Books that celebrate diversity for 2nd graders
by: Mary Hoffman, illustrated by: Caroline Binche - (Penguin Young Readers Group, 1991) 32 pages.
Grace loves stories and play-acting. So when she learns that her class will put on the play, Peter Pan, she’s thrilled. Grace is determined to win the lead role. But her classmates inform her that she can’t play Peter Pan because she’s a girl and she’s black. With encouragement from her family, she practices all weekend, aces the audition, and gets the part.
Perfect for: Kids who like to challenge the odds.
Find Amazing Grace at your local library.
Bippity Bop Barbershop
by: Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by: E. B. Lewis - (Little, Brown, 2002) 32 pages.
It’s Miles’ first trip to the barbershop! Though Daddy makes the day special, Miles’ initial excitement turns to terror: he’s scared of the sharp scissors and buzzing razor. Luckily, Miles’ dad, the barber, and the nice men at the shop help Miles be brave — and realize that getting his hair cut isn’t such a big deal.
Perfect for: A must for any child who’s afraid of getting a hair cut.
Find Bippity Bop Barbershop at your local library.
by: Misty Copeland, illustrated by: Christopher Myers - (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2014) 40 pages.
Misty Copeland, principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater, shares her struggle growing up as an African American ballerina — and overcoming obstacles to earn her first starring role as the Firebird. In this story, a young girl who dreams of dancing questions her ability to succeed. Misty encourages her to have faith in herself and shows her that through hard work and dedication she, too, can become the Firebird.
Perfect for: Budding ballerinas and ballet dancers.
Find Firebird at your local library.
by: Jane Bahk, illustrated by: Felicia Hoshino - (Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2015) 32 pages.
Juna and her best friend, Hector go on adventures and collect the treasures they find in an empty kimchi jar. One day, Hector moves away without getting the chance to say goodbye, leaving Juna sad and lonely. With the support of her older brother, Juna finds comfort in her special jar, which she dives into at night to go on adventures in search of Hector. As Juna swims the depths of the ocean and swoops over the city, she gets the chance to mourn her missing friend and make new friends. Young readers will love the chance to help Juna in her search, as there is a secret tribute to Hector hidden on every page. A moving look at friendship and loss.
Perfect for: Any child who misses a friend.
Find Juna’s Jar at your local library.
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen
by: Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton - (Lee & Low Books, 2014) 40 pages.
Kameeka is sure today will be the day she becomes the Hula-Hoopin’ Queen of 139th Street. However, it also happens to be the same day her neighbor Miz Adeline is having her birthday party. With hoopin’ on the mind, Kameeka accidentally ruins the cake her mother is making for the party. Later that evening, Kameeka must explain to Miz Adeline why there’s no cake. To Kameeka’s surprise, Miz Adeline picks up a hula hoop, demonstrating that she’s the true Hula Hoopin’ Queen of 139th Street.
Perfect for: Spunky kids in hot pursuit of a goal — any goal.
Find The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen at your local library.
Nino Wrestles the World
by: Yuyi Morales - (Roaring Brook Press, 2013) 36 pages.
Niño is an energetic little boy who dons underpants and a bright red lucha libre mask to fight his imaginary competitors. Little ones learn a cultural lesson about lucha libre by reading title cards, nonsensical action words like Fwap, and some basic Spanish vocabulary, too.
Perfect for: Little boys who dream big.
Find Nino Wrestles the World at your local library.
Friends from the Other Side
by: Gloria Anzaldúa, illustrated by: Consuelo Méndez - (Children's Book Press, 1993) 32 pages.
“Did you come from the other side? You know, from Mexico?” Prietita asks Joaquín. The lives of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants living in Texas are depicted in an authentic, honest, and moving way as seen through the eyes of two children. The unique, mixed media illustrations from Méndez add yet another dimension.
Perfect for: Kids with family or friends who’ve moved to the U.S. from Mexico.
Find Friends from the Other Side at your local library.
I Love Saturdays y domingos
by: Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by: Elivia Savadier - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002) 32 pages.
A young girl tells about the Saturdays she spends with her white grandparents and Sundays spent with her Mexican-American abuelitos.
Perfect for: Kids with multicultural families and traditions.
Find I Love Saturdays y domingos at your local library.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
by: Hena Khan, illustrated by: Mehrdokht Amini - (Chronicle Books, 2015) 32 pages.
Through radiant illustrations and simple text, this book provides a down-to-earth explanation of Islam. Each illustration is a combination of different hues of a single color. “Blue is the hijab mom likes to wear. It’s a scarf she uses to cover her hair,” it reads on a picture showing a little girl and her mom walking along a store-lined street, where a dog plays and another woman is not wearing a headscarf. Through these verses, children learn about prayer rugs, mosques, Ramadan, the Quran, and even a special type of painting. “Orange is the color of my henna designs. They cover my hands in leafy vines.”
Perfect for: A lovely, non-judgmental introduction to Islam.
Find Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors at your local library.
Mango, Abuela, and Me
by: Meg Medina, illustrated by: Angela Dominguez - (Candlewick, 2015) 32 pages.
Family ties and determination overcome language barriers when Mia’s grandmother, Abuela, comes to live with her family from far away. Mia is eager to learn about her grandfather, Abuelo, and hear stories about the wild parrots in Abuela’s homeland. She also wants Abuela to read to her at bedtime. But Abuela doesn’t understand English, and Mia’s Spanish isn’t very good. Word by word, they teach each other. “Dough,” says Mia when they’re making meat pies for snack. “Masa” responds Abuela. They learn even faster after Mia and her mother buy un loro (a parrot) to make Abuela feel more at home. They name the bird Mango “because his wings are green, orange, and gold like the fruit.” Abuela teaches Mango to say words in Spanish and Mia repeats them in English. They practice new words every day until one night Abuela reads Mia’s favorite book to her “with only a little help” and tells her stories about Abuelo and their old house.
Perfect for: Children living with parents and grandparents whose first language isn’t English.
Find Mango, Abuela, and Me at your local library.
by: Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by: Eric Velasquez - (Holiday House, 2016) 32 pages.
Ella Mae’s getting her first pair of new shoes! But her excitement quickly turns into disappointment and humiliation when she’s not permitted to try on any shoes in Mr. Johnson’s store because of her skin color. Instead, her mother has to trace Ella Mae’s feet on paper and Mr. Johnson selects her shoes. Set in the south during the time of state-enforced segregation, known as Jim Crow laws, this book and its bold illustrations bring readers into the daily lives of African Americans in the 1960s, as they were subjected to demeaning second-class citizen status. But the story also inspires. When Ella Mae tells her cousin Charlotte what happened, Charlotte says: “That’s happened to me.” Ella Mae and Charlotte devise a plan to assure dignity for African Americans. They collect and restore old shoes and set up a store of their own in the barn where “anyone who walks in the door can try on all the shoes they want.”
Perfect for: Teaching young children about a difficult and ugly period in U.S. history while also inspiring them not to accept discrimination.
Find New Shoes at your local library.
Lola Levine is Not Mean!
by: Monica Brown, illustrated by: Angela Dominguez - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015) 96 pages.
This first book in a new series of chapter books follows Lola Levine, a high energy, biracial, and bicultural second grader, who is very comfortable in her own skin. Her artist father is Jewish and her journalist mother is Catholic and grew up in Peru. Lola likes having a tía (aunt) on one side and a bubbe (grandma) on the other. She also loves playing soccer and writing, especially funny notes. Lola is super-competitive and only has one good friend, a boy named Josh. Things get worse when she accidentally hurts a classmate playing soccer at recess. That’s when everyone starts calling her “Mean Lola Levine.” Josh stands up for her and yells: “Lola Levine is a … soccer queen!” With help from Josh, her parents, and her principal, Lola learns to be a better team player and friend.
Perfect for: Strong second grade readers who’ll appreciate a strong female lead.
Find Lola Levine is Not Mean! at your local library.
Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
by: Alan Schroeder, illustrated by: Jerry Pinkney - (Penguin Putnam, 1996) 40 pages.
Everyone has heard of Harriet Tubman, who courageously helped sneak slaves out of the south to free states in the north using the Underground Railroad. But not much is known about Araminta, or Minty for short, which is Tubman’s real name. This account of her life growing up as a slave herself is based on real facts but tells a fictional story of what the young Minty might have been like and how her childhood and parents shaped her adult life as a renowned humanitarian. “Whenever she was working in the fields, Minty kept looking for a way to escape… ‘I know what you’re thinkin’, Amanda whispered. ‘I can see it in your eyes. You’re fixin’ to run away, but they’ll catch you – and when they do…’ She pointed to a deep scar on her forehead. ‘Believe me, honey, I’ve tried it an it ain’t worth it. Uh-uh.’”
Perfect for: Teaching children about slavery without the gruesome details.
Find Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman at your local library.
Rosie’s Family: An Adoption Story
by: Lori Rosove, illustrated by: Heather Burrill - (Asia Press, 2001) 32 pages.
A playful beagle puppy named Rosie, adopted by a family of schnauzers, narrates this story that gently yet openly discusses the subjects of adoption and inter-racial adoption. “You may be wondering why I look different from my family. It’s because I was adopted,” Rosie explains under an illustration of a family portrait with her new mom, dad, and brother Joey. The book doesn’t shy away from the difficult emotions shared by many adopted children. Rosie feels loved, but sometimes she gets angry or sad when looking through a special book from her birth family. She also has questions, which her adoptive parents answer honestly. “Are you my real parents?” “What were my birth parents like?” “Where did I live before?” and “Do I really belong in my family?” Her new mom sums up the message at the heart of this story for adopted children: “Families are the people who will love you and take care of you no matter where you came from.”
Perfect for: Adoptive parents to read to their children, and teachers to read if there’s an adopted child in their class.
Find Rosie’s Family: An Adoption Story at your local library.