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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

“Casual Diversity” and the children’s book

A friend of mine turned new mom had an interesting request the other day.  She’d been talking with her friends and they decided that what they’d really like would be a list of children’s books in which diversity is just a part of everyday life.  To illustrate her point she called this “casual diversity”, a term I’d hitherto been unfamiliar with.  The phrase is typically used to describe pop culture but I think it applies well enough to children’s books.  It’s something we strive to find in a lot of our books for kids, but actively seeking it out isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Since this particular group of moms was looking for younger titles I had to wrack my brain to come up with ideas.  It should NOT be this hard.  I worked up a short list but I’d love it if other folks could offer up suggestions of their own.  We’re just looking for books where diversity is integrated into the storyline without a hitch.  Put another way, these are books where the point of the story isn’t diversity, but just a natural outgrowth of it.  The hardest thing to find?  Casual diversity involving handicapped characters.  I think they exist for the older readers, but not so much with picture books unless they’re part of group shots.  Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:

Board Books

  • My Aunt Came Back by Pat Cummings
  • Daddy, Papa, and Me by Leslea Newman ; illustrated by Carol Thompson
  • Mommy, mama, and me by Leslea Newman ; illustrated by Carol Thompson.

Toddler Picture Books

  • Maria had a little llama = María tenía una llamita by Angela Dominguez
  • Monday is one day by Arthur A. Levine ; illustrated by Julian Hector
  • Nino wrestles the world by Yuyi Morales

Preschooler Picture Books

  • Oh no!, or, How my science project destroyed the world by Mac Barnett ; illustrated by Dan Santat
  • Jimmy the greatest! by Jairo Buitrago ; pictures by Rafael Yockteng
  • The chicken-chasing queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington ; pictures by Shelley Jackson
  • Big red lollipop by Rukhsana Khan ; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
  • Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle by Pija Lindenbaum
  • Freckleface Strawberry : best friends forever by Julianne Moore ; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
  • Mom, it’s my first day of kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum

For this age level, what would you add?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. A few with casual diversity that come to mind from our home library:

    Eric Carle’s HAVE YOU SEEN MY CAT
    Paul Fleischman’s THE DUNDERHEADS
    Ezra Jack Keat’s THE SNOWY DAY

  2. Now I’ll be thinking about this all day:

    Here are some recent ones, and I do NOT mean to be all blog-pushy by including links here, but there’s art in these links (always fun to see). Also, I can’t help it; my instincts are to go to my site and click through the last year, so I’m just going to paste links here.

    From last year:

    Lots of “casual diversity” in this beautiful new book: (okay, that’s actually from THIS year).

    Jonathan Bean’s Big Snow: (and, of course, The Snowy Day).

    The Very Inappropriate Word:

    The Girl Who Heard Colors:

    Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom:

    Rain! —

    Tiger in My Soup —

    Phoebe and Digger —

    The Lulu books, though these are chapter books —

    This is not about skin color, but good to see a character in a wheelchair where it’s a not a Huge Issue or Huge Plot Point:

  3. That’s a tough one for me, Betsy. Who is asking for such books? I’m not sure what “natural outgrowth” means… Does it mean that the race of the characters doesn’t matter? That it could be anybody? That instead of the African American characters in Pat Cummings book, it could be Native ones? Somehow, it reminds me of the impetus for US government boarding schools for Native people, where the driving idea was to “kill the Indian and save the man.”

    Is “casual diversity” seeing color but not talking about it?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Interesting questions. I think “casual diversity” is the term to use in opposition of “intentional diversity” where the focus or crux of the book is on race. There is NOTHING wrong with a book where race is first and foremost the issue at hand. But when I’m reading a picture book to my kid (and note that I’m talking on the younger scale here today – older books are a different issue and one that deserves a blog post of their very own) I get a little nauseated when I encounter crowd scenes where everyone is white. For example, “The Bear’s Song” by Benjamin Chaud shows a bear and his cub running through the streets and opera house of Paris where every last human being pictured (and there are a lot) are white. It’s set in France, a lovely country but one where I’m fairly certain everyone is NOT white. So I want books where the world is reflected. To have characters running through places where everyone looks like me – that’s not realistic (unless it’s specifically set somewhere like that, in which case that’s would be the point of the book in and of itself).

      In fact, I’d argue that in cases of “casual diversity” it isn’t that race doesn’t matter but that it matters so much that it’s understood to be a part of everyday life. The beautiful board book “Cradle Me” by Debby Slier would count for me, because it’s a book about babies and expressions and, at the same time, it features children from different native tribes. You could NOT replace those babies with other races, but by the same token the book isn’t making the storyline entirely about the fact that they are American Indian. Northwest Coast Native Art’s ABC and 123 books (which I’ve only ever been able to get in Canada) would count as well. But find me a counting book where one of the kids is in a wheelchair or another book where a kid is Arab-American. Very hard to do.

      I guess my point is, we need books that reflect the reality of America today. And they exist but there’s no great term for them. I don’t actually much care for “casual diversity” but until someone comes up with a better one I’ll stick with it.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      “Somehow, it reminds me of the impetus for US government boarding schools for Native people, where the driving idea was to ‘kill the Indian and save the man’.”

      Just wanted to highlight that statement because I think it does reflect the dark side of this, and the danger we have to avoid. Interchangeable race – now there’s a thorny subject. It’s like the “black best friend” on television shows. A hat tip to diversity without ever really committing to the bit. And I think when any author or illustrator makes a book for kids, it’s something to bear in mind. Why are you doing what you’re doing? If a character is Latino, is there a reason for it or are you just slotting in Race A when Race B or C or D would do? Hm.

      • I think you make some very valid points here and I too like the concept of casual diversity while agreeing that the terminology doesn’t feel quite right. Not that I have anything better to suggest. I do think about the use of colour-blind casting in theatre terms…if it is not integral to the story that the character be black, white or chinese then maybe it can be left to the director/illustrator to decide. Is this then gratuitous or is it, as you say, trying to reflect the reality of the world around us?

  4. Great topic! After painfully realizing it was all white people in my first two books things changed.

    Books by Melanie Hope Greenberg

    Books I’ve illustrated
    IT’S MY EARTH, TOO by Kathleen Krull
    GOOD MORNING, DIGGER by Ann Rockwell
    DOWN IN THE SUBWAY by Miriam Cohen
    ON MY STREET by Eve Merriam

  5. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (and probably the rest of the series as well, I just don’t have them at home).

    Marla Frazee– all the books about babies, Roller Coaster, etc. Her diverse and colorful worlds make me so happy. All kinds of people do have babies, and all kinds of people do ride roller coasters and have fun on them.

    My Truck is Stuck and Chugga Chugga Choo Choo for the little kids.

    I think it’s a great question, and to me it doesn’t reflect any kind of sinister agenda.

  6. While the term “casual diversity” is new to me, I’ve been keeping a list of picture books that fit this bill. They’re too few and far between–and most of those I’ve found are older rather than recent:

    The Snowy Day & others by Ezra Jack Keats
    Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
    Corduroy by Don Freeman
    Ten, Nine, Eight and All Of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang
    I Can Do It, Too by Karen Baicker
    Snow on Snow on Snow by Cheryl Chapman
    Do Like Kyla and others by Angela Johnson
    Lola Loves Stories and others by Anna McQuinn
    Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield
    In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming
    My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown
    The Rain Stomper by Addie Boswell

    I’m excited to see others’ comments and hope to find many more.

  7. Thanks for the article Betsy. I myself am a 2nd generation Indian-American (parents from India). Growing up all I wanted is for my classmates to see me like one of them instead of as the only Indian girl in class. The picture book stories I am writing today show that minority characters have the same concerns & issues as their Caucasian counterparts. It is just the details that are slightly different.

  8. This is something I think about a lot! I work in a public library where most of the patrons are African-American or Latino, and I seek out titles for our collection that represent people of color.
    (Note: I also did so when I worked with patrons who were not primarily people of color.) There are a LOT of (wonderful!) picture books about people of color that are serious, sometimes sad, in tone, and the picture books that circ best in my library are cheerful, funny ones. So I make a special effort to find cheerful funny picture books that depict children who are people of color. Sometimes those books talk about race specifically, sometimes the focus lies elsewhere; sometimes it’s some of each.

    I work on bibliographies for my library system, and here’s my mockup of our most recent preschool list. When we make a bibliography, we request copies of all the titles we’re considering so we can physically look at the books and make sure the ones we’re choosing represent children of a variety of races. There are several on here that I think would fit what you’re looking for:

    I read your description of “casual diversity” as something like the Cheerios commercial with the multiracial family ( The commercial did not talk about race, it talked about whether Cheerios are heart healthy, and the fact that one parent in the family was white, the other was black, and their daughter was biracial was seen but not spoken. I think that commercial was so controversial partly because race *wasn’t* talked about–the story we were given was first that this family loves each other and pour Cheerios on each other while they sleep, second that they are of different racial backgrounds. Is that close?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yep. This ties in for my desire for racially diverse goofy books too. We have a LOT of very earnest books for kids about race. We need these. They’re important. By the same token, we need books with goofy, funny, amusing, relatable characters from a variety of different races. I want books kids would willingly pick up on their own! Give me more Sassy by Sharon Draper. More Alvin Ho by Lenore Look. More Zapato Power by Jacqueline Jules and more Gumazing Gum Girl by Rhode Montijo.

      • Oh, yes please. Sad to say it, but I weed an awful, awful lot of earnest books about race. Goofy books? Can’t keep ’em on the shelves.
        And you reminded me to request Gumazing Gum Girl!

      • Thanks for mentioning my work, Betsy. I’ve never heard of this term until now and I’m not sure it works either, but regrettably I don’t have a better one to suggest. There’s nothing “casual” about having not-white characters focus on adventures, mischief, humor and the ordinariness of childhood, without much reference to their race. When I started writing my Ruby Lu and Alvin Ho series, I wanted my protagonists to be Chinese Americans like myself, and like myself as a child — I didn’t think much about race. I think children are like that. They don’t go through the day saying, I’m Malaysian or Indian or Nigerian or Irish. Instead, they think about how they’re going to outsmart the bully or survive square dancing without touching the girl, or how to get more candy. As a child, I don’t know if I would have picked up an “ernest book about race,” or found it interesting to read more than one book about a character whose sole purpose was to teach me about racial identity. But I would have really liked reading about a character who looked like me and had a family like mine, and got busted for the same crimes I committed. This would have validated me on so many levels, so that’s what I try to give my readers. It’s an effort to universalize diversity, I guess — to have all readers identify with not-white experiences. Universalized diversity, is that too much of a mouthful?

      • Well, let’s not forget that Alvin Ho plays Indian. That is NOT ok, even if it reflects a particular kids reality. My review, with scans of the playing Indian pages is here:

      • In 1982, Rudine Sims Bishop’s SHADOW AND SUBSTANCE was published. In it she came up with three categories for depictions of African Americans. In Appendix A of their THE HEART HAS ITS REASONS (2006) Cart and Jenkins point to categories Sims Bishop came up with in her analysis of books about African Americans. She labeled the older bks (1965 to 1979) as “social conscience” books. In those, race is the problem, and desegregation is the solution. The second category is “melting pot” books. They depict diversity as part of what someone earlier in the discussion called “the real world” but in such books, race was generally unacknowledged and integration was a given. The third category is “culturally conscious” in which African Americans are depicted authentically. I’m sharing this because it is ground that has been well-trod by scholars who study children’s literature.

      • Thanks, Betsy for mentioning Zapato Power. Casual diversity in children’s books is essential. It presents the balance needed. When every plot line in books featuring a child from a multicultural background revolves around that child’s race, then being multicultural is shown only as a problem, not a simple fact of a person’s existence. Children should see their lives and circumstances depicted as normal. That means economically as well as culturally. We don’t all live comfortable middle class lives. Children’s books should acknowledge this and show that children from all backgrounds and economic circumstances can have happy, interesting lives. And since you said you’d like to see more Zapato Power, I am delighted to share that Zapato Power #5: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow will be released March 1, 2014.

  9. Also, I don’t know if Brian Biggs intends her to be, but to me Brownie of the “Brownie and Pearl” books reads as Latina.
    I love Brownie and Pearl.

  10. Oh! I’m also hoping for more Lottie Paris books. Kids at my library love Lottie Paris.
    These would be fantastic as an early reader series.

  11. An older title, but a favorite of many and still in print: The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill. Obviously for an older (middle grade) child, but they do grow up quick, might as well start the list now 😉

  12. As a parent in a transracial family, this issue really hits home for me. I am constantly searching for books like this – not because I don’t think race is important to discuss and talk about, but because sometimes you just want a book on brushing your teeth or potty training where everyone isn’t so completely white (still searching on those topics, BTW). I write about multicultural titles at my blog, Sprout’s Bookshelf, and seek out these types of books for my son every day. Here’s a few recent suggestions:

    Lottie Paris books by Angela Johnson
    Feast for 10, Butterflies for Kiri and other books by Cathryn Falwell
    The Lola and Leo books by Anna McQuinn
    Sing Along Song by JoAnn Early Macken
    The Little, Little Girl with the Big, Big Voice by Kirsten Balouch
    Oscar’s Half Birthday and others by Bob Graham (love him!)
    All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon
    12 Days of Christmas and other titles by Rachel Isadora (retellings of classics, set in Africa)
    Shopping with Dad by Matt Harvey
    Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox (my son’s favorite for a looong time)
    Whose Knees are These and Whose Toes are Those by Jabari Asim
    Pat-a-Cake and All Fall Down by Mary Brigid Barrett
    Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! by Wynton Marsalis
    Drum City by Thea Guidone
    New Red Bike by James Ransome
    Big Snow by Jonathan Bean

    I could go on and on, but my main point is that as parents, librarians, teachers, we need to vote with our dollars and our checkouts. By choosing diverse titles, we reinforce to the powers that be that there’s a demand for this kind of literature, a real need for ALL our kids to see the world reflected as something other than completely white.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Another topic where you can’t find a family that isn’t white? Death of a pet. Apparently the pets of people of color never die.

    • I second Sing Along Song by JoAnn Early Macken. I love that book! The musical refrain and beautiful illustrations never fail to put a smile on my face.

    • Jennifer Mentzer says:

      Although it’s an 8 by 8, I bought “Show Me Your Smile” by Christine Ricci for my last library as a good dentist book. It’s a bonus that it features Dora, who is a Latino character that my almost completely-white town would check out. Unfortunately, many of our titles featuring families of other cultures or races simply would not circulate.

  13. I love this blog post! I just came across a unique site called Unite For Literacy and I think many of their books could be “causal diversity”

  14. I was just in my picture book section, thinking about this! In our house, we’re big fans of “Girl of Mine”, by Jabari Asim.

  15. You know, I was talking about casual diversity the other day with my husband. We were watching classic Sesame Street and I commented how when I was a kid it was the first time I’d watched a show where diversity was simply part of the cast.

    I’ll have to brainstorm some books for this . . .

  16. Hi Betsy,

    How about selected titles from Marimba Books? or Just Us Books? (

    I’m not sure I like the term “casual diversity” when applied to the books that we publish but all of them show cultural diversity and natural interactions between African American children and children of other backgrounds. By the same token, our books demonstrate cultural specificity (i.e. Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, illustrated by George Ford). The story lines could apply to any child (Annie’s Gifts by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich deals with sibling rivarly of sorts); (Jamal’s Busy Day by Wade Hudson, illustrated by George Ford deals with a child’s busy day at school and compares that situation with his parents’ work day)

    Puddin’ Jeffrey and Leah, Best Friends (board book by Wade Hudson, illustrated by Nancy Devard.

    Picture Books include:
    Clothes I Love to Wear by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Laura Freeman
    Places I Love to Go by Wade Hudson, illustrated by Laura Freeman

    Aloha for Carol Ann by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by Priscilla Burris
    Conrad Saves Pinger Park by Carvin Winans, illustrated by Leslie Harrington

    From Where I Stand by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Nancy Devard

    There are lots more. Please let me know if you think they fit the description and the need. I’d be curious about your friend’s response.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yeah, I’m not thrilled about the term myself. I’m open to a better one. Any suggestions?

      • Zoobean uses the term “incidental ethnicity”, which I really love.

      • Elizabeth Bird says:

        That could work, but there is a danger of it sounding like those with ethnic backgrounds are “incidental” in some way. But we’re getting closer, that’s for sure.

  17. I absolutely agree it’s important to have books that feature people of color, and diverse family structures too, but I’ll also agree I’m not a fan of the term “casual diversity.” Honestly it still takes a lot of intentionality on the part of writers, publishers, and gatekeepers to publish and publicize books that seamlessly incorporate diversity in their casts. I’d rather call it: books that reflect the real world.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      “Real World Books” is good. I could go with that.

      • I’m kind of a fan of not coming up with terms for books like this, although I agree that it gets awkward to write it all out every time. I say “books with characters who are people of color,” “books with protagonists who are African American,” etc. A catch phrase to describe what you’re talking about is going to be hard to come up with because you’re not just talking about one thing when it comes to diversity–you basically mean “characters who are not white/straight/able bodied.” That’s so broad that I’d make an argument for avoiding a phrase and just describing what we’re looking for.
        (But yeah–I get wanting to come up with something easy and quick to type.)

      • Elizabeth Bird says:

        Well yes. I like to not have a term either. I’d just like there to be so many books out there of kids of all sorts (would “Kids of All Sorts” count as a phrase?) that even having this discussion is moot. But until that happy day arrives . . .

  18. I love Lottie Paris, when I am going on a first outreach I like to use Lottie Paris as my “library” book, it makes me all warm and fuzzy.

  19. Far from a picture book expert but two I happened to pick up at the library that both my 20 month old and I enjoy are:

    Rain by Linda Ashman, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
    What’s Up Bear? by Frieda Wishinsky , illustrated by Sean L. Moore

  20. I find myself frequently combing through our collection looking for books that show more diversity that I can use for story time. Here are some more good choices:

    Lottie Paris and the Best Place by Angela Johnson (I know Lottie Paris has been mentioned on here already, but I love this particular one because it’s about the library!)
    Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
    Please Puppy Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
    Hop, Hop, Jump! by Lauren Thompson
    Leon & Bob by Simon James
    Oh No, Gotta Go! by Susan Middleton Elya
    Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina

  21. These books have non-Caucasian characters in the forefront, but a particular race is never the crux of the story.

    “The New Girl” — Jacqui Robbins writes about a new girl in class.
    “Stevie” — John Steptoe writes about the impact on a child of a younger boy left in the care of his parents.
    “Tippy Lemmey” — Patricia C. McKissack details the adventures of children and a neighbor’s dog.
    “Each Kindness” — Jacqueline Woodson writes about the importance of a smal child’s choices.
    “Goal!” — Mina Javaherbin shows the importance of sports to a group of children.
    “Knock Knock, My Dad’s Dream For Me” — Daniel Beaty focuses on the impact of a father’s absence.
    “Bird” — Zetta Elliott deals with a drug addicted family member and a young boy.
    “The Big Wet Balloon” — Liniers details the exploits of two children on a rainy day.

    I hope these titles are helpful. Thank you for such an interesting post.

  22. Sorry if some of the titles I suggested — “Stevie” and “Bird” for example — are for children who are older than your target.

  23. Elizabeth Bluemle’s ongoing catalog at Good Reads is a fabulous resource:

    She already has several 2014 titles included.

  24. I’ve never heard the term “casual diversity” but I definitely understand what your friend is going for – books featuring diverse characters that aren’t about race (and, while it’s not ideal, casual diversity does seem to be the most compact way of getting at that). To me, this is a natural extension of the need for more diverse books: not only are young readers of color entitled to see themselves in books, but they are entitled to see themselves in *fun* books as well as serious ones.

    On that note, a few of my favorite Lee & Low titles that fit the bill:
    No Mush Today by Sally Derby
    How Far Do You Love Me? by Lulu Delacre
    Bein’ With You This Way by W. Nikola Lisa
    My Colors, My World board book by Maya Christina Gonzalez
    Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell

    For several years, bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle (I think?) has also been keeping a list on LibraryThing of children’s books featuring characters of color in which race is not the focus of the plot, but I can’t for the life of me find the link. Does anyone know where it is?

  25. Hey Betsy – I’m looking forward to talking more about this topic with you during tomorrow night’s Experts on Air! 🙂 Also wanted to point you to a post I wrote about this a while back. As Mary K. noted, we use the term “incidental ethnicity,” which captures it for us. This is an old post, but it is something we think about often in our household and business. Thank you for writing on the topic. Also, have you already seen the new Toni Morrison book coming out, “Please, Louise”? That is another lovely book in this category.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      You betcha, Jordan! I’m definitely going to have fun during our talk. We can hammer out some of these points! And thanks for mentioning the Morrison book.

  26. …and now I see that the link I was looking for is in the comment directly above mine. Aha! If only tracking down old posts on the internet were always that easy.

  27. Summer Jackson Grows Up! by Teresa Harris ( preK-k) sparkly picture book featuring African American girl.

    Something else to note how many books that come to mind are still in print and available outside of a library or if you’re in a library can you replace. My Aunt Came Back which I like a lot isn’t available from Barnes & Noble.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yep, I believe it’s out of print. Rips my heart out of my chest every time I think about it.

  28. I used to write nonfiction early readers (Pebble Books) for Capstone Press, and they always made a point of inclusiveness/diversity (gender as well as ethnicity and physical ability) in the photographs for their books. About a year ago, a teacher sent me a picture of a child holding up a picture in a book called “The Dairy Group”–big smile on her face because the child looked so much like her. It matters.

  29. Uh-Oh, I See and I Touch by Rachel Isadora
    Lola Loves the Library (and the sequels) by Anna McQuinn

    These come to mind right off – but I agree with you, I have rarely found picture books depicting anyone with a disability as a part of the crowd or the story unless the story is specifically about a disability. We need these – and we definitely need some picture books showing BOTH at the same time!

  30. Don’t forget A Chair for my Mother and More More More said the Baby – both by Vera Williams. As an adoptive mom, I especially love the white grandmother and the brown grandchild in More More More.

    • I just noticed a book being published in March called Lenny Goes to Nursery School with a little boy of color and a white mother.

    • ChrisinNY says:

      I second More, More, More Said the Baby. Like the interracial families too.

  31. Great post! A “starting kindergarten” book we like is “Keisha Ann Can,” by Daniel Kirk–I like how the character has an identifiably African-American name (and appearance), but the story is universal. And in the “classics” column, Corduroy’s human friend is also African-American.

  32. Well, I skimmed over most of this because I am on the same mind as Betsy Bird, I am always championing diversity in our kids books. My family is diverse, my work environment is diverse and so is the world. I was stunned that Bear Song was white, white white. Such a disappointment. Also stunned that Journey appeared to show only white faces. Yes the carpet ride seen probably had people of color on the groundr…but could just one of them looked up?
    Recently found myself trying to find a potty training book with kids of color. I think Even Firemen use the Potty worked but there must be more. Okay that’s my contribution to this discussion. ~ jane

  33. Ones and Twos by Marthe Jocelyn
    Where Do You Look by Marthe Jocelyn
    Blackout by John Rocco
    The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang
    Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman
    Astronaut Handbook by Meghan McCarthy
    The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Jester, Illustrated by Chris Raschka
    Redwoods by Jason Chin

  34. Jeanne Birdsall says:

    Doesn’t The Hello, Goodbye Window count? And it won a Caldecott!

  35. Hi, I’ve co-founded a collective in the UK of people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s books. We believe in breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes to ensure that every child can access and enjoy great books that are representative of our diverse society. Every child should be able to find him or herself in books, so mainstream books need to represent every child. We tend to use the term ‘incidental inclusion’ to promote the casual inclusion of characters who just happen to be disabled, from an ‘alternative’ family set-up, or an ethnicity other than white.

    I used to work for Child’s Play (International) Ltd (who have a US office). The majority of their books include a diverse range of characters. They have a dedicated leaflet which describes who is represented in each book which you can request from head office, as there are just too many to list here.

    Inclusive Minds is also building up the book reviews section of the website, so keep an eye on this for more suggestions.

  36. Inherent diversity?

  37. Everyday Diversity.

    Thanks, everyone, for sharing all of these titles!

  38. Here’s a list from the Center for Inclusion in Early Childhood, of books including kids and adults with disabilities.

    Sounds like these fit your criteria:
    Dad and Me in the Morning, by Patricia Lakin (deaf boy and father explore the beach at dawn)
    Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher (toddler rides in wheelchair-using mother’s lap and imagines he’s a pilot, astronaut, captain, etc.)
    Friends in the Park by Rochelle Burnett (children of mixed abilities play at a park)

    • Also, look at books on this list:
      A, B, C for You and Me (Meg Girnis) – multicultural kids, most with Down Syndrome, each illustrating a different letter of the alphabet.
      I Can, Can You? (Marjorie Pitzer) – board book with babies with Downs playing pattycake, taking baths, at the playground, etc.

        Brian’s Bird – Brian, who is blind (and African-American), gets a parakeet for his birthday, but his older brother leaves the door open and they have to find him.

        We Can Do It! (Laura Dwight) – children with different physical disabilities saying things they like to do (play with dollhouse, play with wheelchair in the sand, etc.)

        the Russ series by Janet Elizabeth Rickert – Russ, who has Down’s, in a series of picture books about things like visiting the firehouse, finding money someone lost, etc.

      • Genevieve-Thank you for mentioning Marjorie Pitzer’s book. She had another great board book out this past year I LIKE BERRIES, DO YOU? These have been a hit in storytimes!

  39. One more:

    Seal Surfer (Michael Foreman)
    A boy becomes friends with a seal after he sees it born. The text does not mention it, but the boy uses crutches or a wheelchair. He also surfs.

    • Genevieve says:

      Found this from a list by Blackwell’s bookstore:
      Max the Champion: “Max is mad about sport. As he gets up, has breakfast and heads off to school he is dreaming of competing in world class sporting events. In his real day he and his class win the school football match, and in his imagination he and his friends are winning the World Cup. This is a lively and fun approach to sport, and a very inclusive picture book showing disabled children and children without disabilities mixing and enjoying different sports in a natural way. The sports include football, rugby, athletics, cricket, diving, discus throwing, cycling plus at least one US sport, probably baseball.”

      “However, as you follow him on his adventures, you might well also notice a few visual references to disability and inclusion. If readers look closely, woven into the natural landscape of the book, they can see all sorts of tiny inclusive details – a hearing aid, tactile paving, Makaton images in the classroom, a child with cherubism, someone with an oxygen tube and much more. These are aspects of disability which are rarely (if ever) seen amongst the pages of children’s books.”

      Also, “Just Because” by Rebecca Elliott – the fact of Toby’s sister Clemmie’s profound disability is stated (he says that she can’t move around much, talk, make macaroni, or do algebra), but the focus of the story is their imaginative games today.

  40. What about the picture book Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Tarpley and illustrated by E.B. Lewis?

  41. Joseph Miller says:

    I’d lean toward “intrinsic diversity” over “casual diversity” b/c writers/illustrators should be aiming for a diversity that is natural and essential to the story and not forced or pasted on.

  42. Maybe “natural diversity”? That’s what it is, right — the way the world actually is — normally, naturally full of kids of all sorts. 🙂

  43. Ruth Guerrier-Pierre says:

    “Please Baby Please” by Spike and Tonya Lee ( J PIC L)

  44. Ruth Guerrier-Pierre says:

    “Uh Oh!” by Rachel Isadora

  45. Ruth Guerrier-Pierre says:

    “Jazz Baby” by Lisa Wheeler

  46. Neville by Norton Juster has an excellent neighborhood of all kinds of kids

  47. Amy, thanks for mentioning my Katie Woo title, “Goodbye to Goldie” as an “inclusive” book. All of the 30 Katie Woo titles are. My “Tushy Book” also has all kinds of people, as does “The Belly Book.”

  48. Ken Wilson-Max has a series of books about a biracial boy named Lenny that is for young children.

  49. Genevieve says:

    Chris Raschka’s “Yo! Yes?” is a good one for your list.
    Marla Frazee’s Everywhere Babies is my go-to shower gift for several reasons, including inclusivity.
    Helen Oxenbury board books are very inclusive too (Tickle Tickle, Clap Hands, Say Goodnight, etc.).

  50. I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn

  51. Genevieve says:

    Sorry to keep posting – I keep thinking of different searches and finding more books with “real world diversity” with kids with disabilities.
    “Gym Day Winner” (Grace Maccarone), a Hello Reader book, where the class includes a girl in a wheelchair who is part of the games of tag and basketball.
    “Big Brother Dustin” (Alden Carter) Dustin, who has Down’s, takes sibling classes and thinks about baby names for his soon-to-be-born sister.
    “Are We There Yet” and “Boots for a Bridesmaid” by Verna Wilkins, each with a parent with a disability (story about dad taking daughters for a day out, and and girl who doesn’t want to be in a wedding).

  52. Since we just talked about “diverse” (not a term I like, but perhaps this discussion will give me some new language) counting and concept books in my math class last night, I’ve been thinking a bit about titles that fit here. Some not already listed above include:
    *Grace Lin illustrated three books for Roseanne Thong that I love. They are Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes, One Is a Drummer, and Red Is a Dragon: A Book of Colors.
    *My Arctic, 1, 2, 3 by Michael Kusugak
    *Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
    *One Hundred Is a Family by Pamela Munoz Ryan
    *This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt (sadly out of print, but a fabulous title)
    *We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs
    *Island Counting 1 2 3 by Frane Lessac
    *Happy Punks 1 2 3 by John Seven and Jana Christy (I how I love the weirdness of this one!)

    That’s just a short list of some favorites.

    Thanks so much for facilitating this very important discussion.

  53. Brandi Kenyon says:

    Another picture book that I didn’t see mentioned yet:
    “A Beach Tail” by Karen Lynn Williams

  54. Lorie Bonapfel says:

    What a great post! I will be saving this one.
    Here are some of my favorites that I use regulary with storytimes:
    Snow on Snow on Snow by Cheryl Chapman (This is my all time favorite winter book)
    Virginnie’s Hat by Dori Chaconas
    Superhero by Marc Tauss
    Bigger Than Daddy by Harriet Ziefert

  55. Hello Elizabeth,
    This is such a great post! I agree that it is nice to see more “casual” diversity in children’s books, and that it can be hard to find. I would like to introduce you to Child’s Play, the company that I work for. Child’s Play has been publishing books with casual diversity for years, and it is something that we pride ourselves in. Most of our books range from birth through eight, and we also feature children with disabilities, which I see that you noted as being harder to find. Here is a snippet from our diversity flyer, which highlights such titles:

    “Child’s Play aims to reflect our diverse society and challenge stereotypes. Diversity does not simply refer to heritage and disability, but also gender, nationality, culture, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and age. Inclusive images are casual and incidental, meaning that all children are included as part of the landscape, rather than singled out for special attention.”

    Would you be interested in getting a copy of this flyer, and learning more about our books?

  56. Betsy, I just read Rukhsana Khan’s new book, “King for a Day,” illustrated by Christiane Kroemer, and had to add it to this list. The featured child is Pakistani and in a wheelchair! The book presents Lahore’s Spring Kite Festival and our hero wins the kite battles. He flies his fighting kite from a balcony and his sister helps with parts that require running or standing. It’s never stated that the boy has a disability, but he’s pictured in a wheelchair. Just a lovely book.

  57. WOW, what a discussion this provoked! Pass the Demerol, please. Sorry if you are already too tired to read another entry, Betsy, but I felt compelled to add my two-bits…
    I presented my first dummy book, which featured photo realistic drawings I did of my my daughter. It was basically a “day in the life of baby”, and I never really thought about the issue of race until people started saying, “Oh, you should really specialize in Asian stories.” I was a bit annoyed and puzzled by this. Well, yes, my daughter is Asian – her dad is a Vietnamese refugee and I am of Chinese descent, but I grew up watching Hawaii Five-O and the Flintstones on the prairies. My daughter’s day-to-day reality is not really “Asian-themed.” As North Americans, we should be proud of the diversity we see around us, but to ask everyone who is more obviously “ethnic” to identify with a specific culture gets tricky as newer generations are born and bred here, no? I kind of like the idea of “casual diversity” in books and should I get published, I would like my books to be shelved among other books rather than a “special” section.
    My husband put it more succinctly when he said, “How can it be an Asian-themed story? The baby is too young to use chopsticks.” In his cheeky way he was saying that the baby does not know she is Asian. It is only later that she will learn about labels.

  58. Even (perhaps especially) in such “real world” books featuring characters with different ethnic backgrounds, the author and/or illustrator should think through carefully how that heritage would inform the character. Perhaps none of that background work of informing the author’s imagination will be obvious to the reader in the story or art, but the reflection, personal experience, and research will all affect the character’s depiction–and the child reader–in subtle ways.

  59. I agree with Mitali. It really isn’t enough to just randomly stick “diverse” characters in books for the sake of “diversity”. Characters interact with race in radically distinct ways (as do real children.) There are first-generation kids. There are kids who don’t look caucasian but whose families have been here so long that they don’t see themselves as any different from any other american kids, but they are likely to still be treated differently at school, for instance. And those differences would make a big difference to the characters.

    That being said, I also agree that not all books featuring characters from different races and ethnicities should be “problem books.” One of my favorite picture books is Rita Williams-Garcia’s Catching the Wild Waiyuuzee. It’s not explicitly about race. It’s about a little girl being caught so that her nappy hair can be oiled and tamed. It’s charming and funny and definitely not a problem book and race is never stated. That being said, nappy hair is not something that asian or caucasian kids have to deal with.

    The other brilliant picture book that comes to mind is The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington. Race is never mentioned, and yet you can feel that the background of the spunky little protagonist is an integral part of her character. (Also, the illustrations are so fabulous.)

  60. David Graham says:

    One I came across recently in searching for books incorporating diversity: Bearskin. A diverse cast of characters presented in atypical roles without comment.

    Oh boy. I haven’t read through all the above, but I need to and I will. Just grabbed the last few comments, including the one from Ms.Perkins (my 4th grader just read Rickshaw Girl – woohoo! – after recommendation to me from our local librarian) and the reply, and see I’d like to spend more time thnking about all this and maybe toss in some thoughts of my own. Casual diversity is the way of life in my community and this subject really interests me.

    • David Graham says:

      Perhaps I should clarify that I’m referring to the Howard Pyle story, as I see from Wikipedia that there are other Bearskins out there.

      • Elizabeth Bird says:

        Oh good. I thought you meant the Laura Amy Schlitz and I was wracking my brain to put the comment with the book. This makes more sense. Cheers!

    • David Graham says:

      And I may need to further clarify that I’m referring to a stand-alone version of the story illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. As I’ve read, Bearskin was part of Pyle’s collection of stories in The Wonder Clock.

  61. Elizabeth Bluemle says:

    Hi, Betsy.

    Several years ago, I started a database of children’s books (babies to YA), featuring main characters of color where race is NOT the driving issue of the story. As I also mentioned in a recent PW Shelftalker blog post, race is always a major part of identity; what I mean here is that the plot does not revolve around race, racism, intolerance, or political/historical events based in racial issues. Those books are easy to identify and share with children; it’s harder to find lists mysteries, adventure stories, fantasies, picture books, etc., that happen to feature a nonwhite main character. So I made this one.

    It’s on, and I add to it constantly, whenever books meeting the criteria come to my attention. There are 974 books so far, sortable by age range and by some genres (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, etc.). People are welcome to use it as a resource and to send me other titles to include. I’ll certainly be scouting your comments section for likely candidates I may not have added yet!

    Thanks so much for continuing the discussion.

  62. Loving this discussion, Betsy!
    How about these?

    Chapter book:
    Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

    Picture books:
    Phoebe and Digger by Tricia Springstubb
    The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews (and many more by her)
    Umbrella by Taro Yashima
    Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins
    Little You by Richard Van Camp (board book)

  63. I find this conversation both complicated and fascinating. For me, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith really launched it at the Reading the World conference back in 1995, and on Cyn’s terrific blog. I believe we need the whole range–books that place the spotlight on culture and identity, others that don’t, and others in between. Elizabeth Bluemle’s wonderful lists are a growing effort to document what’s out there and point out the gaps. In my opinion, too, incidental doesn’t mean interchangeable and it doesn’t just mean different details of imagery and clothes and it doesn’t mean just nodding to what I think of as cultural glitter. It means adding a viewpoint, shifting a stance, lending perspective to story that wasn’t there before. It means PI characters of color in mystery novels, Native characters in sci-fi, and the emergence of overlapping or fused identities that are taken for granted. It’s why in my own middle grade novels, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything and The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic, I chose not to focus on the default theme of the immigrant family–becoming American–and instead created a character who takes her own contemporary overlapping identity for granted. Is it even possible to live anywhere in the world in the 21st century and not have a foot in more than one cultural space?

  64. The simplest answer is anything and everything by Gyo Fujikawa!

  65. Quite a discussion. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned already, but in portraying casual diversity involving disabilities, the Will Hillenbrand version of Down by the Station has a girl in a wheelchair as part of the ethnically diverse class that visits the zoo. Very charming.


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