Books that celebrate diversity for kindergartners
And Tango Makes Three
by: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by: Henry Cole - (Little Simon, 2005) 32 pages.
This true story about two penguins at the Central Park Zoo asks — and answers — the question: What makes a family? Like every other penguin couple, Roy and Silo did everything together. “They bowed to each other. And walked together. They sang to each. And swam together.” The only difference was that Roy and Silo were both boy penguins. Still, when the other penguins built nests and sat on their eggs, Roy and Silo did the same thing, using a rock instead of an egg. An observant zookeeper gave them an egg that needed to be cared for. When it hatched, they named the baby Tango, “because it takes two to make a tango.” Together, the charming illustrations and warmhearted story explain a sensitive issue (without too much information) in a way that young kids can understand.
Perfect for: Everyone of any age.
Find And Tango Makes Three at your local library.
Chik Chak Shabbat
by: Mara Rockliff, illustrated by: Kyrsten Brooker - (Candlewick Press, 2014) 32 pages.
Food is both a universal language and a unique cultural trait in this story of Goldie Simcha’s famous cholent, a traditional Jewish stew. Every week, Goldie makes cholent and lets it simmer from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, which is when Jews celebrate the Sabbath. When it’s ready, all the residents in her multicultural apartment building come to dinner. There’s Tommy Santiago, Signora Bellagalli, Mr. Moon, and the Omar family. One week, when Goldie is too ill too cook, her neighbors first consider making the stew themselves, but realize it can’t be prepared chik chak, which means in a hurry. Instead, they bring their favorite traditional foods to the table for a feast of many lands. Cheerful illustrations and a cholent recipe make this a delicious book.
Perfect for: Kids learning the joys of multiculturalism and being a good neighbor.
Find Chik Chak Shabbat at your local library.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings
by: Tanya Simon and Richard Simon, illustrated by: Mark Siegel - (Roaring Brook, 2015) 40 pages.
A young Jewish boy named Oskar arrives in New York City on Christmas Eve in 1938, which is also the last night of Hanukkah that year. Oskar’s parents have sent him to live with his aunt in America to escape the rise of the Nazis in Europe. Before putting him on the ship, Oskar’s father tells him, “even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” All alone during his 100-block walk to his aunt’s home, Oskar’s finds eight blessings, representing each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, in the kindness of strangers: a piece of bread, mittens, a first-edition Superman comic, even a song whistled by Count Basie himself. The illustrations are as mesmerizing and enchanting as the story itself.
Perfect for: Introducing children to the idea of looking for the blessings all around us.
Find Oskar and the Eight Blessings at your local library.
This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration
by: Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by: James E. Ransome - (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013) 32 pages.
In the tradition of African American storytelling, young Beatrice (living in modern-day Brooklyn) narrates the tale of her family’s journey north during the Great Migration in the early 1900s. “This is the rope that my grandmother found beneath an old tree a long time ago back home in South Carolina.” They used it to tie suitcases on the car when they left the South, then as a clothesline in their new house. Beatrice’s mother used it as a jump rope; Beatrice’s father used it to teach her how to tie a sailor’s knot. The rope is a metaphor for strength, flexibility, and the tie that binds families through generations.
Perfect for: Helping kids connect their present to their family’s past.
Find This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration at your local library.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina
by: Monica Brown; translated by Adriana Dominguez, illustrated by: Sara Palacios - (Children’s Book Press, 2011) 32 pages.
Marisol’s cousin wonders why her hair is the “color of carrots” even though her skin “is brown like mine.” Marisol corrects him: “Actually, my hair is the color of fire.” Her words and actions match her independent, self-confident personality — but nothing else about Marisol matches. She loves peanut butter and burrito sandwiches, wears green polka dots and purple stripes at the same time, and speaks Spanish and English. (The book is written in both languages). When a classmate challenges Marisol to match, she dresses in one color and brings a regular PB&J sandwich for lunch, but everything feels wrong that day. When she tells her teacher why she’s feeling down, Ms. Apple writes her a note: “I like you just the way you are, because the Marisol McDonald that I know is a creative, unique, bilingual, Peruvian, Scottish, American soccer playing artist and simply marvelous.” Marisol skips all the way home.
Perfect for: Multiracial children and their friends and cousins.
Find Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina at your local library.
Two White Rabbits
by: Jairo Buitrago; translated by Elisa Amado, illustrated by: Rafael Yockteng - (Groundwood Books, 2015) 32 pages.
In this poignant story, a young girl shares the story of traveling with her father to the U.S. for a better life. They travel by foot, on top of boxcars, or sometimes by car when someone gives them a ride. The journey is long and sometimes scary. They stop along the way so her father can work to raise more money to keep going. The girl doesn’t know where they’re going or when they’ll arrive. Neither does her father. The girl keeps herself busy by counting things they pass: “Five cows, four hens and one chucho, as my dad calls them.” A chucho, literally a street dog, in this case refers to a coyote, a person paid to sneak people across the border. Gripping illustrations convey a subtext that shows the strain and uncertainty of the journey.
Perfect for: Any child who’s asked about immigrants or immigration.
Find Two White Rabbits at your local library.
Yoko Writes Her Name
by: Rosemary Wells - (Hyperion Books for Children, 2008) 32 pages.
When Yoko writes her name on the first day of school, she proudly writes in Japanese. But her classmates call her writing scribble. “She won’t graduate from kindergarten!” they tell each other gleefully. At first, Yoko is hurt and doesn’t want to go back to school. But in the end, her classmates realize they have a lot to learn, and that Yoko can help them. Readers will get a lesson on tolerance. Plus, the book has common words on the corner of each page in English and Japanese.
Perfect for: Kids learning how to make friends and get along with others in school.
Find Yoko Writes Her Name at your local library.
by: Gary Soto, illustrated by: Susan Guevara - (Puffin Books, 1997) 32 pages.
This funny satire of the personalities and feuds in East Los Angeles features a cool cat named Chato who can’t believe his luck when a delicious-looking family of mice moves in next door. Chato hopes to trick them into becoming his next meal by inviting them over for dinner. He’s the one surprised, though, when the mice arrive with a family friend from their old neighborhood, who just happens to be a dog. The book is peppered with Spanish words. The illustrations are amusing, broadly drawn send-ups of the characters.
Perfect for: Inner-city children living in lively neighborhoods.
Find Chato’s Kitchen at your local library.
On Mother’s Lap
by: Ann Herbert Scott, illustrated by: Glo Coalson - (Clarion Books, 1972) 32 pages.
Michael loves sitting in his mother’s lap. But now that he has a baby sister, he worries that there won’t be enough room for him. Charming illustrations show Michael rocking with his mother — and jumping up to gather his toy boat, his cozy doll, his blanket, and his puppy to bring them onto the rocking chair, too. When his sister begins to cry, Michael learns that his mother’s lap, like her love, is big enough for all of them. This contemporary Inuit family illustrates the important truth that moms have room to love all their children.
Perfect for: All new big brothers and sisters.
Find On Mother’s Lap at your local library.
Hanukkah in Alaska
by: Barbara Brown, illustrated by: Stacey Schuett - (Henry Holt and Co., 2013) 32 pages.
Here are two things that you don’t normally put together: Hanukkah and Alaska. This lovely read offers a pleasant mix of information about the state and the holiday. A nameless young narrator discovers a moose in her backyard — camped out right by her favorite swing. Afraid he’s going to destroy her swing, she finds problem — solving inspiration from her family’s Hanukkah menorah — and proceeds to lure the moose out of her backyard using light.
Perfect for: Outdoorsy kids interested in big animals.
Find Hanukkah in Alaska at your local library.
Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart
by: Pat Mora, illustrated by: Raul Colón - (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005) 40 pages.
Doña Flor is a giant woman — and she seems all the bigger because she lives in a tiny village amongst tiny villagers. At first, Doña Flor is teased because of her size. But as she steadfastly treats everyone with kindness — reading to the children and allowing the townspeople to use her homemade tortillas as roofs — her benevolence wins the villagers over. And when the villagers believe they are in danger, it’s Doña Flor to the rescue! Winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, this folkloric tale comes with the added bonus of exposing young readers to Spanish.
Perfect for: Young readers who might be insecure about their size — big or small!
Find Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart at your local library.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
by: LeUyen Pham - (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2014) 40 pages.
A rendition of the well-known Christmas song with an educational twist: the story focuses on the different varieties of hens, lords a-leaping from Georgia, and maids a-milking from all corners of the world. In addition to the book’s seasonal giving theme, there’s bonus information on the song’s history — and sheet music in the back.
Perfect for: Young singers who know this song backward and forward.
Find The Twelve Days of Christmas at your local library.
Welcome To My Neighborhood! A Barrio ABC
by: Quiara Alegria Hudes, illustrated by: Shino Arihara - (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010) 32 pages.
This is a colorful, bilingual alphabet book set in a Philadelphia barrio.
Perfect for: A fresh take on the ABCs with both English and Spanish words.
Find Welcome to My Neighborhood! A Barrio ABC at your local library.