Protagonists of color

There’s long been a shortage of children’s books with kids of color at the center of the narratives. Publishers, fortunately, are starting to change this with stories like these, some of which address cultural differences head-on and others of which simply tell stories occurring in non-white communities. All are fun for anyone and everyone!


Called “an affirmation of blackness and celebration of night” by School Library Journal magazine, this warm, nostalgic picture book depicts a girl gleefully playing hide-and-seek with neighborhood friends. Subtly, it counteracts the stereotype of urban, ethnically diverse communities being troubled or unsafe.

Ages 3–7 • $17.99

Johnny's Pheasant

Cheryl Minnema, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, collaborated with Cree-Metis illustrator Julie Flett for this sweet, simple story. Young Johnny discovers a pheasant on the side of the road and can’t tell if it’s sleeping or dead. When he and his grandmother bring the bird home, they discover it is, in fact, alive — and the real adventure begins. 

Ages 3–8 • $16.95

The Proudest Blue

In this story by Olympic medal-winning U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, little Faizah is thrilled about her sister Asiya’s first day of wearing a vibrant blue hijab to school. When Asiya stays proud and strong after enduring hateful ridicule, Faizah’s admiration for both her sister and her hijab only grows. 

Ages 4–7 • $17.99


An adorable whirlwind of a child, Natsumi is always being admonished to slow down and be quieter. Her natural exuberance unfortunately doesn’t seem to fit with the many cultural activities in her Japanese town, and she feels like she doesn’t have a place. Then her kind, understanding grandfather directs her toward a pastime that’s just perfect for letting her spirit shine.

Ages 4–8 • $17.99

My Footprints

Minnesota author Bao Phi tells the tale of Thuy, who suffers schoolyard taunts about her Vietnamese heritage — and her two mothers. Upset, Thuy stomps off through the snow pretending to be animals that wouldn’t suffer bullying, which inspires her mothers to join in with some fantastical Vietnamese beasts of their own.

Ages 6–8 • $19.99

Ed Dykhuizen is an associate editor at Minnesota Parent and father of three, who lives in St. Paul.