The best children’s picture books on inclusion

Who am I?

As a former middle school language arts teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles some students face trying to be accepted and the heartbreak they experience when they are not. Every child deserves to be seen and appreciated for who they are and not be excluded or ostracized due to factors over which they have little control. I write and promote picture books about friendship, acceptance, and inclusion because everyone deserves to be included…always. 


I wrote...

What's Silly Hair Day with No Hair?

By Norene Paulson, Camila Carrossine (illustrator),

Book cover of What's Silly Hair Day with No Hair?

What is my book about?

Bea has alopecia―that means she doesn't have any hair. Most days being bald doesn’t bother Bea, but some days are super hard like Silly Hair Day at school. When Bea doesn’t know what to do, her best friend, Shaleah, is determined to help. With Silly Hair Day fast approaching, they're focused on finding a way for everyone to be included in the fun.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Up and Adam

Norene Paulson Why did I love this book?

This is a wonderful story whose main character has Down’s Syndrome, but it’s not a book about a child with Down’s Syndrome. The focus instead is on Adam’s kindness, his helpfulness, his positive attitude, and his community’s willingness to value him as a respected member. I absolutely love the sense of community inclusion found in this story.

By Debbie Zapata, Yong Ling Kang (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Up and Adam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A boy with Down syndrome lifts spirits all over town!

It’s the day after the big storm. Adam and his dog, Up, are finishing breakfast when the mayor appears on TV asking everyone to help with the cleanup. She says, “Now, it’s time to get to work. Up and at ’em!” When Adam hears the mayor tell him and Up to get to work, he’s on it! “We can help!” Adam says. And as everyone in the town is about to discover — they really can!

With kindness in his heart and a smile on his face, Adam shows readers…


Book cover of The Big Umbrella

Norene Paulson Why did I love this book?

Two things first drew me to this story. First, in our hall closet there is also a big umbrella—a big white, blue-striped umbrella which when opened is roomy enough for all our family members. Second, I love the metaphors in the book…the umbrella = shelter, rainy weather = troubles/hard times, and the variety of characters under the umbrella = family, friends, strangers, and the best part is no one is left out from beneath the umbrella as it simply gets bigger to accommodate everyone’s needs. What a compassionate, empathetic message of inclusion.

By Amy June Bates, Juniper Bates,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Big Umbrella 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?

“A subtle, deceptively simple book about inclusion, hospitality, and welcoming the ‘other.’” —Kirkus Reviews

“A boundlessly inclusive spirit...This open-ended picture book creates a natural springboard for discussion.” —Booklist

“This sweet extended metaphor uses an umbrella to demonstrate how kindness and inclusion work...A lovely addition to any library collection, for classroom use or for sharing at home.” —School Library Journal

In the tradition of Alison McGhee’s Someday, beloved illustrator Amy June Bates makes her authorial debut alongside her eleven-year-old daughter with this timely and timeless picture book about acceptance.

By the door there is an umbrella. It is big. It is…


Book cover of You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion

Norene Paulson Why did I love this book?

You Are Enough is a powerful book celebrating diversity and inclusion. I literally had goosebumps the first time I read it. Every line is poster-worthy and each page is amazingly illustrated with kids from diverse backgrounds and abilities. Working together, the text paired with the illustrations reinforce the messages that “our differences are what make us special,” “we all belong,” and “you are just right exactly as you are.” 

By Margaret O'Hair, Sofia Sanchez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Are Enough as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A positive, beautiful and inclusive picture book all
about celebrating being yourself from Down syndrome advocate Sofia
Sanchez!
Wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same? Being just
who we are is great!

This inclusive and empowering picture book from Sofia Sanchez,
a twelve-year-old model and actress with Down syndrome, reminds
readers how important it is to embrace what makes you unique,
be confident, and be proud
of who you are.

Imagine all of the wonderful things you can do if you don't let
anyone stop you! You are enough just how you are. Sofia is unique,
but…


Book cover of Strictly No Elephants

Norene Paulson Why did I love this book?

Many books focused on inclusion are about including everyone, but since I’m a pet lover, I loved this story about a boy’s pet being excluded from Pet Club Day just because being an elephant didn’t fit the accepted, traditional definition of a pet. Not about to back down, the boy  meets others with nontraditional pets and they form their own club which is inclusive. The illustrated spread showing the members is hilarious and the sign on their new clubhouse sums up the message of the book perfectly—All Are Welcome!

By Lisa Mantchev, Taeeun Yoo (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Strictly No Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A sunny, smart, tongue-in-cheek tale." The New York Times Book Review
"Sweet and affirming." Kirkus Reviews
"With a gentle message of inclusion and helping others, this title reaches beyond a mere friendship story."School Library Journal
"Heartening."Booklist

In this bestselling and internationally beloved picture book, the local Pet Club won't admit a boy's tiny pet elephant, so he finds a solution-one that involves all kinds of unusual animals.

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephantsare allowed. The Pet Club doesn't understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like…


Book cover of Janine

Norene Paulson Why did I love this book?

As a middle school teacher, I knew a lot of Janines. Janine has her own style and isn’t afraid to be herself even if the “cool” kids think she’s odd. However, add in invites to a “cool” kids’ party and Janine has a problem. To attend, the “cool” kids want her to change. How far will Janine go to be included? To be included is a powerful desire but at what cost? Unfortunately, scenarios like this occur every day in classrooms across the country, but this book shines a light on the importance of looking at each person’s uniqueness through the lenses of kindness, compassion, and empathy. 

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Janine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

ILA 2016 Teachers' Choices Reading List

Meet Janine. She is one of a kind! Janine dresses a little different, remembers random facts, reads the dictionary for fun, and has her own style of cheering. Nobody does things the way Janine does things! One girl in Janine's class is throwing a party and all the COOL kids are invited. But Janine is not cool. Some kids think she is strange and want her to change. Will Janine try to be different or just be her spectacular self? In this charming story, Maryann Cocca-Leffler uses her own daughter as inspiration for a…


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The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

Book cover of The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

New book alert!

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

What is my book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honeybee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes, and beehives—even water fountains—every eight hundred feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high above speeding cars, creating a safe path for tree-hopping possums and squirrels alike.

Through a mix of lyrical poems, real-life success stories, and bouquet-bright artwork, The City Sings Green explores the environmental impact of humans and showcases the many ways that we can rewild cities across the globe. Together, we can welcome nature back!

The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

What is this book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic. Perfect for fans of The Curious Garden and Harlem Grown.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honey-bee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes and beehives-even water fountains-every 800 feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high…


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