“Casual Diversity” and the children’s book
A friend of mine turned new mom had an interesting request the other day. She’d been talking with her friends and they decided that what they’d really like would be a list of children’s books in which diversity is just a part of everyday life. To illustrate her point she called this “casual diversity”, a term I’d hitherto been unfamiliar with. The phrase is typically used to describe pop culture but I think it applies well enough to children’s books. It’s something we strive to find in a lot of our books for kids, but actively seeking it out isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Since this particular group of moms was looking for younger titles I had to wrack my brain to come up with ideas. It should NOT be this hard. I worked up a short list but I’d love it if other folks could offer up suggestions of their own. We’re just looking for books where diversity is integrated into the storyline without a hitch. Put another way, these are books where the point of the story isn’t diversity, but just a natural outgrowth of it. The hardest thing to find? Casual diversity involving handicapped characters. I think they exist for the older readers, but not so much with picture books unless they’re part of group shots. Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:
- My Aunt Came Back by Pat Cummings
- Daddy, Papa, and Me by Leslea Newman ; illustrated by Carol Thompson
- Mommy, mama, and me by Leslea Newman ; illustrated by Carol Thompson.
Toddler Picture Books
- Maria had a little llama = María tenía una llamita by Angela Dominguez
- Monday is one day by Arthur A. Levine ; illustrated by Julian Hector
- Nino wrestles the world by Yuyi Morales
Preschooler Picture Books
- Oh no!, or, How my science project destroyed the world by Mac Barnett ; illustrated by Dan Santat
- Jimmy the greatest! by Jairo Buitrago ; pictures by Rafael Yockteng
- The chicken-chasing queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington ; pictures by Shelley Jackson
- Big red lollipop by Rukhsana Khan ; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
- Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle by Pija Lindenbaum
- Freckleface Strawberry : best friends forever by Julianne Moore ; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
- Mom, it’s my first day of kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum
For this age level, what would you add?
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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