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. 

The books I picked & why

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The Boy & the Bindi

By Vivek Shraya, Rajni Perera (illustrator),

Book cover of The Boy & the Bindi

Why 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.”

Layla's Happiness

By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Ashleigh Corrin (illustrator),

Book cover of Layla's Happiness

Why 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. 

When We Love Someone We Sing to Them: Cuando Amamos Cantamos

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

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

Why 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.  

Sweetest Kulu

By Celina Kalluk, Alexandria Neonakis (illustrator),

Book cover of Sweetest Kulu

Why 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. 

Where Are You From?

By Yamile Saied Méndez, Jaime Kim (illustrator),

Book cover of Where Are You From?

Why 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. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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