More on Diverse Literature: Resources for Readers Looking for Multicultural Children’s Literature

Diversity in children’s literature is an important topic within the library field. With the desire to make all children feel represented in the books they read and expose youth to new cultures, many are searching for books that celebrate diverse themes and characters. While the Butler Center and your local library are great places to start, there are many other incredible resources available online to help in the search for diverse books. Today, we are excited to share with you a few sources, from booklists to blogs, that discuss the importance of multicultural children books.

Lee and Low BooksLee & Low Books

Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country and one of the few publishing companies that is minority-owned in the United States. Lee & Low is dedicated to working with unpublished authors and illustrators of color and publishing stories from voices we do not hear from enough in children’s literature. Lee & Low works to create books that better reflect what the world we live in looks like.

Lee & Low also partners closely with educators and librarians to help build libraries and classrooms with books that are reflective of their students. Their website provides in-depth teaching guides for more than 500 of the books published by Lee & Low in the past 25 years. On their site, you can find booklists built around themes and cultures for young readers ranging from Pre-k to 12th grade. Be sure to check out their lists and their blog, where they explore current topics within diverse books.


We Need Diverse BooksWe Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization that is advocating for changes in the publishing industry. They are working to increase the number of diverse children’s books and books created by diverse authors and illustrators that are making it onto shelves. They are doing this by offering grants for minority writers and illustrators, publishing anthologies that showcase short stories written by diverse authors, and by offering mentorship programs that connect up-and-coming writers with experienced authors and illustrators.

We Need Diverse Books also provides numerous resources on their website for those interested in learning more about diversity in the world of literature. They moderate panels across the country discussing the importance of diverse children’s books and share videos of their panels online. They also curate a list of sites that provide diverse booklists, and, for those passionate about the lack of diverse books in children’s literature, they created a “Booktalking Kit” to help teachers and librarians talk up lesser-known books featuring diverse characters and topics to their students and patrons. Explore their site to learn more about their mission and how you can get involved in the pursuit of more diverse books.


Multicultural Childrens Book Day Multicultural Children’s Book Day

When bloggers, advocates, and children’s book enthusiasts Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen recognized a lack of diversity in children’s books, they created National Multicultural Children’s Book Day to raise awareness. The event, which first occurred on January 27th of 2014, works to celebrate great examples of diverse literature in the hopes of increasing the number of diverse books in libraries and schools around the country by raising money to donate books to classrooms in need.

While National Multicultural Children’s Book Day only happens once a year, their site provides resources to teach about multiculturalism 365 days a year. They provide booklists for young readers and kits for teachers that outline lessons teaching kids about showing empathy and kindness to one another. They also provide free books to educators and book reviewers to spread the word about literature featuring diverse themes and characters.

Reading While WhiteReading While White

The blog Reading While White was founded by a group of white librarians who organized to help confront racism in the field of children’s literature. The contributors to the blog hope to use their privilege to give a platform to minority authors, illustrators, librarians, and readers as well as educate themselves and others on the issues a mainly white world in children’s literature can create.

Through this blog, they have created a list of sources and videos discussing diversity in literature alongside their op-ed style blog posts discussing what they have witnessed within the library field. The blog also invites people of color who are authors or work in the library field to share their insight and educate the public on the problems people of color face today within children’s literature.

Today’s guest poster is Abby Sauer, a senior in studying Corporate Communications at Dominican University. Abby utilized the BCLC collections and resources for her Capstone project on diversity in picture books. Today’s post is the third and final in her series of Butler’s Pantry posts on the topic. Thanks, Abby!

Own Story Narratives: African American and Multiracial Authors Give Their Perspectives in 2019 Children’s Literature

In 2019, we hope to see an increase of stories told by diverse authors that offer their perspectives and speak to their experiences. From our current collection, here are four children’s books written and illustrated by African American and multiracial authors. These stories tell the tale of a mother’s love, recognize the persistence, bravery, and excellence of African American heroes, show the journey of finding your identity and your color in the world, and inspire readers with the story of a brave and talented African American women who blazed trails for others.


mommy medicineMy Mommy Medicine
Written by Edwidge Danticat
Illustrated by Shannon Wright
Macmillan, 2019

When our narrator, a young African American girl, wakes up feeling sick, gloomy, or sad, her mother gives her a good dose of “mommy medicine” to make her feel better. This medicine is always different from day to day. Sometimes, it’s a kiss on the cheek and a tight hug, or it’s her favorite squash soup, or a big, delicious mug of hot chocolate. Through fun games, a little magic and imagination, and lots of quality time with mom, our narrator starts to feel better. Mommy medicine can make her feel great even on the worst days!

Edwidge Danticat, the mother of two daughters, tells a beautiful tale of how love and comfort can heal. She speaks from her own experience taking care of her daughters, nieces, and nephews. While the story is about a mother and daughter, Edwidge feels that mommy medicine can come from anyone trying to make someone they love feel better.


undefeatedThe Undefeated
Written by Kwame Alexander
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019

In Kwame Alexander’s powerful poem turned children’s book, readers hear the stories of many African Americans who have done unbelievable things. They have overcome hurdles and stood strong in the face of unspeakable tragedy, coming out undefeated. Featuring athletes like Jesse Owens, Serena Williams, and Muhammad Ali, musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk, the activists of the civil rights movements, and many more, Alexander shines a light on many heroes that are too often left out of our history books. Recognizing the bravery of the slaves who fought for freedom and those who continue to fight for black lives today, Alexander writes a moving tribute to African Americans who remain undefeated.

Kwame Alexander is a New York Times best-selling author that often tells the stories of African Americans. He has won both a Newberry Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Award for his own story narratives. Alexander began writing the poem that inspired The Undefeated as a tribute to his daughters and as a response to the election of President Obama—he wanted to show the world how African American heroes paved the way to that historic moment.


honeysmokeHoneysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color
Written by Monique Fields
Illustrated by Yesenia Moises
Imprint Publishing, 2019

Simone, a multiracial child, wants to know what her color is. When she asks her mama if she is black or white, she says that color is just a word. But Simone wants her own word. When she asks her daddy, he says she’s a little bit of both. But Simone wants a color to call her own. In the world around her, Simone cannot find a color that matches her and reflects who she is inside and out. When thinking about colors, Simone notices that her mama reminds her of golden honey, and her daddy reminds her of white smoke. This makes her honeysmoke, a color all her own! Simone now sees her color in the world around her every day and is proud of her own skin.

Monique Fields, author, journalist, and mother of two daughters, is dedicated to helping multiracial children feel seen in the world of children’s literature. She is the founder of, a site with resources for parents raising multiracial children. She hopes that all children will see the beauty in their own color as Simone did!


brave ballerinaBrave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
Written by Michelle Meadows
Illustrated by Ebony Glenn
Henry Holt, 2019

This is the story of Janet Collins, an African American dancer full of grace, who dreamed of becoming a ballerina during segregation in the 1930s and 1940s. Collins worked hard and persisted, taking private lessons when dance classes would not accept her, and refusing to lighten her skin to blend in with other ballerinas, giving up her chance to dance with a ballet company. Janet never gave up on her dream. Her talent, grace, and bravery finally paid off when Janet got the chance to shine on stage as a Prima Ballerina in 1951.

Michelle Meadows, a childhood ballerina who fell in love with dance again in adulthood, crafts a lyrical tribute to Janet’s journey. Beautifully written and illustrated, Meadows and Glenn’s work sets out to inspire the next generation of persistent prima ballerinas and brave trailblazers.

Today’s guest poster is Abby Sauer, a senior in studying Corporate Communications at Dominican University. Abby utilized the BCLC collections and resources for her Capstone project on diversity in picture books. Keep an eye out for the rest of her series of Butler’s Pantry posts on the topic. Thanks, Abby!

Flashback Friday: Recognizing Diverse Children’s Literature of the Past Few Years

The shelves in the Butler Children’s Literature Center are quickly filling up with our 2019 collection, and there are many wonderful stories ready to be read. With all our new books finding their home on our shelves, we wanted to take the time to recognize some noteworthy tales from the recent past. Today, we are throwing it back a few years to 2017 to highlight three books that tell great multicultural stories. All three, which have been featured on Booklist’s Top 10 Diverse Picture Books from 2017, feature diverse characters and cultural themes, empowering children to learn more about other cultures and to be proud of their own.

estabanEsteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! Or Esteban de Luna, ¡Rescatador de Bebẻs!
By Larissa M. Mercado-López
Illustrated by Alex Pardo DeLange
Piñata Books, 2017

Dreaming of being a superhero, Esteban, a young Latino boy, wears his favorite green cape every day. There’s only one problem—his cape can’t do anything! Since Esteban’s cape does not give him any superpowers, he wants to give up both his cape and his dream. Until one day, when Esteban finds a lost baby doll in the park! Just as it’s begins to rain, Esteban scoops up the doll in his cape, protecting her from the storm. Esteban realizes that he does not need a power to be a hero, he is one all on his own!

Written in Spanish, with English translations on each page, Mercado-López tells an adorable story of bravery and confidence. Esteban’s character allows all children, particularly Latino kids like him, to feel like they can save the day and be a hero too!


nina simone

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist Nina Simone
Written by Alice Briẻre-Haquet
Illustrated by Bruno Liance
Charlesbridge, 2017

Narrated by jazz musician and activist Nina Simone herself, this book tells the story of Simone’s childhood, her love of music, and her work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nina Simone dreams of a world where people of all races can dance together, like the notes made by the black and white keys on a piano come together to make beautiful music. She talks about how her dream and Dr. King’s dream have to be taken care of and how we must accept one another.

Beautifully written and accompanied by stunning black and white illustrations, Briẻre-Haquet teaches young readers about the incredible Nina Simone’s work at the piano and in the civil rights movement. This book teaches children about the past and helps them be accepting enough to create a kinder future.


halmoniWhere’s Halmoni?
Written and illustrated by Julie Kim
Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch, 2017

Siblings Noona and Joon cannot seem to find their Halmoni, or grandmother, anywhere! When searching for her, they find a door to a mysterious world. Their search takes them on an incredible journey where they encounter hungry rabbits, clever trolls, a wily fox, and a cheating tiger (oh my!). Through teamwork, and a little help from their new friends, Noona and Joon are able to outsmart the tricky tiger and return home safe and sound to find Halmoni waiting for them.

Kim calls on her Korean culture in her debut book, using characters from Korean folk tales to inspire the group of magical friends Noona and Joon meet on their journey. Through these tales and the use of many Korean phrases that children can learn how to write and say in the tutorial provided at the end, young readers can learn more about a new culture or see their own cultural tales told with a new twist.

All three of these books are great examples of diverse children’s literature. They teach about different cultures and about history while representing and empowering children from different cultural backgrounds. They, and many more multicultural stories, will always have a place in our hearts and on our shelves.


Today’s guest poster is Abby Sauer, a senior in Dominican University’s Communication Studies program. Abby utilized the BCLC collections and resources for her Capstone project on diversity in picture books. Keep an eye out for the rest of her series of Butler’s Pantry posts on the topic. Thanks, Abby!

Where Diversity Lives

This week Mental Floss produced a video titled “47 Charming Facts About Children’s Books” hosted by one John Green, wherein the celebrated teen author shares interesting bits of trivia about a selection of iconic books for children and teens. And the video is undeniably charming. The facts themselves, an amalgam of sort of effervescent curiosities, delight with their bubbly humor. And John Green is himself the very embodiment of charm; his simultaneously off-hand and ingenuous relation of this bevy of “facts” is positively infectious. You can watch the video here.

corduroyAs charming as it is, though, this video is also white. Really white. Of the 47 books considered, exactly none of them is written or illustrated by a person of color. We do have Corduroy, by Don Freeman, which features an African American family (though the fact in question is about the stuffed bear). We have a translated book, in Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. But that’s about it. Perhaps there was a person of color among the stable of authors writing the Nancy Drew series under the Carolyn Keene pen name.

I find this lack of diversity troubling.

I hasten to say that John Green is one of the good guys. One of the best guys. He is warm and generous and an unfailing defender of broad, diverse reading. He is a brilliant writer and thinker. And he is single-handedly responsible for turning lots (and lots) of young people into young readers (I can’t point to a study that says this, but good luck convincing anybody in the know otherwise). Having been named one of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine it is no stretch to suggest that his voice is particularly resonant, and in my experience he employs that influence, overwhelmingly, speaking out for justice.

But perhaps that’s what gives me pause. There is a missed opportunity here. Most of these books are undeniably iconic, and I imagine that many of them resonate deeply with the video’s audience. The caption beneath the video proclaims “In this week’s episode of mental_floss on YouTube, John Green looks at the fascinating stories behind the books from your childhood.” I suppose one could make the argument that the list, being  a collection of historical titles, simply reflects the historical lack of diversity in publishing for children. But I’m not buying it.

For, whether or not the video intends to represent a broader swath of children’s literature, it does. Some among us see it, we chuckle and grin, we glow in the nostalgia of our childhoods, and our memories are troublingly homogeneous. Whenever a group of books stands as a sampling of the canon, that collection needs to represent the breadth therein. This video uses its own irresistible charms to reflect the profound charms of the books it considers. It reminds us how deeply the roots of our earliest reading experiences extend. Should not everyone be able to share in that kind of recollection?

Yes, we need diversity on the shelves in libraries and bookstores and in children’s bedrooms. But if we want to find diversity there, we need to sow it, wherever books are told.