Ten Picture Books with Multicultural Casts of Characters (That Have Absolutely Nothing To Do With Race or Culture)

42cc2-pb10for10015-1Many thanks to teachers Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for creating the August Picture Book 10 for 10 event! Click on their names above to visit their blogs where you’ll find  links to more Top 10 picture book lists from  bloggers around the kidlitosphere.

My list has more than 10 titles, because I’ve included several series–same authors with (usually) the same illustrators and the same lovable cast of characters.

As a school librarian in a culturally and linguistically diverse school district, I’m always looking for books that highlight different cultures and life experiences for my students. Books introduce kids to everything from Cinco de Mayo to Ramadan to the life experiences of an undocumented immigrant child in the U.S. But my students also want stories about fairies and friends, monsters and space travel.

Try this…the next time you’re at the library or in a book store, pull some picture books at random from the shelves–books with at least one character who is a child  (not only animals or aliens or monsters), and a story or subject that is not tied to culture or race. Do this until you’ve chosen ten books. Next, count how many of those ten  show children of different races. If you’re coming up empty, check out some of these titles from the following list:

(All summaries come from the publishers’ websites.)

Wokka_cover-330How Do You Wokka Wokka? by Elizabeth Blumle, illustrated by Randy Cecil

Some days you wake up and you just gotta wokka. Wokka what? Wokka-wokka! It’s about movement. It’s about dance. It’s about shimmy-shakin’, be-boppin’, and more! It’s about gathering friends and joining the party. The creative team behind MY FATHER THE DOG returns with a call-and-response for preschoolers, an exuberant invitation to be part of the fun — and show your stuff!

Say “HEY!” to your neighbors and get your dance on! Jazzy rhythms, silly rhymes, and welcoming images are guaranteed to entice little readers.
cvr9781416933625_9781416933625_lgOh How Sylvester Can Pester! And Other Poems More or Less About Manners by Robert Kinerk, illustrated by Drazen Kozjan
Robert Kinerk pokes fun at what can happen when good manners are neglected. From Eleanor Ickity who is served nothing that she likes to eat or Sylvester who can pester and pester and pester, this charming cast of characters will warn the ill mannered about the consequences of their shameful behavior.
ATW_CaldecottAll the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
All the world is here.It is there.It is everywhere.All the world is right where you are.Now.Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky.
thinkbigThink Big by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Vanessa Newton
Art is so much more than easels and paintbrushes as this delightful new picture book by two exciting talents makes clear. Follow along as a classroom of exuberant young kids explore art and the power of creativity in its most varied forms-painting, music, writing, cooking, performing … there’s no end to where their imaginations can take them! The lilting poetry of Liz Garton Scanlon’s text pairs perfectly with the playful art of Vanessa Newton in this warm, thoughtful, and-of course-creative picture book. Young listeners will want to jump right into the pages to find their own muse.
ray-starsStars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee
A star is how you know it’s almost night.
As soon as you see one, there’s another, and another.
And the dark that comes doesn’t feel so dark.
What if you could have a star?
From acclaimed author Mary Lyn Ray and two-time Caldecott Honor winner Marla Frazee comes this tender, evocative—and profound—exploration of stars both near and far.
gbm-coverThe Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery
When a class leaves for recess, their just-baked Gingerbread Man is left behind. But he’s a smart cookie and heads out to find them. He’ll run, slide, skip, and (after a mishap with a soccer ball) limp as fast as he can because: “I can catch them! I’m their Gingerbread Man!”With help from the gym teacher, the nurse, the art teacher and even the principal, the Gingerbread Man does find his class, and he’s assured they’ll never leave him behind again.
GB cover 10.1.12The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery
Guess who gets to go along on a field trip to the firehouse? The Gingerbread Man! But when he falls out of his classmate’s pocket, Spot the Dalmatian comes sniffing around. Luckily, this Gingerbread Man is one smart cookie, and he races into the fire truck, up the pole, and all through the station, staying one step ahead of the hungry dog the whole time.
Then an emergency call comes in and the Gingerbread Man knows just what to do:
“I’ll ride to the rescue, as fast as I can.
I want to help, too! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”
With snappy rhymes and fresh illustrations, the Gingerbread Man makes a sweet return in his second school adventure.
fairies400The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illusrated by Christa Unzner
Could a tulip be a good place for hide-and-seek? Could a bit of dandelion fluff be a pillow? They could be, if fairies live nearby. This book invites kids to have a backyard adventure searching for the telltale signs of fairies who might be residing all around them. Not only can children “search” for fairies in the book’s unique blend of art and photography, but they will also be encouraged to discover the wonder and magic in nature, whether in a backyard or a local park.
mermaids400The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Marie Letourneau
Have you ever walked on the beach and looked for shells or clams? There are creatures, more like you and me, who are even more interesting to look for. Most people don’t see them, but they might just not know how to look for signs. That sand dollar – why, that could be a mermaid-size surfboard. Those twisted reeds – a bed for a lovely afternoon mermaid nap. And if you peer closely into the water, you might see a mermaid market.
9780061762758Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Your buffalo is growing up. He plays with friends. He shares his toys. He’s smart! But is he ready for kindergarten? (And is kindergarten ready for him?)

A hilarious look at first-day-of-school jitters from author Audrey Vernick and illustrator Daniel Jennewein.

9780061762536Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Does your buffalo pound on pots and pans?
Tap out rhythms at the dinner table?
It’s not as unusual as you might think.
He’s simply at the start of an exciting new journey.
A very loud musical journey that begins by teaching your buffalo to play drums.
(Did we mention it might be loud?)

bees-cover-300x220These Bees Count! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow

How do bees count? The bees at the Busy Bee Farm buzz through the sky as one big swarm, fly over two waving dandelions, find three wild strawberries bursting with sweetness . . . As the children in Mr. Tate’s class listen, they learn how bees work to produce honey and make food and flowers grow. Bees count–they’re important to us all.

7688367-300x236These Trees Count! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow

If you listen carefully to the lone tree behind Oak Lane School, it has a story to tell about… one owl, two spiders, three squirrels, four robins, five caterpillars, six ants, seven crickets, eight flies, nine ladybugs, and ten earthworms, all living safe and free in their tree home.

What does this tree need?  The children know — it needs friends!

Formento-cover-300x237These Seas Count! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow

Mr. Tate’s class helps clean up a local beach and listens to the sea as it tells them about all the wildlife that make it their home. One whale, two giant sea turtles, three marlins . . . and more. Of course, the class discovers that “this sea counts!” These Seas Count! explores the environmental impact and importance of the seas, and how crucial it is to keep them healthy.

Alison Formento’s gentle story and Sarah Snow’s amazing collages combine for a powerful message about the environment and what we can do to preserve our oceans.

cover32259-mediumHow Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Michael Slack

Want to blast into orbit? Walk on the moon? Snag a personal photo of a shooting star? Well your time is coming! And when it does, you’re going to need How Do You Burp in Space? 

This guide is filled with the kind of information you’d need to plan any vacation including what to pack (hint: no bubble bath or juggling balls!); what to expect from your accomodations (a sleeping bag attached to the wall), and what to do for fun (leapfrog on the moon!). Grounded in the history of space travel and the planned future of space tourism, this guide book will leave young adventurers daydreaming about future intergalactic space vacations. Get ready to rock your rocketship!

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18 responses to “Ten Picture Books with Multicultural Casts of Characters (That Have Absolutely Nothing To Do With Race or Culture)

  1. Thanks for sharing a great list- I love your premise!

  2. What a wonderful list of books! Some of them I’ve read, other’s I’m now anxious to find. Thanks for sharing!

  3. great list! Thanks… I’ve read many of them but there are some that are going on my “to read” list.

  4. What a great way to organize 10 for 10. This will be a list I’ll need to come back to throughout the year. Thank you!

  5. Oh thank you! Thank you for making this list. I have more reading material for my little girl’s bookshelf.

  6. Love hearing about so many of these, but the Tip-Toe Guides look great, as do the the “count” books. I love the Scanlon books, especially Think Big! My list today is about diversity too, important to keep looking! Thank you!

  7. Great list – especially All the World, which was one of my kids’ favorites.

  8. What a thoughtful way to determine your list! This spurs me to look at books in a new way. I’m adding some titles to my to-read list. Thank you!

  9. I bunch of these ended up on by library list. I am especially excited to read Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? to my little buffalo who is about to enter kindergarten. Thanks, Elizabeth

  10. Wow! Great idea for a list. This is a valuable reference. Love All the World and know a few titles but many are new to me. Really appreciate this list!

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