40 Picture Books for Diverse Libraries

Grow your book collection with these 40 beautifully illustrated, poetically told picture books for diverse libraries.

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40 Picture Books for a Diverse Classroom Library

Before I started slow traveling, my love of culture and the world began with books. I grew up in small-town Indiana, but moved to California a few years ago. Since then, I’ve visited nine countries (I LOVE living close to LAX!) and am planning my second backpacking trip.

Growing diverse libraries isn’t just helpful for the ones being represented. Diverse libraries can introduce a variety of new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. Here are 40 of my favorite picture books for diverse libraries. Celebrate different cultures, traditions, physical abilities, looks, and more.

Douglas, You Need Glasses!Mae Among the StarsHow to Read a Book

 

Douglas, You Need Glasses! by Ged Adamson

As a lifelong glasses wearer until I had laser eye surgery, Douglas, You Need Glasses! is one of the sweetest books celebrating kids with glasses.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Little Mae dreams of going into space. Adult Mae became the first African-American woman to travel into space. This is one of my FAVORITE picture books and beautifully illustrates Mae’s passion and inspires young kiddos to dream big. Grab my book guide here.

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

How do you read a book? Kwame Alexander blends poetry with funky artwork and is a must-read.

Ada Twist, Scientist: A Picture Book (The Questioneers)By Jennifer Berne - On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein (3/24/13)Ruby's Wish

 

Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Ada’s scientist experiments often go awry–but it’s no problem for this scientist! She knows that’s the best way to make discoveries!

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne

We all know Albert Einstein was a genius, but he was quirky! On a Beam of Light celebrates neurodivergence, quirks, creativity, and imagination. Grab my book guide here.

Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

This was one of my childhood favorites. In old China, most young girls want to grow up and get married, but not Ruby! She wants to attend university. Will Ruby get her wish? This sweet picture book is also inspired by the author’s grandmother!

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis BrailleHair LoveThe Name Jar

 

Six Dots by Jen Bryant

After an accident, Louis Braille became blind. When he was a teenager, he invented a better and faster way for visually impaired people to see. Grab my book guide here.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

Zuri has a big day ahead! To prepare, she and her father work on her beautiful hair. This book is a great celebration for all hair types. Grab my book guide here.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei just moved to the United States from Korea, and not only is she the new kid in school, but it seems no one can pronounce her name! She is tempted to choose an American name for herself, until a new friend helps her appreciate what she was given.

Before She was Harriet[By Matt de la Peña] Carmela Full of Wishes (Hardcover) (by Matt de la Peña) (Author) (Hardcover)Last Stop on Market Street

 

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

This picture book is gorgeously illustrated and beautifully written. Before she became Harriet Tubman, hero of the Underground Railroad, she was known by many other names. This biography goes through her life from the view of the many different roles Harriet was known for. One of my favorites. Grab my book guide here.

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña

It’s Carmela’s birthday, and she’s finally old enough to accompany her brother on errands for the family. Together they travel past the panaderia with the delicious smells, the bus stop crowded with people, and the repair shop until they get to the laundromat, where Carmela makes a birthday wish. 

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandmother ride the city bus home. CJ wonders why his family doesn’t own a car like the other kids in his class? His grandmother helps him discover the beauty of the diversity of different families. 

A Hundred Thousand WelcomesEyes That Speak to the StarsEyes That Kiss in the Corners

 

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes by Mary Lee Donovan

This sweet book shows several of the many ways people around the world say “welcome.” 

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

I’m Chinese and grew up in a primarily white community. My eyes have frequently been a point of frustration. This book beautifully illustrates everything there is to love about almond-shaped eyes and is a great story for Asians and non-Asians alike.

Eyes that Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho

This is Joanna Ho’s follow-up, focusing on boys! A lot of picture books about beauty and self-confidence center around girls, but there aren’t enough picture books emphasizing boys.

Rubia and the Three OsosThe Snowy DayRescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

 

Rubia and the Three Osos by Susan Middleton Elya

This twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears featuring rhyming and Spanish words! This book is super fun to read and pick up some Spanish vocabulary.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Keats’ The Snowy Day paved the way for other diverse children’s books. Enjoy the beauty of a first snowfall.

Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky

After an accident requires the aid of a service dog, Jessica wonders how she will cope. Rescue isn’t sure he’s up the task either after being trained as a seeing eye dog. Both have a lot of bumps to hurdle, but they get to hurdle them together. 

Hanukkah BearI Have a Dream (Book & CD)Drawn Together

 

Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel

Bubba Brayna’s latkes are renowned and when she gets to cooking one night, the scent wakes a hibernating bear who lumbers into her home. Mistaking him for her rabbi, she lights the menorah for him, plays the dreidel with him, and feeds him every single one of the latkes. 

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr.

This picture book is an amazing tribute to MLK Jr’s classic speech that is a must for all student libraries.

Drawn Together by Minh Le

There are many different ways to communicate. For grandchildren of immigrants, there may be a language barrier. Drawn Together tackles these from the point of view of a boy and his Vietnamese grandfather. This book has gorgeous illustrations.

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground RailroadOhana Means FamilyFry Bread: A Native American Family Story

 

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Based on a true story, Henry Brown is born into slavery. He receives an opportunity to escape in a box. Can he do it? This picture book is a classic and handles difficult topics well, making it a great read for mid-elementary students. Grab my interactive notebook here.

Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis

A family farms taro and prepares for a traditional luau together. 

Fry Bread by Kevin Maillard

A Native American family shares their traditions around their communities’ fry bread. 

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis

As an interracial adoptee, I love seeing adoption portrayed in picture books. This book is from the point of view of an American woman going to China to adopt a baby girl.

A Very Special Critter by Mercer Mayer

Little Critter meets a new friend named Alex, who uses a wheelchair. Little Critter is curious and asks Alex some questions, only to find out the two aren’t so different after all. 

Alma and How She Got Her NamePassage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story (Rise and Shine)The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

 

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela thinks her name is too long. But when she learns the story behind it, she agrees that it is the perfect name for her!

Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki

Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who helped save the lives of 6,000 Jews during the Holocaust. This picture book is best suited for older elementary students but is one of my favorites. An incredible story. Grab my book guide here.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtjah Muhammad

This is a moving story about two sisters and their first day in hijab. It was written by Olympic medalist Ibtjah Muhammad, who was on the US Olympic Fencing Team.

Thank You, Omu! (Caldecott Honor Book)If Monet Painted a Monster (The Reimagined Masterpiece Series)Sulwe

 

Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora

Omu make stew and shares it with everyone in the neighborhood. When she has dinner, there is no stew left! What should she do? This simple picture book emphasizes sharing, community, and of course delicious stew.

If Monet Painted a Monster by Amy Newbold

If Monet painter a monster it would look like… I first came across this book at my local library. It explores a variety of classic artists through the lens of monsters! Super fun book for art lovers and a great introduction to different artist’s styles.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe the darker skin than anyone else in her family. She wishes she was lighter, until a beautiful dream sweeps her away in the night. Through it, Sulwe learns to appreciate her gorgeous midnight skin. 

Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco

A soldier stationed in Vietnam and a Vietnamese girl called Little Heart may not speak the same language with their lips, but they have learned to communicate with their heart. 

At the Same Moment, Around the WorldCool CutsVincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

 

At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

Discover what different children around the globe are doing at the same time in one slice of time. 

Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe

Cool Cuts is a celebration of a boy’s naturally curly hair with positivity and joy!

Vincent Can’t Sleep by Barb Rosenstock

Based on child Vincent Van Gogh, this lyrical book celebrates art, creativity, and imagination.

Where Are You From?WatercressThe Day You Begin

 

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez

“Where are you from?” isn’t such a simple question for some to answer. A young girl asks her abuelo for help answering the question. He gives her a different response than she expected!

Watercress by Andrea Wang

While driving through the Ohio countryside, a girl’s Chinese immigrant family pulls over when they see watercress on the side of the road. As they cut the watercress with scissors, the girl feels embarrassed that her family doesn’t just go to the grocery store to get watercress. But as her mother shares the story of her own growing-up years in China, the girl begins to appreciate her heritage and the foraged watercress with new eyes. 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

We all might be outsiders at some time in our lives, but that’s okay! This beautiful picture books help kids celebrate themselves.

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson

On a boring, rainy day a grandmother gives her grandchildren some sage advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.” Suddenly, the day is transformed as their imaginations run wild! 

Picture Book Guides

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