The Importance of Diverse Stories

82 Books with BAME Leads

Danielle Newnham
8 min readFeb 20, 2023

A few years ago, I saw the above post by Nicola Washington, where she asked her followers to recommend books which feature BAME characters, thus creating a wonderful resource filled with excellent books for our kids’ libraries. So I decided to put all these recommendations in one place and link to the books for ease. And, here it is… 82 brilliant books to read and share!

Below are the names of those on Instagram who responded, as well as the books they recommended.

1. laurahesketh We love Last Stop on Market Street I’d say it’s for under 8s. Another great one is 2. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Again I’d say it’s for 8 and under.

3. ivyslibrary Our current fave is Billy and the Beast by @nadiashireendraws. Fab adventure story with a kickass BAME female lead.

4. milkatthemuseum There’s one on my list from @museumchildhood called Princess Hair, it’s all about Braids, Dreadlocks, Afros and Twists. I would say it’s aimed at early readers, 3–5 year olds.

5. tobyandroo I’d LOVE to diversify my kid’s reading shelves. We have a really cool book called Hats of Faith that I love to look at with them.

6. claireacoppin We have The Animal Boogie and 7. Tucking In: Just Like Me! which are both good picture books for pre-readers and would probably be OK up to age 3 or so.

8. esthermalvern We recently bought Jabari Jumps about a little boy trying to brave the diving board in the swimming pool — probably for up to 8 yrs.

9. hkhousewife Dim Sum for Everyone 0–6 yrs about a family morning at dim sum. 10. Handa’s Hen, a counting story 0–5yrs

11. tbeckerkahn I’d recommend the episode of @longestshortesttime called How Not to (Accidentally) Raise a Racist, as a starting point for why this is crucial. And for great recommendations of children’s books — we got:

12. Shades of People based on that and have been reading it to my son since he was very small. Other baby books (0–2):

13. Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz

14. Clap Hands by Helen Oxenbury

15. All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon

16. Everywhere Babies; the Global Babies photo books

17. Please Baby Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee

18. Whose Knees Are These?
19. Whose Toes are Those? and
20. Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim

21. Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

22. Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

23. Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora

24. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

25. More, More, More said the Baby by Vera Williams.

For toddlers (all of the above plus):
26. So Much by Trish Cooke
27. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
28. Islandborn by Junot Diaz
29. Jonathan and his Mommy by Eileen Browne

Drum Dream Girl

Adding some more for older toddlers/kids: we absolutely love 30. My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown which is a great one for identifying emotions as well, 31. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle about a young Cuban girl who follows her dream and 32.King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan. We also have two books that are a bit too old for my son (he’s 2 now) but we have been using them as a starting point for talking about the US’s recent separation of migrant families since we took him to a protest: 33. Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago which follows a young girl and her father on their journey across the border, and 34. Mama’s Nightingale by Edwige Danticat where a little girl visits her mother in a detention centre.

35. hkhousewife Jambari Jumps about a boy learning to overcome his fear of the diving board.
36. No More Beige Food: follows a pair of Asian siblings around as they learn how to cook dishes from people of different ethnicities in their neighbourhood. 2–8 years.
37. Woah, Baby, Woah! A baby in a mixed race family exploring life 0–5 yrs old
38. Ten Nine Eight — counting story of a black girl getting ready for bed. 0– 4yrs
39. Any book by Grace Lin as they all feature Chinese children as the lead. She has books for babies up to young readers.
40. One Family — this book features families of all make ups, single parents, mixed race families, extended families, same-sex families, adopted families in a lovely counting book with the message of no matter the number or differences they are still one family.

41. newmumonline @tobyandroo @the_dad_author of Lemon Drop Books. His books are really worth checking out. I think he started writing them for the same reasons you express here.

42. tbeckerkahn Our new favourite is Julian is a Mermaid by @jesslovedraws.

43. linds_reynolds My daughter loves the Princess Truly books.

Young Gifted and Black

44. thedoctormummy Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) has done some beautiful children’s books. 45. To Hell with Dying is about the relationship between some children and a sweet old man, it has incredible illustrations too. Themes are around love, dying and relationships.

46. thedoctormummy Janine and the New Baby was also a favourite of mine growing up!

47. rainbowvintagehome Some of my favourite stories when I was little were books by Ezra Jack Keats, and I loved reading them to my kids when they were small.

48. parrot_street We love Mint Chocolate Chip at the Market Cafe by Jonathan Meres. It’s a lovely story about a British Asian girl, her friends and a problem her family must face. Perfect read for 5–8 year olds 📚 featuring football ⚽️, pets 🐶 and, of course, ice cream 🍦!

49. clairemarieee_We have You Choose which is an imagination book but has some great illustrations depicting people, places and objects that are great for opening up discussion with my eldest. Both are easily appropriate for up to 7 or so but we’ve been reading them since about 1.

50. mamaimhungry Thank you for this post. We have a lovely book called People by Peter Spier and 51. Immi by Karin Littlewood

52. salvyria It’s not a fancy book, but Too Many Tickles is a firm fave in our house.

53. mrs_sock It’s so important for all kids to see and learn about the whole world not just their corner. My daughter loves Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by @mralextsmith

54. littlegemx Happy Christmas, Gemma and 55. @milesandmia A-Z is an alphabet rhyming story as a more educational option. Illustrator is @greetingsfromsarah

56. hashtagalison My brother has written a series of books (available on Amazon!) based upon Guyanese characters called The Granny JJ Adventures by Joshua Cartwright

I used to work as a TA in KS1 and I’m crazy about children’s books! I love well designed books with quirky illustrations, which means that generally I do judge a book by its cover! My daughter will be three in October and some of our favourites are:
57. The ‘Empowerment’ series by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Sara Gillingham. There are four board books in the collection, ‘I am so brave!’ ‘I can do it myself!’ ‘I know a lot’ and ‘Now I am big!’ and I’ve got another of her titles, ‘Snuggle the Baby,’ on my ‘to buy’ list.

58. We also discovered the Ted series by Sophy Henn at our local library, although so far we’ve only managed to find two out of the seven in the collection. Also on my wish list is another of Sophy’s books called ‘Pass It On,’ described as ‘a joyful and uplifting picture book about finding happiness in the smallest of things.’

59. whatmakesamother Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou and pictures by Basquiat; 60. Farmer Falgu series about a farmer in India, beautiful pictures; 61. Free to be You and Me, 70s classic; 62. Never Too Small by Zanib Mian, lovely book about self esteem and support for under 5s. 63. Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different. It’s so important to make a point of this with white children so that we can open conversations with them about privilege and difference. Also recommend the book 64. Raising White Kids, for parents to read about how to discuss oppression and privilege in age appropriate ways that don’t rely on “colour blindness”

65. hkhousewife The change your name store about an Asian girl who doesn’t like her name, so she goes to the store to try different names. It’s about teaching kids to love their name and identity.

66. emilymurunga Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daily

67. stephaniekatherine1 Ada Twist Scientist about a young black girl who is always discovering and asking questions. Ages 4–8 I’d say.

68. Miles and Mia A to Z by Michaela Alexander

69. parakeetbooks My 3 year old LOVES The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck

70. sarahtonin_seeker So many amazing ones: Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank. Any of the 71. Anna Hibiscus range also by Atinuke. 72. Any of the Lulu stories (Lulu loves the library etc). 73. Ruby Nettleship by Thomas Docherty

74. bigbadmeanmomma Bit old school (1998, my children are now 20, 12 & 10) but we loved Night Night Knight & Other Poems (edited by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Sue Heap). Just been through it (any excuse) & there are six pages with exclusively white characters & seven exclusively of people of colour, the rest mixed. However the best thing is that I didn’t purposefully buy it for that but for its humour and great wordplay — brilliant for literacy. This balanced representation should be part of everything children experience as a matter of course, sad that even now it’s not.

75 themumschinwag Found this gem — My Favourite Bible Stories and Prayers: Bible stories and prayers, illustrated especially for children of colour and my boys love it. If you’re Christian or just interested in bible stories then @wn_publishing is great with their bible stories and prayer book of black and brown characters. Especially as black characters in the Christian world is rarely highlighted.

76. NB Book featured in instagram post is from @tolaokogwu @daddydomyhair series available here.

77. Little Leaders: Bold Women from Black History and
78. Little Dreamers: Visionary Woman Around the World both by Vashti Harrison

79. The Mega Magic Hair Swap by Rochelle Humes and Rachel Suzanne

80. Young, Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson. Illustrated by Andrea Pippens

81. I am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo

82. Nahla and the 3D Machine: A rhyming STEM-inspired children’s story, based on true events by Nahla-Rose Bartlett-Vanderpuye.

Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison

I hope you find these useful, please share and comment below with any books you think we should add to this list.



Danielle Newnham

Host of Danielle Newnham Podcast — interviews with tech founders and innovators. Writer. Author. Recovering Founder.