This post originally appeared on Book Riot.
Families can look like many things. When I was a child, children’s books either depicted homogenous, white families with two to three children doing family things, or a family of animals with two to three children doing family things. Rarely were children’s books published that showed the wide variety and realities of family life. That’s changed, thankfully. Now, numerous children’s books show and celebrate families of many kinds doing their normal family things, which can also vary greatly! I love it, and I love reading all of them to my daughter.
Here are 20 such children’s books that depict the diversity of family life, and also show what really makes a family—love and care.
BOARD BOOKS ABOUT FAMILY
Love Makes a Family BY SOPHIE BEER
Every kind and type of family can be found in this board book. It’s a joyful and bright celebration of the many ways families take care of and love one another, from waking up bright and early in the morning to the sound of drumming, to splashing in the biggest puddles. It’s such a sweet message. The vibrant art and colors pop, and there are many things toddlers can point to and name.
Homemade Love BY BELL HOOKS, ILLUSTRATED BY SHANE W. EVANS
A mother and father call their little girl all kinds of silly names to show her how much they love her in this poetic board book. It’s endearing and a joy to read.
My Two Moms and Me AND My Two Dads and Me BY MICHAEL JOOSTEN, ILLUSTRATED BY IZAK ZENOU
These two board books celebrate diverse LGBTQ+ families. It shows moms and dads and their little ones going about their daily routines until it’s time for bed. These are super sweet.
Better Together: A Book of Family BY BARBARA JOOSSE AND ANNEKE LISBERG, ILLUSTRATED BY JARED ANDREW SCHORR
This lift-the-flap board book was one of my daughter’s favorites for a few months. Each page shows a single member of an animal family alone with a possible threat. But lift the page and voila, their family appears to help them out. It also provides the names for groups of animal families—a dazzle of zebras, a cloud of bats, a town of prairie dogs. Neat!
PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT FAMILY
Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border BY MITALI PERKINS, ILLUSTRATED BY SARA PALACIOS
For La Posada Sin Fronteras, María and her family drive to the border to see their abuela through the border wall. It’s been five long years since María has seen her abuela, but she still remembers the sound of her voice calling her angelita, and misses her warm hug. Both she and her little brother Juan have made her presents, but while María’s scarf fits easily through the fence, Juan’s family portrait does not. But with a little ingenuity, María finds a way to give Abuela both their presents. This story is so sweet and touching, about how a family is still a family no matter what side of the border they’re on. I tear up every time I read this because I just want Abuela to give her two grandchildren and her child that good warm hug that she used to.
Jazz Baby BY LISA WHEELER, ILLUSTRATED BY R. GREGORY CHRISTIE
This is one of my favorite read-alouds: “Auntie toe-taps. Uncle soft-shoes. Fancy dancin’ baby Baby sings, “DOO-WOP-DOO!” Every page has that sing-song rhythm, depicting a very jazzy family celebrating jazz with the youngest member of their family.
Love and the Rocking Chair BY LEO AND DIANE DILLON
A rocking chair is passed down through the generations, each new family rocking their little one in it until that baby is a child pretending the chair is a boat sailing in the ocean, and then later a parent themselves, rocking their first little one to sleep. It’s an endearing read, and also depicts an interracial family. Leo and Diane Dillon have coauthored/illustrated many picture books together. This one seems like it might be autobiographical.
When Aidan Became a Brother BY KYLE LUKOFF, ILLUSTRATED BY KAYLANI JUANITA
When Aidan was born, his parents thought he was a girl when actually he was a different type of boy. Aidan’s Mommy is pregnant again, and he’s really excited about being a big brother. But he doesn’t want his sibling to feel the same way he did when he was really young. He wants them to know that they can be whoever they want to be. This book is an important discussion of family in many ways. First, it shows how assumptions from those we love can hurt us, but also how families can correct their behaviors to embrace and respect differences. I admire how Aidan’s parents respect and honor him in this book, and learn from their experience to create a better childhood for their next baby. I also see Aidan’s struggle and anxiety with becoming a big brother an important topic of conversation with expectant families. It’s an empathetic portrayal of a family with a transgender child that’s trying to do things better. And the illustrations are lovely. My toddler loves just physically flipping through the book in addition to reading it.
Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival BY GRACE LIN
Grace Lin is one of my absolute favorite children’s book authors. Thanking the Moon tells the story of a family preparing for and celebrating the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. From setting out the food to preparing the moon-honoring table, each family member has their own task to complete before the ceremony begins. And then everyone sends a secret wish to the moon. It’s a lovely book about family and about this Chinese festival.
Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment BY ZOE PERSICO
Georgia is a scientist in a family of artists; what a tragedy! She wants to study famous scientists and conduct her own experiments. Her family tries to help her with their artistic ideas, but she doesn’t want their help! So she goes off alone to do some brilliant scientific experiments. Except, she’s stuck. What can she study that hasn’t already been studied before? Then she has an idea, an idea that involves her family. Turns out their art can help after all! Family fights, pouting, and creative differences are essential parts to every family. This book is a colorful and fun way to explore those ideas.
Stella Brings the Family BY MIRIAM B. SCHIFFER, ILLUSTRATED BY HOLLY CLIFTON-BROWN
For Mother’s Day, Stella’s teacher is throwing a party and all the moms are invited. The problem is, Stella doesn’t have a mom. She has two dads. What’s she going to do? With the urging of her friend, Stella decides to invite her entire family. She worries about the party all the way up to the day of, but then she and her family have so much fun meeting everyone else’s family. It turns out there was nothing to worry about, which, as a side note, would’ve been really nice if Stella’s teacher had addressed when she told the class about the party! This is a great book to introduce children of binary families to same-sex families and to reassure children with same-sex parents that they’re not alone and that their family matters.
First Laugh–Welcome, Baby! BY ROSE ANN TAHE AND NANCY BO FLOOD, ILLUSTRATED BY JONATHAN NELSON
In Navajo tradition, a baby becomes a member of their community after their first laugh, and then a celebration is held to welcome them in. This picture book tells the story of a modern Navajo family trying to get their newest member of the family to laugh. Which family member will make the little one chuckle first? It’s an amazing book and makes me so happy to read.
Jingle Dancer BY CYNTHIA LEITICH SMITH
Jenna wants to dance at the next powwow with her grandmother, but she needs more jingles for her jingle dress. By helping family and friends, she’s able to acquire enough jingles for the powwow. This picture book also depicts a contemporary Native American family, honoring their traditions. It’s a must.
Mango, Abuela, and Me BY MEG MEDINA, ILLUSTRATED BY ANGELA DOMINGUEZ
Mia’s abuela comes to live with her and her parents, but she doesn’t speak English and Mia doesn’t speak Spanish. With the help of a parrot, a little perseverance, and a lot of love, the two begin to teach each their language, and strengthen their relationship. This story is as sweet as it sounds.
Around the Table That Grandad Built BY MELANIE HEUISER HILL, ILLUSTRATED BY JAIME KIM
“This is the table that grandad built. These are the sunflowers picked by my cousins / Set on the table that Grandad built.” Each page adds onto the list of table preparations for the table that grandad built, until the entire family gathers around it, ready to enjoy what looks like a very tasty meal. Or as my daughter says, “Mmmmm, yummies. MMMMMmmmmm.” The book’s rhythm makes it an excellent read-aloud, and I’m happy to see the diversity of family members and food gathered around the table that grandad built. Often, food and family gatherings go together, and this book celebrates both.
MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS ABOUT FAMILY
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street BY BOOK RIOT CONTRIBUTING EDITOR KARINA YAN GLASER
This is such a charming and delightful novel about a large, biracial family trying to live their best life in a brownstone in Harlem. It’s light while still dealing with real-world stuff. There are three books in the series so far, and if you’ve already read them, then take this quiz to see which Vanderbeeker you are! I’m Laney.
The Lotterys Plus One BY EMMA DONOGHUE, ILLUSTRATED BY CAROLINE HADILAKSONO
Emma Donoghue is best known for her adult novels, including her bestseller Room. She’s published two in her middle grade Lotterys series so far, and they’re cute and funny and very diverse. The Lotterys are made up of four parents, too many children to count—some of whom are adopted—and many many pets. In book 1, when Grumps is diagnosed with dementia, he comes to live in the Lotterys’ house and takes over Sumac’s room. Sumac tries to be okay with this, but Grumps earned his name and ridicules Sumac and his family’s life.
Kinda Like Brothers BY COE BOOTH
Kevon is Jarrett’s foster brother, but he doesn’t trust him, and he certainly doesn’t think of him as a brother. Kevon and his baby sister’s coming into Jarrett’s household coincide with a lot of other big happenings in his life: he’s failing 5th grade, his mother has a new boyfriend, and he’s starting to learn what it means to be a black boy in the United States. Despite all these weighty topics, the book is often fun.
The Other Half of Happy BY REBECCA BALCÁRCEL
Quijana is half Anglo, half Guatemalan, and definitely prefers her Anglo side. But then her Guatemalan family shows up and convinces her parents to go on a trip to Guatemala. Quijana doesn’t speak Spanish and she has a new crush, so she certainly doesn’t want to go on this trip. But she does wish she could communicate with her grandmother, and something is up with her little brother. Balcárcel is a poet, so it’s no surprise that the prose in this novel sings.
The Science of Breakable Things BY TAE KELLER
Natalie’s mother is depressed and, more than anything, she wants to fix her—to make her happy again, to smile and laugh with her. But that’s not how depression works. I had a parent diagnosed with depression at the same age as Natalie, and I wish I’d had this book in my life. I’m glad it exists now! I also enjoy the friendships Natalie develops at school.
I wanted to include families of every time and culture in this list, but it was just impossible! Thankfully, Book Riot has many lists with children’s books about family, from siblings to grandparents to adoption. Check these out for more:
- 10 Sibling Books to Help Children Welcome a New Baby
- 20 Children’s Books About Divorce
- 25 Children’s Books About Grandparents
- 30 Children’s Books About Non-traditional Families
- 25 Children’s Books About Adoption
And from Baby Librarians: