Once I became a mother of biracial children, I sought books that would represent my children’s mixed heritage. Slowly, thanks to the internet and the community that’s formed at I’m Not the Nanny, I’ve found not just children’s books that celebrate multiculturalism in the United States, but also picture books that celebrate mixed race families. It’s important that children see themselves in the books they read.
Books with multicultural or mixed race characters aren’t important just to my family and other families with multiple heritage and/or races. It’s equally important that all children see their friends and family represented in the books they read. I’ve mentioned some of these picture books about mixed race heritage in previous posts but I wanted to put them all together in one place. Talking about race with children feels difficult because our personal baggage about it, but it’s never to early to celebrate all the shades of brown skin around us.
The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman It’s a fun way to start a conversation about differences among families. The illustrations are fun and show a broad range of family types, family living situations, work environments and more. It’s like the Richard Scarry book for families. My kids and I enjoyed naming friends and family that “matched” the ones shown in the book.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown, written in both English and Spanish, is filled with colorful, fun illustrations and. Marisol is a red-headed, browned skinned Peruvian-Irish American who’s sense of style is not appreciated by her friends. Not only doesn’t her hair match her skin, she likes to match polka dots with stripes. Marisol sees her world much differently from her friends. After being constantly reminded that she doesn’t match, she attempts to match for a day and learns about who she truly is. Marisol returns in the sequel Marisol Mcdonald and the Clash Bash to celebrate her birthday in her unique way.
Originally written in 1973, black is brown is tan by Arnold Adoff is a lyrical poem celebrating the different skin colors of an interracial family: mother, father, children, aunts, uncles, grandmothers. I borrowed the book because the cover showed a white father, black mother, and their biracial children. When I read the dust jacket later, I discovered that it was the first children’s book to feature an interracial family. I’m sure it must have been controversial when I was first published. We have the 2002 edition of the book, which was updated with new illustrations.
Cooper’s Lesson by Sun Yung Shin, written in both English and Korean, is about Cooper who is half Korean and half white American. Cooper is frustrated because he’s mocked for his “half and half” identity. Due to the language barrier and misunderstanding, Cooper shoplifts from a shop owned by Mr. Lee an older Korean man. Cooper is caught and as he works to pay off his debt, he realizes his identity is more than being “half.”
Written by Leslie V. Ryan, the picture book I am Flippish! is inspired by a true event. Sean is little boy whose classmates don’t understand why he doesn’t look like his dad. Thankfully, the kids have a smart teacher and encourage his students to discover their own family’s ancestry. Together the students learn that Sean is Flippish, part Irish American and and Filipino American. The classmates start creating their own words to describe their cultural background too.
Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids by artist and photographer Kip Fulbeck makes a great gift for kids and adults alike because it portrays so many beautiful multi-racial children. Kip Fulbeck captures them as kids. He’s not highlighting their ethnic background. Accompanying each photograph is a page where each child describes himself. Those descriptions are my favorite because they are not defined only by their race. Kip Fulbeck has done groundbreaking work on the Hapa experience. Definitely visit his website to see his other photography series.
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R Friedman is not just a love story but an evolution of how two cultures learn to eat together. Which wins out at the end: chopsticks or knife and fork? This is one of my favorite picture books about mixed race, mixed cultural families. Our family identifies with it because last night we ate dinner with chopsticks and tonight we’ll probably use forks to eat.
In That’s My Mum by Henriette Barkow, Kai and Mia look like their fathers, but not like their mothers. People always ask the two if they are with babysitters, when they are actually with their moms. Sound familiar? Even their classmates aren’t sure what to think. Kai and Mia try to figure out a way creative way to explain who their mother is but realized that they shouldn’t be the ones to change. Over at Language Lizard, the book is available in bilingual versions, with your choice of 19 different languages. Of course I had to share the Vietnamese version here.
Does your family have favorite books that celebrate mixed race families? Share them in the comments!
Discover more in my previous multicultural children’s books round ups.
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Thanks for sharing these resources with us!
Great list, I also really enjoy I Am Mixed. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0578110873…
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Thank you so much! We are white adoptive parents of a beautiful biracial daughter. As a multiracial family trying to help our girl embrace all the aspects if who she is, I'm so happy to see this list.
Thank you for sharing this! I have MIXED and Black Is Brown Is Tan. I heard Forever Families (a newer release) is good as well. My boys are a bit older so I am on the lookout for YA that celebrates the same.
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Thank you for sharing this, Thien-Kim, and thanks for including Marisol McDonald! I look forward to reading the books I haven't yet read from your list.