6 Children's Books Featuring Ethnically Diverse Characters
One thing becomes clear when you're white and you become a parent or foster parent to a child of another race: All the kids in children's books are white. OK not all, but most. So you start looking for books that have minorities…but the list is short. So you start buying books with bunnies and dogs and ducks as the characters in the stories. There are a lot of those. And that's fun, and everyone can relate. But the fact of the matter is that there is a real shortage of minorities represented in children's books. It's gotten better in the last decade, but it's still a problem. So I went on a mission to find some books that featured African-American kids. Here are my thoughts on a few:
Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs. Taye Diggs is adorable, smart, charming, funny and best of all, he's head over heels in love with his wife Idina Menzel. So I really wanted to love this book. And it's good. The problem is that it's pretty negative. It addresses being teased for being black and the struggle with self-esteem as a result of the teasing. It's Taye Diggs' personal story and it's an important issue. But I don't want to introduce race as being a possible source of low self-esteem unless it actually becomes something a child in my care is struggling with. Why put these thoughts into a kid's head when he or she has never had them before? But it's a good story if your child is encountering this problem in his life.
Please, Puppy, Please! by Spike and Tonya Lee, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Kadir Nelson's illustrations are the only reason you should buy this book. The artwork is wonderful. The writing is terrible. There's no rhythm to it. Is it prose? Is it poetry? Whatever it is, it's bad. So I just make up my own words to the story. The pictures are worth it.
Whose Knees Are These? and Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim, Illustrations by LeUyen Pham. The first is about an African-American boy and it's just a sweet rhyming book about his knees. It's not about being black. It's not about being teased. It's just about being a little boy. That's why I love it. The second is about what looks like an Asian or possibly Hispanic girl. And again, not about anything but her lovely toes. Beautiful.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. A 1963 Caldecott Medal winner, this is the simple story of a boy waking up to snow on the ground and his adventures in it. Keats' illustrations are quiet and gorgeous. This was the first picture book to feature an African-American boy as the hero and it is truly timeless.
Corduroy by Don Freeman. One of my absolute favorites. This book tells the story of a teddy bear named Corduroy and a little girl named Lisa who happens to be African-American and who lives in an apartment. Corduroy and Lisa show us that if you find one true friend you've got everything you need.
We're Different, We're the Same by Bobby Kates and Joe Matthieu. A Sesame Street book about how noses, lips, eyes, hair, skin, body types all look different but all do the same things. Particularly great for a multi-racial family.
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. This one addresses differences in people around the world and stresses how we're all pretty much the same. Love it.
Do you have any favorite books with minority heroes? Care to share them below?