16 books to celebrate inclusion
Many parents, schools, and organizations are currently talking about the importance of increasing diversity. However, it’s the related, but kinder and more empathic idea of "inclusion" that came to mind when illustrator Daniel Salmieri came to visit us.
Daniel is the illustrator of Secret Pizza Party, Dragons Love Tacos, and the hilarious hit Robo-Sauce (among several others!). We loved hearing about his journey as an illustrator and seeing how his work has evolved over the course of his career. He fills pages with scenes both silly and thoughtful, that connect to but never pander to kids. He agrees with us: kids are too smart for that.
When he was a kid, Daniel was always in awe of the authors and illustrators that visited his Brooklyn classroom, especially Jon Scieszka of The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales fame. Knowing how much he benefited from illustrators sharing their work and inspiring him, Daniel regularly visits classrooms around America to share his books with kids. As he went to more and more classrooms, Daniel noticed the diversity of the tiny faces in the audience staring back at him. He realized how important it was for his illustrations to reflect those kids. So, as a result, Daniel decided to not make white children the main characters in his books since there are already so many stories that do so. We love this.
Books are powerful. They help kids translate and process the world around them. So, it's important for children to not only to feel included in picture books but also for books to make visible a range of stories outside their own. Inspired by Daniel, we rounded up some inclusive picture books for kids. They’re a great starting point to read and experience.
Pool by Jihyeon Lee: a wordless wonder with rich, soft illustrations that shepard the reader through a tale of two small children meeting at a crowded swimming pool.
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say: cultural differences are learned and celebrated in this book about a young boy in Japan with a half-American mother trying to surprise him with his first Christmas. When I was a young child living in Japan, I loved this book not only for its story but for the way Allen Say illustrates the cold and lonely winter.
Green is a Chile Pepper by Rosanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by John Parra: this energetic book teaches Latino culture and the Spanish language to very young readers through color comparison.
Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon: this book is a home run for sparking conversations about global customs and understanding. Meshon’s cheery and colorful illustrations marry perfectly with the culturally rich storyline.
Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri: (of course!). This is the story of a young boy who loves robots so much that he creates a secret potion to transform and mechanize everyone around him.
Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo: when a young girl longs for a sister, she instead stumbles upon an elephant in distress, leading her on a journey filled with adventure and friendship.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson: this 2016 Newbery and Caldecott Award-winning book is about a young boy’s bus journey with his grandmother. The story is filled with conversations on empathy and how we can relate and celebrate our differences.
Please, Louise by Toni Morrison and Slade Robinson, illustrated by Shandra Strickland: inspired by Toni Morrison’s experience in libraries, this books follows a young girl as she falls in love with books and reading on a rainy day at the library.
Firebird by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers: this book perfectly captures American Ballet Theater dancer Misty Copeland’s movement and energy as she inspires young children to be who they want to be.
Dizzy by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Sean Qualls: the story of Dizzy Gillespie—one of the most talented jazz trumpeters of all time—and bebop comes alive on theses pages.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara: a must for any parent looking to raise progressive, empathetic children. Available in three languages!
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría: a book for sighted children about experiencing color without the use of sight. Tactile and vivid descriptions of color make the book.
Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl: a thoughtful story of a young girl caring for chickens and how she deals with loss when one disappears.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Marla Frazee: this multicultural story focuses on the joy of babies and how much they are loved by the families that raise them.
One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail: a resourceful young girl pitches her family to get her a giraffe for her birthday. It takes her a while to realize that just one word will do the trick!
Drum Girl Dream by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López: the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a world-famous Cuban drummer who faced discrimination despite her overwhelming talents. Written as a poem, the rhythmic telling of her tale is delightful to read aloud.
P.S. Our app Homes invites kids to play in homes around the world. It’s an excellent way to teach empathy for how people live around the globe.
Homes is available on the App Store.