I want books that reflect a diverse, multicultural world. Children’s books with multiracial and biracial families and characters are for everyone! My family lives in one of the most diverse cities in the nation and I am so fortunate my children will grow up knowing people from all walks of life. It will help them become the tolerant, compassionate individuals I want them to be.
I like to read multicultural folktales with my kids, but they are not a substitute for contemporary stories with diverse characters. For this list, I chose picture books with a variety of faces from mixed race families. Sometimes, the racial identity of the character is noted, other times, it is merely part of the story’s backdrop. One notable (and awesome) feature is that may of these books emphasis the importance of intergenerational relationships! I would love for you to add your additional recommendations in the comments.
For further reading, see all my lists of multicultural books for kids.
(Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
black is brown is tan. This marvelous 1973 classic book is a lovely, warm and poetic tribute to both the specialness and the normalcy of interracial families. It is an overwhelmingly positive book. A white dad and a black mom are loving parents to their “tan” kids. It will make you want to cuddle up with your own kids no matter what the color of your (or their) skin!
The Hello, Goodbye Window. Yes, indeed-y the author of The Phantom Tollbooth has a picture book! Not only that, but it’s illustrated by the illustrious, award-winning Chris Raschka. A young girl loves visiting her grandparents who have an inviting kitchen window you can climb into, look out of, and see your reflection in. The text takes us on a journey with the child as she describes her special relationship with her Poppy and Nanna. She has both African-American and white grandparents. A Caldecott Award winner.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina. I loved Marisol from the moment I met her, and as a result, she’s made an appearance on several of my lists, including books with diverse characters and books for Hispanic Heritage Month. Red-headed half-Scottish half-Peruvian Marisol bounces off the page with great enthusiasm and loves her mismatched life. When her friend, Ollie, challenges her to “match”, Marisol finds she is unhappy with life as a conformist. This is a great story that emphasizes the importance of embracing and accepting one’s uniqueness. (Text is in both English and Spanish.) A Pura Belpré Honor Award Book. The publisher also has a helpful teacher’s guide (free, online) to use.
You Were the First is a tender book in which parents, one Asian, one Caucasian, narrate their child’s firsts. “You were the first to cry.” You were the first to smile.” As the child grows a bit, the first change. Such as, “You were the first to dig.” It’s a sweet book which would make a terrific new baby gift or a special book to read to an older sibling.
“More More More,” Said the Baby, one of my favorite books to buy for new moms, is a delightful classic. Vera B. Williams’ book is composed of three vignettes, each showing a grown up (daddy, grandma, mommy) playing with a baby. The three families are diverse: a white child, a bi-racial child and an Asian-American – all equally loved, all equally playful. At the end of each vignette the babies are tucked into bed by their loving grownup. A Caldecott Honor book.
Everywhere Babies. Meyers’ book celebrates the diversity of babies all over the world and how babies might sleep, eat, play and live differently but are all loved equally. Frazee is a wonderful artist and the variety of facial expressions on all the babies are terrific. Frazee does a great job of including people from all different walks of life in her illustrations. I loved the contrast between the “older” parents and the younger ones. That made me giggle a bit.
Grandfather Counts focuses primarily on the intergenerational relationship between a young girl and her grandfather. Helen speaks English, Gong Gong speaks Chinese, and through the act of counting in their respective languages, they form a bond. The girl’s biracial identity forms a backdrop, but is not the main focus of the book. Lee & Low has a great teacher’s guide to use when reading this book with your kids.
Dumpling Soup. Marisa lives in Hawaii and her family members are Korean, Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese! The extended family gathers together on New Year’s Eve to make dumpling soup. Marisa worries that no one will like her non-so-perfect dumplings but the warm, family, festive atmosphere (and some help from grandma) ensures that everyone has a wonderful time. Includes a 4 language glossary.
I Love Saturdays y domingos is a wonderfully uplifting story about a girl who spends Saturdays with her English-speaking grandparents and Sundays with her Spanish-speaking abuelos. She describes the joys of each visit and the reader instantly sees the parallels and how much the family loves one another. In the end, everyone comes together for the little girl’s birthday. There are a lot of Spanish words and phrases but no glossary (at least not in my library copy), but English-only readers will have no problem understanding the story.
Jalapeno Bagels. Pablo needs to bring in something to school for International day. He debates whether or not to bring in his mother’s delicious Mexican baked goods or his father’s challah. From the title you can guess his decision! This book is sure to make you hungry so have a snack handy. Includes a Yiddish and Spanish glossary.
I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother. Food imagery abounds in this sweet story about a young boy who wonders what the skin color of his new brother will be. His father has “chocolate” skin, his mother is “strawberry cream Mama milk”. When his little sister is born, her skin color is just like his. That is to say, “peanut butter”. I was a little tired of the food references by the end of the book but it is a cute read, especially for to-be-big siblings.
My Two Grannies and My Two Grandads. Both books have similar themes: one grandparent is from the Carribbean, the other from England. Each has a very different personality from the other. However, with the help of their grandchild, they learn to appreciate each other’s difference and make a little music in the meantime.
Oscar’s Half Birthday. I always enjoy Bob Graham’s quiet and lovely stories that teach us about how ordinary moments connect us with others and the world around us. In this book, Oscar’s family takes an outing to the park to celebrate Oscar’s 6 months of life. What I love about this book is that the biracial family simply is.
What books featuring interracial families would you recommend? Are there any types of families you would like to see more of in children’s literature? (I would particularly like to add a book with a character with Native American heritage to this list. Do you have one to suggest?)