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50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read

This list of must-have multicultural books was compiled by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

Preschool | Ages 5-7 | Ages 7-9 | Ages 9-12

 

Preschool

Yumi Heo.  One Afternoon

Minho and his mother have a busy afternoon doing errands in the neighborhood. 

Nelly Palacio Jaramillo.  Grandmother's Nursery Rhymes/ Las nanas

de abuelita   A collection of traditional South American nursery rhymes in both Spanish and English.

Lynn Reiser.  Margaret and Margarita/Margarita y Margaret

Margaret, who speaks only English, and Margarita, who speaks only Spanish, meet in the park and have fun playing together even though they have different languages.

John Steptoe.  Baby Says

A baby and big brother figure out how to get along.

Natasha Tarpley.  I Love My Hair!

A young African American girl describes the different, wonderful ways she can wear her hair.

Ata Te.  Baby Rattlesnake

Willful Baby Rattlesnake throws tantrums to get his rattle before he's ready, but he misuses it and learns a lesson.

Joyce Carol Thomas.  You Are My Perfect Baby

Rosanne Thong.  Round Is a Mooncake:  A Book of Shapes

As a little girl discovers things round, square, and rectangular in her urban neighborhood, she is reminded of her Chinese American culture.

George David Weiss and Bob Thiele.  What a Wonderful World

Children put on a puppet show, using the words to the song, "What a Wonderful World."

Bernelda Wheeler.  Where Did You Get Your Moccasins?

Vera B. Williams.  More, More, More, Said the Baby:  Three Love

Stories   Three babies are caught up in the air and given loving attention by a father, grandmother, and mother.

 

Charlotte Zolotow.  Do You Know What I'll Do?

A little girl delights her brother with a series of promises about all the wonderful things she'll do to make him happy as they both grow up.

Ages 5-7

Susan Braine.  Drumbeat... Heartbeat:  A Celebration of the

Powwow   In this unique series, Native American authors examine their cultural traditions, from Navajo rug weaving in the Southwest to wild rice gathering in northern Minnesota. Each book describes these customs as they are seen through the eyes of the participants and discusses how Native American people maintain their cultural identities in contemporary society.

Andrea Cheng.  Grandfather Counts

When her maternal grandfather comes from China, Helen, who is biracial, develops a special bond with him despite their age and language differences.

Sook Nyul Choi.  Halmoni and the Picnic

A Korean American girl's third grade class helps her newly arrived grandmother feel more comfortable with her new life in the United States.

Sandra Cisneros.  Hairs/Pelitos

A girl describes how each person in the family has hair that looks and acts different, Papa's like a broom, Kiki's like fur, and Mama's with the sweet smell of bread before it's baked.

Arthur Dorros.  Abuela

While riding on a bus with her grandmother, a little girl imagines that they are carried up into the sky and fly over the sights of New York City.

Eloise Greenfield.  Honey, I Love, and Other Poems

Each of these sixteen "love poems" is spoken straight from the heart of a child. Riding on a train, listening to music, playing with a friend...each poem elicits a new appreciation of the rich content of everyday life. And each poem is accompanied by a beautiful drawing, both portrait and panorama, that deepens the insights contained in the singing words.

Joy Jarjo.  The Good Luck Cat

Because her good luck cat Woogie has already used up eight of his nine lives in narrow escapes from disaster, a Native American girl worries when he disappears.

Rosemary Hausherr.  Celebrating Families

Presents brief descriptions of many different kinds of families, both traditional and non-traditional.

Patricia C. McKissack.  Mirandy and Brother Wind

To win first prize in the Junior Cakewalk, Mirandy tries to capture the wind for her partner.

Sandra L. Pinkney.  Shades of Black:  A Celebration of Our Children

Photographs and poetic text celebrate the beauty and diversity of African American children.

Jake Swamp.  Giving Thanks:  A Native American Good Morning

Message   The Mohawk tradition teaches children to start each day by giving thanks to Mother Earth, in keeping with the belief that the natural world is a precious and rare gift, and that the universe represents one great family. The inspirational message of this book and its unforgettable landscapes make it a timeless celebration of the beauty and spirit of the environment and the Native American people.

Jan Bourdeau Waboose.  Morning on the Lake

Ages 7-9

Alma Flor Ada.  My Name Is Maria Isabel

Third grader Maria Isabel, born in Puerto Rico and now living in the U.S., wants badly to fit in at school; and the teacher's writing assignment "My Greatest Wish" gives her that opportunity.

Francisco X. Alarcon.  From the Bellybutton of the Moon, and Other

Summer Poems / Del ombligo de la luna, y otros poemas de verano   A bilingual collection of poems in which the renowned Mexican American poet revisits and celebrates his childhood memories of summers, Mexico, and nature.

Lulu Delacre.  Golden Tales:  Myths, Legends and Folktales from

Latin America   For the first time, these 12 classic tales of Latin America bring literature, culture, and history together in one volume. Stunning full-color artwork celebrates the grace and beauty of 13 countries including Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia.

Virginia Hamilton.  The People Could Fly:  American Black Folktales

Retold Afro-American folktales of animals, fantasy, the supernatural, and desire for freedom, born of the sorrow of the slaves, but passed on in hope.

Minfong Ho.  Maples in the Mist:  Poems for Children from the Tang

Dynasty   A collection of short poems written over 1000 years ago by such poets of the Tang Dynasty as Li Po, Yin Luan, and Du Mu.

Julius Lester.  John Henry

Retells the life of the legendary African American hero who raced against a steam drill to cut through a mountain.

Ken Mochizuki.  Baseball Saved Us

A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II, and his ability to play helps him after the war is over.

Christopher Myers.  Wings

Ikarus Jackson, the new boy in school, is outcast because he has wings. But his resilient spirit inspires one girl to speak up for him in this thought provoking story about celebrating individuality.

Simon Ortiz.  The People Shall Continue

Traces the progress of the Indians of North America from the time of the Creation to the present.

Faith Ringgold.  Tar Beach

A young girl dreams of flying above her Harlem home, claiming all she sees for herself and her family. Based on the author's quilt painting of the same name.

Richard Van Camp.  What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know

about Horses?   On January's coldest day of the year in a small community in the Northwest Territories, a stranger to horses searches among family and friends for answers to an important question.

Mildred Pitts Walter.  Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World

Suffering in a family full of females, ten-year-old Justin feels that cleaning and keeping house are women's work until he spends time on his beloved grandfather's ranch.

Ages 9-12

Ruby Bridges.  Through My Eyes

Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the integration of her school in New Orleans in 1960.

Joseph Bruchac.  American Indian Animal Stories

Christopher Paul Curtis.  Bud, Not Buddy

Ten-year-old Bud, a motherless boy living in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression, escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father--the renowned bandleader, H.E. Calloway of Grand Rapids.

Louise Erdrich.  The Birchbark House

Omakayas, a seven-year-old Native American girl of the Ojibwa tribe, lives through the joys of summer and the perils of winter on an island in Lake Superior in 1847.

Sheila Hamanaka.  The Journey:  Japanese Americans, Racism and

Renewal   Text and photographed details of a mural depict the history of the Japanese people in America.

Casey King and Linda Barrett Osborne.  Oh, Freedom!  Kids Talk

About the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made It Happen   Interviews between young people and people who took part in the civil rights movement accompany essays that describe the history of efforts to make equality a reality for African Americans.

Carmen Lomas Garza.  Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia

The author describes, in bilingual text and illustrations, her experiences growing up in a Hispanic community in Texas.

Walter Dean Myers.  Now Is Your Time!  The African-American

Struggle for Freedom   A history of the African-American struggle for freedom and equality, beginning with the capture of Africans in 1619, continuing through the American Revolution, the Civil War, and into contemporary times.

Naomi Shihab Nye, ed.  The Tree Is Older Than You Are:  A Bilingual

Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings from Mexican Artists  Sixty four Mexican writers & artists are featured in this anthology within these 102 poem & story selections. You will find works by Paz, Morelos, Castellanos as well as many other well-known Mexican authors. The works are presented in the original Spanish & translated on the following page.

Pam Munoz Ryan.  Esperanza Rising

Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

Yale Strom.  Quilted Landscape:  Conversations with Young

Immigrants   Twenty-six young people of different ages and nationalities describe their experience of leaving their countries and immigrating to the the United States.

Mildred D. Taylor.  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

A black family living in Mississippi during the Depression of the 1930s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which its children do not understand.

Laurence Yep.  The Rainbow People

A collection of twenty Chinese folk tales that were passed on by word of mouth for generations, as told by some oldtimers newly settled in the United States.

Kazumi Yumoto.  The Friends

Curious about death, three sixth-grade boys decide to spy on an old man waiting for him to die, but they end up becoming his friends.