Young Readers

22 Inspiring Picture Books for Children that Celebrate Different Cultures

Smiling schoolchildren on seat

We live in a a diverse world, filled with people from different backgrounds, different skin colors, and lifestyles, even within the same neighborhood or in our own house.
Children’s books about diversity are an important part of every child’s home library.  They are an essential guide as we travel through this multi-ethnic world we live in.

These books are going to encourage your children to see the world from someone else’s perspective.

 

African

A Girl Called Problem children's bookA Girl Called Problem

Katie Quirk
Ages 10—14
Lexile: 770L
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5404-9
243 Pages

Thirteen-year-old Shida, whose name means “problem” in Swahili, certainly has a lot of problems in her life — her father is dead, her depressed mother is rumored to be a witch, and everyone in her rural Tanzanian village expects her to marry rather than pursue her dream of becoming a healer. So when the village’s elders make a controversial decision to move their people to a nearby village, Shida welcomes the change. Surely the opportunity to go to school and learn from a nurse can only mean good things.

However, after a series of puzzling misfortunes plague the new village, Shida must prove to her people that moving was the right decision, and that they can have a better life in their new home.

For author pictures of Tanzania, a video depicting the life of a modern Tanzanian girl, discussion questions for each chapter of the book, and suggestions for further reading, please go to katie-quirk.com and follow the links for A Girl Called Problem.


 

The Herd Boy children book for kidsThe Herd Boy

PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5550-3
36 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

Malusi is a herd boy, which means that he must look after his grandfather’s sheep and goats and protect them from harm on the grazing slopes. This is a big job for a small boy and one Malusi does well. Still, he dreams of being more than a herd boy: he wants to be president!

When Malusi mentions these hopes, his friend Lungisa laughs and laughs. But after an attack by a hungry baboon and an encounter with Nelson Mandela, Malusi wonders if his dream isn’t so impossible after all…

In this poignant story set in South Africa, greatness often comes from humble beginnings. Niki Daly’s captivating prose and atmospheric illustrations help readers consider what builds the strength, courage, and integrity of a great leader.


 

My Name is Sangoel children book for kids

My Name is Sangoel

Ages 6-10
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD440L
HARDCOVER
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5307-3
32 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.

When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.

Written by the authors of the acclaimed Four Feet, Two Sandals, this poignant story of identity and belonging will help young readers understand the plight of the millions of children in the world who are refugees.


Son of a Gun children book for kidsSon of a Gun

Ages 11 & up
Lexile: 700L
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5406-3
125 Pages

I was crazy. Crazy mad. That’s how I felt when I turned in my AK-47 rifle. The commanding officer’s growl still haunts me: “This gun is your god. You listen to the voice of your god and go where your gun tells you.”

This powerful and gripping story describes the journey of a brother and sister, eight- year-old Lucky and ten-year-old Nopi, who are kidnapped from school and forced to become child soldiers in Liberia’s fourteen-year-long civil war.

Lucky and Nopi manage to escape, but must continue fleeing. Even after they are reunited with their parents, they both know the pieces of their lives will never fit together like they used to. When will the war really be over, and when will they get to have the childhood they still dream about?

This sensitive and compelling narrative is based on true stories of former child soldiers interviewed by the author. Son of a Gun also includes a section of notes and further information about Liberia.


 

African American

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch children book for kidsThe Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Chris Barton
Don Tate
Ages 7 to 10
HARDCOVER
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0
50 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

A unique biography of a remarkable Reconstruction figure

John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

This biography, with its informative backmatter and splendid illustrations, gives readers an in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the first African-American congressmen.


The Beatitudes childrens books for kidsThe Beatitudes

From Slavery to Civil Rights
Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 980L
HARDCOVER
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5352-3
34 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

Since the earliest days of slavery, African Americans have called on their religious faith in the struggle against oppression.

In this book the Beatitudes — from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount — form the backdrop for Carole Boston Weatherford’s powerful free-verse poem that traces the African American journey from slavery to civil rights.

Tim Ladwig’s stirring illustrations showcase a panorama of heroes in this struggle, from the slaves shackled in the hold of a ship to the first African American president taking his oath of office on the steps of the United States Capitol.

Readers of all ages will find this a book to return to again and again for encouragement and inspiration.


Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation childrens book for kidsBen and the Emancipation Proclamation

Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 670L
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5541-1
32 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

Ben, a young slave, uses every chance he gets to teach himself to read, practicing with the words he sees on street signs and in shop windows and even in cast-off newspapers he finds in the gutter.

But after the Civil War breaks out, his master leaves town and Ben finds himself in a slave prison. One night, the prisoners bribe a guard to get their hands on a newspaper, and to the applause of his fellow slaves, Ben reads aloud the momentous news of Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — surely one of the most remarkable readings of that document ever.

Based on the true story of Benjamin Holmes, Pat Sherman’s stirring text and the memorable illustrations of Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper pay tribute to the power of freedom — and to the power of the written word.


Come Sunday childrens book for kidsCome Sunday

Ages 4-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD960L
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5134-5
32 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

Softly, quietly begins the day of the week that, for LaTasha, is always full of glorious sounds: the pipe organ, tambourine, and drum; the footfalls of ushers marching down the aisle of the sanctuary; the sweet harmonies of the choir; and the rich vibrato of the preacher’s voice. LaTasha sings along with the congregation, confident that Heaven hears each joyful note.

Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, Nikki Grimes’ poems and the lush tapestry of colors in Michael Bryant’s illustrations celebrate a day of worship viewed through the eyes of an exuberant little girl.


I Lay My Stitches Down childrens books for kidsI Lay My Stitches Down

Ages 10 & up
Full-color illustrations throughout
Lexile: 990L
HARDCOVER
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5386-8
34 Pages

BUY THIS BOOK HERE

This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

This moving and eloquent set of poems, brought to life by vivid and colorful artwork from Michele Wood, offers a timeless witness to the hardship endured by America’s slaves. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note.


Asian

Always with You CHILDRENS BOOKAlways with You

Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD570L
HARDCOVER; Published: 1/14/2008
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5295-3
Price: $ 17.00
32 Pages

After her mother is killed by an explosion that also destroys her Vietnam village, four-year-old Kim is alone and afraid. Eventually, she is rescued by soldiers who bring her to an orphanage.

Surrounded by the love of the couple who run the orphanage, the companionship of the children who live there, and her mother’s promise, “I will always be with you,” Kim finds the strength and courage to survive.

This picture book for older readers, based on a true story from the Vietnam War, portrays the hope that exists in even the most desperate situations. Poignant illustrations capture the perseverance of the human spirit and the power of kindness.

 


 

Father's Road children's booksFather’s Road

PAPERBACK; Published: 2/20/2017
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5472-8
Price: $ 10.00

Wong Chung is thrilled when he has the chance to join his father’s caravan and embark on a journey along the Silk Road. But with the harsh terrain, brutal sandstorms, and marauding bandits, the journey is not an easy one. With so many obstacles will they ever be able to reach the magnificent markets in Constantinople?

This book in the new Trade Winds series presents historical information about the most well-known trade route in a fun, accessible way.

 


Greek

Mikis and the Donkey

HARDCOVE
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5430-8
89 Pages

Another moving animal tale from the award-winning author of Soldier Bear

One day, Mikis’s grandfather has a surprise for him: a new donkey waiting! Mikis falls in love with the creature, but his grandparents tell him that the donkey is a working animal, not a pet. However, they still let Mikis choose her name — Tsaki — and allow the two of them to spend their Sundays together. Mikis and Tsaki soon become fast friends, and together the two have some grand adventures. Eventually, both Mikis and his grandfather learn a bit more about what exactly it means to care for another creature.

Brought to life by drawings from Philip Hopman, Bibi Dumon Tak’s gentle, humorous story is perfect for any readers who may have their own soft spot for animals.


Haitian

Circles of Hope Children's booksCircles of Hope

Ages 5-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD720L
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5396-7
32 Pages

Young Facile wants to plant a tree in honor of his new baby sister, but he faces many obstacles. The first seed he plants is eaten by a goat, the second seed is washed away in a storm, and another seed is burnt by a scrub fire. Will Facile ever be able to plant a tree that will grow strong for baby Lucía?

In this story of determination, faith, and love, author Karen Lynn Williams introduces readers to the realities of rural life in the mountains of Haiti. Imbued with brilliant colors, expressive characters, and vivid landscapes, Linda Saport’s illustrations capture the indomitable spirit of hope.


Indian

BLue Jackal Illustrated picture books for children books kids literature kidlitThe Blue Jackal

HARDCOVER;
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5466-7
34 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.25″ x 8.25″

Ages 4 to 8
BUY THIS BOOK HERE

Juno the jackal is the runt of the pack, and the other animals bully him because of his size. One night, Juno is chased by some dogs from the village, and he hides in a vat of indigo dye to escape. When he returns to the forest, his fur is bright blue, and the animals hail this strange new creature as their king. But can Juno keep his true identity hidden?

Featuring illustrations inspired by traditional Warli artwork and an informative historical note, this Indian folktale will spark a wonderful discussion about the relationship between perception and reality.


 

The Warli People book for kidsThe Warli People

PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5476-6
36 Pages

A poetic depiction of ancient India

The Warli people, who live in ancient India, work hard throughout the year. They plant seeds in the spring so that the summer monsoons will help the plants grow, and they harvest their crops in the fall and store the food for the long winter ahead. But despite the hardships they face, they also find time to celebrate life’s joyous moments.

This Trade Winds book highlights the day-to-day life in an agricultural society and offers historical information about one of the world’s earliest civilizations.


Irish

Brigid's Cloak books for kidsBrigid’s Cloak

Ages 5-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5297-7
32 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 9 x 10.5

Brigid’s Cloak retells an ancient tale about one of Ireland’s most beloved saints. On the day she is born Brigid receives a brilliant blue cloak from a mysterious Druid. Years later, the young girl still wears the now tattered but beloved cloak while she tends her sheep. Is it her imagination that suddenly takes her to an unfamiliar land? Or is it something far greater that leads Brigid to a crowded inn in a town called Bethlehem?

Bryce Milligan’s eloquently told story about Brigid is a moving tale of compassion and wonder. Beautifully illustrated by Helen Cann, Brigid’s Cloak sparkles with the timelessness of legend and the transcending power of faith.


Italian

Grandfather Whisker's Table children's booksGrandfather Whisker’s Table

PAPERBACK; Published: 5/31/2017
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5474-2
Price: $ 10.00
36 Pages

An engaging story about the world’s first bank

Enzo and his father are excited to be in Italy for the Palio di Siena festival. Enzo buys a toy woodpecker for his little brother, but the piazza is so crowded that Enzo worries he will lose it. Luckily, an old man named Grandfather Whisker is loaning and exchanging money at the festival. He agrees to keep the toy safe and gives Enzo a receipt so he can collect it later. But now Enzo must be careful not to lose his receipt amidst all the festivities.

This latest installment in the Trade Winds series offers readers a relatable story while providing historical information about the first known bank.


I, Vivaldi children's bookI, Vivaldi

Janice Shefelman
Ages 7-11
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD570L
HARDCOVER
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5318-9

In this dynamic picture-book biography, told as if by Vivaldi himself, the famous musician’s energetic personality and steadfast dedication to music come alive.

Despite his mother’s vow for him to become a priest, young Vivaldi is only interested in music. He soon grows from a feisty boy who wants to play the violin into a stubborn young man who puts his musical training ahead of his studies for priesthood.

Beautiful, ornate artwork portrays the spirit and splendor of Vivaldi’s hometown, Venice. A historical note, musical score, and glossary will help readers more fully appreciate Vivaldi’s life and musical genius.


Middle Eastern

Adara book for childrenAdara

PAPERBACK; Published: 8/7/2002
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5216-8
Price: $ 9.00
160 Pages

Adara has always longed to do the things that well-brought-up girls of her time are not supposed to do. She wants to learn to read and write — like men. And she wants the freedom to travel — like men — outside the boundaries of her sheltered life.

One day she awakens to a blast of trumpets as the Israelites and Arameans battle just outside the safety of her village walls. Curious, Adara sneaks out to see the battle. Little does she know that this will be her last day of freedom for a very long time.

Sold into slavery, Adara becomes a servant to General Namaan and his family and begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery, healing, and redemption — a journey that, in the end, faces her with the hardest decision of her life . . .


The Enemy Has a Face children's bookThe Enemy Has a Face

Gloria D. Miklowitz
Ages 12 & up
Lexile: 720L
PAPERBACK
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5261-8
143 Pages

Fourteen-year-old Netta Hofman wakes one morning to find that her older brother did not come home the night before. Having just moved from Israel to Los Angeles, the family of seventeen-year-old Adam is stunned and baffled by his disappearance. Adam has not had time to make many friends yet, and he has always been responsible, the last person who would leave home without a word.

Netta and her parents desperately seek answers to Adam’s disappearance. Could he have run away with a girl he met on-line? Was he abducted for ransom? Or, is it possible that Palestinian terrorism is to blame — revenge for his Israeli father’s work?

When Netta makes a new and unlikely friend at school, an Arab boy named Laith, she begins addressing issues of prejudice — her classmates prejudice against foreign students, her own prejudice against Palestinians, and her family’s growing suspicion that Palestinian hatred of Israelis is behind Adam’s disappearance.

In this thoughtful and suspenseful book, Gloria Miklowitz explores issues of Middle Eastern relationships through the eyes of young people on both sides of the age-old conflict. The surprising conclusion to the novel will leave readers with a renewed understanding of other people’s needs, fears, and beliefs.


 

Four Feet, Two SandalsFour Feet, Two Sandals

Ages 7-10
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 620L
HARDCOVER
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5296-0
32 Pages

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year- old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.

As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.


Gligamesh the Hero children's booksGligamesh the Hero

Written by Geraldine McCaughrean , Illustrated by David Parkins
Ages 10 – 13 years
HARDCOVER & PAPERBACK

ISBN-10: 9780802852625
ISBN-13: 978-0802852625
96 Pages
BUY THIS BOOK HERE

This is one of the oldest stories in the world, and it’s about things that still matter to us today: friendship, fame, courage, happiness.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu are friends — best friends. Together they can work wonders, fight monsters, brave earthquakes, travel the world! But waiting in the dark is the one enemy they can never overcome.

Retold by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean, and illustrated with great power by David Parkins, Gilgamesh the Hero is a story that will linger in the imagination long after the book has been put down.


 

Two Little Birds children's booksTwo Little Birds

Ages 4-8
HARDCOVER; Published: 2/14/2014
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5421-6
34 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 8.5 x 11
BUY THIS BOOK HERE

A sweet story about nature’s patterns and about growing up

Two little birds hatch and grow until one day, they see an amazing sight: hundreds of birds, all flying together in one direction. They decide to join in, and so begins an amazing and sometimes dangerous journey that they never could have imagined. Eventually they return home — and the cycle starts over again.

This simple story, nicely complemented by warm and colorful illustrations, subtly celebrates the wonder of migration. Two Little Birds is a perfect book for introducing young children to nature’s small miracles.

1 comment on “22 Inspiring Picture Books for Children that Celebrate Different Cultures

  1. Pingback: 5 Fabulous Books to Read With Your Children This Summer

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