My Top 3 Picture Books Celebrating Diversity

Updated: May 11


Teaching kids to appreciate and celebrate diversity is of high priority in today’s global landscape- so what is the best way to do that? Books, of course! Using books is a fun way to introduce little ones to important concepts early on and they creative get conversation starters for grown ups to talk to their kids about inclusivity, privilege, difference, empathy and respecting others.


Read more with a focus on being different.


It is no secret that children’s books have a lack of diversity, with just 5% of children’s books published in the UK in 2019 featuring a main character who is black, Asian or minority ethic. Books play an important role in shaping children’s lives so the importance of a wide range of representation throughout cannot be stressed enough.

Thankfully, publishers and authors are embracing a more realistic representation of the world, making it easier to fill your child’s bookshelf with literature that celebrates a whole spectrum of life!


There are many children’s books out there that help to develop a good understand of being culturally different but here are my top three favourites that show little ones how others may live demonstrating a big difference from what they usually see in books. These children’s books can encourage brilliant discussions and develop their appreciation of their own lives and others.



The Magic Paintbrush

By Julia Donaldson and Joel Stewart

This story begins with Shen being given a magic paintbrush, but she has to promise only to use it for the poor. With her magic paintbrush, Shen can paint steaming pots full of fish, blankets, clothes, and other much needed items, for the needy people in her village. When the greedy emperor commands Shen to paint gold for him, she is determined to keep her promise to paint only for the poor.


This is very different to Julia Donaldson's other stories but it’s vibrant verse and wonderful rhyming is still there which makes it a delightful read aloud. Joel Stewart's illustrations are stunning and beautifully bring fresh life to this traditional tale. It has a powerful message, of how a little girl's integrity can withstand the corruption of power and greed, but this pair make it simple and effortless to follow.


The story gives a lot to talk about: first, of course is the magic of the brush - what would you paint, and for whom? But there are also the moral messages regarding keeping one's promise and greed being a bad thing.


My children thoroughly enjoy this story, and always enjoy talking about the different parts of the story. It has allowed us to discuss lots of interesting ideas and concepts which I feel has really got them thinking about many aspects in life.



Handa’s Surprise

By Eileen Browne

Handa's Surprise is a book about a girl, Handa, who has a basket full of seven different fruits as a present for her friend, Akeyo. On the way to Akeyo's village, Handa considers which fruit Akeyo will like the best. However, each time Handa thinks about a certain fruit an animal pops along and takes that fruit. Unaware that various animals have taken these tropical fruits, Handa continues along her journey, at which point a goat bumps into a tree and a bunch of tangerines fall into Handa's basket. Much to Handa's surprise tangerines are Akeyo's favourite fruit! Eileen Browne does a magnificent job incorporating various themes of Africa into one book. For example she includes tropical fruits such as guava and various African animals such as an Ostrich, Monkey, Parrot and so on. Furthermore, there are other underlying African themes, such as the clothes the girls wear, walking to Akeyo's village instead of travelling by car and giving fruits as presents instead of toys.


This book is brimming with mouth-watering fruit and wild animals, and is richly-illustrated for the youngest of readers. Another brilliant picture book that creates wonderful discussion.



We All Went on Safari

By Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns

In this marvelous book, Arusha, Mosi, Tumpe and their Maasai friends all set out on a counting journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. Along the way, the children encounter all sorts of animals including elephants, lions and monkeys, while counting from one to ten in both English and Swahili.


The text’s easy, natural rhythm makes reading aloud a pleasure and with it’s repetition it encourages little ones to join in too. Each sharply detailed scene pops off the page, showing Tanzania in such a magnificent way, with the traditionally dressed human figures are so well conveyed showing their excitement too.


The lively, rhyming text is accompanied by an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili, a map, notes about each of the animals and interesting facts about Tanzania and the Maasai people. A brilliant book in more ways than one!


#bookreviews #kidsbookreview #culturaldiversity #celebratingculturaldiversity #kidsbooks #childrensbooks #picturebookreviews #childrensbookreviews

6 views0 comments