Thursday, March 9, 2017

We Need Diverse Books | 10+ Amazing Books to Add to Your Library

Finding good quality books which feature diverse characters has never been easy.  Where can you go to find them? Right here. 

When I was growing up I remember one of my Indian friends excitedly showing me this page in the Paddington Bear book.  We were so excited for this little scrap. This little morsel.  

  The back of a woman, whose face was completely invisible, but dressed in a sari was most probably Indian too!  These were the crumbs we lived on.  

I had a vague memory of this encounter and always scanned the pages of Paddington Bear whenever I came across a copy of the book.  But the Sari Woman was gone.  Could she have been erased from the pages?  I grew so upset that I could never bring myself to buy a copy of this iconic book for our kid's library at home.

Only last week at a trip to the book store with Lakshman did I discover my error.  The Sari Woman did indeed still exist.  But she lives in the sequel, not the first book in the series. Imagine my joy at having this dim kernel of memory verified as fact.  

 A few days later we went back to the book store.  A little bit of hunting revealed a whole stack of amazing, heart-warmingly diverse books for the kids. 

The book Nandini is holding, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, has been truly amazing so far.  It is chapter book, so we read to her a few each night.  It is amazing how well written this book is.  Krishnaswami writes with the voice of a young girl in a way that is so open and authentic, it makes me feel like I am back at home in my parent's house painting my toenails with my friends and talking about the X-files (if being a nerd is wrong, I don't want to be right). Yet the story touches on the feeling of push-pull between India and America. And how open minded people can pronounce names that look long at first glance. These are added in deftly to a story that could be any other YA book plot line about school and friends and parents.  

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything


Rose petal milk shakes and a world of surprises awaits Dini when her family moves to India in this spirited novel with Bollywood flair.

Dini's parents are Indian, but she's growing up in the US. Dini's BFF is American, and she is as much a fan of Bollywood movies as Dini is. Emails, phone calls, and video computer calls allow both girls to remain in touch. Dini soon meets another girl named Priya whose parents are in Washington DC, but will soon be going to Chile, and then Haiti. This is the kind of world where people from different walks of life, different countries and cultures, all learn from each other.
Dini is back from India—with Bollywood star Dolly in tow! But life in the States isn’t all rose petal milk shakes…

Meena is excited about the class play, a new and improved version of Red Riding Hood. But when she learns that she must play one of the trees in the forest, Meena's excitement vanishes. She is just too clumsy to be a quiet, steady tree.One day at the Indian grocery store, Meena sees a yoga class in progress, and the store owner convinces her to try the children's class. Little does Meena know she is about to find a way to grow from the inside out, just like a tree, and move beyond her feelings of clumsiness and frustration.The Happiest Tree is a gentle and empowering story of a young girl's road to self-confidence. It is sure to spark interest in yoga, and provide comfort to all children as they struggle to overcome the everyday obstacles to growing up.

This treasury of 52 stories collects together a rich resource of myths, fairy tales and legends from around the world, with a story for every week of the year. The book is broken into 12 chapters, for each of the 12 months of the year, and throughout, stories are matched to internationally celebrated dates, including Valentines Day and the International Day of Friendship, as well as seasonal events and festivals. Collected and retold by award-winning author Angela McAllister, and illustrated by internally recognised artist Christopher Corr, this is a book that will be treasured by families and appeal to teachers and librarians around the world.

Avinash has this book and loves reading the stories in here.  They are colorful and so unique.  We have read a lot of fairy tale and fable anthologies and this just blows them away.  This is a great one to add a lot of variety to your library. 
This book is an utterly enchanting wordless picture book in which two friends follow a young fox deep into the woods and discover a wondrous and magical world.
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

A lyrical lullaby imbued with traditional Inuit beliefs, this bedtime poem written by internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk describes the gifts bestowed upon a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Lyrically and lovingly written, this visually stunning book is infused with the Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants.

Did I have to buy this book for Lakshman? Yes I absolutely did.  The little baby just makes me melt. 

The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.

Illustrated Stories from Around the World Usborne

A wonderful collection of ten folktales specially chosen from around the globe. Stories are The Baobab Tree, Baba Yaga the Flying Witch, The Stonecutter, Dick Whittington, The Three Wishes, The Fish that Talked, King Midas and the Golden Touch, Brer Rabbit Down the Well, The Magic Pear Tree and Genie in the Bottle. They're different from the standard fare we usually see in kids' books. It's wonderful to see fables from other countries and it's refreshing to see so many stories with people of different hues. Many of the other "classic" stories, including those in the Usborne books, do not feature people of color. Seeing diversity in reading is just as important as diversity in life. All in all, a great book for young children of any background.

Nandini's preschool teacher first turned us on to Usborne books and we have been really happy with them.  They generally seem to include a lot of diversity wherever they can.  The books themselves are really good quality and I can't recommend them highly enough. 

You Were the First

You will always be the first...

A touching tribute to baby's early milestones -- those unforgettable moments that will always be cherished. From first smiles to first cuddles and even to that first kiss, here's a loving ode to every child's -- and parent's -- momentous "firsts."

This is a very cute counting book (one to ten) that includes both Hindi and English.  It is a great way to familiarize little ones with a different language in a fun way! Based on the old Hindi rhyme "Ek Tha Raja Ka Beta", this is an interactive board book with lift the flaps and pull tabs that will keep the children captivated.

I have looked and looked and looked for diverse books.  These are some of my all time favorites (so far!).  Growing up we pretty much had Amar Chitra Katha and that was it.  When I got a little older (and almost two decades passed) I discovered Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie and Jhumpa Lahiri.  Rainbow Rowell? No thank you. 

When I had kids of my own I was eager to pass on my love of reading.  But, somehow it seemed that little had changed since I was little.  The number of books available with diversity in them - be it characters with different skin tones, different names, different types of families, or anything - was so few.  I did whatever I could to make them feel normal.  We must have watched the Rakhi episode of Sesame Street a hundred times.  

But not being able to find books and show them pictures of kids who looked like them really hurt.  People would remind me of the book Snow Day.  I love Snow Day.  Snow Day is a great book. 

The thing is, I couldn't just read my kids one book forever.  My kids like to read a lot of books.  And keep reaching for new books.  We would read the classics a lot, which we love.  But I kept finding myself needing to edit.  About half of the Secret Garden is massively racist against Indians.  The end of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe's last book had my oldest equating dark skin with evil.  Why wouldn't he?  This is exactly how the book is written.  

I have scoured Amazon. The library. Book stores.  I signed up for a monthly subscription box of diverse books and crafts.  The results had been mixed at best.  

That is why it was such a big deal to find something.  Not just one something, but many somethings that we could relate to!  It matters.  Feeling like you are not alone. Feeling represented matters.  

And if you are not struggling with finding books with pictures that look like you or your family, it still matters.  Read to them about other cultures.  Show them pictures of different people. Let's make the world a smaller place and a less scary one.  

What are some of your favorite books to read with your children right now?


  1. This is such a wonderful list, I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you were able to find a Nandini book. My grandmother was Burmese and I always looked for books that would tell me more about the world and culture she grew up in or stories that even included a character from Burma. My father recently sent me a list of adult books, but this list gives me hope that perhaps there are children's options now too.

  2. What a lovely collection you have here.


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