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8 kids Books With a Main Character Who is a Person of Colour

Nov 15, 2017

When my husband grew up — one of the only black kids in St. Albert, Alberta — he didn’t often see himself reflected in books, TV and movies. While there had been black Albertans for 100 years by the time he was born in 1980, diversity in Canadian and North American media was still a very new thing.

American studies have shown that white characters are over-represented in children’s lit. Thankfully — though it’s slow — change is happening.

I’m glad for it. I want things to be different for my one-year-old son, Indiana, who is biracial. I want him to see himself on the pages of his favourite stories.


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And he should — we live in Edmonton, a city of 1 million people, quickly becoming one of Canada’s most diverse centres. I want Indy’s bookshelf to reflect that. I want every kid’s bookshelf to reflect that — seeing diversity in books and learning from other perspectives is just as important for white kids, too.

With that in mind, here are eight great kids’ books with POC protagonists:


1. Malala’s Magic Pencil (By Malala Yousafzai, Illustrated by Kerascoet)

Book cover: Malala's Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai

A little girl in Pakistan wishes she had a magic pencil so she could right all the wrongs in her community. A violence-free, kid-appropriate autobiographical tale from the Nobel Prize laureate feminist activist who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman.


2. Ada Twist, Scientist (By Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts)

Book cover: Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

A little black girl has an insatiable appetite for the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHYs of the world. Naturally, she channels her indefatigable curiousity into being a scientist, and her family is equal parts joyous and exasperated.


3. Goodnight, Hockey Fans (By Andrew Larsen Illustrated by Jacqui Lee)

Book cover: Goodnight, Hockey Fans by Andrew Larsen

A little boy hates to go to bed when his parents are watching the hockey game, but escapes to his dreams where he’s a superstar hockey hero. (It’s so great to see a character with brown skin on the cover of a kids’ hockey book.)


4. Karma Khullar’s Mustache (By Kristi Wientge)

Book cover: Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge

A chapter book for preteen kids following the anxieties and everyday ups and downs of Karma Khullar as she begins Grade 6 (with 17 new hairs on her upper lip).


5. Mixed Me (By Taye Diggs, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans)

Book cover: Mixed me, by Taye Diggs

A joyful book about a day-in-the life of a mixed-race boy. Young Mike takes pride in his awesome hair, loves his “blend” of mom and dad and celebrates diversity at every turn.


6. Last Stop on Market Street (By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson)

Book cover: Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena

CJ and his Grandma ride the bus every Sunday after church to the last stop on Market Street. Along the way, grandmother teaches grandson about appreciating what you have, giving back to those who have less, and what’s really important in life.


7. I Like Myself! (By Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow)

Book cover: I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont

A simple, silly rhyme book about self-esteem and self-love.


8. The Boy & the Bindi (By Vivek Shraya, Illustrated by Rajni Perera)

Book cover: The Boy & The Bindi by Vivek Shraya

A five-year-old South Asian boy becomes enamoured with his mother’s bindi. She encourages him to be himself and wear it — even though it’s traditionally worn by women. Written by the Edmonton-born, Toronto-based transgender musician and artist, Vivek Shraya.

Article Author Julia Lipscombe
Julia Lipscombe

Julia Lipscombe is an Edmonton-based freelance journalist and former staffer at FLARE magazine, NOW magazine and the Edmonton Journal. Julia is an arts and lifestyle specialist, and these days mostly writes about parenting, music and weddings. Alongside her husband, Jesse Lipscombe, she co-founded and runs the anti-discrimination campaign, #MakeItAwkward, which encourages people to speak up and speak out against racism, homophobia and hate of all kinds. Julia and Jesse are parents to three beautiful boys: Chile, Tripp and Indiana. In her ever-diminishing spare time, Julia likes to swim, bike, run, drink wine, and listen to lots of albums as a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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