From Snowy Days to Scientists: Books Featuring Kids and Families of Color

By Gwen Glazer, Librarian
March 10, 2017

Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day , first published in March 1962, follows a little boy exulting in a big snowfall in New York City. In the words of Jhenelle Robinson, a YA librarian at the New York Public Library's Morrisiana branch, the beautifully illustrated picture book "captures the wonder and excitement of a fresh snowstorm through the eyes of young Peter."

Peter (as NPR notes) "was among the first non-caricatured African-Americans to be featured in a major children's book," and his story captures a universal moment of joy in his everyday life.  Keats went on to win the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1963.

In the tradition of Keats' classic, we asked our NYPL experts to recommend children’s books that feature kids and families of color. Here are their favorites.

Picture Books

pecan pie

Pecan Pie Baby is a sweet story about a girl not thrilled about becoming a big sister to the "ding dang baby" who might resonate with little ones adjusting to the idea of having siblings and their bond with their mom. —Adriana Blancarte-Hayward, Outreach Services


Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty follows Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, as a children's book of professionally precocious kids. The illustrations are Art Deco inspired and there's a mystery twist at the end. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market


Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn. Lola loves her books and when Leo is born mom and dad still find time to read to her. Lola helps in many ways but reading to Leo when he cries is what makes Lola the best big sister. All of the books about Lola are heartwarming to librarians, but families will see themselves in these books, too. —Peggy Salwen, St. Agnes Library


I Am So Brave! by Stephen Krensky celebrates a toddler's growth by showcasing him overcoming his fears. The book encourages toddlers to explore and face common fears such as the dark and the deep end of the pool. —Melissa Koszer, George Bruce


City kids will see themselves in the pages of Nina Crews’ One Hot Summer Day, which tells the story of a familiar steamy day with grape popsicles, panting dogs, open fire hydrants, and an afternoon thunderstorm. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. Mollie Lou is the shortest girl in the first grade, but she has a huge personality—and the wisest grandma around. —Lynn Lobash, Readers Service

She Come Bringing Me that Little Baby Girl by Eloise Greenfield. A child's disappointment and jealousy over a new baby sister are dispelled as he becomes aware of the importance of his new role as a big brother. —Rachael Wettenstein, Grand Concourse


Peter, in Ezra Jack Keats' Peter's Chair, has already become an older brother, but is only just realizing all of the implications of that role. He's already had his cradle, crib, and high chair taken away (without his permission!), repainted pink, and given to his baby sister. But the last straw is when his parents want to take away his old blue chair. This book is a wonderful example of how older siblings can realize sharing their things can add value to their belongings and can lead to conversations about the value of shared experiences for siblings. —Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange

For slightly older kids (easy readers & young readers)


The Katie Woo books by Fran Manushkin. First-grader Katie has major adventures with her friends at school and home. —Sue Yee, Children’s Center


Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look. Alvin is worried that his mom had been eating too many mochi cakes because her tummy has been getting bigger and bigger. He is surprised to learn that he is going to be a big brother very soon. Will the baby be a girl (ewww)? —Annie Lin, Mulberry Street



Two sets of grandparents—Mexican-American and white—play a starring role in I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada, but the big pay-off at the end is the narrator’s super-cool gigantic birthday party. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services


As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds.  Genie and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn to spend the summer with their grandparents in countryside of Virginia, and nothing will ever be the same again. —Annie Lin, Mulberry Street


The EllRay Jakes books by Sally Warner. EllRay is a typical third-grader having to deal with school, bullies, a younger sister, and misunderstandings. —Sue Yee, Children’s Center





Middle-grade fiction


The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish. Ethan used to be a fun-loving guy.  He loved to skateboard and was always up for a dare. That is until the incident. Now, Ethan and his family have moved to rural Georgia to live with his grandfather. There he meets Coralee. Coralee is vivacious, tons of fun, and tells the best stories. Can Ethan trust her with his secrets?  Fast-paced and written in the style of a mystery, not all is revealed until the end. —Jenny Rosenoff, Children’s Center

moon girl

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Brandon Montclare. Lunella Lafayette is a middle schooler with a passion for science but her parents and teachers don't respect her experiments. That's why her secret lab is under the school. But Lunella might just be too smart for her own good, when she accidentally transports a dinosaur to New York City. —Lauren Bradley, 53rd Street


The Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin is all about the high-fantasy tales of Ged, a rebellious yet powerful young wizard. Exceptional world-building and exciting adventures abound. Through intentionally subtle writing, Le Guin makes it clear that Ged and many of his counterparts are people of color. The first book in this series was published in 1968, when people of color were not seen in science fiction; Le Guin strove to break out of that tradition. —Alessandra Affinito, Chatham Square


In Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, a brave girl named Minli journeys with a dragon to find the Old Man in the Moon to try to fix the suffering environment around her. There’s plenty of ancient Chinese folklore mixed into the story, but girls of any background will be able to see themselves in brave, daring Minli. —Lynn Lobash, Readers Services


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!