• Kristi Bayerlein

Best kids books featuring diverse characters

As we are heading into a new school year, with many of us embarking on a new virtual or homeschooling journey, I thought it would be beneficial to share some amazing books that we have added to our kids' library recently. We were thinking about how to best approach our accidental homeschooling journey, and decided to look at our library of children's books first. When we peeked through the titles, we realized that there was a SERIOUS lack of diversity in the characters presented in these stories, and we knew we needed to change that. Immediately. So, we went on a hunt for the best books for children featuring characters of all colors, abilities, and genders, and from that, born this list!

No matter our skin color, cultural background, gender identity, it is important to read books with LOTS of different characters so that we can relate and/or empathize with ALL people.

Happy reading!

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that any purchases made through the links provided may provide me with a small amount of commission at no extra cost to you. These links do not impact my recommendations or love for the books--I only recommend products that I love and use in my own home.

1. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes & Vanessa Brantley-Newton

A confident little boy takes pride in starting his first day of Kindergarten! This story

explores the events, connections, and excitement that come with this new chapter.

2.Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

"Featuring a diverse group of relatable characters, Pink Is for Boys invites and

encourages girls and boys to enjoy what they love to do, whether it's racing cars and

playing baseball, or loving unicorns and dressing up." -Amazon.com

3. Pirates Don't Go to Kindergarten by Lisa Robinson

"Pirate Emma is about to start kindergarten! But, Emma's not so sure she's ready for a

new captain and crew. Especially since Cap'n Chu--the roughest, toughest, awesomest

preschool cap'n ever--is right down the hall. So Emma decides to head back to the

preschool ship to see if she can stir up a mutany against kindergarten!" -Lisa Robinson

4. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christin Baldacchino

A story about gender identity, acceptance, and overcoming bullying.

5. My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best

Zulay is blind and just learning how to use her cane. She does not want to be portrayed

as different, and wants to run in a field day race just like her peers. With the help of a

teacher and her own perseverane, Zulay is able to overcome to odds and achieve


6. My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis

"This little boy loves the color pink, and sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses

and sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing

trees. He’s a Princess Boy..." -Cheryl Kilodavis

7. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

"Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cutis a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw,

assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of

their reflections in the mirror." -Agate Publishing

8. The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

"...Jerome discovers the magic of words all around him--short and sweet words, two

syllable treats, and multi-syllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect,

transform, and empower." -Peter H. Reynolds

9. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

"Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronoucing her name, a little

girl tells her mother she never wants to go back to school. In response, the girl's

mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and

Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city." - Jamilah


10. The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier

"Ruby's mind is always full of ideas. One day, she finds some old boards and decides to

build something. She invites her brothers to help, but they just laugh and tell her she

doesn't know how to build. "Then I'll learn," she says. And she does! When she creates

a dazzling fort that they all want to play in, it is Ruby who has the last laugh." -Brenda


11. Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones

"Izzy is a young inventor whose inventions don't always work. When they break, chaos

and messes often occur. She decides that she has had enough and puts her toolbag

away. When she finds a crow that has hurt itself after falling, the vet tells her it will never

fly again." -Amazon.com

12. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

"Little Red and the Very Hungry Lionis a fractured fairy tale version of Little Red

Riding Hood. It's a classic fairy tale with a safari twist! Alex T. Smith's fun, bold art

brings Little Red Riding Hood to life in a refreshing new way that will delight young

readers." -Amazon.com

13. The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller

"The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a timeless story of dreams, determination, and the

power of friendship. It's the day before the big parade. Alta can only think about one

thing: Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. She'll be riding on a float

tomorrow...it doesn't matter that Alta's shoes have holes because Wilma came from

hard times, too. But what happens when a girl with shiny new shoes come along and

challenges Alta to a race?" -Pat Zietlow Miller

14. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

"Working up the courage to take a big, important leap is hard, but Jabari is almost

absolutely ready to make a giant splash. Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving

board. He's finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he's a great

jumper, so he's not scared at all." -Goodreads

15. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

"Those Shoes introduces a discussion about generosity, the conflict between altruism

and selfishness, and about distributive justice. Jeremy really wants a pair of black, high

top shoes. His Grandma tells him that they can't afford the expensive shoes because he

needs winter boots." -Prindle Institute

16. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

"When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female

president,Grace decides she wants to be the nation's first and immediately jumpstarts

her political career by running in her school's mock election!" -Amazon.com

17. Saturday by Oge Mora

"In this heartfelt and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special

Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another

goes wrong–ruining storytime, salon time, picnic time, and the puppet show they'd been

looking forward to going to all week." -lbyr.com

18. The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

"The Rabbit Listened is about how to comfort and heal the people in your life, by

taking the time to carefully, lovingly, gently listen. A moving and universal picture book

about empathy and kindness, sure to soothe heartaches big and small." -Amazon.com

19. Goggles! by Ezra Jack Keats

"This story is a tale about Peter and his friend Archie finding some cool-looking

motorcycle goggles and then, of course, running into some over-aggressive preteens. It

will take some bravery, ingenuity, and a really clever dog to make it out in one piece!"


20. Boxitects by Kim Smith

"Nothing's better than building with boxes! Meg is a brilliant and creative boxitect. She

loves building extraordinary things out of ordinary cardboard boxes and impressing her

classmates with what she creates." -Kim Smith

21. One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

"Sophia has one true desire for her birthday. But she has Four Big Problems in the way:

Mom, Dad, Uncle Conrad...and Grand-mama. Will her presentations, proposals, and pie

charts convince them otherwise? Turns out, all it takes is one word." -Amazon.com

22. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

"Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair-- and a

celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere." -Amazon.com

23. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

"Ada Twist, Scientist is a young girl with a passion for science. Though she doesn't

say a word till she's 3...she's always investigating the world around her, and when she

does start to talk, a torrent of questions spews forth." -commonsensemedia.org

24. My Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

"With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a

young girl's love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold

close in the midst of change." -Amazon.com

25. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

"A boy and his grandmother meet fascinating people and find beauty in unexpected

places as they ride the bus together." -Matt de la Peña

I hope that you love these books as much as we do, and benefit from the extraordinary diversity throughout them! Let me know in the comments if you own or decide to purchase any of them and what you think!

Kristi Bayerlein is the owner and photographer at Olive and Grace Photography. OGP specializes in lifestyle and branding photography that captures the beauty of your life and business as it is today.

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