21 Inclusive Picture Books to Jump-Start Summer Reading | We Are Kid Lit Collective

From the Caldecott-winning Big by Vashti Harrison to a bilingual counting book in Mi’kmaw and English, these illustrated works are guaranteed to engage young readers during summer break and all year around.



School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group’s 10th annual summer reading recommendations. In the next couple of weeks, SLJ will publish individual posts featuring their recommendations for picture books, transitional books, middle grade, and young adult titles. 

Amid all the challenges and disruptions that our youth face, we’re releasing our 10th We Are Kid Lit Summer Reading List as a message to young readers: We see you. We hear you. We are with you. You motivate us every day to keep moving the needle by elevating narratives that feature Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices while being inclusive of intersectional queer and disability representation and limiting the harms of biases and microaggressions. This year, we’re collaborating with Loudmouth Books, an independent bookstore with a similar vision, to have these titles available for purchase.

From the Caldecott-winning Big by Vashti Harrison to a bilingual counting book in Mi’kmaw and English, these illustrated works are guaranteed to engage young readers during summer break and all year around.

ADDASI, Maha. Time to Pray. illus. by Ned Gannon. Astra/Boyds Mills. 2010. ISBN 9781590786116. BL
When Yasmin visits her grandmother in the Middle East, she is surprised the first time she hears the muezzin’s call to prayer. Told in Arabic and English, this is a story of a Muslim child’s growing awareness of the five daily prayers.

AZAAD, Dezh. The Carpet: An Afghan Family Story. illus. by Nan Cao. Abrams. 2023. ISBN 9781419763618.
A carpet holds a special status and place for an Afghan refugee child and family, connecting them to comfort, food, culture, home, and love. The carpet centers and grounds them amid trauma and displacement.

CHE, Cathy Linh & Kyle Lucia Wu. An Asian American A to Z: A Children’s Guide to Our History. illus. by Kavita Ramchandran. Haymarket. 2023. ISBN 9781642599459.
This colorful book arranges facts about Asian American history alphabetically. Featuring intersecting races and identities, the book reminds readers that Asian American history is U.S. history.

CHOWDHURY, Radhiah. The Katha Chest. illus. by Lavanya Naidu. S. & S./Salaam Reads. 2022. ISBN 9781665903905.
A young Bangladeshi girl enjoys studying the patterns and stories woven into the kathas, or light quilts, passed down by the women in her family.

GOLDSAITO, Katrina. The Sound of Silence. illus. by Julia Kuo. Little, Brown. 2016. ISBN 9780316203371.
Yoshio loves his noisy home city of Tokyo, but a chance encounter with a street musician leads the boy to contemplate the joy of silence.

GOODLUCK, Laurel. Forever Cousins. illus. by Jonathan Nelson. Charlesbridge. 2022. ISBN 9781623542924.
Amanda and Kara are ­cousins, best friends, and ­constant ­companions until Kara’s family moves away. After so much time apart, will things be different when the two are finally reunited? Two author’s notes extend this story about Native family bonds remaining strong despite long distances.

GOULD, Loretta. Counting in Mi’kmaw/Mawkiljemk Mi’kmawktuk. tr. by Lindsay R. Marshall & Bernie Francis. illus. by author. Nimbus. 2018. ISBN 9781771086622. BL
This bilingual counting book helps babies to learn to count in Mi’kmaw and English. Mi’kmaw culture and tradition is embedded into the stunning artwork and text.

HAMMOND, Tiffany. A Day with No Words. illus. by Kate Cosgrove. Wheat Penny Pr. 2023. ISBN 9781736949795.
A Black autistic child goes to the park with his mother. Rather than speaking verbally, he uses a tablet to communicate. Some people don’t realize that he understands perfectly what they’re saying, and his perspective comes through clearly in his poetic first-person narrative.

HARRISON, Vashti. Big. illus. by author. Little. Brown. 2023. ISBN 9780316353229.
This little Black girl doesn’t think she’s too big for anything, even though everyone else seems to think so. Readers watch her really become a big girl when she realizes she’s just fine exactly as she is.

JOHNSON, Angela. Do Like Kyla. illus. by James E. Ransome. Scholastic/Orchard. 1993. ISBN 9780531070406.
One cold winter morning. a young Black girl wakes up at the same time her older sister, Kayla. She tries to spend the day just like Kayla, from braiding her hair to petting the dog and then pouring honey on her oatmeal. The siblings venture out in the snow to walk to the neighborhood store, and the little girl widens her gait to walk in her sister’s footsteps.

LESTER, Julius. Let’s Talk About Race. illus. by Karen Barbour. HarperCollins/Amistad. 2005. ISBN 9780060285968.
Iconic Black children’s author Lester shares some of his personal history with readers, while also reminding them of our common humanity. Barbour’s bold and imaginative artwork is sure to engage children.

MACIAS, Maryann Jacob. Téo’s Tutu. illus. by Alea Marley. Dial. 2021. ISBN 9781984815521.
Téo loves to dance, but he feels uncomfortable with the stares he gets for wearing his preferred outfit, a tutu. As he gets ready for the big performance, will Téo stay true to himself, or wear pants and a shirt like the other boys?

MOUSHABECK, Hannah. Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine. illus. by Reem Madooh. Chronicle. 2023. ISBN 9781797202051.
Three sisters listen to their father’s stories of his childhood homeland of Palestine in this autobiographical story. Vivid descriptions and illustrations of the multicultural Old City of Jerusalem paint beauty, love, and longing for a homeland the girls have never been to, but the family hopes to one day visit.

NEAL, Trinity & DeShanna Neal. My Rainbow. illus. by Art Twink. Penguin/Kokila. 2020. ISBN 9781984814609.
Trinity, a Black autistic trans girl, wants long hair like her dolls, but growing new hair is itchy and uncomfortable. Fortunately, her family has a plan: a beautiful rainbow wig for beautiful rainbow Trinity!

NORMAN, Lissette. Los Plátanos van con todo/Plátanos Go with Everything. tr. by Kianny N. Antigua. illus. by Sara Palacios. HarperCollins. 2023. ISBN 9780063247789. BL
This celebration of Dominican American culture and community shows that plátanos, or plantains, really do go with everything!

RODRIGUEZ, Patty & Ariana Stein. The Life of/La vida de Basquiat. illus. by Citlali Reyes. Lil’ Libros. 2021. ISBN 9781947971721. BL
This board book is a short and simple introduction to the life and work of Haitian/Puerto Rican artist Jean-Michel Basquiat for very young readers.

SHAMSI, Shirin. The Moon from Dehradun: A Story of Partition. illus. by Tarun Lak. S. & S./Atheneum. 2022. ISBN 9781665906791.
The 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan and the resulting forced migration from a child’s perspective. Azra and her family must leave behind their generational home, but to make it worse, Azra forgets her beloved doll, Gurya. How will she adjust to resettlement without Gurya? The narrative comes full circle with empathy, resilience, and hope.

SHANTÉ, Angela. The Noisy Classroom. illus. by Alison Hawkins. West Margin Pr. 2020. ISBN 9781513262925.
From a distance, a young Black girl has watched Mrs. Johnson’s class all year, and she’s sure that she’d rather move to Antarctica than be in that class. As luck would have it, the girl ends up assigned to Mrs. Johnson’s class, and sure enough, it’s too much loud singing, counting games, and cleaning. When will they learn anything?!

SORELL, Traci. Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series. illus. by Arigon Starr. Penguin/Kokila. 2023. ISBN 9780593406472.
When Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Charles Bender (Ojibwe) squared up against New York Giants catcher John Meyers (Cahuilla) in 1911, they became the first Native players to face each other in a World Series. This nonfiction picture book connects the two players’ experiences to modern sports’ inability (or unwillingness) to drop stereotypical Native mascots.

THEODORE, Adrea. A History of Me. illus. by Erin K. Robinson. Holiday House/Neal Porter. 2022. ISBN 9780823442577.
As the only Black student in class, a young girl feels uncomfortable when on the receiving end of various microaggressions. Bold, colorful images and a poetic text augment this story of the child’s burgeoning Black pride and empowerment.

YOUNG, Ed. Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem About China. illus. by author. Chronicle. 2005. ISBN 9780811843430.
A marvelous piece of bookmaking from award-winning Chinese American artist Ed Young, who passed away on September 29, 2023, this book marries a spare text with beautifully textured paper collage to create a “visual poem” of his birthplace.

Sam Bloom is a children’s collection development librarian at the The Lane Libraries in Butler County, OH. Edith Campbell is a librarian at Indiana State University. Ariana Hussain is a teacher librarian at the Blake School, Hopkins, MN. Dr. Sujei Lugo is a children’s librarian at the Boston Public Library and an independent researcher. Lyn Miller-Lachmann is an award-winning author and translator of children’s books.

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