Monday, August 10, 2015

#PB10for10: Diverse Characters

Hooray! Today is August 10th, which means it is time for the annual Picture Books 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10). Teachers and educators are challenged to choose and share their 10 favorite picture books, and the posts will be aggregated by Cathy of Reflect and Refine and Mandy of Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

Last year I had just started blogging, so I presented my Top 10 Must Have Picture Books. This year, I wanted to focus in on some of my favorite picture books featuring diverse characters. BUT to make it even more of a challenge, I wanted to choose books where diversity itself was not the focus on the story. So, I eliminated traditional tales, immigration stories, historical fiction or modern books focused around issues of discrimination, biographical tales of individuals who overcame adversity, etc.

Looking for diverse books that are about diversity? I have a growing aggregated list of all my posts relating to diverse and multicultural topics, which you can find here: Multicultural Book Lists.

Top 10 Picture Books Featuring Diverse Characters (in Books that are Not Just about Diversity)

(Now there's a mouthful of a title! On to the list ...)

Last Stop on Market Street (2015) by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. This is a powerful and important story told through the eyes of our young male narrator, who is finding a lot to complain about on this rainy Sunday. As the story progresses, however, his Nana wins him over and keeps showing him the beauty of the world around him, which culminates naturally into a lovely act of service. This is a great book for celebrating diversity and action in so many different ways! (H/T Lots of places!)

Little Humans (2014) by Brandon Stanton. I love the idea behind Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York project and was very curious about this version about kids and for kids. The photographs are incredible, and I love the diversity of kids, poses, and locations. The text is pretty meh and actually seems geared far too young, which might turn school-aged kids off. I also wish that there had been back matter with details about the kids. My students love the Children Just Like Me series and have a million questions about these kids, their ages, and their lives.

King for a Day (2014) by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Krömer. Set in the city of Lahore, Pakistan, King for a Day chronicles the spring festival of Basant by focusing on the kite-flying battles. The main character, Malik, has designed a special kite, nicknamed Falcon, that he is certain will be the champion of the kites.

There are so many things to love about this book! First of all, it is a positive and engaging story set in Pakistan, which gives children context for a city and country that might not be very familiar. Second, Malik is an incredible young man, thoughtful, brave, and kind. It is only from the illustrations that the reader realizes that Malik is in a wheelchair. The reason for his disability is not explained, nor does it hamper his ability to enjoy, participate, and triumph in this day. The generalities of his condition makes him an easy character for children to relate to. (Read an even more in-depth review of this book, including videos and craft extensions, here.)

Poems in the Attic (2015) by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. This is a story in poems of a story about poems. The seven-year old narrator (and poet) finds a collection of her mother's poems in the attic of her grandmother's house. Each two-page spread shares a poem written by the narrator connected to a poem written by her mother. There is great interplay between the two sets of poems as we learn more about the narrator through her reflections on her own life as well as on her mother's poems.

What I also really appreciated about this book is its portrayal of the mother's childhood. Here is an African-American young woman who is outdoorsy, adventurous, and explores and embraces other cultures. How many picture books or stories can you name that portray African-American girls kayaking, skiing, or picnicking on beetles at the base of Mount Fuji?

The Good Luck Cat (2000) by Joy Harjo and illustrated by Paul Lee. This charming story details the lost eight lives of Woogie, the titular cat, and the fear of her only having her ninth life left. I was intrigued about this book after Elisabeth's astute observation about how rare it is to find a story featuring modern Native Americans, which adds another special dimension to this tender tale.

Rain! (2014) by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christian Robinson. I loved this heartwarming little story that contrasts the perspectives of a child and his/her elderly neighbor on a rainy day. I also celebrate the fact that this is a story featuring a diverse cast of characters, including the child and many background neighbors too.

Monsoon Afternoon (2008) by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. This endearing picture book explores the first day of monsoon season in India as told through the eyes of the younger brother and his adventures with his Dadaji (grandfather). Great connections to the past and the future as well. (Kashmira Sheth is a local author, and we were lucky enough to have her visit last year. She's an engaging speaker and shared great stories behind the inspiration for her latest picture book, Sona and the Wedding Game, another great diversity book!)

Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Ho Baek Lee. This wonderful romp about bee-bim bop made me immediately hungry! This fun picture book covers the whole process for making bee-bim bop told by our hungry and impatient narrator. A joyful read and a great celebration of a favorite Korean dish. (H/T Jodie of Growing Book by Book.) Another great food-related diversity book is Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji.

The Grandad Tree (2000) by Trish Cooke and illustrated by Sharon Wilson. This lovely, heartwarming story connects the a child's love and memories of their grandad to the apple tree that marks their times together. Only partway through the story do the narrators reveal that their grandad has died and that they planted a new tree in his honor. This is a gentle story to share with children experiencing loss.

Princess and the Pony (2015) by Kate Beaton. Who says medieval princess types who wage fearsome battles can't also be diverse? Though nothing is made of her background, the illustrations suggest that our heroine, Princess Pinecone, is biracial, with a white-looking father and a black-looking mother. But the story is really about the problem of what happens when you ask your parents for something very specific (here, a real warrior's horse) and end up with something unexpected (a roly poly pony).

And Don't Forget Chapter Books

I know, I know, today is all about picture books, but there are also more and more great chapter books featuring diverse and multicultural characters. If you have not already, please check out some of these amazing new books like The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (reviewed here), Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (reviewed here), and Pickle: the (formerly) anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School (reviewed here).

Looking for even more diverse, inclusive, and multicultural books? Check out my growing aggregated list here: Multicultural Book Lists or check out the Diverse Kid Lit community.


Shared with #DiverseKidLit


  1. I like your focus on diversity. A list I'll repin .


  2. This is a great theme for 10 for 10. I haven't read any of them and was only familiar with one. I love that I know have so many new titles to check out!

  3. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm unfamiliar with most of the diverse books on your list. I appreciate your list and look forward to reading these titles.

  4. Just goes to show you can find a collection of books on any topic. Diversity when diversity is not the intent. I've written several down and hope our library has them.

  5. Love this list! I just pinned it - The Grandad Tree is new to me and one I am interested in.

  6. There are a lot of new titles to me on this list. Great topic! I especially love books that feature diversity but aren't necessarily about diversity, like you said! I'm glad we both shared Last Stop on Market Street! :-)

  7. Most of these I don't know! I'm excited to check them out. I've had the book Where Children Sleep by James Mollison? He photographed kids all over the world, where they sleep, and tells a short bit about their lives. I guess that would fall under the NF PB 10 for 10...but an amazing discussion starter.

  8. So many of these books are new to us - Thank you for sharing them. We can't wait to read Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes

  9. I discovered Picture Book 10 for 10 just last week. I can't wait to take part in the next one :)


  10. WOW, such great choices. There are a few here I will be looking for next library trip.

  11. Nice collection of books... I wish some of mine were included. My children's books all have diverse characters as part of the stories - and My Fingerpaint Masterpiece is all about perspective and point of view with illustrations as seen by the un-illustrated main character...

  12. This is an awesome list. Last Stop On Market Street I have seen and loved it and Rain, I read an awesome interview by Linda about how she came up with the book and how it started out with a lot more words and was trimmed to almost nothing. Thanks for another great hop recommendation

  13. What a wonderful selection of books. I love books that share our diversity with young readers. Thank you for linking these books to the hop!

  14. What a fabulous list! Pinned! I'm so glad I found you at the Kid Lit Blog Hop and I'd like to invite you to join us at my weekly all-things-books linky party, Booknificent Thursday, at We'd love to have posts like this!

  15. This is a great list! I have only read about half of them, so I have some work to do! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Yahoo- I LOVE your lists (always) and even more so when I spy some new to me that I know my class NEEDS! Thanks!


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