The best picture books that celebrate diversity and joy in children

Who am I?

I am a mixed-race woman with a big, loving family who has always questioned the way things are and dreamed of a world where we all belong. I’m also the mom of a non-binary, queer adult child and work to support families with LGBTQ+ children. I love reading and talking with kids (and grown-ups too) about race, gender, and the power of being who we are. I also love dancing, butterflies, and hummingbirds.


I wrote...

One of a Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo

By Laurin Mayeno, Robert Liu-Trujillo (illustrator),

Book cover of One of a Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo

What is my book about?

I wrote this book so that children like mine can feel amazing being exactly who they are. It’s about Danny, who wants to be a princess in the school parade. Danny and mom venture out to find the perfect purple princess dress. They find lots of purple things, but will they find the right dress in time? The story is based on a multiracial intergenerational family and is bilingual in Spanish and English. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Boy & the Bindi

Laurin Mayeno Why did I love this book?

This book helps fill a huge need for picture books that celebrate children of different cultures who aren’t limited by gender. This story is about the loving relationship between mother and child. Each time I read it, I am awestruck by the artistry and touched by the message. The child is captivated by the dot that Ammi wears above her nose. Ammi explains “my bindi keeps me safe and true,” and places a bindi on the child’s forehead. Each page of prose with vivid hand-painted illustrations, tells us a little bit more about how wearing the bindi brings comfort, strength and allows the child to be “everything that I can be.”

By Vivek Shraya, Rajni Perera (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Boy & the Bindi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this beautiful children’s picture book by Vivek Shraya, author of the acclaimed God Loves Hair, a five-year-old South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.

Beautifully illustrated by Rajni Perera, The Boy & the Bindi is a…


Book cover of Layla's Happiness

Laurin Mayeno Why did I love this book?

The author was inspired by her daughter to write this book, with the hope that it would help Black children and other children of color feel seen. Each time I turned a page my heart swelled a bit more as I read about all the ways that Layla finds happiness and strength in family, community, and living things all around. The playful and colorful illustrations paired with the lyrical narrative convey joy and remind us to take notice of the beauty that’s there to be found if we only pay attention. I also loved the reminder of some of my favorite things, like dancing, ladybugs, and climbing trees. 

By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Ashleigh Corrin (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Layla's Happiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Affirmations of black childhood abound, and whimsical wishes float like dandelion fluff. Equally as imaginative as the lyrical text, Corrin's boldly colored, textured illustrations beautifully capture the buoyant spirit of Layla, a brown girl exuding confidence, comfortable in her own skin-indoors and out. Well-illustrated poetry of the best kind that will leave sunshine in its wake." -STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus

Seven-year-old Layla loves life! So she keeps a happiness book. What is happiness for her? For you?

Spirited and observant, Layla is a child who's been given room to grow, making happiness both thoughtful and intimate. It's her dad talking about…


Book cover of When We Love Someone We Sing to Them: Cuando Amamos Cantamos

Laurin Mayeno Why did I love this book?

This is a stunning bilingual story about a boy whose father teaches him about songs as a way of expressing love, and then helps him write a love song for a special boy. I fell in love with the story when I first saw the short-film version and am equally enthusiastic about the picture book. The author describes the story as a “queer reclamation of the Mexican serenata tradition” and shows us a family that transmits the deep meaning of cultural traditions while also re-imagining them. The gorgeous illustrations convey a sense of softness and magic.  Along with the narrative, written in both English and Spanish, the images carry the reader into a world that is pure beauty, affirmation, celebration, and joy.  

By Ernesto Javier Martínez, Maya Christina Gonzalez (illustrator), Jorge Gabriel Martínez Feliciano (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When We Love Someone We Sing to Them as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

WINNER--2019 International Latino Book Award (Best Children's Picture Book in English)  WINNER--2019 International Latino Book Award (Best First Book-Children & Youth-Bilingual) 2019 American Library Association "Rainbow Book List" SelectionA reclamation of the Mexican serenata tradition, follow the story of a young boy who asks his father if there is a song for a boy who loves a boy. Como reapropiación de la serenata Mexicana, Cuando Amamos Cantamos cuenta la historia de un niño que le pide a su padre que canten una canción para un niño que ama a otro niño. When We Love Someone We Sing to Them reframes…


Book cover of Sweetest Kulu

Laurin Mayeno Why did I love this book?

I first saw this book about an Inuit newborn on a list of LGBTQ-friendly books because it welcomes a baby into the world without focusing on their gender. This is just one of many things I love about this bedtime poem. Kulu is a term of endearment for babies and young children in Inuktitut and the poem introduces Baby Kulu to the arctic summer. The animals and land share gifts such as love, patience, respect for animals, gentleness, and kindness. The beautiful illustrations in soft hues, convey the same gentle tone as the words, and lead the reader to feel embraced, adored, comforted, and ready to dream. The book is available in English, French, and Inuktitut. 

By Celina Kalluk, Alexandria Neonakis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sweetest Kulu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Dream a little, Kulu, this world now sings a most beautiful song of you." This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Lyrically and tenderly told by a mother speaking to her own little Kulu; an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children, this visually stunning book is infused with the traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants. A perfect gift for new parents.


Book cover of Where Are You From?

Laurin Mayeno Why did I love this book?

This book, dedicated to kids from everywhere, resonates deeply for me and likely for anyone who is asked the question “Where are you from?.” The young child in the story turns to Abuelo, who looks inside his heart to find a wide-ranging answer to this question. Abuelo’s response doesn’t involve a specific country or city, but conveys a broader sense of source from the pampas, mountains, the ocean, ancestors and beyond. Each of these places is beautifully described and depicted with vibrantly colorful illustrations. As the child continues to press Abuelo he finds a response that resonates. I was comforted by the message that all of us belong to the earth, our ancestors, and each other. What a refreshing and lovely way to respond to a tiresome question. 

By Yamile Saied Méndez, Jaime Kim (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Where Are You From? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

This resonant and award-winning picture book tells the story of one girl who constantly gets asked a simple question that doesn't have a simple answer. A great conversation starter in the home or classroom-a book to share, in the spirit of I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo.

When a girl is asked where she's from-where she's really from-none of her answers seems to be the right one.

Unsure about how to reply, she turns to her loving abuelo for help. He doesn't give her the response she expects. She gets an even better one.

Where am…


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Songbird

By Laci Barry Post,

Book cover of Songbird

Laci Barry Post Author Of Songbird

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Group fitness instructor Mom of two Travel consultant Hiker

Laci's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It's 1943, and World War II has gripped the nation, including the Stilwell family in Jacksonville, Alabama. Rationing, bomb drills, patriotism, and a changing South barrage their way of life. Neighboring Fort McClellan has brought the world to their doorstep in the form of young soldiers from all over the country and German POWs from halfway around the globe.

Songbird is an inspirational, historical fiction novel, dealing with family, faith, strong women, and the American home front. It explores many historical elements of the World War II era, such as women's aid groups, the writings of Ernie Pyle, D-day, radio and music of the 1940s, and the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Songbird

By Laci Barry Post,

What is this book about?

When the perils and social changes of World War II confront a small southern town, faith, family, and love sustain the lives of one young woman and her family. Can those left behind endure?

"I'm waiting for my life to begin. Waiting for the train to come in," Ava Stilwell, a young woman eager for life, sings a popular song with the big band that reflects her heart. In the midst of a world at war, Ava finds love, a passion for her music, and new opportunities, but the war still looms over her, threatening to take it all away.…


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