Celebrate the joy, wonder, and innocence of being a child with this love letter to the loved ones in your life that encourages them to celebrate their own special qualities now and into the future.
Inspired by the endearing qualities she sees in her own son, Linsey Davis, ABC News correspondent and bestselling author of The World Is Awake and One Big Heart, has written another beautiful book that parents and grandparents can share with their little ones to let them know how special they are. With charming illustrations from bestselling artist Lucy Fleming paired with playful and heartwarming read-aloud rhymes, this book can help make a lasting impact on young minds as they discover their own unique qualities.
Home Is In Between by Mitali Perkins, Lavanya Naidu (Illustrator)
Shanti misses the warm monsoon rains in India. Now in America, she watches fall leaves fly past her feet.
Still, her family’s apartment feels like a village: Mama cooking luchi, funny stories in Bangla, and Baba’s big laugh. But outside, everything is different – trick-or-treating, ballet class, and English books.
Back and forth, Shanti trudges between her two worlds. She remembers her village and learns her new town. She watches Bollywood movies at home and Hollywood movies with her friends. She is Indian. She is also American. How should she define home?
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand, Nabi H. Ali (Illustrator)
Laxmi never paid much attention to the tiny hairs above her lip. But one day while playing farm animals at recess, her friends point out that her whiskers would make her the perfect cat. She starts to notice body hair all over — on her arms, legs, and even between her eyebrows.
With her parents’ help, Laxmi learns that hair isn’t just for heads, but that it grows everywhere, regardless of gender. Featuring affirming text by Shelly Anand and exuberant, endearing illustrations by Nabi H. Ali, Laxmi’s Mooch is a celebration of our bodies and our body hair, in whichever way they grow.
Lala’s Words by Gracey Zhang
From debut author-illustrator Gracey Zhang comes a timeless and timely picture book that celebrates the unassuming power of kind words.
Oh, there goes Lala! She carries a pot of water around the corner, down the block, and over the fence, to a patch of dirt and concrete where tiny weeds sprout. “Hello, hello, friends!” she whispers. Lala waters the plants every day, but it is her kind words that make them sway and nod.
Lala’s wild nature and quiet compassion enchant in this evergreen story about the power of kind words and the magic of being loved for who you are.
Off to See The Sea by Nikki Grimes, Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator)
Bath time is full of magic.
The faucet flows like a waterfall, the bathroom floor is a distant shore, toy boats sail against the waves. An imagination-fueled adventure on the high seas is just what it takes to get little one clean.
I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne, Julia Kuo (illustrator)
I dream with Popo as she rocks me in her arms.
I wave at Popo before I board my flight.
I talk to Popo from across the sea.
I tell Popo about my adventures.
When a young girl and her family emigrate from Taiwan to America, she leaves behind her beloved popo, her grandmother. She misses her popo every day, but even if their visits are fleeting, their love is ever true and strong.
Time for Kenny by Brian Pinkney
Time for Kenny to get up and enjoy the day with his family! In four deceptively simple stories, Brian Pinkney guides readers through a young child’s day. First, Kenny must get dressed. Maybe he can wear his mom’s shoes? And his grandpa’s hat seems to fit perfectly on his head.
Luckily, with the help of his family, Kenny finally gets his own favorite outfit on. Then he must overcome his fear of the monstrous vacuum cleaner, learn to play soccer with his big sister, and get ready for bedtime.
Bright, fluid, exuberant illustrations and expert use of white space create a bold, accessible book for families to treasure and share. Rhythm, repetition, and clear, short sentences make Time for Kenny an excellent choice for emerging readers
Eyes That Kiss In The Corners by Joanna Ho, Dung Ho (illustrator)
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self love and empowerment.
Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi, Fahmida Azim (illustrator)
Ramadan has come to an end, and Amira can’t wait to stay home from school to celebrate Eid. There’s just one hiccup: it’s also school picture day. How can Amira be in two places at once?
Just the thought of Eid makes Amira warm and tingly inside. From wearing new clothes to handing out goody bags at the mosque, Amira can’t wait for the festivities to begin. But when a flier on the fridge catches her eye, Amira’s stomach goes cold. Not only is it Eid, it’s also school picture day. If she’s not in her class picture, how will her classmates remember her? Won’t her teacher wonder where she is?
Though the day’s celebrations at the mosque are everything Amira was dreaming of, her absence at picture day weighs on her. A last-minute idea on the car ride home might just provide the solution to everything in this delightful story from acclaimed author Reem Faruqi, illustrated with vibrant color by Fahmida Azim.
My Day With The Panye by Tami Charles, Sara Palacios (illustrator)
“To carry the panye, we move gracefully, even under the weight of the sun and the moon.”
In the hills above Port-au-Prince, a young girl named Fallon wants more than anything to carry a large woven basket to the market, just like her Manman. As she watches her mother wrap her hair in a mouchwa, Fallon tries to twist her own braids into a scarf and balance the empty panye atop her head, but realizes it’s much harder than she thought. BOOM! Is she ready after all?
Lyrical and inspiring, with vibrant illustrations highlighting the beauty of Haiti, My Day with the Panye is a story of family legacy, cultural tradition, and hope for the future. Readers who are curious about the art of carrying a panye will find more about this ancient and global practice in an author’s note at the end.
Zonia’s Rainforest by Juana Martinez-Neal
Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?
Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the wonders of the rain forest with Zonia, an Asháninka girl, in her joyful outdoor adventures. The engaging text emphasizes Zonia’s empowering bond with her home, while the illustrations—created on paper made from banana bark—burst with luxuriant greens and delicate details. Illuminating back matter includes a translation of the story in Asháninka, information on the Asháninka community, as well as resources on the Amazon rain forest and its wildlife.
Anita And The Dragons by Hannah Carmona, Anna Cunha (illustrator)
Anita watches the dragons high above her as she hops from one cement roof to another in her village in the Dominican Republic. But being the valiant princess she is, she never lets them scare her. Then one day, Anita must face her fears to begin a new life in a new country. Will she be brave enough to enter the belly of the beast and take flight to new adventures?
When My Cousins Come To Town by Angela Shanté, Keisha Morris (illustrator)
Fitting in can be hard, but standing out isn’t easy either!
Every summer a young girl eagerly waits for her cousins to come visit and celebrate her birthday. All her cousins are unique in their own ways and have earned cool nicknames for themselves… except for the girl. But this year things are going to be different. This year before summer ends, she’s determined to earn her own nickname!
Filled with warmth, love, and laughter, When My Cousins Come to Town brings all the energy and love of a big family to prove that you don’t need to be anyone else to be special — just the way you are is exactly right!
Yasmin The Writer by Saadia Faruqi, Hatem Aly (Illustrator)
Ms. Alex has assigned Yasmin’s class to write about their heroes. Yasmin loves to write, but she can’t decide who her hero is. After dismissing lots of ideas, could it be that Yasmin’s hero has been right beside her all along?
(featured image: Lee & Low Books , Imprint, Scholastic Inc. )
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