Baby Librarians shares favorite inclusive kids books
Baby Librarians is a children’s book review website and bookstagram begun by two moms who met as book reviewers for Book Riot. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Margaret Kingsbury — who compiled this list — reviews books on BuzzFeed Books, Parents, and StarTrek.com. She loves reading books that depict diverse experiences with honest, beautiful prose and illustrations. In between wrangling two toddlers, Jen Sherman — the second mom behind Baby Librarians — has had her work published by The Kitchn in addition to Book Riot. Follow Baby Librarians on Instagram and Facebook @babylibrarians, and visit their website at babylibrarians.com. We are very excited to share Baby Librarians’ favorite inclusive kids books.
Inclusive Board Books
For the youngest readers. Baby Librarians shares favorite inclusive board books that can be read aloud to your baby, toddler, or preschooler.
Baby Loves Scientists: You Can Be Anything! by Ruth Spiro & Irene Chan
This engaging board book introduces little scientists to different types of scientific careers. Readers can imagine themselves as meteorologists studying the weather or as theoretical physicists studying the laws of nature. Author Ruth Spiro describes each career in simple, child-friendly ways, and children find Irene Chan’s colorful and joyful illustrations delightful. Be sure to check out the other books in the duo’s Baby Loves Science board book series.
Being You: A First Conversation About Gender by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, & Anne/Andy Passchier
This essential board book provides an introduction to gender identification and pronouns for toddlers and preschoolers. Pronouns include ze and they, among others, and the authors identify body parts using accurate terminology. It’s a child-friendly approach to discussing gender identity and a much-needed book. This board book is part of the First Conversation series.
Nerdy Babies: Dinosaurs by Emmy Kastner
This board book perfect for little dinosaur-lovers is the fifth book in the Nerdy Babies series. Author/illustrator Emmy Kastner introduces babies and toddlers to the various eras dinosaurs lived in, paleontologists, and the names of different dinosaurs. These diverse and accessible board books are super fun reads and just as informative for adult readers as for the child. The Nerdy Baby series also has books about transportation, space, the ocean, weather, and rocks.
Inclusive Picture Books
For the young reader who mainly interacted with the characters visually. Baby Librarians shares favorite inclusive kids books that can be read aloud as a family.
Vivi Loves Science: by Kimberly Derting, Shelli R. Johannes, & Joelle Murray
We are big fans of this trio’s STEM-themed picture book and early reader series featuring girls of color embracing science. In this most recent addition to the series, Vivi and her classmates go on a field trip to the beach. Their teacher and a park ranger show them the seaside flora. Vivi listens to a seashell, considers what really makes that wave-like noise, helps return a fish to the ocean, and discovers a shark tooth that could be 100 years old. Not only is this one an excellent STEM picture book, but it’s also an excellent beach-themed read for the summer. Be sure to also check out Cece Loves Science and Vivi Loves Science.
Bodies are Cool: by Tyler Feder
This rhythmic celebration of all types of bodies is an absolute blast to read aloud: “Round bodies, muscled bodies, curvy curves and straight bodies, jiggly-wiggly fat bodies, Bodies are cool!” It’s an infectious cadence, and my toddler and I find ourselves making up our own verses every time we read it. The illustrations are vibrant, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a picture book as inclusive as this one. Every illustration depicts all different body types, skin colors, disabilities, ages, and more. Tyler Feder’s first book was the award-winning graphic novel Dancing at the Pity Party. This is her debut picture book.
Bella’s Recipe for Success: by Ana Siqueira & Geraldine Rodríguez
We love reading this picture book about embracing failure, practicing, and learning from mistakes. All of Bella’s siblings seem to have special talents. Her sister can cartwheel like no one else, and her brother plays excellent piano. But Bella can’t do anything well. So she decides she’s going to be a cook, but when her dulce de leche doesn’t turn out, she despairs. However, with a bit of help from her abuela, she realizes that it takes time to learn a new skill, and after a few tries, her dulce de leche turns out perfect. This picture book even has a recipe in the back for readers to try! We also like that it has Spanish words mixed in with its primarily English text.
When Lola Visits: by Michelle Sterling & Aaron Asis
This sweet and gorgeous picture book celebrates grandmothers, summer, and Filipino heritage. For the child narrator, the best part of every summer is when her grandmother, Lola, travels from the Philippines to the girl’s home to stay with them over the summer. They cook cassava cake together, tell stories, and share their lives for those too-short months before school begins, and Lola flies back to the Philippines. Sterling’s simple, lyrical prose and Asis’s verdant illustrations create a perfect pairing of story and art.
Inclusive Middle Grade
For the independent reader. Baby Librarians shares favorite inclusive kids books for 6th-9th grade readers.
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia (August 3, Delacorte Press)
This must-read anthology of 17 short stories celebrates Black boyhood in a variety of genres. Stories range from fantasy to historical fiction to contemporary and more. Lamar Giles gives an homage to superhero fandom in “There’s Going to be a Fight in the Cafeteria on Friday and You Better Not Bring Batman.” Jason Reynolds describes the pressure to put together the perfect first-day-of-school look in “First Day Fly.” A devil haunts a young Trinidadian immigrant in “Percival and the Jab” by P. Djèlí Clark. Other contributors include Jerry Craft, Tochi Onyebuchi, George M. Johnson, and so many more.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit
Readers don’t have to love baseball to enjoy Sarah Kapit’s debut novel about an 11-year-old autistic girl named Vivy who just wants to play baseball. One of Vivy’s teachers assigns the students a letter sent to someone special, and Vivy chooses to write to VJ Capello, a major league baseball player. Several years earlier, VJ taught Vivy how to throw a knuckleball during a chance encounter, and he’s become her idol. When a local baseball coach notices her talent, he invites Vivy to join his team, The Flying Squirrels. But baseball is a lot more challenging than it should be as Vivy faces bullying from her teammates. Writing letters helps her deal with her anxiety. Inspired by Kapit’s childhood as an autistic child who loved baseball, this uniquely told epistolary novel is both empowering and touching.
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom: by Sangu Mandanna
Fantasy readers will love this action-packed fantasy adventure. Drawing helps Kiki Kallira with her anxiety, so she fills her sketchbooks with images from the Indian mythological stories her mother tells her. But Kiki’s illustrations are more powerful than she could ever imagine. When she draws the legend of Mysore and the demon King Mahishasura, she accidentally creates a portal, allowing the demon king to enter her world. The only way for Kiki to banish King Mahishasura from her world is to travel through the portal and into the fantasy world full of myths she’s created with her drawings.
Hurricane: My Story of Resilience by Salvador Gómez-Colón
I, Witness — edited by Dave Eggers, Zainab Nasrati, Zoë Ruiz, and Amanda Uhle — is a new nonfiction middle grade series that centers on social justice themes. Each book provides a platform for a young author to tell their story of witnessing a major event. In Hurricane: My Story of Resilience, Salvador Gómez-Colón describes his experiences after 2017’s Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and how he came to found the Light and Hope for Puerto Rico nonprofit at just 15-years-old. It’s an amazing story. Be sure to also read the other book in the I, Witness series, Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah.
Inclusive Young Adult
For High School ages and older readers. Baby Librarians shares favorite inclusive kids books to keep our minds evolving through viewing stories from different people’s perspectives.
Star Daughter: by Shveta Thakrar
This wonderful, standalone YA fantasy retells Hindu mythology in a contemporary setting. Sheetel, the daughter of a star and a mortal, lives a relatively normal life. Sure, her extended Hindu-American family tends to be nosier than most, and her overprotective father has more rules than most, and yes, she has to dye her star-white hair constantly, but otherwise, she’s just like her friends. Until the day the stars begin singing to her, and her star hair refuses to be dyed. One day, the star song overwhelms her with magic, and her touch accidentally sends her father into a coma. Desperate to save him, Sheetal and her best friend travel to the stars to ask Sheetel’s mother for star blood, which can cure humans. However, her star mother’s family forces her into a deal: only if she wins a magical music competition can she have the star blood that will save her father.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything: by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
This beautifully written multi-genre YA novel entwines storylines that include Mexican folklore, telepathic powers, and UFOs. Years earlier, Sia Martinez’s mom was deported by ICE. In an attempt to reunite with her family, Sia’s mom disappears in the Arizona desert and is never heard from or seen again. She’s presumed dead. Sia struggles both with her grief and with her anger at the police chief’s son, who mocks Sia’s Mexican heritage. Her best friend Rosa is a bright spot in her life, and a new boy in town — Noah — provides some welcome distraction. During a class assignment, she and Noah spot a UFO and uncover something even more bizarre than the ghost of Sia’s grandmother that gives her advice. The characters in this heartwarming novel are delightful, and, despite the weighty topics, I couldn’t help but smile as I read.
Ghost Wood Song: by Erica Waters
This YA debut is a lovely gothic that perfectly captures poor, small-town living in the South. It also features a bisexual main character. Shady Grove inherited her father’s fiddle after his untimely death, but the fiddle has a special power: it can call up ghosts when played with enough grief. When someone murders Shady Grove’s stepfather and police arrest her older brother Jesse and accuse him of the crime, Shady Grove decides to use the fiddle’s powers to solve her stepfather’s murder. However, when she calls up ghosts by playing folksongs on the fiddle, a menacing, shadowy man appears and sometimes even controls her movements. Though her friends and fellow bandmates try to help Shady Grove find other ways to solve her stepfather’s murder, the fiddle’s allure is too strong.
Felix Ever After: by Kacen Callander
17-year-old Felix Love is proud of his identity as Black, queer, and transgender in this powerful and emotional read by award-winning author Kacen Callander. He’s chasing his dream to study art at Brown University and hopes to one day find love when an anonymous school bully posts transphobic pictures of Felix before his transition along with his deadname. Plotting revenge, what Felix doesn’t expect to find is the romance he’s been looking for. I loved the complexity and nuanced queer friendships in this sweet and moving contemporary Young Adult.
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The Mums and their kids behind Baby Librarians
Marian and Margaret
Marian surprised her Mommy and Daddy by being born almost a full month early on December 1st, 2017. And she’s been reading every day since. Black and white board books were her favorites at first, but she also loved when Mommy made funny noises while reading to her. Mommy is very funny. Currently, like Tilly, she loves chewing on books. She’s pretty sure ingesting books helps you read faster. She also loves inspecting all of the books by pulling them off the shelves. Mommy taught her books are funny, so lots of times, Marian has a good chuckle to herself as she flips through the pages on her own. Maybe because the book is upside down? Marian’s mommy, Margaret, is an equally voracious consumer of books, though not quite as literally as Marian. Margaret has earned a Master of Arts in English and writes for Book Riot. She discovered her love for children’s literature in undergrad, where she took a couple of children’s literature courses, and having Marian has only increased the enjoyment.
Tilly and Jen
Tilly was born in October 2017 and she has been reading ever since. The first books she ‘read’ didn’t have words and primarily consisted of lines and shapes. She has moved on to chewing books, throwing books, pulling books off shelves, and turning pages of books very quickly. She also likes grabbing at Mummy’s books when Mummy is silly enough to try and read around her. Tilly’s mum, Jen, discovered the world of baby and children’s books when Tilly was born. She spends a lot of her days reading board books (often the same ones over and over again) and is always on the lookout for new board books to introduce to Tilly. In a previous life, she completed a PhD about reading and public libraries. These days, when she’s not entertaining a baby, she writes for Book Riot and tries to read books that have more than 100 words and are not made of cardboard.