The holidays are finally upon us, and 'tis the season to be jolly — the only problem is, people seem to be a little short on merriment these days. For the last year, we've all been overwhelmed with negativity, hatred, bigotry, prejudice, and all of those things that should land people at the top of the naughty list, but with a little faith and the help of diverse children's books to countdown the holiday, you can change that and find the true spirit of the season. It's the perfect time of year to share the beautiful message of love, kindness, and acceptance, a message we all need to hear.
In many households around the country, December is the official countdown to Christmas. Every night, there's a different family holiday movie to watch or a bedtime story about Santa to read, and every morning, there's a new flap to unfold on the calendar until finally, the most magical day of the year is here: Christmas. But this year, instead of counting down in all the usual ways, make each day really matter by sharing stories of the wonderful diversity that makes up our world. From picture books about immigration to LGBTQ YA-love stories, there are so many beautiful and diverse tales of love, kindness, and acceptance with unique messages perfect for the holidays.
Want to get into the right kind of holiday spirit? Here are 25 diverse children's books for kids of all ages to help you countdown the days of the season.
1. Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian
Share the message that love comes in all forms this holiday season with debut author J.J. Austrian's Worm Loves Worm. A delightful picture book about the wedding day of two special worms, this LGBTQ-friendly story proves that it doesn't matter who loves who, it just matters that there is love to begin with.
2. Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
Not many picture books use slave auction and plantation estate documents as source material, but there, there is no other picture book like Ashley Bryan's Freedom Over Me. This powerful and poignant children's book explores what it was like to be a slave on the outside, from the monetary value each person was assigned to plantation work they were forced to do their whole lives, while uncovering what it was like to be a slave on the inside, from the dreams they had to the love they had for one another. A visually stunning book, Freedom Over Me is an important story to share with the whole family.
3. Refuge by Anne Booth
Both seasonal and timely, Anne Booth's Refuge follows the plight of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus while they look for shelter in an unknown world. The story of what happens after the famed family leaves the manger, Refuge tackles themes of displacement, immigration, and what it means to find a home. A touching tale, it's the perfect story to share at Christmas time.
4. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
From the 2016 Newbery Medal to the inclusion on the New York Times Book Review's Notable Children's book list, this multi-award winning picture book deserves all the praise and accolades it's received since its publication in 2015. A touching story about a young boy and his grandma's bus ride across town, Last Stop on Market Street tackles issues of class, race, and inequality in a thoughtful and meaningful way adults can appreciate and children can understand.
5. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
In Duncan Tonatiuh's unique and original story, a young rabbit named Pancho heads out on the road north in search of his papa, who had left two years earlier in search of work for his whole family. When he meets a coyote, Pancho believes he's found a friend to help, but it doesn't take long for the coyote's true motives to come forward. A touching allegory about the hardships facing so many families today, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote is an important story to share with kids in every kind of family.
6. A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts
Starting over in a new place — one where you don't look the same way or speak the same language as everyone else — can be hard at every age. Jeri Watts's A Piece of Home explores those difficulties in a kid-friendly story about a young boy, Hee Jun, and his family's move from Korea to West Virginia. Lovely and lyrical, this is a family story readers of every age will enjoy.
7. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie
From National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie comes a heartwarming story about the relationship between a father and son. Thunder Boy Jr. follows a little boy and his dad as they search for the perfect name for him. A wonderful tale about Native American family, culture, and traditions, this picture book is as fun as it is uplifting.
8. Call Me Tree: Llámame árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez
In Maya Christina Gonzalez's lyrical, bilingual children's book, children learn all about discovering who they truly are. A sweet story of belonging, and one that doesn't bother with gender identity, Call Me Tree: Llámame árbol is a fun and educational read for every unique little child out there.
9. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
From the creator of childhood classics Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer comes another empowering story about a young girl who can accomplish big things. In Ada Twist, Scientist, the titular character is a curious young black girl whose passion for science drives everything she does. A fun rhyming book one of the coolest protagonists picture books have to offer, everyone in the family will love seeing what mischief Ada's experiments leads her to next.
10. Square Zair Pair by Christine Knopp and Jase Peeples
Teach children to embrace their differences this holiday season with the help of Square Zair Pair, a fun picture book about love and acceptance. In this bright and colorful rhyming book, there are two kinds of Zairs: the round ones and the square ones, and when they couple up, the pairs are always one of each. That is, until two square Zairs decide to be together, forcing the rest of their fellow creatures to see things a little differently. An adorable story with an important message, Square Zair Pair is a tongue-twister you'll want to share.
11. This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
In this timely picture book, actress and bestselling children's book author Jamie Lee Curtis tackles the issue of immigration and belonging with the help of beautiful illustrations and fun rhymes. When a teacher tells her class about her great-grandmother's immigration to a new country, she gets the children to think about what they would have brought with them on a similar journey, pushing them to ask the question, "Who am I?" The perfect book for helping kids understand the realities of so many people today, This Is Me couldn't have come at a better time.
12. It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Being the new kid on the block is always hard, but things get extra difficult when your name is Zomorod Yousefzadeh during the 1970s, when your new home of the United States is at odds with your home country, Iran. It Ain't So Awful is Zomorod's story as she tries to fit in to a place that constantly tries to reject her for who she truly is. Funny and inspiring, this book will strike a chord with every kind of kid.
13. Booked by Kwame Alexander
In the follow up to his critically acclaimed, Newbery Award-winning novel The Crossover, author and poet Kwame Alexander brings young readers the story of 12-year old Nick, a young boy who works through his problems at home through his new discovery of the power of words.
14. The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly
In this heartbreaking middle grade novel, two sisters learn how to live on their own in Louisiana after moving from the Philippines and being abandoned by their father. An uplifting story about love and perseverance, The Land of Forgotten Girls spreads the beautiful message of finding home, just in time for the holidays.
15. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
A uniquely diverse story that is often left untold, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook chronicles the life and times of a young boy, Perry, who spent his whole life in prison alongside his beloved mother. That is, until secrets are uncovered that force Perry out of the protective walls of the penitentiary and into the foster care system. A beautifully written work starring unforgettable characters, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is an unexpected and diverse tale well worth reading.
16. As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
In this uplifting middle grade novel about brotherhood, Jason Reynold weaves a tale about Genie, the younger boy, learning from his big brother as they leave their home town of Brooklyn for the first time. An inspiring tale about family and diversity, As Brave As You spreads just the kind of message you want during the holidays: hope.
17. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
In Daniel José Older's breakthrough YA novel Shadowshaper, a young Afro-Latina girl finds her world turned upside down when she discovers she's a shadowshaper — which gives her the power to channel spirits into works of art, words, and music. Luckily, she has just the right group of inspiring friends to help her survive the attacks on her community... and her fellow shadowshapers.
18. Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
When Tara gets to private school she doesn't expect to fit in — but she doesn't necessarily expect to stand out as much as she does, either. To make matters worse, a future planet sends information to earth, making Tara — a POC — question everything she knows.
19. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
In Outrun the Moon, author Stacy Lee recreates 1906 San Francisco, when the coast was rough and immigrants were mere laborers. For protagonist Mercy Wong, this year means breaking away from poverty and changing her family's story, once and for all — a dream many modern teens can relate too.
20. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Nothing is ever black and white, especially your feelings. In Adam Silvera's groundbreaking YA novel More Happy Than Not, that concept of mixed emotions is tackled head-on and with raw honesty. A near-future story about friendship, romance, family, and loss, this is a diverse must-read for young adults.
21. Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
In this LGBTQ love story, two best friends explore their feelings for one another in a world that doesn't always accept them for who they are. Honest and familiar, Been Here All Along is a romantic tale of friendship, heartache, and growing up teens everywhere can relate to.
22. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
When you put family above all else, how far are you willing to take that belief? In Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, Joanna's resolve is tested when she meets the girl of her dreams and has to decide whether or not to break the promise she made to her dad to keep her sexuality hidden in their new home town. An original YA novel that explores identity, sexuality, and the dedication we feel towards family, this is a sweet and thoughtful novel young readers will appreciate.
23. Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz
In this standout YA novel, author Melissa de la Cruz explores what it is like to be the daughter of two illegal immigrants through the perspective on one incredible protagonist, Jasmine. On the cusp of going to college and realizing her dreams, Jasmine finds out her parents are in danger of being deported, and her entire life falls out from under her. Instead of cashing in on a full scholarship to the school of her dreams, Jasmine finds herself fighting to protect what matters most: her family. A complex story that many young readers can relate to, Something in Between is an ultimately hopeful message to share this holiday.
24. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
In this beautifully diverse book, two kids from different backgrounds meet on the streets on New York city and fall in love, just twelve hours before one of their families is going to be deported to Jamaica. Gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, and utterly breathtaking, this unique love story will have teens swooning.
25. Girls Like Me by Lola StVil
Diversity isn't just about race or gender or sexuality — it's about sharing every kind of story, including those about different body types. In Girls Like Me, author Lola StVil shares the message that every body deserves love through the story of 15-year-old Shay Summers, an overweight teen grieving the death of her father while fending off threats from a school bully who falls for a mysterious boy online. Modern and unique, its a touching story about romance and finding out where you belong.
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