Own Voices Books for Kids
Diversify your bookshelf or school library with children’s books that not only have diverse characters but that are written by diverse authors! But you won’t want to read these Own Voices books for kids just because it’s the “right” thing to do. They are simply wonderful in their own right! Each has a special story to tell, told in a unique voice that children (and adults) need to hear. What are your favorite Own Voices children’s books? Let me know in the comments!
Own Voices Books for Kids
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Enjoy these wonderful Own Voices books for kids!
Do you have a little cowgirl or cowboy in your life? Then you won’t want to miss C Is for Country, a fun new picture book from Lil Nas X. (Yes, that Lil Nas X! Now he writes picture books too!) Through this engaging ABC book, the international superstar gives children a glimpse of why he loves country life so much. After all, D is for Dirt, and V is for a Very Naughty Pony! But the pages are also inspire kids towards inclusion and self-love, such as E is for Everybody, since we “can all share the shine.”
I love having a cowboy book that focuses on a Black boy – especially one that loves to wear pink boots and lots of glitz! It also showcases the warmth of Black family life, with meals together around the table and bedtime cuddles. This is a book that shows that everyone belongs, no matter what the genre of story.
Many children have had the painful experience of hearing their names butchered by teachers and students. Frequently, this is connected to overall feelings of being “weird” or just not fitting in with their peers, a feeling amplified by differences of race and culture. The gorgeous new picture book Your Name Is a Song tackles this issue and teaches children to appreciate their unusual names. Because who wouldn’t love to have their names turned into a song?
While the main character is Black, the book includes names from many cultures. My daughter was delighted to see the name of her aunt in Costa Rica included! The mother in the story empowers her daughter, who in turn passes this new appreciation on to other children and even to her teacher. Most poignant of all for me was the inclusion of the name Trayvon, which the author notes was done in honor of Trayvon Martin. I highly recommend this beautiful book, which would be great to have in school libraries. Imagine how wonderful it would be for a teacher to read this on the first day of school!
One of my favorite things about blogging is that it has enabled me to meet so many incredible people from around the world (and some right around the corner!) I had the pleasure of meeting author Meera Sriram several years ago through Multicultural Kid Blogs. She is such a lovely person and does the most incredible work. Her latest accomplishment is A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India, a gorgeous children’s book based on her own childhood experiences going to the market in India.
The reader goes along with a little girl through the marketplace, as she tries to decide on a present for her Amma (mother). I love how the book highlights in text and pictures all the rich colors to be found there, from the yellow of tumeric to the white of the jasmine blooms. A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India (available in Spanish as Un regalo para Amma: Día de mercado en India) is a feast for all of the senses, as we smell the flowers, see the peacock feathers waving in the breeze, listen to the drum beats, jump to avoid the rickshaws, and drool over the stacks of sweets. Not only do you get to enjoy the beautiful illustrations from Mariona Cabassa, you can also see the author’s photos of the actual marketplace at the back of the book.
How do we raise kind kids? This is one of the big questions I wrestle with as a parent, so I’m always glad to find helpful resources! Peacebe is an adorable character that helps kids learn virtues like kindness and honesty. One of the latest in this series is The Adventures of Peacebe and the Heartwatch- Kids Can Make A Difference Too!, which teaches kids about being a good citizen! Author Leneen Faith is a mom and teacher with a Master’s in Elementary Education, so she knows how to create books and activities that really capture children’s imaginations and hearts. Peacebekids is not only a book series but also a website with fun activities for kids.
Stories are such a great way to connect children to their heritage and give them a sense of belonging in the world – one reason why it’s so wonderful for them to spend time with grandparents and community elders. So I was thrilled to learn of the beautiful new book Chasing Butterflies in the Sunlight, inspired by the author’s own childhood and her desire to share it with her children.
Chasing Butterflies in the Sunlight is set in the 1970s and describes the main character’s many childhood adventures in her home on a university campus in Nigeria as well as her travels to Niger, England, and Scotland. I love that the book emphasizes the importance of family plus how it breaks down stereotypes about Africa through its portrayal of a cosmopolitan, well-educated, and well-traveled Nigerian family.
What happens when a mother far from home wants to share the beauty of her homeland with her children? In the case of author Emily Joof, it means beautiful children’s books that we can all enjoy! Joof’s picture books share the beauty of The Gambia, as seen through the eyes of her Swedish-born children. In Mangoes & MonkeyBread: Fruity Fun with Ella & Louis, two children are visiting The Gambia. When the boy becomes homesick for the strawberries of Sweden, his older sister patiently shows him all the wonderful fruit to be found in The Gambia. This is so similar to what happens when my children visit their relatives in Costa Rica!
In Our Favourite Things.: The Story of Home in The Gambia and Sweden, the children and their parents each share their favorite foods, places, and so on, showcasing the beautiful mix of cultures in their family. These books are must reads, especially for families like ours that blend traditions!
Exquisite is the perfect name for this gorgeous picture book biography of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, which she did with her second book of poetry. What makes this win even more remarkable was not just who Brooks was but what she wrote about – that is, the people that lived in her working class African American neighborhood in Chicago. Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks is a great way to explore poetry with kids and encourage them to try writing it themselves. After all, Brooks started writing when she was very young, writing about dolls and sunsets!
Another new picture book is Spirit of the Cheetah: A Somali Tale, a coming of age story set in this eastern African country. Inspired by the stories she heard from her own father, co-author Khadra Mohammed has joined with Karen Lynn Williams to weave a powerful story about developing inner strength. Roblay thinks that winning a race will make him a man, but his grandfather teaches him to listen to the wisdom of nature to cultivate patience and call on the spirit of the river and the cheetah for which it was named. A beautiful story to help children think about what qualities they would like to develop, and to spark their interest in the cheetah, which is now an endangered species. Includes a section of fun facts about the cheetah.
Silverworld is a wonderful middle grade fantasy that draws on Arabic culture and legends. At the same time, the main character Sami is dealing with issues that any child can relate to – feeling out of place in a new home, worry over a sick family member, and frustration that no one takes you seriously because you’re “just” a kid. This is an amazing adventure story into a fantastical parallel world as well as an emotional journey as Sami learns to trust her own strength and abilities. I also love that it is such a loving portrait of a close knit Lebanese American family, drawn from the author’s own experiences.
Do you have an older kid that enjoys reading mysteries? Fantasy? Adventure stories? How about all three rolled into one?? Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle is the second in the @prince_of_typgar series. The main character, Nujran, has just started at the prestigious University of Foalinaarc when a body is found in campus. This is only the first strange event that captures the reader’s interest in this fast-paced book, which also includes a prison break, romance, and a kidnapping. This YA thriller is a real page turner, plus fantasy fans will appreciate the incredible amount of detail that went into making this world come to life.
What are your favorite Own Voices children’s books?