I don’t claim to be a professional book reviewer, but I’ve always looked to books to help teach my children and open the door about difficult lessons and conversations that we need to have with them. Sometimes it’s literally the smallest of things; how giraffe found a new bed, that noses aren’t for picking and who has what body parts while learning that they’re only meant for ourselves. The black lives matter movement opened my eyes to being, and teaching my children about anti-racism.
I’ve never been racist, but was I doing enough to ensure they understand that there is only one race? – The human race.
I spent a lot of time self reflecting, reading, and watching documentaries. Taking the time to teach myself even more than I already knew about black history, oppression and the struggles that black people still face today. I knew that I needed my children to actively learn and that simply saying nothing because “they don’t see colour” was a very poor excuse and not an option.
I started to evaluate our toys and books. I’ve always made a point of purchasing barbies that represented all shapes and colours because for me that was an easy way to help little girls understand that people come in all shapes, sizes and skin tones. But when I looked further our baby dolls needed some diversity and we had a number of books that showed children and characters of all colours, but how honest were the messages and the lessons? Social media instantly flooded with examples of children’s books that represented diversity, but how effective once again were the messages that each book was sending? I set out to purchase many of those books and wanted to provide parents an honest review of what each book in my own opinion meant in teaching my children about equality, humanity and injustice.
I know that there are many more books out there, and as a reminder not one single book will do the job that we as parents need to do to ensure our children are raised as anti-racist. The conversations and daily commitment to ensuring our world changes starts with us. I’m also aware that I’m only scratching the surface and still need to address many more social issues and struggles in our world – Indigenous history, global warming, bullying, drugs/addictions, and books that support our LGBTQ community … yes still only scratching the surface. But here are my thoughts on 24 children’s books and how they teach about kindness, differences, diversity, relationships, physical attributes, and most importantly black history.
- A Book of Love; 2. Hair Like Mine 3. Be Kind; 4. I am Human; 5. A Normal Pig; 6. Chocolate Me!; 7. Same, Same but Different; 8. Hair Love; 9 I Like Myself!; 10. I am Enough; 11. Say Something!; 12. I Believe I Can; 13. A is for Activist; 14. Sulwe; 15. Daddy’s Mini-Me; 16. I am Perfectly Designed; 17. Little Dreamers Visionary Women Around the World; 18. Dream Big, Little One; 19. Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History; 20. Meet Viola Desmond; 21. Welcome to the Party; 22. When Charley met Emma; 23. Alma and How She Got Her Name 24. Mahatma Gandhi
A Book of Love – by Emma Randall
A beautiful book that teaches children all about loving one another. I love this book for its diversity in characters throughout its illustrations and that it shows interracial marriage. This book describes many ways to show others love but describes how it can be sometimes difficult and that forgiveness is sometimes necessary. Finding the good in people isn’t always the easiest but looking past their faults you might surprise what you find out. the idea that we all come in different sizes and colours and giving the free gift of love would make the world a better place for all of us.
Hair like mine by Latashia M. Perry
A little girl is defeated when she wants to find someone who has the same hair that she has. She doesn’t like her hair and doesn’t want to be different. An elegant story explaining how no two people are alike and how there is only one you. A lesson in loving the skin you’re in and the small parts that make up you.
Be Kind – Pat Zietlow Miller
A story about a young girl named Tanisha who spilled grape juiced all over her new dress. The narrator child is reminded how her mother always tells her to be kind. She details all of the possible ways of how to bring kindness to Tanisha and make her feel better. This inspires her to think of all the other ways she can be kind in her community in hopes that kindness travels across the world back to her and Tanisha. We love this book. It’s a great book that shows diversity but also one that teaches kindness and more importantly about how to use your voice and stand up for others.
I am Human – A book of Empathy by Susan Verde
Although we are human, one of millions we are capable of doing and achieving great things. However, we are also capable of hurting others with our actions and our silence. This book teaches lessons of kindness and compassion and treating others with equality and fairness and reminds us that we are all connected to family and friends and capable of being our best selves.
A Normal Pig – by K-Fai Steele
A story about Pip, a normal pig who liked to do normal things. Pip the pig showed up to school and was immediately judged by what was in her lunch, what she drew in art class and what her family looked like. A charming book that explains how everyone is different and how a little pig overcomes her desire to be normal. Very kid relatable and additional lessons about using your voice and dealing with bullies.
Chocolate Me! – Taye Diggs
A book about a 5 year old boy who is bullied by other children about his skin colour, hair texture, white teeth and broad nose. His mother reminds him that he “has skin like velvet fudge frosting”. I wasn’t sure about this book initially to be honest. I was worried that my children would see a black person in public and scream chocolate. That made me nervous. The other part of this books messaging that didn’t work for me was the ending. After the character learns to love himself he is handing out chocolate cupcakes to the three boys that were previously bullying him. I don’t like the message that you can bully someone with no repercussions and then be served dessert. A definite no in my opinion.
Same, Same but Different – Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
A story about Elliot who lives in America and Kailash who lives in India. Pen pals through school identify how their worlds are very much the same but different. I love this book and how it shows differences between cultures. I’d love it if they wrote more stories like this exploring more cultures.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
A story about Zuri, and her gorgeous hair that has a mind of its own. She sets out to find a way to achieve the perfect style with her Daddy’s help. Through many trials and tribulations he finally helps her achieve the perfect hairstyle. I love this book and the special relationship between a dad and a daughter, the perseverance he shows to give her exactly what she wants, and the story about how beautiful black hair really is.
I Like Myself! – Karen Beaumont
A story about self love and self acceptance. Ignoring bullies or nay-sayers and loving the skin you’re in. Loved this book and how it doesn’t matter what anyone says about you self-love and confidence are what matters.
I Am Enough – Grace Byers
A story about loving who you are and respecting each other for their differences. Knowing that although no two people are the same there is still enough room for everyone to succeed. Standing together and knowing you are enough. A heavenly illustrated story that shows young girls of all shapes, sizes and colours.
Say Something! – Peter H. Reynolds
A powerful book teaching children to speak up and use their voice to make the world a better place. I love this book. My oldest daughter has always been shy, but she has one of the best hearts. This book helped us discuss the importance of using our voices for good. Speaking up for others who are being bullied, supporting others who are shy and lonely and calling out others for injustices. I love that this book shows children they can protest and inspire others to stand up for what they believe and make changes in the world.
I Believe I Can – Grace Byers
A story about children believing they can achieve anything as long as they believe in themselves. Beautifully written and illustrated.
A is for Activist – Innosanto Nagara
Yes! Talk about a powerful board book. This is not your typical children’s alphabet book. It is so much more. This book takes you through each letter and discusses history and many social issues and topics in the world. From abolitionist, dictators, equal rights, indigenous community, justice, LGBTQ, to Malcolm X. A book that will most definitely create a dialogue between you and your children.
Sulwe – Lupita Nyong’o
A book about a little girl who has darker skin than everyone in her family and her journey to self-love. She heads off on a magical journey into the night and discovers that without night the world wouldn’t be the same. One of our favourite books as it relates to sisters who look different but together they make the world strong and beautiful. Highly recommend.
Daddy’s Mini-Me – by Arnold Henry
A beautiful story about a special relationship between a Dad and his baby boy. This story depicts an ever present father who is watching his son grow up. Each and every day this growing baby is learning something new as he imitates his daddy. A local Calgary children’s author. The perfect Father’s Day gift from a sweet baby boy!
I Am Perfectly Designed – Karamo Brown
A story written in conversation from two sides, a little boy and his father.
This story details a very sweet relationship between a son and his father how they are perfectly designed for each other. Instilling confidence and learning life lessons as they grew. Karamo Brown is famously known as one of the fab fives from Netflix’s Queer Eye. I was disappointed to read that this book was written as a “celebration of modern families” with no acknowledgement of same-sex marriage or couples. I thoroughly expected more.
Little Dreamers Visionary Women Around the World – Vashti Harrison
An inspiring book for both boys and girls to learn about some phenomenal women that have walked this earth and made one heck of an impact. Diverse women from all over the world have conquered the no’s and nay-sayers and have achieved greatness leaving a lasting legacy for future female leaders. Absolutely love this one.
Dream Big Little One & Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison
I placed both of these books together, because for me, a causasian mother who aspires to know more about black history, I needed to read one to fully appreciate the other.
Dream Big, Little One is an introductory board book that celebrates black women in history. It teaches children to be bold, reach for the stars, and dream big. It illustrates and lists many black women in history who have achieved greatness without fully detailing what they did. Luckily I have Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History which similar to Little Dreamers Visionary Women around the world, it detailed each woman and her life legacy of accomplishments. This book will create and start the conversations that you need to have with your little ones surrounding racism and will present the opportunity for you to teach them about being an anti-racist.
Meet Viola Desmond – Elizabeth Macleod
A story that is part of Canada’s history set in 1946. A book that introduces children to black segregation and unlawful imprisonment for being black. An eye opener for all children to understand that the Black Lives Matter movement is not an issue for just the United States but a global and Canadian issue that needs action now.
Welcome to the Party – Gabrielle Union
A sweet story of welcoming a new baby to the world and introducing her to all of her loved ones and the party known as life. This book is sweet but that’s about it.
When Charley met Emma – Amy Webb
I love this book and how it speaks about physical differences. It doesn’t speak specifically to skin colour but about children with special needs. It presents an honest kids reaction to a young girl in a wheelchair with no hands and her ability to voice how some peoples reactions make her sad. An inspirational story that all kids should hear and can be used to educate children that everyone is different.
Alma and How She Got Her Name – Juana Martinez-Neal
My girls absolutely love this book. It is a story about a little girl named Alma and her many names. She struggles as her names are so long that they don’t fit until her Dad sits her down and tells her a story about each name and her family member in which she is named after.
Little People, Big Dreams Mahatma Gandhi – Isabel Sanchez Vegara
I absolutely love the Little People, Big Dream books. I love the importance of the stories they tell from our history including this one about Mohandas Ghandi. These books are perfect to add to your home collection and bring some diversity and knowledge to your little ones. From Ella Fitzgerald, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman (one of my personal faves), Maya Angelou, and Muhammad Ali.
No commissions or profits will be made by the associated links. These items are by no means sponsored but items that were chosen by myself to educate and inform my children.