The following is a list of good children’s books to use in the Pre-K to 12 classroom. Many of the books address the needs for diversity, multiculturalism and multiligualism in the classroom library. You can find even more books at Lee & Low books but here is a selection of my current favorites.
Yo Soy Muslim
Written by Mark Gonzales
Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Salaam Reads, 2017, unpaged, ISBN 978-1-4814-8936-2
This picture book celebrates heritage and religious and indigenous identity, themes that unfold in a father’s letter to his daughter in a series of questions such as “What are you?” and “Where are you from?” The words “Yo soy Muslim” repeat throughout like a steady drum, inviting readers to consider their own narrative—yo soy French; yo soy Jewish; yo soy writer, etc. Amini combines vertical shapes that feel active, drawing the eye upward, with horizontal shapes that feel calming, grounded, to create an unmistakable vibrancy that complements the poetic and lyrical verse in English and Spanish. Gonzales’ dedication, “[M]ay you know you are loved,” is a message that soars in a backdrop of jewel-rich illustration that speaks to the importance of social harmony.
Long Way Down
Written by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum, 2017, 320 pp., ISBN 978-1-4814-3825-4
“My name is Will./ William./ William Holloman./ . . ./ So call me Will,/ because after I tell you/ what I’m about to tell you// you’ll either/ want to be my friend/ or not/ . . . / I’m only William/ to my mother/ and brother, Shawn,/ . . ./ Now/ I’m wishing I would’ve/ laughed more/ at his dumb jokes/ . . . the day/ before yesterday,/ Shawn was shot/ and killed” (pp. 2-4). Teach a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. With the help of friends, he learns to cope with the circumstances through love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.
Before She Was Harriet
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by James E. Ransome
Holiday House, 2017, unpaged, ISBN 978-0-8234-2047-6
Honored primarily in history lessons for her role as a leading conductor on the Underground Railroad, this picture book biography takes readers on a train ride through the many other roles that Harriet Tubman played throughout her lifetime: suffragist, General, Union spy, nurse, Aunt Harriet, Moses, and Minty. Written in reverse-chronological order, Tubman’s significant contributions to equality for African American women are captured through eloquent free verse poetry and beautiful watercolor paintings. This powerful tribute, along with the collective humanity and unwavering determination it highlights, is certain to linger in readers’ minds.
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
Written by Michael Mahin
Illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum, unpaged, ISBN 978-1-4814-4349-4
Muddy “was never good at what he was told./ . . ./ So he found himself a half-smashed kerosene can to beat on./ And a wheezy accordion to squeeze./ And a tired piece of wire to pluck./ And made himself enough noise to feel good./ Not even Grandma Della could keep from dancing.” Muddy Waters, the legendary blues giant born McKinley Morganfield, raised by Grandma Della, is nicknamed Muddy for the Mississippi mud in which he plays. The lyrical pace of each written line moves to tell the story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters. The back pages and author’s note make for rich instructional material. The colorful mixed media line drawings images make the richness of Muddy’s music come alive in Muddy’s words. This book is an educator’s delight for a musically inspired biography study!
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
Written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick, 2017, 56 pp., ISBN 978-0-7636-8094-7
Born out of the love and joy of poetry Kwame Alexander, joined by Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, who work together to pay homage to twenty poets they say, “made their hearts sing and their minds wonder.” This collection of poetry illustrated with a variety of media that makes each poet come alive offers a culturally rich collection of poetic tributes that extends the legacies of poets from around the globe, each section opens with a brief overview of the poets. The back pages provide detailed biographical information about each poet celebrated which makes this book an educator’s delight for poetry units.