18 Children’s Books With Characters of Color

18 Children's Books with Characters of Color

After our post on raising race-conscious children, we wanted to share some books for kids featuring characters of different races and ethnicities. Some talk about race directly (like A Piece of Home), and some are simply about children’s everyday adventures (such as Airport). Here are 18 we like…

Do you have any other recommendations? We’d love to hear.

P.S. Children’s books with female characters, and books to teach kids kindness.

(Top image from the beautiful book Max and the Tag-Along Moon.)

  1. Dee says...

    Corduroy – the little girl, Lisa, who purchases the tedddy bear with the missing button and gives him a home, is a lovely person of color.

  2. Joanna- thank you so much for this list. I tucked it away when my biracial daughter was a baby, and went back to it recently to purchase books (every single one from the list!) for her 2nd birthday. We are both so very much enjoying them, and just in a few days of reading them (over and over again… :)) it feels like our little apartment, and our world, has expanded (even amidst the diversity that is already found in manhattan). Is makes me ever so grateful that she is being raised with characters in books that look like her, and with some that look different from both her and the other characters she more regularly sees in picture books (i.e., white kids). So- thanks for this gift to our book collection, and for the mark it is already making on her little world.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so wonderful, anna! i’m so glad to hear that. we also just got this lovely, dreamy one:


  3. Rosalia Slawson says...

    Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan and Maja Löfdahl
    Little Bitty Friends by Elizabeth McPike and Patrice Barton
    Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
    “More, More, More,” Said the Baby by Vera B Williams
    Shades of People by Sheila M. Kelly and Shelley Rotner
    Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie

    These are some books we read to our two year old son. I’m an Adult Services Librarian, and I’m trying to be very intentional about exposing him to a wide variety of characters in his books (he himself is white). It warms my heart reading them to him and seeing him connect to characters, regardless of their race or gender.

    Thanks for all these other suggestions, too! What an awesome blog post!

  4. Lo somel says...

    Chirri and Chirra- stunning book about two little Asian girls who have magical adventures on bikes.

  5. Maris Frey says...

    You have a great list here and I have these in our library. Just wanted to add a few early chapter books, along with my latest find.
    Ling and Ting series by Grace Lin, Katie Woo series and new Pedro series by Fran Manushkin and Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall are all relatively new and all pretty darn wonderful. ( I LOVE Jabari Jumps not only for the multicultural aspect, but also because Dad is the parent in the story, at the pool for a day of fun with his children.) As a children’s librarian in a relatively vanilla area, I try to make sure we have a collection that is a mirror for all children. Everyone likes to see themselves.

  6. Roimata says...

    We love The New Small Person by Lauren Child.

  7. Maria says...

    My recommendation is Lila and The Secret of Rain. Love love love this one?
    Thank you for the list!

  8. I love this list and as a person of color and parent of two, I’m glad authors and publishers are being more inclusive when it comes to race and ethnicity. All of Ezra Jack Keats books are amazing and I can’t wait to check out the other books that I haven’t yet read. Another suggestion: I recently illustrated a book with a character of color titled Over and Under the Pond. Hope you enjoy!

    • Jean says...

      We just checked your book out of the library and love it. So, so beautiful.

  9. Susan says...

    I loved the beautiful and diverse “angels” in The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake by Nancy Willard.
    When my kids were small (it has been a long while) we enjoyed a book from the library that I’ve never been able to find again. A young black boy and his grandpa grew a vegetable garden and magically traveled to the far off places where the vegetables came from. The illustrations were gorgeous & the story so sweet. Anyone recall this book?

    • Maria says...

      I loved this book growing up. I haven’t seen it in years, but it was one of my favorites.

  10. We love children’s picture books!

  11. Shelly says...

    Corduroy! A favorite of mine, also a favorite of my daughter.

    Re: Ada Twist, my daughter loves that series! They also have Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck, architect (clearly STEM themed). She compares herself to Ada and Rosie when building with Duplos and problem solving. She often requests “Ada Twist buns” in her hair.

    Thanks for this list!

  12. Tiek Johnson says...

    What book is the the little boy with the golden sun from? Btw great post.

  13. Rachel says...

    My girls love the book, “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.”

  14. erin says...

    Revisited this page after this doozey of a week. Buying up a bunch of these books to donate this holiday season. Thank you again for being a positive force and for being one of the few bloggers not afraid to speak up before election day.

  15. Phylicia Q says...

    Thank you so much for posting this list! I’m an African American mom to an amazing 10 year old girl. I was VERY passionate about her seeing herself in her books as she grew so I’ve built a pretty cool library over the years consisting of many of the books already mentioned. I must say one of my faves is The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.

    A girl and her artist mom take a stroll through the neighborhood to see all the various skin colors of the wonderful people they live around. I love that the book refers to each skin tone so deliciously using words like honey, peaches and chocolate. Somehow we managed to score a giant size of this book. Such a beautiful way to teach about diversity. Still love it!

  16. Laura says...

    I didn’t see them on here when I apple-f’d, so I just thought I’d add:

    Everybody Eats Rice – a child visits his neighbors in a multiethnic neighborhood and each of them invite him to taste their own delicious recipes made with rice.
    Too Many Tamales – a latin family make tamales for Christmas.
    How My Parents Learned to Eat – a child tells the story of how his parents attempted to learn how to eat with different utensils (Japanese and Western) in order to impress the other.
    Jamaica Tag Along – a black girl learns to play with others.

    This is such a valuable list Joanna! It brings back so many good memories and has also made me aware that I was obsessed with food from a young age.

  17. Nina says...

    There is also this fabulous free app called WeReadToo that lists books by authors of color and feature characters of color

    We Read Too by Kaya Thomas

  18. Rebecca says...

    Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer is one of our faves!

  19. Such a great post! Its great to find some great books with people who look like me. Growing up it was always so hard because there were no heroes of color so I always felt torn. Am I meant to be the bad guy? But nope there are apparently a ton of role models out there and luckily we have post like this one to unearth them! Great job!

  20. Jo-Ann says...

    Anything by Grace Lin especially “Dim Sum for Everyone!” and “The Ugly Vegetables.”

    • Yes to all the Grace Lin books! We also like the Ling and Ting stories. :)

  21. Julie says...

    Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang is one of my 2-year-old’s favorites!

  22. My husband is biracial and his mother read “Black is Brown is Tan” to all 4 of her kids (starting over 40 years ago !) and still gifts the book to families today.

  23. Cathryn Falwell says...

    So honored to see some of my books listed here. It’s so important for ALL children to have books that have diverse characters. Happy Reading, everyone!