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Everyday Diversity for Children: A List of Kids' Books for Preschool Through Primary Grades

Adele has been a youth services librarian in public libraries for 20 years.

Everyday Diversity Books for Children Ages 3-8

Everyday Diversity Books for Children Ages 3-8

What Is Everyday Diversity?

Many teachers, parents, and librarians are looking for children's books which portray racially and ethnically diverse characters.

Many books focus on the aspects of certain cultures: what life is like in Chinatown, or how characters' grandparents participated in civil rights movements.

There is also a growing category of books which show diverse characters in everyday situations of contemporary life. These books show children interacting with clothes, toys, food, relatives, friends, fears, hopes, and all the other things that go along with being a human child. The message is that diverse children are all around us, and the books allow those children to see themselves mirrored in these books.

Everyday Diversity Books for Preschoolers

This first section covers books that are appropriate for children ages 3-5.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

New! Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Kindergarten-Grade 4

Ada Twist, Scientist is another in the series of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) books to come from the team of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts: their other titles are Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect.

This book, which is written in clever rhyme, features an African-American family, including one very curious girl, Ada Twist. Little Ada is almost three when she speaks her first word, and that word is "Why?" She has just climbed to the top of the grandfather clock in her house, and she has all kinds of questions. "Why does it tick and why does it tock? Why don't we call it a granddaughter clock? Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs up inside your nose?" I think kids will get a kick out of all of Ada's questions, and teachers everywhere hope that children will learn that asking questions is the very basis of scientific inquiry.

Little Ada soon proceeds to experimenting, sometimes with messy results (broken eggs and colorful bottles of soda erupting), but her family and her teacher both seem to realize messiness is part of the process, after all.

Halfway through the book, Ada comes up with a new quest: to find the source of a "horrible stench" that "whacked her right in the nose" while she was experimenting with other things. Observant children will notice that her brother happens to be walking by in his stocking feet just when she notices the smell.They will no doubt form a hypothesis of their own as to the source of the smell.

Meanwhile, Ada sets up a variety of experiments to test her hypotheses, but runs into a little parental pushback when she tries to put the cat in the washing machine. She is sent to her "Thinking Chair" while her mother and father calm down a bit. When they come back to Ada, they find the wall full of drawings she has made, still trying to figure out the answer to her question. Her parents sigh and wonder what they'll do with "this curious kid, who wanted to know what the world was about? They smiled and whispered 'We'll figure it out.' And that's what they did—because that's what you do when your kid has a passion and heart that is true."

I love the sense of language in this book and the humorous twists with the rhyme. The illustrations make it look like great fun to be a scientist—or even to be a friend of Ada's.

New Red Bike!

New Red Bike!

New Red Bike!

When I saw the cover of New Red Bike! I knew it would be a hit with children who were in the process of learning to ride a bike. The boy looks so happy and free riding his new bike.

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The text is simple and direct. A boy named Tom rides his new book up, down, and around in circles. Parents will be happy that the book starts by saying that Tom rides the bike "with both hands on the handlebars and with his helmet on."

This book is also a good example of a story that introduces a more varied vocabulary, especially when it comes to verbs. Tom zooms down the hill and sweeps down to his friend Sam's house.

A little conflict occurs when Sam borrows the bike without asking, but they soon work out taking turns. At the end of the book, we find that Sam has also been given a new bike.

The illustrations are large, uncluttered, and convey the sense of motion and freedom that comes with riding a bike.


Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

New! Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

Yay for a superhero books with characters from all kinds of races and genders!

I love the illustrations in Even Superheroes Have Bad Days, which have a flat, retro feel to them, yet conjure up lots of frantic superhero action.

The text reminds me quite a bit of Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? It starts by describing the fit that superheroes could have if they’re having a bad day. “When superheroes don’t get their way, when they’re sad/when they’re made, when they have a bad day…/…they could use super-powers to kick, punch, and pound. /They could shriek—they could screech with an ear-piercing sound.” Accompanying pages show our diverse group of superheroes causing all kinds of mayhem.

But then, the text shifts and shows us that superheroes find better ways to express their emotions. “But upset superheroes have all sorts of choices…/Instead of destruction and loud, livid voices/they burn angry steam off with speed-of-light hiking/or super-Xtreme outer space mountain biking.”

At the end, we see them mellowing out with meditation gathering around a campfire. The text lets children know that they the superheroes can show emotion, “It’s okay if they frown./It’s okay if they sigh./It’s even okay if they slump down and cry.” But, after that, they get up and get on with their day.”

What a nice primer on handling emotion that lets children see people like them who are also superheroes.

How to Find a Fox

How to Find a Fox

How to Find a Fox

How To Find a Fox is a cute and humorous book.

As the story opens, an unseen narrator is telling a little girl how to find a fox. At one point, the narrator says "Take out your fox bait. Place it somewhere easy to spot. Hide. Then wait very quietly."

We see the fox on one side of the double-page spread, hiding under the bushes. We see a turkey drumstick in the clearing, and we see the girl hiding on the other side of the page, camera ready to take a picture.

From here, the pictures show us a set of near misses that are reminiscent of the style of cartoons. The girl tires of holding her camera and walks off to try another tactic. As she leaves, we see that the fox has come out from the bushes and is eating the turkey leg behind her back.

As the girl follows the directions, the fox is always just above or behind her where she can't see.

Finally, when she has given up, the fox find her, and all is well.

A Squiggly Story

A Squiggly Story

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen

Kindergarten-Grade 2

Having taught a fair number of writing classes for children, I recognize a story like this which is meant to get children kick-started on their own writing process.

At the beginning of A Squiggly Story , a young boy tells us that his older sister loves to read and write. He says "Sometimes I pretend I can write, too." It is clear that he can write some letters, and that he fills in with swirls and squiggles as well.

When he sees his sister writing a story, he wishes that he could write one too. "You can," says his sister. "It's easy." And then she dispenses the advice from writing teachers everywhere, "Write what you know."

The way the boy decides to write his story is rather clever. He begins with the letter I, then a small circle and then the letter u. He tells his sister that it represents the two of them playing soccer. She asks some follow up questions, and he decides that they are playing on the beach when a shark comes along. Then, as happens to many beginning writers, he gets stuck, not sure of what he wants to happen next.

He takes his story to school, and the children there give him lots of ideas. That night, he decides to go in a different direction and draws a rocket ship, which he realizes can become the beginning of his next story.

There are a couple of things I really like about this story. One is how well it models the writing process. The other is that these siblings actually get along. The older sisters mentors and encourages her brother; she doesn't correct him or tease him.

The illustrations are colorful, simple and have a cartoon quality to them.

Puddle

Puddle

Puddle by Hyewon Yum

Preschool - Grade 1

I like the emphasis on imagination in Puddle. At the beginning, a young boy is pouting because he hates rainy days and there is nothing to do. His mother tries to cajole him into drawing to pass the time, but he insists he doesn't want to.

So, the mother starts on her own. She draws an umbrella, and immediately we see the boy's body language change from pouty to interested. "Can you draw me holding it?" he asks. The mother obliges, and soon the boy is participating, drawing items to add to the scene. The mom draws a boy, and the boy draws a puddle. The drawing comes to life, and and soon the boy in the drawing is splashing around, getting everything wet. The real boy decides that it looks like so much fun that he wants to take a real walk in the rain. Surprise surprise, the real boy likes to splash in puddles as well. Mom and the dog join in for a joyous ending scene.

The illustrations are absolutely charming with spare details that let the plot of the story stand out.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

Preschool - Grade 2

I love how Beautiful takes stereotypes about girls and turns them upside down.

In the opening spread, we see five girls hanging out, draping their arms over a pink fence. They are all dressed up with fancy sunglasses, beads, crowns, fans, star wands, and other trinkets. But on the next page, we see them from behind and realize that these are girls with mud patches on their dresses and swords tucked into their belts. "Beautiful girls..." the text tells us "...have the perfect look."

Turn the page, and we are told "Beautiful girls move gracefully." A little series of vignettes shows girls involved in soccer, softball, football, and wheelchair basketball. All through the book, the pronouncements continue while the illustrations provide and different spin than the reader would expect. "Beautiful girls know all about makeup," we are told. And sure enough, the girls do have lots of makeup: pirate makeup. They've drawn on mustaches and beard stubble and are having a swashbuckling time from their cardboard boxes decorated to look like ships.

I can't say enough about the illustrations for this book. They are big enough to share with a crowd, something I particularly like since I present so many story times for children. They are chock full of energy as the girls perform science experiments, play in the pond or mug in front of the fun house mirror. And, they are a diverse, exuberant group comprised of girls from many different backgrounds and of different ability levels.

Rain

Rain

Rain by Linda Ashman

Preschool - Grade 2

This book is special to me because I know the author. She used to live close by and would come to do a writing workshop with my elementary writer's group. Lately, she seems to have specialized in stories that are wordless, or have very few words. Rain! has just a few words, but they count for quite a bit.

As the story opens, we see two people looking out their apartment windows and reacting differently to the rain. One is an old man who is frowning; the other is a young boy who is throwing up his hands in glee. On the next page we see the man grumpily putting on his rain gear while the boy is putting on an adorable green frog rain suit. Each of them continues in like manner, the man growing more grumpy and the boy having more fun.

They bump into each other in a bake shop, where the man frowns at the boy for accidentally jostling him. But, when the old fellow forgets his hat, the boy takes it back to him. Thankfully, the old man can't stay grumpy, and he ends up playfully trading hats with the boy. It's a sweet tale, and the charming cut paper illustrations complement the whole theme.

What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan

What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan

What I Like About Me!

Preschool - Grade 1

What I Like About Me! has long been one of my favorites to read at story times for kids, and it's been well-received by children and grown-ups alike. It's short (always a plus when you are reading books aloud), and it has bright, bold illustrations which are easy for the audience to see.

In upbeat rhyming verse, the children in this book point out the diverse characteristics they like about themselves. On the first spread, we see three children: a boy and two girls. The boy says, "I like my spiky hair. It's great. When the wind blows, it still stands up straight." The curly-haired girl says that when "skies are misty," her hair "gets nice and twisty." This is an interactive "touch-and-feel" type of book, and each of these characters has filaments of "hair" that readers can feel.

On other pages, different children talk about having freckles, glasses, braces, different foods for lunch, and different shoe sizes. The movable parts include lift the flap and tabs that the reader can pull. The children in my audience like it when I pull the tabs to make one boy's eyebrows tilt up and another's ears wiggle. The last page includes a reflective surface and asks "What is it you like best about YOU?" At this point, I usually take the book around the group and let each child look into this mirror of sorts.

This book has so many of the features of a good read-aloud: short text, fun illustrations, and an affirming message.

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly?

Preschool - Grade 2

This book serves as a gentle reminder for adults to put down their phones and other electronic gadgets and participate in the learning of their little ones. I don't exactly call people out when I read this to a group, but the parents who've been looking at their phones often put them down when I ask the children why the mom in the story seems so attached to her phone.

Even before we get to the title page, we are treated to a series of scenes showing a diverse group of people watching the animals at the zoo—except for one mom who is on her phone while her child holds a bunch of balloons and looks at the elephant. “Mom?” he asks, as we turn to the title page,“can one balloon make an elephant fly?” Without looking up from her phone, mom answers, “No.” But the child persists. How about two balloons, or three? “Evan, please,” says the mom, a bit annoyed at being interrupted, until she looks up and sees how sad it makes her son that she’s not paying attention. She sees the little toy elephant he has and says, “One balloon is definitely enough to make an elephant fly.”

The next illustration is a full-page beaming little boy, happy to be able to interact with his mother. They walk around to see the different displays and attach a balloon to each little animal figurine. (The boy also slips a balloon to each of the animals they see.) At the end, they release the balloons, and the figurines fly away, presumably to have adventures of their own.

It’s a sweet story about a mother and son, though the environmentalist in me has a little hesitation about balloons as a potential hazard for wildlife. I think I’d talk about that a little with the children after reading the book.


Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood

Preschool - Grade 2

Maybe Something Beautiful has lovely illustrations which I'm thinking of using as a springboard to showing the children how to create their own community art to display in the library.

The book is based on the true story of artists Rafael and Candice Lopez. They brought the local art community together in East Village near downtown San Diego to imbue the area with colorful art. A little girl named Mira lives in the “heart of a gray city” and loves to “doodle, draw, color, and paint.” She makes art and hands it out to people in the neighborhood as well as taping some of it to the drab walls of her surroundings. “Her city was less gray,” the book tells us, “—but not much.”

Then one day, she meets a man with a “pocket full of paintbrushes." She watches him splash bright colors on the sky and finds out that he’s an artist, a muralist. “I’m an artist, too,” she tells him. He hands her a brush and says, “Then come on!” She joins him in painting a mural, and soon the whole neighborhood is joining in painting the walls, utility boxes, benches, and even decorating the sidewalks with poetry. I especially like showing the children the pictures in the back of the book: real-life photos of children who helped to create the art.

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Lola at the Library

Preschool-Kindergarten

What could be closer to a librarian's heart than this charming story of a young girl who loves all things about going to the library to pick out books?

I love reading Lola at the Library to children because we can talk about how our library has lots of similarities to Lola's library, and also quite a few differences. All the hands in the room go up when I say, "Look, Lola has a backpack just for her books. Do you have a pack or bag that you use?" Children love it when they can tell you about their everyday lives .

In the book, we follow Lola on typical trip to the library where she packs her backpack with books, uses her library card to check them out, attends story time, and ends the day when her mommy reads her a story.

Check for all the Lola books, as well as companion books about her brother, Leo.


Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn

Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn

Lola Reads to Leo

Preschool-Kindergarten

Charming little Lola is back in Lola Reads to Leo. This time she is learning how to be a big sister. I love how reading is woven all through this book. At first, Lola’s mother reads her a story about a girl and her new baby brother.Then, after Lola's own baby brother comes along, she gives him a soft book for his crib, tells him stories when he cries, and reads to him in the bath, among other things. At night the whole family ends up with a story book. The illustrations are sweet and enchanting, as always.

After reading this book, I often point out to the parents that we have lots of book at the library that can prepare their child for the birth of a sibling. It's a common type of book that people are looking for, and I appreciate the way McQuinn has her characters involved with books and the library.

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library

Preschool - Grade 1

Before I read the book Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library at story time, I pull out a dragon puppet and ask them if it's a good idea to let dragons come into the library. They are usually split 50/50. Some think the idea is cool, and others foresee problems. We talk a little about what kinds of problems a dragon could cause in a library, and I tell them to listen to the story and see if some of the things they've talked about are mentioned.

I love this book because it is so whimsical, and the illustrations do a great job of getting across the emotions of the dragon and of everyone around her. A librarian explains to a young boy the reasons why it is not a good idea to bring your dragon to the library. Among them: the dragon will take up at least ten spaces at story time, she’ll knock over the book stacks, and (of course) she will set the books on fire. All of these mishaps are illustrated in bright, bold pictures that make this book ideal for sharing with groups, as well as one-on-one.

When the boy begs for the dragon to visit with him, the librarian agrees that the dragon “should not miss the library treasures,” and that the boy can check some books “for her reading pleasure.” (The text is written in the form of rhyming couplets.)

This is a lovely, lively, and fun book.

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan

Ming Goes to School

Preschool - Grade 1

This sweet book is good to read to little ones to ease that first-day-of-school anxiety. I wish Ming Goes to School had come out before my daughter started school.

On the beginning page, we see Ming holding hands with her father as she walks into the school (which looks like either a preschool or a kindergarten class). The watercolor illustrations show her doing everyday school things along with a diverse group of classmates: waving goodbye to her father, showing her bear at show-and-tell, making sand castles, gluing and glittering, and finally getting up the courage to climb up to the top of the slide.

The text is simple and poetic—as well as being super short for little attention spans. I love the light, wistful illustrations. It’s a lovely, peaceful book with an empowering message.

The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer

The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer

The Squiggle

Preschool-Kindergarten

This poetic book has long been one of my favorites because it emphasizes imagination and creativity. In The Squiggle, a preschool class is lined up to follow the teacher when the girl at the end of the line discovers a length of red string. As she waves it in the air, she imagines it to be several things: “the dance of a scaly dragon” or “the path of a circus acrobat” among others. She calls to her class and shows them all the shapes she has learned to make. Illustrator Pierr Morgan’s watercolors interpret the text with a Chinese flair, but the idea for making shapes with a piece of string is so universal that it will speak to all kinds of kids.

When I use this book for story time, I give each child a length of red yarn to create the shapes and patterns in the story. It's a great way to encourage movement and imagination. Another thing I like about this activity is that it brings children and caregivers together, with the grown-ups helping their little ones to form some of the shapes and do the actions.

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting

Flower Garden

Preschool - Grade 3

For about 15 years I've been reading Flower Garden to groups whenever our story time theme rolls around to spring or gardens or surprises.

In the story, a young girl and her father buy flowers, a planting box, and soil at a grocery store. Then they take them on the bus until they reach their apartment, a 3rd-floor walk-up in the city. There they assemble a window box and plant the flowers inside. When they get out a cake and start to light the candles, we learn that it is a birthday surprise for the mom, who is just now walking in the door. The last picture shows the family admiring the flower box at sunset, after they’ve eaten most of the cake.

There is so much to like about this book. It introduces suburban and rural children to some aspects of life in the city like taking the bus and living in an apartment. It names the different flowers in the boxes and accurately illustrates them, introducing the children to some new vocabulary. The illustrations are luminous. Children love to spot the family's cat in several scenes. I encourage the children figure out the surprise of the story and predict what will happen when the mother comes in the room, and I take every opportunity I can to share this lovely book with groups of children.

 Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

When I read to groups of children, I always like to have a book that explains the whole concept, and Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn is a good introduction for preschoolers on how the seasons change. At the beginning, a girl stands on her porch and says, "Hello, late summer morning." As she walks along in the woods, she says "Hello" to everything she meets, and they respond letting her know what they are doing or how they are changing. When she says, "Hello, playful foxes and singing blue jays," they respond "Hello! We are busy looking for food. Some of us are heading south to our winter homes." Things move along similarly as she greets the butterflies , the trees, the chipmunks, the clouds, the leaves, and the sun. At the end, as night falls, the girls says "Goodbye summer..." and after we see a two-page spread of early morning, she is sitting on her porch saying "Hello, autumn."

The illustrations are quite lovely, watercolors that capture the light of each season. The writing is a little less artful, but still gets the message across well.

Excellent Ed

Excellent Ed

Excellent Ed

This is a fun story about a dog who wants to find a way of being "excellent" in his human (African-American) family. It turns out that all the children in the family are excellent at something--whether is is playing soccer, doing math, or making cupcakes.

In a series of episodes with some humorous word play, Ed finds something he's good at, only to find that the children are seemingly better. For instance, Ed decides he's good at breaking stuff, and he makes a mess of the kitchen to demonstrate. Then, one of the girls zooms in and yells "I broke the record fro most soccer goals in a season!" That leaves to poor Ed to conclude he's not the best at breaking things.

Older children will love the dog's misunderstandings and be eager to correct him. Eventually, Ed does figure out that he's good at many things like cleaning up the food dropped on the floor or welcoming everyone home.

The illustrations are warm and tender.

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree

This is the kind of book that just begs to be read aloud, with its musical use of language and its folk-tale structure, complete with a trickster who outsmarts a dangerous animal. On the first two-page spread we see a boy with a pinwheel walking along in the jungle, unaware that a large snake is looking at him from the treetop. The text reads, "One day in the leaves of the eucalyptus tree hung a scare in the air where no eye could see, when along skipped a boy with a whirly-twirly toy, to the shade of the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree."

The snake slides down and swallows the boy whole, but we see him in the deep dark belly saying, "I'll bet that you're still very hungry and there's more you can eat." The snake is convinced, and goes on to swallow a bird, a cat, a sloth, an ape, a bear, and some bees. The snake is quite full, but the boy urges to him to eat more, and when the snake stretches to swallow a piece of fruit and a fly, it's too much. Everything comes out with a gurgle-gurgle and a belch.

The story behind the story is also quite interesting. The author is a visually-impaired writer who was inspired to write this story during the night shift as a janitor at a preschool. The animals in the story were the odd assortment of animals kept on a shelf of the school.

The illustrator, who has traveled the word in search of fascinating animals, brings a bright, folk-inspired liveliness to the illustrations.

The New Small Person

The New Small Person

The New Small Person

Lauren Child has quite a way with voice and dialogue for children, and she doesn't disappoint here. She describes to a T what it's like to be the only, older child. Elmore Green is such a boy. He has his room to himself and has his own TV set. No one ever changes the channel. Also, "He could line up all his precious things on the floor and no one moved them ONE INCH."

But, as will happen with older children, a new small person came along--a little brother. Elmore notices that his parents seem to like the new small person a little bit more. This new person wants to watch different things on TV and knocks his things over. And to top it off "Everyone said Elmore could NOT be angry because the small person was ONLY small."

Now, of course, we all know that the older brother has to come to some sort of understanding and, hopefully, affection for little brother, and I think the author does it in an especially touching way. The little brother is able to soothe his big brother after a bad dream "when the scaries were around," and also contributes tot he game when Elmore wants to line up all his things on the steps. "It felt good to have someone there who understood why a long line of things was SO special."

Child's quirky illustrations add just the right note of fun to this story about learning to live with someone else in the house.

Normal Norman

Normal Norman

Normal Norman

You have to love this humorous book about a girl, a junior scientist, who is giving us a presentation. Her assignment is to "clearly define the word NORMAL" during her talk. To demonstrate the word normal, she uses a gorilla (or is it an orangutan?) named Norman and shows how he's an average creature with a normal head, ears, and paws. Norman, however, doesn't look all that happy to be a demonstration specimen, and on the next page he does something decidedly not normal and starts eating a pizza.

Things get wackier from there, as Norman speaks, objecting to the girl peeling a banana. "Iiiiii-eeee!" he screams. "You're ripping off that poor creature's skin!" When the girl wants to show how normally he sleeps, Norman crawls into a bunk bed and wants his stuffed animal.

As one thing after another goes wrong, the girl despairs because she's failed at her mission. "I will never be asked to narrate a book again!" she cries. Norman takes pity on her and takes her to his friends, jungle animals who are engaged in roller skating, playing horns and the like. In an affirmation of self-expression, the head scientist write of the results:" 'Normal' is impossible to define."

Henry Wants More!

Henry Wants More!

Henry Wants More!

I was especially interested in this charming little book because I knew the author when she lived in Colorado. She is a friendly and charming person who specializes in tender books that feature rhyming in the text.

Families that include toddlers will find little Henry familiar: no matter how much the members of the family play with him, he always wants to play more. Papa lifts him high above his head, grandma plays piano for him, sister plays peek-a-boo and patty-cake, on and on until finally little Henry tires out and falls asleep. At the end, there is a little twist because it turns out that Mama wants more: another kiss for her little Henry.

The illustrator, Brooke Boynton Hughes, chose to illustrate a multiracial family. Dad and grandma are Caucasian and Mom is African-American. It’s nice to see multiracial families turning up more and more in sweet books like this.

Into the Snow

Into the Snow

Into the Snow

Is there anything more fun for a kid than wandering out to play in the snow? In this exuberant book, a young boy bundles up, gets his sled, and goes out into what looks like a late spring snow. (I see blossoms on the trees, so I'm thinking it takes place in April or May.) The boy describes how the snow feels, breaks off an icicle, and flies down the hill on his sled before heading inside for some hot chocolate. The text is brief and evocative, but what really sells this book are the illustrations. You can almost feel the thick, wet snow as you turn the pages.

Who Likes Rain

Who Likes Rain

Who Likes Rain?

This small-format book has lots of onomatopoeia in its poetic text. "Who wants rain?" a little girl asks. "Who needs April showers? I know who...The trees and the flowers." She describes how raindrops hit the awning, "Ping-ping-ping" and how it gurgles down the spout. The illustrations are charming, and together with the text, it captures perfectly the atmosphere of a young child exploring in the rain.


 Summer Days and Nights

Summer Days and Nights

Summer Days and Nights

This book chronicles the wonders of an ordinary day from the viewpoint of a small girl. In rhyming couplets, she tells us how she goes hunting for butterflies, stops to drink lemonade, plays hide-and-seek, goes for a picnic, and sees an owl and fireflies at night. The small format makes this a nice book to share with a little one on your lap, and the illustrations of the girl and her family are adorable.


Soup Day

Soup Day

Soup Day

"Today is soup day," a young girl tells us. We can see it is snowing as she and her mother head to the market. She describes how they pick out the vegetables , chop them up and cook them in a pot. While the soup is simmering, the girl and her mother play together, then add the pasta, and clean up the house in preparation for the dad to get home and share the meal. The collage illustrations combine different patterned papers, and are bright, simple and colorful. At the end, we get a recipe for "Snowy Day Vegetable Soup" which includes onions, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, pasta and spices.

I appreciate this book because my daughter is a soup-lover who would have eaten it for breakfast every day if we had had it. And why not? It can come in a variety of flavors and warms you up on a cold winter morning. It also shows a family with an Asian girl and Caucasian parents.


Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! By Wynton Marsalis

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! By Wynton Marsalis

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

This would be a nice book to read before doing a musical activity with a group of children. I could see leading an activity by bringing out a variety of musical instruments for the kids to play to see if they could recreate some of the sound Marsalis includes in Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

You would expect a book by Wynton Marsalis to feature the trumpet, and it certainly does feature a trumpet-playing boy. But, as its subtitle tells us, this is a “sonic adventure.” The text begins, “Our back door squeaks, a nosy mouse eeks! It’s also how my sister’s saxophone sometimes speee….eeaks.” All through the book, we are invited to explore how the sounds of everyday life and the sounds of musical instruments intersect.

This is a joyful rhythmic book, and the illustrations respond, making this a fun book to read to a child.


Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby

Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby

Sunday Shopping

Sunday Shopping describes an inventive game that a girl plays with her grandmother: every Sunday they gather ads from the Sunday paper and a purse full of monopoly money, and then they go “shopping.”

They peruse the advertisements for things they would like to buy, cut them out, and pay for the items using their money. Grandma decides to get a big ham to cook and the girl chooses a room full of fine furniture.

Later on, the girl picks out a jewelry box that will house her treasured necklace. It turns out the girl’s mother is in the army, and on the day she left, she gave the girl a heart locket. At the end, the girl cuts out a bouquet of flowers and places them on the nightstand near a picture of her mother for her grandmother to find the next morning.

Besides being a story about coping with absence, this story shows an intergenerational interaction that we always want to see with our families. The grandmother has found a way to engage her granddaughter in lots of meaningful conversations, helped her develop her math skills, and you could also argue that she is teaching her a bit about what things cost and money management. What a wonderful concept for a book!

I can see a follow up activity that involves giving children a set of ads and encouraging them to do their own Sunday Shopping.

Rosa's Very Big Job by Ellen Mayer

Rosa's Very Big Job by Ellen Mayer

Rosa's Very Big Job

Young children often bask in the accomplishment of being a good helper, but sometimes they don't know how to go about helping the grown-ups in their lives. In Rosa's Very Big Job, tlittle Rosa decides that she and her grandfather can help by putting away the laundry.

When I read this book, I knew that children would love the dynamic between the girl and her grandfather. He complains that it's hard to carry everything, to keep it folded, and to keep jackets from sliding off their hangers. Rosa is always ready with advice for her grandfather, and together they get all the laundry done.

Then, Rosa shifts into imagination mode, and the two of them climb into the laundry basket for adventures, pretending they are in a boat at sea. They brave big waves and catch an "enormous fish" (actually a sock) at Rosa's urging. When mama comes home, she is surprised to find the laundry finished. Rosa fills her in on all their adventures.

I like to point out to parents that the end note talks about how the story can increase a child's vocabulary. Mayer has given grandpa some pretty big words to use -- difficult, enormous, exhausted,, etc. and a child can learn them in context in a story like this.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns

Preschool - Grade 1

This is definitely a book that you can read when you are trying to get your kid to sleep. Twenty yawns are placed throughout the book, most of them towards the ends when presumably your little one’s eyes will be getting heavy. This book made me feel sleepy when I was previewing it in the middle of the day.

I was especially interested in this book because the parents are portrayed as an interracial couple, something you still don't see very much in the illustrations of children's books.

In the story, Lucy and her parents spend a fun day at the beach digging sand castles, flying kites, and rolling on the dunes. They make an early bedtime of it, but Lucy awakens and decides she needs her bear, Molasses, to comfort her. When she gets downstairs, she decides she needs to take all her stuffed animals with her and settles down among them. S