Diverse Books Club: September 2017 Picture Books

#DiverseKidLit, Diverse Books Club

For those of you who saw my friend Madeleine’s post over at Top Shelf Text yesterday, you know that I’m thrilled to be taking on the role of Children’s Lit Moderator for the Diverse Books Club. More than ever, we need diverse books. The members of the Diverse Books Club are dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. We value diversity in all its forms. Our mission is to be those worthy role models that our children deserve.

As an educator, I have a responsibility to expand my horizons and guide my students as they do the same. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that socioeconomic diversity and diversity in ability are near and dear to my heart. While I’m coming from that lense, our membership of over 300 readers comes from many different perspectives. I’m thrilled to be on this journey alongside you all. I’m looking forward to conversations that will challenge me, and reading experiences that will broaden my understanding of the world.

Whether you are an educator or a parent, you may be looking for ways to address themes of diversity with young people. Each month, I’ll be bringing you a curated list of picture books to share with the littles in your life. You’ll then have an opportunity to discuss these books with fellow readers in our Goodreads group. We’re hoping that these books serve as a jumping off point for you and your littles as you explore our monthly themes!

September Theme

As Madeleine announced on Saturday, given recent events, our theme for September will be books about race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events.

September Picture Book Selections

I am so excited to share this month’s picture book selections with you. While there are so many different books that could fit into this month’s theme, I’m hoping the selections below are a start.

Henry’s Freedom Box
Written by Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This is a book that came highly recommended by a DBC member. (If you’re a part of DBC, you can recommend picture books here!) Goodreads describes it as “a stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.”  The starred Kirkus review said that “this is a story of pride and ingenuity that will leave readers profoundly moved.”


Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
Written by Alan Schroeder
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Continuing with representations of slavery in children’s literature, this speculative story about Harriet Tubman’s childhood was published in 1996. It appeared on many book lists and received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 1997.


Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Written by Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

I recently took a course on children’s nonfiction in which we discussed at length representations of slavery in children’s literature. What can make this category so problematic is that children’s books on slavery are most often about enslaved people who escaped to freedom. This can leave children assuming that most enslaved people escaped, or that it was the norm to make an escape attempt. This month, we wanted to include a text about the man known as Dave the Potter, who lived and died a slave in South Carolina. Dave’s opportunity to learn a trade was unique, and adds to the conversations we have with children around slavery in picture books.


A is for Activist
Written and Illustrated by Innosanto Nagara

This board book was described by the School Library Journal as “an unusual offering that may plant the seeds for and spark discussions about activism.” We’re excited to hear your thoughts on how this book blends a format for our youngest readers with topics that older children are just starting to explore.


Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Written by Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

While this book often appears in classrooms during Black History Month, we believe it deserves a place on your bookshelves year round. Author Doreen Rappaport’s inclusion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s own words makes this book incredibly powerful.


Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Méndez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
By Duncan Tonatiuh

Seven years before Brown v. Board of Ed, Sylvia Méndez won in her legal fight to desegregate her local school. While Méndez’s case is little-known, this book reminds us that when we fight for justice for one group, it can sometimes pave the way towards justice for another. Kirkus reviews called this book “a compelling story told with impeccable care,” and it received a Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor in 2015.


Blue Sky, White Stars
Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

I first read this book over the summer, and I instantly sent it out as a recommendation to fellow educators, activists, readers, and Americans. In a time where we can feel so divided, this book celebrates American diversity as an asset. A tribute to our multiculturalism and unity, this book may be exactly what we need right now. I hope you and your littles enjoy it as much as I did!

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this month’s picture book selections. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below as well as on our Goodreads group. I’m so excited to chat with you all soon. Thanks for joining us on this journey of learning and discovery!

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  • Reply
    Kate Olson
    August 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

    These are absolutely wonderful selections! I will be ordering copies for my library of the titles I don’t already have in my collection!

    • Reply
      August 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

      I just picked up Separate is Never Equal and Blue Sky, White Stars for my classroom library. So excited to read along with you, Kate!

  • Reply
    Sarah Jane
    August 22, 2017 at 12:10 am

    So excited to get these from the library. Thanks for all your work on this. I have a three kids and work at an elementary school and am looking forward to adding more titles!

    • Reply
      August 22, 2017 at 1:26 am

      So happy you’re excited about these titles! Thanks for being part of the DBC 🙂

  • Reply
    Lori Luhrman
    August 22, 2017 at 2:34 am

    My daughter is almost three and loves books…we read at least three a day. I can’t wait to find these titles at the library and eventually add them to our personal collection. Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to more great kids’ picks from you!

    • Reply
      September 3, 2017 at 2:11 am

      Just saw this! Thank you, Lori! Excited to be on this team with you!

  • Reply
    Whitney C.
    August 22, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Such a great list! Is there a way to include recommended ages for each book? My son is 3, and I’m curious to which books he would be able to understand the best. Thanks!

    • Reply
      September 3, 2017 at 2:10 am

      Thank you so much for your suggestion! This is definitely something I will include in future months. A is for Activist is available in board book format, which tends to be a good fit for younger readers. I would also recommend Blue Sky, White Stars for any age range. The text is very simple, but the symbolism is so powerful. I can see children loving the book at a young age, and deepening their connection with it as they grow.

  • Reply
    August 23, 2017 at 7:50 am

    These look like great suggestions.
    Also a great book that I studied with my class this year was ‘As Fast as Words Could Fly’ by Pamela M Tuck. We listened to the story being read aloud on the wonderful website storylineonline.com and it gave rise to lots of great discussion and follow-up activities. It is a great one for this theme.

    • Reply
      September 3, 2017 at 2:10 am

      I hadn’t heard of this one! Thank you for the recommendation.

  • Reply
    Diverse Books Club: October 2017 Picture Book Selections | The Novel Endeavor
    September 25, 2017 at 9:41 am

    […] Please join us in the Goodreads forums in October to discuss how you used these books with the littles in your life! Also, there is one week left for the September discussions and, in case you missed them, you can find those picture book titles here. […]

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