Celebrating and Reflecting Our Diversity: Book List
Our choice of books is critical in order to promote children’s senses of identity and self-worth; they are also invaluable in promoting and encouraging discussions about discrimination which we know are crucial to challenging discrimination in all its forms. For further information on the importance of representation in children's literature see:
'Reflecting Realities: Survery of Ethnic Representation within Children's Literature', CLPE, 2017
'Exploring Issues of Disability in Children's Literature Discussions' by Donna Sayers Adomat, 2014
Children's Literature and Sexuality by Kay A. Chick in The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender Studies, 2016
'Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood: A Literature Review' by Dr Leah Culhane and Andrew Bazeley, p.14-15, 2019.
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Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
Babies everywhere do the same things: play, sleep, crawl and are loved and cared for. Gorgeous illustrations by Marla Frazee.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
Classic picture book. Grace wants to play Peter Pan in her school play, but her classmates tell her that he wasn't a girl or black. Grace's Ma and Nana teach her she can do anything if she puts her mind to it...
Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke
Beautifully illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, the vivid pictures take us on a trip to the market, where Baby keeps adding food to Mama's basket.
So Much by Trish Cook, Illus. by Helen Oxenberry
Everyone in this large extended family comes to see mum and baby because they all love baby so much.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o, Illus. by Vashti Harrison
Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival
What Are Little Girls Made Of? Nursery Rhymes for Feminist Times by Jeanne Willis, Illus. by Isabelle Follath
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen
Sulwe is darker than everyone in her family and at school. She wants to be the same as them until she takes a magical journey through the night sky. Celebrating the things that make us unique.
From the author of 'Ruby's Worry'. Norman is perfectly normal until one day he grows wings. They are so much fun but he worries about what everyone else thinks. A tale about having the courage to be proud of our differences.
Nursery rhymes get a feminist makeover in which Georgie Porgies gets a lesson in consent and Bo Peep rescues her sheep herself. Humerous but important messages.
Violet loves to tinker and invent things, even though everyone at school teases her. An air show and a daring rescue might just change their minds.
Look Up by Nathan Bryon, Illus. by Dapo Adeola
Want To Play Trucks? by Ann Stott, Illus. by Bob Graham
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp, Illus. by Sara Ogilvie
Rocket is a ball of energy who loves to star gaze and wants to be an astronaut. She knows a meteor shower is coming but everyone else is just looking down at their phone! A lesson for us all to take notice of the world around us.
Jack wants to play trucks and Alex wants to play dolls. Can they find a way to play together?
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, Illus. by Michael Martchenko
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
A dragon burns Princess Elizabeth's castle and all of her property, including her clothes, leaving her with just a paper bag in which to rescue her kidnapped fiance. I can't recommend this one enough!
Stunning art work accompanies a semi-autobiographical tale. Young Cassie dreams of flying above her 'tar beach', the rooftop of her apartment block, and seeing down over 1939 Harlem.
Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood
Two friends who are very different. Teaches children the value of having friends who are different from us. A board book suitable for very young children.
Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst
Discover the stories of remarkable women who changed the world for the better.
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
One of the best picture books in recent years. Julian wants to be a mermaid but will his grandmother approve? A gorgeous celebration of being true to who you are.
Not Like The Others: A Hidden Picture Book About Diversity by Jana Broecker
Try to spot the fox with the fluffiest tail and all the other animals that are not like the others. A celebration of difference.
Princess Smartypants doesn't want to get married but the princes have other ideas. A feminist tale of an independent princess!
Princess Sue is not very good at being the type of princess everyone expects her to be and her prince turns out to be a real disappointment.
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, Illus. by E.G . Keller
Marlon lives with his Grampa Vice President Mike Pence. He's a boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny. A sweet and fun book which was an important protest against Mike Pence's anti-LGBT views with proceeds going to various charities. Learn more here. The audio book is voiced by Jim Parsons and a host of huge names and is only £1.57!
The Girls by Lauren Ace, Illus. by Jenny Lovlie
Four girls meet and form a friendship that lasts a life time. They're lives go in different directions but they are there to support each other throughout. Lovely book.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammed & S.K. Ali, Illus. by Hatem Aly
My Hair by Hannah Lee, Illus. by Allen Fatimaharan
Faizah's first day at school is also her older sister Asiya's first day of wearing hijab. Faizah thinks it is beautiful but not everyone agrees. Written by the first American Olympic medal winner to compete wearing hijab.
"My birthday's coming up so soon,
I'll need new clothes to wear.
But most of all, I need to know,
How shall I style my hair?"
A visit to the hairdressers to get ready for a birthday celebration is full of excitement and amazing hairstyles!
In Every House, On Every Street by Jess Hitchman, Illus. by Lili la Belaine
A loving look at all the different homes and the families that live in them and share love, tears and laughter together.
Hansel And Gretel by Rachel Isadora
Rachel Isadora has retold and illustrated several classic fairytales with African characters. Beautiful, bright and eye-catching illustrations.
Ages 8 - 12
Lightning Girl by Alesha Dixon and Katy Birchall
9+ Aurora Beam discovers that her mum is a secret superhero and finds out she has her own powers. When she meets her mum's evil twin, she has to choose between being a super hero or a super villain...
The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Rauf
9+ A new boy joins the narrator's class and they discover that he is a refugee called Ahmet who was separated from his family. His new friends think they might be able to help. This is a wonderful, heart-warming and important book highlighting the plight of refugees.
Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky by Kwame Mbalia
9+ Tristan Strong has accidentally opened a chasm to the MidPass and finds himself caught up in a battle between African-American folk heroes, ancient African gods and the monster inhabitants of the MidPass. First in the series from the 'Rick Riordan Presents' imprint.
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
9+ Eska, Flint and Blu set out to save the kingdom of Erkenwald from the Ice Queen. Blu has Down's Syndrome. It is refreshing to see a strong character such as Blu represented with love and sensitivity where her condition is just incidental to the story.
Booked by Kwane Alexander
12+ Second book in the hugely successful, Newberry medal winning series from Kwame Alexander. A novel in verse about a football-mad boy who hates books.
High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson
9+ It's the hottest summer on record in London and someone in Nik and Norva's high-rise block, the Tri, has been murdered. Can they solve the mystery before the summer holiday is over?
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Down
9+ Ted and his sister Kat are waiting for their cousin Salim to finish his ride on the London Eye. But when the doors open, Salim is nowhere to be found. Ted's brain 'runs on a different operating system' to other people's and this might just save the day. A neurodivergent narrator who let's us glimpse the world as he sees it.
The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
9+ Matthew has crippling OCD which means he stays home most of the time looking out of his window. Which makes him the last person to see his neighbour's son before he disappears. Can Matthew solve the mystery?
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Girl Who Stole An Elephant by Nirzana Farook
A Pocketful Of Stars by Aisha Bushby
A Kind Of Spark by Elle McNicoll
9+ August Pullman has never been to school before because he has Treacher-Collins Syndrome and spent most of his life having surgeries and being home-schooled. We join him as he starts in fifth grade and tries to make friends and deal with bullying. One of the best books to teach children empathy.
9+ Chaya and her friends go on an adventure through the jungle with an elephant after stealing the queen's jewels.
9+ Safiya's mum doesn't understand her passion for gaming and she feels like an outsider at school. When her mum ends up in a coma, Safiya finds herself in a magical world that reminds her of one of her games and meets a mysterious, rebellious girl who looks familiar.
9+ Adeline is a neurodivergent girl who campaigns to have a memorial to women killed in witchcraft trials in her town because she empathises with them being seen as different. At the same time she is the target of cruel behaviour from a girl in her class. An important book which demonstrates the challenges faced by autistic children and adults.
Bill's New Frock by Anne Fine
7+ Bill wakes up one day and he is a girl. His mum makes him wear a frilly, pink dress to school and Bill discovers that things are somehow different when you are a girl.
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
9+ Andi loves basketball and wishes she could be taller. When her half-brother Bernardo comes to live with them from the Phillipines, she hopes he is tall and likes basketball too. Turns out, he is actually taller than anyone she has ever seen! Told from both perspectives, we see how the siblings negotiate a clash of cultures and their own personal issues to build a relationship.
Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
9+ Ally has been hiding her dyslexia for a long time and getting into lots of trouble until in her latest school, she meets Mr Daniels who sees the creative, smart child underneath it all.
Song For A Whale by Lynne Kelly
9+ Iris was born deaf and lived with her deaf grandparents her whole life, until her grandfather dies and life just isn't the same. Then she finds out about a whale that can't communicate with other whales and she sets out on a journey determined to help.
Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan
9+ Asha's father has not been heard from in months and someone is threatening to ruin the family farm. With her friend Jeevan, Asha sets out on a journey through the Himalayas to find her father, guided by the spirit of her grandmother in the form of a majestic lamagaia - a huge bearded vulture. A fantastic book with a strong female lead.
The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher
7+ Ten-year-old William Trundle loves dinosaurs and enjoys his life at home and school until a bully called Brenda joins his class. Suddenly, William, a wheelchair-user, is made to feel different and alienated. He meets the Christmasaurus, who also feels different, and together they embark on an adventure.
Teen and Young Adult
Not my usual age group so only a few titles here but these books are just too good to ignore!
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
14+ A stunning novel about sixteen year old Starr who witnesses her best friend, Khalil, shot and killed by a police officer. As the only witness, Starr struggles with what to do in the face of mounting pressure from all sides, including threats made to her family. An important book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, I could not put it down. Content warnings: some swearing, violence, sexual and drug references so I would perhaps recommend this for older teens.
Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman
12+ The seminal work of one of Britain's greatest living children's authors. Sephy and Callum have been friends since they were young but cannot be anything more because she is a cross and he is a nought - a 'blanker' whose only purpose is to serve the crosses. A tale of star-crossed lovers whose choices have resounding repercussions. I've added this to the Teen/YA section because I've always felt the relationship to be more mature than suitable for a middle grade book.
Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
14+ Superb West-African inspired fantasy series which starts with this book. Zelie is marked out as a Maji by her white hair but the Maji no longer have power. Their magic has been destroyed, along with her mother and the other Maji who were killed by the king's men. But magic is returning to the land of Orisha, thanks to a stolen scroll and the king's daughter Amari. Together, Zelie and Amari must return the scroll to its rightful place and restore the magic of Orisha for good.