Please welcome Sandra Richards today with her diverse picture book list celebrating family, food, art, and music through the lens of African American authors and illustrators. She is a debut author with a wonderful picture book about rice and beans classics eaten all over the world called Rice & Rocks.
A Legacy of Culture: Diverse Picture Books about Family, Food, Art & Music
Dinner at Aunt Connie’s House by Faith Ringgold
Dinner at Aunt Connie’s is even more special than usual when Melody meets not only her new adopted cousin but twelve inspiring African-American women, who step out of their portraits and join the family for dinner.
Faith Ringgold is an amazing storyteller, effortlessly weaving in fantasy elements, taking her readers on a journey. This book is a perfect blend of showcasing the importance of family; immediate families, blended families, and the ancestors and bonding over dinner. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy. A Chair for My Mother has sold more than a million copies and is an ideal choice for reading and sharing at home and in the classroom. “A superbly conceived picture book expressing the joyful spirit of a loving family.”—The Horn Book
The late Vera Williams wrote and illustrated stories with diverse characters and in this book, showcasing the strong family bond and care for three generations of Hispanic women. The young girl Rosa didn’t let the fire burn their spirits, yet it ignited more love for family. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Dim Sum for Everyone! By Grace Lin
Chinese American family sits down to enjoy a traditional dim sum meal. Dumplings, cakes, buns, and tarts are wheeled out in little dishes on trolleys, and each family member gets to choose a favorite treat! Lin’s bold and gloriously patterned artwork is a feast for the eyes. Her story is simple and tailor-made for reading aloud to young children, and she includes an informative author’s note for parents, teachers, and children who want to learn more about the origins and practice of dim sum.
Stories like this help American children with diverse backgrounds stay close to their family traditions and culture. Honoring family traditions is important, especially for the younger generation. And who doesn’t love dim sum!!?? [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards, illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan
Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like ‘rice and rocks’ and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.
I have done several readings in schools and with community programs. I have been blown away by the reaction of the kids each and every time! They anxiously begin to share their own ‘rice and rocks’ story. Proud to say where their families come from, happy to talk about their traditions – learning more about themselves and one another. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis, illustrated by Paul Rogers
What’s that sound? The back door squeeeaks open, sounding like a noisy mouse nearby — eeek, eeeek, eeeek! Big trucks on the highway rrrrrrrumble, just as hunger makes a tummy grrrrumble. Ringing with exuberance and auditory delights, this second collaboration by world-renowned jazz musician and composer Wynton Marsalis and acclaimed illustrator Paul Rogers takes readers (and listeners) on a rollicking, clanging, clapping tour through the many sounds that fill a neighborhood.
Wynton Marsalis takes the reader on a fun musical journey around the neighborhood. This is a fun book to read aloud and the ebook version is a load of musical delights! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López
What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine! Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big. Pick up a paintbrush and join the celebration!
This book makes me feel like I can truly pick up a paintbrush and join in on the fun. The book comes to life, just like my imagination! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor
On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973, Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks―the musical interludes between verses―longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.
Can we go back in time when music not only provided inspiration but caused you to have fun while rocking to the beat? DJ Kool Herc, infused the sound from his native country, Jamaica, and changed the world. This is a cool take on musical history that kids will enjoy! [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
When Jackie Robinson retires from baseball and moves his family to Connecticut, the beautiful lake on their property is the center of everyone’s fun. The neighborhood children join the Robinson kids for swimming and boating. But oddly, Jackie never goes near the water.
In a dramatic episode that first winter, the children beg to go ice skating on the lake. Jackie says they can go–but only after he tests the ice to make sure it’s safe. The children prod and push to get Jackie outside until hesitantly, he finally goes. For five years, I worked at the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Certainly, I learned so much about him related to baseball. But the stories I enjoy more are the ones off the field, specifically about his love of family. I love all of Sharon’s books and this one is at the top of the list. Plus it is illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators – Kadir Nelson. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
Sandra L. Richards is the debut picture book author of Rice & Rocks. With Rice & Rocks, Sandra brings a unique contribution to the world of children’s books. An American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, she hopes the book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity. Learn more about Sandra at her website or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
To find more diverse and multicultural books for children, please check out our Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents. We also have a Pinterest board full of ideas: