10 Great Picture Books about Diverse Children and Families

By Michelle Lee, Young Adult Librarian
September 22, 2016
Riverside Library

The acceptance of people from diverse backgrounds is one of the most important lessons families can teach their children. Here are some picture books that can help children appreciate and understand how people and families can be different, and, at the same time, share the same universal value: love. 

Happy in our skin

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrations by Lauren Tobia

Our birthday suit—skin—is one of the most important parts of our bodies. This book is a rhyming ode to all the important roles skin plays in protecting us. Children of all abilities, religions and hues are portrayed in harmony, playing, swimming and enjoying a day out with “the splendid view: bouquets of people, blooming and boisterous, brawny and thin, loving each day … happy in our skin!”

How far do you love me?

How Far Do You Love Me by Lulu Delacre

Children and parents alike take a virtual tour of the globe and beyond in this picture book while playing a bedtime game. See the peaks of the Andes, Grand Canyon and Himalayas. Swim the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. Marvel at the vastness of the Antarctic Peninsula, Serengeti Plain and other breathtaking locations while answering the title question “how far do you love me?”

All families are special

All Families Are Special by Norma Simon, illustrations by Teresa Flavin 

An elementary school class shares stories about all the special people in their families. The inclusive book covers a variety of different scenarios, such as intergenerational families, blended and same-sex couple families, and families with adopted relatives, relatives who live in different homes or overseas, as well as those with deceased relatives and pets. The classroom theme can encourage further discussion on the subject of families.

A rainbow all around me

A Rainbow All Around Me by Sandra L. Pinkney, photographs by Myles C. Pinkney

This visually-playful photography book shows children of different races dressed in different colors. The words that accompany the pictures evoke feelings for each hue and show that there is “a piece of the rainbow” in all of us.

the fight for interracial marriage

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage , J 306.84A,  by Selina Alko, illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

The ability to marry whomever you love, regardless of race, wasn’t always a legal right in America.  This picture book tells the real-life struggle Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginia couple who fought for nearly a decade to have their marriage recognized and legalized. They took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and they prevailed in 1967. Civil rights, discrimination and segregation are explained in simple terms that children can understand, and the vibrant illustrations skillfully chronicle the Loving’s story from romance to hardships to vindication. A list of suggested list of articles and books for further reading on the Loving family, civil rights and interracial families is included as well. 

Shades of people

Shades of People by Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

Pictures tell the tale of different types of skin tones with candid portraits of children at school, at play, by themselves and with their families. The book makes an important point that “Our skin is just our covering, like wrapping paper. / And you can’t tell what someone is like from the color of their skin.”

My family, your family

My Family, Your Family by Lisa Bullard, illustrations by Renee Kurilla

Little Makayla is about to become a big sister and she spends some time visiting neighbors to find out the many ways other kinds of families are great. The book shows a variety of families: some without children, some who speak various languages and come from different countries, some in same-sex relationships and some who are divorced or live with extended relatives. A small vocabulary list appears at the end and children are encouraged to create a poster showing how their own family is great.  

One family

One Family by George Shannon, illustrations by Blanca Gomez

Counting takes on a new dimension in this picture book. Families of many different ages, ethnicities and sizes are represented in these illustrations. Children will also have fun looking for other objects on the page that match the number of members in each family. The overarching theme, though, is that no matter how big or small, we are all united as “one family.”

Ten little fingers and ten little toes

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrations by Helen Oxenbury

Prepare for a series of adorable baby drawings. This rhyming book portrays little ones from all over the world, such as the city, country, mountains and icy lands. With each progressive page, the cluster of babies grows and grows, each one laughing, smiling and playing with each other, and each are implied to be the same with “ten little fingers and ten little toes.”  

Who's in my family? : all about our families

Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families by Robie H. Harris, illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott

A family trip to the zoo becomes a teachable moment for young Nellie and Gus. Families from a variety of cultures, ethnicities, races, religions and abilities are portrayed in the illustrations, and the book also briefly mentions same-sex couples and foster families. The overarching lesson is while families can go through happy or sad times, family members are supportive and loving toward one another.