Our Reception Manager asked me, if he was to start a shelf from scratch of inclusive books, what would I put on it. Many amazing covers floated through my head, but end of term tiredness meant that most of the titles and authors and illustrators had disappeared. So I took to twitter to help me out, and the result was expensive.
Here is a small selection of the books recommended:
Hey You!: An empowering celebration of growing up Black by Dapo Adeola
This groundbreaking picture book is a lyrical, inspirational exploration of growing up Black, written by award-winning illustrator Dapo Adeola, and brought to life by some of the most exciting Black illustration talents working today.
This book addresses – honestly, yet hopefully – the experiences Black children face growing up with systemic racism, as well as providing hope for the future, delivering a powerful message to a new generation of dreamers. It’s a message that is both urgent and timeless – and offers a rich and rewarding reading experience for every child.
To mirror the rich variety of the Black diaspora, this book showcases artwork from Dapo and 18 incredible Black illustrators in one beautiful, powerful, and cohesive reading experience.
Coming To England by Floella Benjamin, illustrated by Diane Ewen
A picture book story about the triumph of hope, love, and determination, Coming to England is the inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords.
When she was ten years old, Floella Benjamin, along with her older sister and two younger brothers, set sail from Trinidad to London, to be reunited with the rest of their family. Alone on a huge ship for two weeks, then tumbled into a cold and unfriendly London, coming to England wasn’t at all what Floella had expected.
Coming to England is both deeply personal and universally relevant – Floella’s experiences of moving home and making friends will resonate with young children, who will be inspired by her trademark optimism and joy. This is a true story with a powerful message: that courage and determination can always overcome adversity.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali and illustrated by Hatem Aly
Asiya’s hijab is like the ocean and the sky, no line between them, saying hello with a loud wave.
It’s Faizah’s first day of school, and her older sister Asiya’s first day of wearing hijab – made of a beautiful blue fabric. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful. In the face of hurtful, confusing words, will Faizah find new ways to be strong?
This is an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond shared by siblings and of being proud of who you are, from Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
My Hair by Hannah Lee, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
My birthday’s coming up so soon,
I’ll need new clothes to wear.
But most of all, I need to know,
How shall I style my hair?
Will it be dreads or a twist out? Braids or a high-top fade? Joyous and vibrant, this captures perfectly the excitement of getting ready for a celebration, as well as showcasing a dazzling array of intricate hairstyles.
This is a glorious debut from an exciting new partnership who both emerged from the FAB Prize for undiscovered BAME writers and illustrators.
So Much by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
A modern classic, this is a tender, exuberant celebration of modern family life.
Mum and baby are home alone when – DING DONG! – Auntie and then Uncle and Nannie and Gran-Gran and the cousins come to visit. And they all want to hug and kiss and squeeze and eat the baby right up … because everybody loves the baby SO MUCH!
So Much is a celebration of family life. Helen Oxenbury’s characteristically warm, funny illustrations, paired with Trish Cooke’s rhythmic, cumulative story capture the joy of being a baby in a large extended family – a baby who knows that he is absolutely, utterly adored.
Eyes That Kiss In The Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho
This lyrical, stunning picture book tells a story about learning to love and celebrate your Asian-shaped eyes, in the spirit of Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, and is a celebration of diversity.
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she?
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning.
On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it–Yoon-Hey.
What Happened To You? by James Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George
The first ever picture book addressing how a disabled child might want to be spoken to.
What happened to you? Was it a shark? A burglar? A lion? Did it fall off?
Every time Joe goes out the questions are the same . . . what happened to his leg? But is this even a question Joe has to answer?
A ground-breaking, funny story that helps children understand what it might feel like to be seen as different
Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus, Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Boy Bear cannot hear Dad Bear coming to wake him up in the morning but he can feel the floor vibrate with his heavy footsteps. He can only grasp little bits of what his teacher says to him at school. He cannot catch what his friends are laughing at. And, all the time, Boy Bear keeps hearing the question, “Can Bears ski?” What does it mean? With the support of Dad Bear, Boy Bear visits an audiologist and, eventually, he gets hearing aids. Suddenly, he understands the question everyone has been asking him: “CAN YOU HEAR ME?”
Raymond draws on his own experience to show how isolating it can be for a deaf child in a hearing world. But through his lyrical and moving words, matched with Polly’s stunning imagery, he also shows how many ways there are to communicate love. With a solid network, Boy Bear will find his place in the world.
Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann
Crow saw it first. The strange white creature, carried upon the dark waves towards the shore… When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, the other animals fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous and his odd habit of collecting leaves only adds to their distrust. Then one day, they watch as he attempts to fly over the water with wings made of colourful leaves… trying to get back home.
Perfect for discussing migration and refugees with young children.
My Name Is Not Refugee by Kate Milner
A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too.
A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.
It’s A No Money Day by Kate Milner
Mum works really hard, but today there is no money left and no food in the cupboards. Forced to visit the local foodbank, Mum feels ashamed that they have to rely on the kindness of others, but her young daughter can still see all the good in her day like reading and drawing, and even the foodbank.
Maybe one day things will be different but for now together they brighten up even the darkest of days.
A moving insight into the sad rise and necessity of foodbanks from the perspective of society’s most vulnerable, and an essential book to help develop empathy in younger readers.
The Invisible by Tom Percival
The Invisible is the story of a young girl called Isabel and her family. They don’t have much, but they have what they need to get by. Until one day, there isn’t enough money to pay their rent and bills and they have to leave their home full of happy memories and move to the other side of the city.
It is the story of a girl who goes on to make one of the hardest things anyone can ever make…a difference.
And it is the story of those who are overlooked in our society – who are made to feel invisible – and why everyone has a place here.
We all belong.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
No matter how you start your day,
What you wear when you play,
Or if you come from far away,
All are welcome here.
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcome. A school where children in patkas, hijabs, baseball caps and yarmulkes play side by side. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions. A school where diversity is a strength.
Warm and inspiring, All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, and they are welcome in their school. Engaging lyrical text and bright, accessible illustrations make this book a must for every child’s bookshelf, classroom and library.
Hats Of Faith by Medeia Cohan-Petrolino, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
This book is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the shared custom of head covering. Using accurate terminology and brightly coloured imagery, Hats of Faith helps educate and prepare young children for our culturally diverse modern world.
Encouraging an early and open dialogue between parents and children.
Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate
Celebrate love in all its forms, as Grandad tells his granddaughter about the adventures he used to have with Gramps.
Grandad’s camper van is hidden away in the garage – now Gramps isn’t around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn’t be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad’s granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up…
Nen And The Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew
Far out to sea and deep below the whispering waves lives a merman called Nen. Nen spends his days exploring his underwater kingdom, but something is missing: his heart is empty. So, Nen ventures to the forbidden world above and it is here that he meets Ernest, a lonely fisherman.
But can two people from different worlds be together and what will happen when a terrifying storm gathers? A lyrical, beautiful celebration of love, acceptance and faith, with a gentle message about how we treat our oceans, and each other.
Julian Is A Mermaid, and Julian At The Wedding by Jessica Love
While riding the subway home with his Nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself?
Julian and his nana are attending a wedding. Better yet, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to … muddy puddles? After all, it wouldn’t be a wedding without fun, laughter and a little magical mischief. With ingenuity and heart, author-illustrator Jessica Love tells a charming story of friendship, acceptance and celebration.
The Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet-Grant, illustrated by Lydia Corry
Billy’s family is not what you’d call ordinary. His mums won’t listen to NORMAL music. They love to sing sea shanties and dance jigs in the lounge. Their clothes are highly unusual, they have a rude parrot for a pet, and their taste in house design is, well . . . FISHY. Billy wishes his family could be more like everyone else’s. Until a swashbuckling adventure changes everything!
Love Makes A Family by Sophie Beer
Whether you have two mums, two dads, one parent, or one of each, there’s one thing that makes a family a family… and that’s LOVE.
Fred Gets Dressed by Peter Brown
An exuberant new picture book from NYT bestselling author Peter Brown, inspired by his own childhood.
Fred loves to be naked! He romps around his house naked and wild and free. Until he romps into his parents’ bedroom and is inspired, finally, to get dressed. But there’s so much in the wardrobe! What will Fred choose?
This is just a small selection of the amazing, inclusive picture books out there suitable for EYFS and beyond. Lantana Publishing, and Tiny Owl have amazing catalogues full of diverse books that are well worth checking out. And, A New Chapter Books specialise in diverse, inclusive books. Like I said, this was always going to be expensive!
Huge thanks to everyone on Twitter who helped with this list. Here’s the original thread.