6 Picture Books that Will Encourage Thought, Compassion, and Discussion about Diversity

Summer is a time of leisure, and a time when long sun-filled days might just give parents more time to read and reflect on books with their children. Here are many picture books that kids will love, and parents will love to discuss with those kids. They would be great choices for library read aloud time or for classrooms in the fall. All share wonderful messages.

    1. “Neither” by Airlie Anderson is a lovely picture book that can be used with a neitherwide age range of children for different purposes. The simple text and illustrations encourage discussion about what the story is saying and how it is said. There are blue rabbits and pink birds. “This” and “that,” or “these” and “those.” Until a green bird with rabbit ears and tail is hatched. Is he “both” or “neither”? He was excluded from the birdy games and the rabbity games. They told the sad babbit, “You’re not one of us. You’re neither!” And he flew away. What he found is a place where every misfit wants to be. And it’s worth talking about. Also, this book would be a great book for students learning English and discussion about pronouns and language. A very important book for home libraries and schools! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
    2. “Seed Man” is an unusual kind of picture book. It’s message is important, but seedmanmost children will need some help figuring it out. The Seed Man comes to town, plants a seed from which a tree grows, bearing magical fruit like toys, musical instruments, and a puppy. Fairies decide what people need and deliver the gifts. The recipients don’t know they are getting the gifts or why. After showing children getting the gifts, a page shows an old man, sitting alone, head hanging in sorrow, in front of a table with a cup of coffee and a picture of two people on it. It’s very obvious that the man is lonely, and in the evening, he is sitting in a chair gazing down at the picture when two fairies carry in a basket. In the basket is a puppy. ‘”I don’t want a dog,” said the man.’ But the puppy charmed him and things seemed to go well until one day, the puppy — being a puppy — was naughty and the man sent him away. What follows is the part about love, forgiveness, kindness, and the importance of giving. It’s beautiful, really. (Sleeping Bear Press)
    3. “W is for Welcome: A Celebration of America’s Diversity” by Brad Herzog that w is foruses poetry, art and text to share how America’s diversity and our immigrants (and really, aren’t we all?) are what make us a great nation. In today’s climate, this kind of book is more important than ever. Herzog includes poems like:
      “G is for “God Bless America”
      Irving Berlin was born in Russia,
      but crossed an ocean “white with foam”
      and wrote a song to celebrate
      his beloved “home sweet home.”
      Herzog uses the letter of the alphabet to press home the point of the book. “C” is for culture, and “D” is for diversity. Each poem (one for each letter of the alphabet) is placed on the illustration while the informational text is placed on the side of the page with a bold stripe of color delineating it from the poem. In the text next to the letter “D” it says, ‘About 80 million people in the United States either were born in other countries or are the children of immigrants. One example of America’s diversity is the small city of Clarkston, Georgia. In 1980, nearly every person in Clarkston had been born in America. But in the 1990s the city decided to welcome refugees from around the world. As a result, Time magazine called Clarkston the nation’s “most diverse square mile.”‘ Perfect for a classroom or school library! (Sleeping Bear Press)
    4. The first of three books celebrating girls (and women) is “Doll-E 1.0” by Shanda dolleMcCloskey. This book is just made for girls who love to build. The main character, Charlotte, is all about technology. The first clever sentence in the story is, “Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” And adorable Charlotte with her classes and bright blue hair is tinkering and downloading with her loyal dog Bluetooth beside her. When her parents worry that she’s too obsessed with technology, they get her a doll. She’s not sure what to do with this lump of a toy, but when Bluetooth does what dogs sometimes do — chews up the doll — Charlotte gets to work. There’s a brilliant double page illustration of Charlotte at work with lightning out the window and other Frankenstein-like images while Charlotte tinkers and codes to make Doll a bit more interactive. Clever and humorous, this book also has great illustrations. Kids will love it! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
    5. “Mela and the Elephant” by Dow Phumiruk is a book about Mela, a girl who mela and the elephantlives on a river in the jungle. When she decides to explore, her little brother wants to tag along. Mela says, “What will you give me if I take you?” Since he doesn’t have anything to give her, she leaves him behind. However, soon Mela learns the foolishness of her ways. When she is lost and needs help to get home, each animal asks what she will give in return. She learns that helping for the sake of helping is the right thing to do. In case kids don’t get the moral, it’s written in purple at the end of the story. “Kindness needs no reward, for it brings happiness and warmth to the heart.” (Sleeping Bear Press)
    6. “She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History” by shepersistedChelsea Clinton begins with a statement that it’s not always easy being a girl, and that in many places it’s hard for a girl to go to school or even leave the house. Clinton says, “Don’t listen to those voices. These thirteen women from across the world didn’t. They persisted.”  Some of the women are very well known like Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai, and J.K. Rowling. Others are less known like Caroline Herschel who was left stunted because of a disease. However she was determined to learn and left Germany with her brother, who helped her educate herself in math and astronomy. She became the first woman to discover a comet. Kate Sheppard’s work and persistence got the women in New Zealand, including Maori women, the right to vote. And closer to home is the story of Viola Desmond, the “Rosa Parks” of Canada when she refused to leave the main floor of a movie theater when asked. These and other stories of brave, persistent women who changed the world are inspiring. The illustrations by Alexandra Boiger are worthy of note. They are watercolor and ink, and while they are simple, the colors and use of lights and dark really make the stories come to life. (Philomel Books)


Please note: These reviews are based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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