Children’s Books with Characters of Color

Books with Characters of ColorGrowing up, how many books did you read as a child that had a person of color as the main character?  It feels good to see a character that you can identify with.  If you’re white, it might not even cross your mind since the norm is to read books with a white main character. I even looked up what are the top books of all time and can you guess how many of the 100 on the list were authored by a black person?  Hardly any.

My mother was very intentional about including books with characters of color in my collection and I am the same way with Mariya and Margaux.  Everybody should be intentional whether or not you are a Black American.  If it makes you feel uncomfortable, do you think that non-white families have books by white people?  We probably do!

I think children’s books are a great start to introducing children (and their parents) to other cultures.  I’m so thankful for my friend Allegra Laing who helped Margaux get started with her collection and a few others who also contributed.  These are perfect gift ideas.

*Cynamon Monique may receive a small commission at no cost to readers for purchases made through links on this website.

Books We Own:

Children of GodChildren of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Creating the first truly global Bible for children of all nationalities, Desmond Tutu retells more than fifty of his most beloved Bible stories, artfully highlighting God’s desire for people of every color and every background to love one another and to find peace and forgiveness in their hearts.


ColorFull by Dorena WilliamsonColorFull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us by Dorena Williamson

Imani and Kayla are the best of friends who are learning to celebrate their different skin colors. As they look around them at the amazing colors in nature, they can see that their skin is another example of God’s creativity! This joyful story takes a new approach to discussing race: instead of being colorblind, we can choose to celebrate each color God gave us and be colorFULL instead.

Deep Sea Dive by Salina YoonDeep Sea Dive by Salina Yoon

This exciting interactive board book lets kids explore the underwater world and learn about deep-sea creatures. They’ll meet a host of animals, from sharks and octopuses to puffer fish and sea turtles. By lifting the flap, children will reveal a close-up glimpse of each animal–and discover fun facts set in rhyming verse.

Dreamers by Yuyi MoralesDreamers by Yuyi Morales

Dreamers is a celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. It’s the story of finding your way in a new place, of navigating an unfamiliar world and finding the best parts of it. In dark times, it’s a promise that you can make better tomorrows.


Girl of Mine by Jabari AsimGirl of Mine by Jabari Asim (there is also Boy of Mine by the same author)

This companion book to Boy of Mine shows a dazzling little girl enjoying playtime in the moon’s soft glow. As daddy cradles his baby girl, she is suddenly whisked away on a fantastical adventure, swinging above lush floral gardens under the golden moonlight. The sweet text, inspired by “Rock-A-Bye Baby,” will whisk little ones off to peaceful slumber.

Happy Hair by Mechal Renee RoeHappy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe (there is also Cool Cuts by the same author)

Girls will love seeing strong, happy reflections of themselves in this vibrant, rhythmic picture book celebrating the diversity of beautiful black hair. From a cute crop to pom-pom puffs, adorable illustrations of girls with gorgeous braids, blowouts, and bantus grace each page, side by side with a call-and-response affirmation that will make girls cheer. It’s a great read-aloud to promote self-esteem for girls of all ages, building and growing the foundation of self-love (and hair love!) and letting every girl know “You are made beautiful!”

Homemade Love by Bell HooksHomemade Love by Bell Hooks

Her Mama calls her Girlpie-a sweet treat, homemade with love. And when Girlpie makes a mistake, the love of her mother and father lets her pick up the pieces and make everything right again. Shane W. Evan’s resplendent artwork teems with “homemade love,” one of the tender nicknames award-winning author Bell Hooks gives her young heroine.

I Wish Tonight by Lois RockI Wish Tonight by Lois Rock

A little boy pulls the covers up under his chin–and at that, trees grow up at the foot of his bed, his quilt becomes a sail, and a soaring dream of a book sweeps forward. In lilting rhythmic language, that moves in step with buoyant, swaying images, the dream furnishes the child–and all readers of this book–with hope for mending and healing and cooperating. The bed boat arrives at a picnic where a blazing tree offers its gifts to all the children attending. And there the story makes its surprising turn. Perhaps inspired by the tree, which generously offered its amazing toys and fruits within arms’ reach, the children hunt down adults and share their bounty with them. Free of do-good words and pictures, I Wish Tonight opens minds and hearts. A wistful child dares to imagine cooperative gardening, restored friendships, revived cities–always enveloped in fun and adventure. The book’s language is that of a child. Its collages are of sun-powered colors. The dream it stirs is both mystical and temptingly near.

Joshua by the Sea by Angela JohnsonJoshua by the Sea by Angela Johnson

Joshua goes to the shore with his family.  There is a serene, understated quality to the gentle watercolors and spare text featuring a young African-American boy as he explores his world with his loving family always nearby.


Joshuas Night Whispers by Angela JohnsonJoshua’s Night Whispers by Angela Johnson

Gentle watercolors and spare text are hallmarks of this series about a young African-American boy and his loving, watchful family.  Joshua and his father listen to the night sounds.



Of Thee I Sing by Barack ObamaOf Thee I Sing by Barack Obama

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.


Peekaboo Morning by Rachel IsadoraPeekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora

Isadora’s brilliant, joyful pastel illustrations capture the familiar and cozy people, toys and animals that will delight babies.



Riley Can Be Anything by Davina HamiltonRiley Can be Anything by Davina Hamilton

The inspiring rhyming story follows Riley as he discovers some of the wonderful things he can do when he grows up. With the help of his big cousin Joe, Riley is taken on a series of imaginative journeys that allow him to realise he can be anything he wants to be.


Say Hello! by Rachel IsadoraSay Hello! By Rachel Isadora

Carmelita loves to greet everyone in her colorful neighborhood. There are people from so many different cultures! They all like to say hello too, so now Carmelita can say hello in Spanish, English, French, Japanese, and many other languages. And her dog, Manny? Well, he seems to understand everyone, and gives a happy “Woof!” wherever he goes.

The Message in the Mirror by Katrina DeniseThe Message in the Mirror by Katrina Denise

Aria is a smart, talented and pretty young girl who struggles with bullying and low self esteem. Since she only believes that other people are pretty or popular, she constantly seeks validation of her worth. That is until one day when something happens that helps her realize the Message in the Mirror; a message that was there all along.


When God Made You by Matthew Paul TurnerWhen God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.


Whose Knees Are These by Jabari AsimWhose Knees are These? By Jabari Asim

Parents and children will enjoy this interactive board book full of toddler appeal that is perfect for celebrating a baby’s adorable knees.



Woke Baby by Mahogany L. BrowneWoke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne

This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. With bright playful art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscrapper is more blue.



Books We Have Borrowed from the Library:

Ariba by Masha ManapouAriba: An Old Tale About New Shoes by Masha Manapou

Marcus’ joy over his new pair of shoes reminds his grandfather of an old story about a boy named Ariba who has the most unusual relationship with an extraordinary pair of shoes. Because no matter how many times Ariba tries to get rid of his shoes, they always seem to find their way back to him. After all, why would shoes caked, baked and layered with stories ever want to find a new owner? For in life, just as we claim a few precious things as our own, there are also those rare things that claim us.

Bye-Bye Binky by Maria van LieshoutBye-Bye Binky by Maria van Lieshout

Every child’s life is filled with milestones. Some happen easily; others need a little extra support. Artist and mom Maria van Lieshout has been there. Drawing upon her own experiences, she has created an engaging series of books that are just right for children on the brink of major changes and the caregivers who encourage them.

Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder NaberhausBlue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus

Wonderfully spare, deceptively simple verses pair with richly evocative paintings to celebrate the iconic imagery of our nation, beginning with the American flag. Each spread, sumptuously illustrated by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson, depicts a stirring tableau, from the view of the Statue of Library at Ellis Island to civil rights marchers shoulder to shoulder, to a spacecraft at Cape Canaveral blasting off. This book is an ode to America then and now, from sea to shining sea.

Cinnamon by Neil GaimanCinnamon by Neil Gaiman

A talking tiger is the only one who may be able to get a princess to speak in this beautiful picture book set in a mythic India by the Newbery Medal-winning and New York Times bestselling author of American Gods and Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman, and illustrated in bold colors by Divya Srinivasan.



Dear Primo by Duncan TonatiuhDear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh

From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Charlie takes the subway to school; Carlitos rides his bike. Charlie plays in fallen leaves; Carlitos plays among the local cacti. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart. Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children.

Hair Its a Family Affair by Mylo FreemanHair, It’s a Family Affair by Mylo Freeman

A celebration of natural hair, through the vibrant and varied hairstyles found in a single family. With Mylo Freeman’s trademark colourful illustrations, this delightful book will show young black children the joys that can be found through their natural hair.


I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo BrownI Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown

In this empowering ode to modern families, a boy and his father take a joyful walk through the city, discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other.




Lorettas Gift by Pat Zietlow Miller and Alea MarleyLoretta’s Gift by Pat Zietlow Miller and Alea Marley

Loretta and her parents are so excited that Aunt Esme and Uncle Jax are having a baby! When Gabe arrives, Loretta thinks he is the best baby on the block! Everyone showers him with gifts, but Loretta doesn’t know what to give. Can she think of the perfect gift for her baby cousin?

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole DoyonMagnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon

Told by a succession of exuberant young narrators, Magnificent Homespun Brown is a story — a song, a poem, a celebration — about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin.


Mayanitos New FriendsMayanito’s New Friends by Tato Laviera

From his perch high up on a mountaintop, a young Mayan prince watched as raindrops formed in the clouds below him. Suddenly, within each drop, there was a child! The raindrop children landed gently on the ground and Mayanito raced down the mountainside to play with them. They were from Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica and other countries in the Americas, but as the sun warmed the land, they evaporated and turned into flowers!

Miras Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca LucianiMira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani

Mira doesn’t like her hair. It curls at the front. It curls at the back. It curls everywhere! She wants it to be straight and smooth, just like her Mama’s. But then something unpredictable happens . . . and Mira will never look at her mama’s hair the same way again! A delightful celebration of natural hair and the courage it takes to be yourself.

Pippas Night Parade by Lisa RobinsonPippa’s Night Parade by Lisa Robinson

Pippa’s wonderfully wild imagination is perfect for dreaming up wildly adorable creations. But at night, her imagination runs a little too wild. That’s when the villains and monsters and beasts sneak out of her storybooks to scare her. Pippa tries everything: from night-lights to triple knots to clever disguises. But when the baddies keep coming, she realizes she’ll need to come up with something new. To prepare for this battle, Pippa will have to use everything she’s got—especially that wild imagination. Ready or not, here she comes!

Radiant Child by Javaka SteptoeRadiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

sonia sotomayor by Alison OliverSonia Sotomayor by Alison Oliver

Celebrate Sonia Sotomayor’s most motivational and powerful moments, with quotes from the Supreme Court Justice and vibrant illustrations by Alison Olivier.




The First Step by Susan E GoodmanThe First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman

In 1847, an African American girl named Sarah Roberts attended school in Boston. One day she was told she could never come back. She didn’t belong. The Otis School was for white children only.  The Roberts family fought this injustice and made history. Roberts v. City of Boston was the first case challenging our legal system to outlaw segregated schools. Sometimes even losing is a victory. They lost their case but Sarah’s cause was won when people, black and white, stood together and said, No more. Now, right now, it is time for change!

The Watcher by Nikki GrimesThe Watcher by Nikki Grimes

Jordan lives in fear of Tanya, the class bully. But Tanya has worries of her own, no matter how much she tries to ignore them. It seems impossible that Jordan and Tanya could be anything other than enemies, but the Lord is watching over them, guiding each of them along a path that might just help them to understand one another.

Thread of Love by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha SehgalThread of Love by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal

It’s time for the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan, the celebration of the special lifelong relationship shared by brothers and sisters everywhere. Join two sisters as they lovingly make rakhi—thread bracelets adorned with beads, sequins, sparkles, and tassels—for their brother. And then see their brother present them with toys and sweets and special gifts!

Ticktock Bannekers ClockTicktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller

Throughout his life, Benjamin Banneker was known and admired for his work in science, mathematics, and astronomy, just to name a few pursuits. But even when he was born in Maryland in 1731, he was already an extraordinary person for that time period. He was born free at a time in America when most African Americans were slaves. Though he only briefly attended school and was largely self-taught, at a young age Benjamin displayed a keen aptitude for mathematics and science. Inspired by a pocket watch he had seen, at the age of 22 he built a strike clock based on his own drawings and using a pocket-knife. This picture book biography focuses on one episode in a remarkable life.


Here is a list of books we hope to one day get.

What books do you own that you like?  Do you have any that are already on the list here?

Children's Books with Characters of Color by Cynamon Monique

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