When it comes to kids’ books, it’s important to make sure your reading list offers a wide array of diverse characters; it’s an easy way to show budding readers that while human beings come in all shapes, sizes and colors, we all have the same emotions and feelings. And, it’s a great way for kids to see another side of things and experience things through a different set of eyes. We’ve rounded up 26 epic books for kids that feature diverse protagonists, scroll down to see them all and order your favorite today!

photo: Penguin Young Readers

Bedtime Classics: Alice in Wonderland

The classic story of Alice in Wonderland is reimagined as part of a new series of board books that take famous books and re-tell them with inclusive and charming illustrations. Other books in the series include The Wizard of Oz and Jack and the Beanstalk

Ages: 3 & up. 

Buy it here, $7.29.

Last Stop on Market Street 

It all starts with a question—“Nana, how come we don’t got a car?”—and the story of young C.J. and the wisdom his grandma imparts is off and running, just like the bus they ride down Market Street after church on Sundays. This simple story about the perspective only grandparents can give their grandkids won the Caldecott Honor award in 2016.

Ages: 3-5.

Buy it here, $9.99.

photo: Chronicle Books

Tomorrow Most Likely

Dave Eggers is at it again with his newest release for kiddos ages 3-5, Tomorrow Most Likely. Publishing this month from Chronicle Books, this new read illustrated by Lane Smith reinvents the classic bedtime book. Instead of focusing on what happened that day, the little boy protagonist focuses on the future and imagines all the fun, dreamy and whimsical things that might happen tomorrow. 

Ages 3-5

Buy it here, $8.99.

Daniel's Good Day

From Ezra Keats award-winning author/illustrator Micha Archer comes the next adventure for a young boy named Daniel. This time, as Daniel makes his way to grandma's, he ponders what makes it a "good day," and stops to ask various members of his community to find out. For his friend Emma, a steady wind for her kite makes it a good day, for the gardener it's bees on flowers, for the crossing guard, it's everyone home safe. Follow this charming tale to find out what makes a good, or better yet, a perfect day for Daniel. 

Ages: 3-6.

Order a copy here, $12.14.

Astronaut Annie

As Annie prepares for career day at her school, she talks to her family about their hopes for her future as she plans her future career as an astronaut. Suzanne Slade's book includes lots of bonus material about famous female astronauts and facts about the moon.

Ages: 4-7

Grab a copy here, $12.29.

How to Code a Sandcastle

Pearl is trying to build the perfect sandcastle, but she is not having any luck with fellow beach-goers ruining her efforts. That's when Pearl turns to a robot named Pascal to teach her computer coding concepts to build a foolproof sandcastle. 

Ages: 4-8

Buy it here, $9.99.

Thunder Boy Jr.

Even if you don’t have a “jr.” in your family, your kids will relate to Thunder Boy’s frustration and overwhelming desire to change his name. Compellingly and humorously, he works his persuasive magic on his captive audience (that’s you!), making the case for a name change to “Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth”… or how about “Full of Wonder?” Add in the fantastic artwork of Yuyi Morales, and it’s easy to see why this book has earned its place on seven best book lists!

Ages: 4-8

Buy it here, $14.79.

Julián Is a Mermaid

When Julián, riding the subway home with his Abuela, sees three lavishly dressed women with mermaid-like fishtailed gowns he tells his grandma he wants to be like them. He makes a mess of grandma's house, trying to dress like those lovely ladies he saw ... but what does his grandmother do when she sees the mess he's made? And what does she think of a little boy who wants to dress like a woman? The answer is beautiful in picture and message—love is love. Acceptance is what is normal. It's a powerful message in a gorgeous package from author-illustrator Jessica Love, for anyone who wants to raise a woke kid and maybe influence a few family members to do the same! 

Ages: 4-8

Buy it here, $13.76.

The Seekers

We're not sure what's the best part of this stunning picture book: the original story based on mythology from the artists' native Mumbai or the stunning illustrations created by Hari & Deepti, two paper-cut artists who bring the story of a brother and sister who leave their home valley to save their village, and along the way, through the myth of Silver Fox and Fire Wolf, learn the true importance of balance.

Ages: 4-8

Find your copy here, $18.99.

photo: Simon & Schuster

Sulwe

Written by Kenyan-born actress Lupita Nyong'O, this is as much her personal story as it the story of young Sulwe, a girl whose skin is the color of midnight. The stunningly gorgeous illustrations by Vashti Harrison are reason enough alone to want this book in your library, but the story itself is beautifully told; it's about differences, acceptance of oneself no matter how we think others see us, it's about wanting to fit in and yet being unique. A vital message for every kid out there, regardless of race or gender. Read it today with your kids. 

Ages: 4-8

Buy it now on, $15.99

photo: Simon & Schuster

Parker Looks Up

Written by Parker Curry (age 4) and her mama, Jessica Curry, with an afterword by Michelle Obama, this is the sweet story of Parker Curry, a young girl, who went to the National Portrait Gallery one afternoon with her mom. She saw prancing horse, blooming flowers, a bushy mustache ... but before she went twirling off toward home, Parker Curry looked up. There on the wall, she saw the magnificent portrait (by Amy Sherald) of Michelle Obama. Parker didn't just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen, a woman with regality, beauty, truth and self-assurance, a woman who looked like her. This moving story will delight any young dreamer; it's a great addition to any home library or classroom. 

Ages: 4-8

Get it here, $15.99.

Ada Twist Scientist

She's a curious kid, that Ada. Constantly asking "why," and forever conducting experiments to get to the bottom of her questions, Ada may frustrate her parents with the neverending mess, but what's important is that she doesn't stop until she gets the results. One in a series that includes Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer, Ada is a wonderful role model for all girls interested in science.

Ages: 5-7

Buy it here, $9.49. 

photo: Candlewick Press

Freedom Soup

Join a Haitian grandma and her granddaughter in the kitchen as they make their traditional New Year's Soup, aka Freedom Soup, and learn the story of Haiti's independence. Includes a delicious recipe for you to try at home. Author Tami Charles pays homage to her heritage while Jacqueline Alcántara highlights the joy and richness of the culture with her gorgeous illustrations. 

Ages: 5-9

Get it here, $13.76

photo: Simon & Schuster

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

Who was Katherine Johnson? This book will tell you: she is said to be one of the greatest minds of all time! She worked in the 1950s for the NASA space program and was such a brilliant mathematician that she figured out the math needed to send a rocket to the moon in her head. She didn't even use a computer or a calculator. This book will teach kids about her early life as a child growing up in a small town in Virginia that didn't even have a high school for African Americans (schools were segregated then), how her family moved to a town with a high school she could attend, and about her incredible career as a scientist and mathematics marvel.   

Ages: 6-8

Order it here, $4.99.

Little Whale: A Story of the Last Tlingit War Canoe

Part of what makes this chapter book such an exciting one isn’t the fact that it’s about a young Tlingit boy who stows away in his father’s canoe. It’s the fact that it’s mostly true. Based on a tale passed down from his grandfather, author Roy Peratrovich, Jr. skillfully weaves his family’s history into the story of 10-year-old Keet, and his wild adventures on the stormy sea and beyond.

Ages: 7 & up

Order it here, $16.95

The Night Diary

In 1947 India, 12-year-old Nisha is not sure where she belongs as a half-Muslim, half-Hindu, in her country. When her father decides to leave Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark on a long and challenging journey to find a new home. The hopeful and personal story of this family is told through Nisha's letters to her mother.

Ages: 8-12

Available here, $11.59.

Birchbark House

Cuddle up with this modern classic that was a National Book Award Finalist. Set in 1847, the story follows the day-to-day life of Omakayas, better known as “Little Frog,” after she was orphaned by a Small Pox outbreak and was eventually taken in by an Ojibwa family. Your kids will love hearing her tales of tanning moose hides, picking berries and even encountering bear cubs in vivid detail. 

Ages: 8 & up

Order it here, $6.99.

Other Words for Home

In this Newbery honor book, you'll meet 12-year-old Jude, who has left her seaside home in Syria to escape the country's brutal civil war. She and her mother leave her father and brother behind as they head for Cinncinati to stay with relatives. Jude will experience being labeled as "Middle Eastern" for the first time, but she'll also discover new friends, a school musical that's worth taking the risk and finally understand that home can be in more than one place. 

Ages: 8-12

Buy it now, $6.90

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

Sal and Gabi didn't meet under the best circumstances, but that doesn't stop them from high adventure. When Gabi discovers Sal can reach through time, she wonders––can it bring back her mother who's passed away? This Cuban-inspired sci-fi story by Carlos Hernandez is just what your middle schooler ordered.

Ages: 8-12

Buy it here, $8.49.

Front Desk

Mia Yang has a few secrets: she lives in a motel, her parents clean the motel rooms and hide immigrants, and she wants to be a writer, not a mathematician. Loosely based on author Kelly Yang's childhood, this powerful story addresses poverty, systemic racism, stereotypes and more. Although this story takes place in the '90s, many of the heartbreaking stories told here remain true for immigrants and minorities today.

Ages: 9 & up.

Grab a copy here, $5.69. 

Merci Suarez Changes Gears

This 2019 Newbery Award winner chronicles the middle school life of Merci Suarez, a scholarship student at a private school in Florida. She takes on jealous mean girls and tries to navigate her home life too. It’s a quintessential sixth-grade journey that will ring true for many kids who’ve been there.

Ages: 9-12

Buy it here, $7.

photo: Disney Books

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Fans of Percy Jackson will be thrilled by this Rick Riordan Presents series, written by Kwame Mbalia. Mbalia does for African mythology and folk tales what Riordan has done for Greek mythology. The hero in this story is seventh grader Tristan Strong, who isn't feeling very strong after the death of his best friend, Eddie. During Tristan's summer stay at his grandparents home in Alabama, Eddie's journal (which is precious to Tristan) is stolen by a strange creature. Tristan chases after it, and "accidentally" punches a hole into a land rich with monsters, haunted ships and boiling seas. Mbalia weaves black American folk heroes like John Henry and Brer Rabbit with African gods and mythos. Our editor's 9-year-old devoured this book, laughing out loud along the way, and is now eagerly awaiting book two! 

Ages: 8-12 

Buy it here. You can also pre-order the second book, releasing in October, here

The Crossover 

Written in a fast-moving verse that mirrors the pace of bouncing balls on the basketball court, this Newbery Award-winning novel follows the lives of two brothers, Josh and Jordan Bell, as they navigate life both on and off the court.

Ages: 10-12

Buy it here, $7.99.

Kira-Kira

This Newbery Award-winning book follows Katie and her family as they leave Iowa and move to Deep South Georgia in the 1950s. One of only 31 Japanese-American families in town, Katie, her older sister Lynn and hard-working parents will encounter racism at school and work, and when tragedy befalls the family, Katie must stay strong for everyone. A sobering historical fiction tale worth reading. 

Ages: 10-14

Order a copy here, $7.69.

The Hate U Give

16-year-old Starr Carter is constantly trying to find the balance between the fancy prep school she attends and the poor neighborhood in which she lives. When she witnesses the death of her childhood friend at the hands of the police, that balance is shattered. The protests, the hate and the confusion that follow are achingly similar to current events. A heartbreaking tale, this poignant first-person narrative is a great way to start or continue a conversation with your tween about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Ages: 12 & up

Buy it here, $11.51.

Poet X

The lyrical language of this novel by Elizabeth Acevedo makes reading Xiomara’s story easy, although her life was not. She’s a scrapper, who came into this world fighting, even though her mother would prefer she didn’t. She’s got poetry in her veins, so it’s no wonder she’s invited to join her school’s slam poetry club. But will Mami let her?

Ages: 12 & up

Buy it here, $5.49.

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come

From Newbery Award-winning novelist Mildred D. Taylor comes the end of the Logan family saga that began with Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. In All the Days Past, Cassie Logan is all grown up and trying to find her place in the world. Her journey takes her to Toledo, California, law school in Boston and finally, back to Mississippi in the '60s to help with voter registration. She will be witness to the rise of the civil rights movement, which is preceded by racist American white society, and the often violent confrontations that bring about historical change. 

Ages: 14 & up

Buy it here, $15.29.

—Gabby Cullen, Amber Guetebier and Allison Sutcliffe

 

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