Kids Like Me: 18 Books With
Diverse Main Characters
by Melissa Taylor
“We read to know that we are not alone.” —William Nicholson, Shadowlands
That’s why it’s important kids read engaging stories with main characters that are relatable to their lives. Not just to their humanity, but also to their appearance and their culture.
I could recommend hundreds of books with diverse main characters. Here’s a shortlist of some to check out.
Baby/Toddler (Ages 0 - 2) and Pre-K (Ages 3 - 5)
Lola at the Library
Every Tuesday, Lola and her mommy visit the library, check out books, and read them together at a coffee shop where Lola enjoys a special treat and the foam from mommy’s coffee.
The King of Kindergarten
A young boy eagerly awaits the start of kindergarten — making new friends, learning new things, and telling his parents all about it. For more Black boy joy, don’t miss Derrick Barnes’s newest, I Am Every Good Thing.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle
Daisy Ramona loves riding around her California neighborhood on the back of her Papi’s motorcycle, a cherished daily routine. Their community changes by the day, but her Papi’s love is constant.
Child of the Universe
Written by an astrophysicist for his young daughter, Child of the Universe is a simultaneously poetic and scientific exploration of our stunning cosmos and a celebration of the individual brilliance of each child born into it.
Danbi Leads the School Parade
Danbi and her family just immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea. At her new school, Danbi initially feels out of place — the language and customs are all mysterious — but at lunchtime, she creates a fun new game that everyone can play.
Growing Reader (Ages 6 - 8)
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Thing
A charming and amusing early chapter book series, Alvin Ho stars as a young Asian American boy who might be intimidated by just about everything at school, but at home he’s a superhero-in-training, also known as Firecracker Man!
At the Mountain’s Base
In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, a multigenerational Cherokee family go about their days and traditions in their home, while their loved one, always in their thoughts, serves as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.
Big Red Lollipop
Rubina can’t wait to attend her first birthday party, but her mother spoils the excitement when she insists that Rubina’s little sister, Sana, attend too. At the party, Sana pulls all sorts of little-sister shenanigans (inspired by the author’s own little-sister behavior).
Mango, Abuela, and Me
When Mia’s abuela comes to live with her family, Mia looks forward to getting to know her far-away grandmother. Their language barrier may slow things down, but Mia comes up with a clever solution to help the two connect.
Freedom Soup will make your reader want to dance and clap their hands, as Belle and Ti Gran cook up a feast in the kitchen. Ti Gran also tells Belle stories about the Haitian Revolution and their family’s history.
Tween (Ages 9 - 12)
Return to Sender
Three sisters are left on their own when their parents are sent back to Mexico. The son of the farmer whose land the girls are living on, Tyler, struggles with his fears and prejudices, but begins to change as he gets to know the girls better.
Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
Yumi Chung accidentally finds herself living two lives: as a dutiful daughter and quiet student, and as a stand-up comedian in training. Will Yumi be able to bring her identities together?
Eleven-year-old Scoob is in hot water with his dad, but his grandma whisks him away for a cross-country road trip, retracing the steps that she and Scoob’s grandpa took during the 1960s in the South, guided by their Green Book.
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
When Marcus Vega’s mother takes him and his little brother to Puerto Rico to visit unfamiliar relatives, Marcus takes off on a quest in search of his father, who left the family ten years ago. What he finds is a whole lot more than he bargained for.
Teen (Ages 13+)
My So-Called Bollywood Life
Bollywood-obsessed Winnie Mehta is shocked when her supposed soulmate falls for someone else. With a little help from Dev, a fellow film nerd, Winnie rewrites her love story according to her own script.Preorder from:
How It All Blew Up
When coming out to his Muslim family doesn’t go as planned, 18-year-old Amir Azadi packs his bags for Rome. As he pursues his most authentic self, Amir’s old life and new collide in a big way.Preorder from:
Frankly in Love
Though Frank Li’s parents wanted him to grow up in America, they still have some traditional expectations: namely, that he only date Korean girls. Frank seeks the help of his friend Joy Song, and things take an unexpected turn.
Who Put This Song On?
Both heartrending and irreverent, Who Put This Song On? is the story of 17-year-old Morgan, who’s struggling with growing up in a mostly white suburban community that prefers to ignore both mental health and race. An unforgettable semi-autobiographical novel from an award-winning poet.
For more book suggestions with diverse characters like these, I recommend these blogs:
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020.