A Mighty Girl's top picks of books for children and teens celebrating acceptance and the value of diversity.
For parents and educators concerned about fostering children's appreciation of diversity and acceptance of others, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle in such divisive times. From the subtle to the overt, discrimination based on sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, appearance, and ability does exist, and tackling it can be a difficult conversation to have with kids regardless of their age.
Fortunately, thoughtful stories exploring these issues in sensitive and compassionate ways can help make such discussions a bit easier. To that end, in this blog post, we've collected our top picks of books for both children and teens that explore the ways in which our differences shape our views of the world, affect how we interact with one another, and influence our future — and how those differences are strengths to be celebrated. As well, many of these titles show kids how to stand up for their peers and others when they see discrimination happening right in front of them. By sharing books like these, kids will learn the most important lesson of living in a diverse world: by standing together, there's nothing we can't accomplish.
For over 200 titles that celebrate acceptance of differences, visit our Tolerance & Acceptance Collection. For more books that star Mighty Girls of all cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations, and abilities, visit our Multicultural Fiction Collection.
Mighty Girl Books About Diversity and Acceptance
Even the youngest children love seeing faces from around the world! This charming book features photographs of baby girls from many different countries — and celebrates their potential to become women who change the world. This book, which was developed by the Global Fund for Children, also provides charitable outreach: part of the proceeds of each book sold are donated to community organizations that are dedicated to helping girls thrive and succeed.
In his signature silly, colorful style, author / illustrator Todd Parr encourages kids to be proud of the things that make them special. Whether you're a different color or speak a different language or like wearing your hair a different way from everyone else, it's all part of what makes you, you! This new companion to Parr's best-selling book It's Okay To Be Different is a great way to get kids talking about their own differences.
Written by the same author as the groundbreaking Heather Has Two Mommies, this book reminds the reader that a day with a toddler and caring parents is much the same for every family! Whether at play with hide-and-seek and dress-up, splashing in the bath, or getting a kiss at bedtime, these books show the deep, loving bond between a lesbian couple and their treasured child. The same author/illustrator pair has written Daddy, Papa, and Me, also for age 1 - 3, which depicts a gay couple and their toddler in the same gentle, loving way.
This book celebrates the love we feel for our families and all the different varieties they come in! Whether you have a big family or a small family, a neat family or a messy one, two moms or two dads, bestselling author / illustrator Todd Parr assures readers that every family is special in its own unique way. With his trademark bold, bright colors and silly scenes, this book will encourage children to embrace all the many families in their community. For another book from Parr about the value of uniqueness, check out It's Okay To Be Different for age 1 to 5.
Yoko has her favorite lunch today: sushi! But her classmates reactions are enough to make her lose her appetite. Her thoughtful teacher arranges an International Food Day and tells all the students to try everything, but even that doesn't convince her classmates to give Yoko's sushi a try... except for one. It turns out, having one accepting friend makes all the difference in the world! Author Rosemary Wells realistically depicts just how painful it can be when peers don't respect differences, as well as the power of one kind act to make someone feel included.
Beloved author Robie H. Harris teaches preschoolers about the many ways that families can look in this book from the Let's Talk About You and Me series. Nellie and Gus are spending a day at the zoo, and along the way, they see both animal and human families. Some have one parent, some have two; some eat different foods or live in different places; some look different and some look the same; but all of them are full of love! Positive language and inclusive illustrations make this an excellent book for any family. Fans of this book will want to check out the newest release from the series, Who We Are!: All About Being the Same and Being Different.
Vanessa's first day at a new school is a little lonely, but on the way home, things get worse. A boy shouts at her, and she runs home upset — and one of her classmates sees the whole thing. Both girls are heartbroken, but the bystander realizes there are ways she can help... and the next morning, she invites Vanessa to walk to school alongside her. This wordless picture book's expressive images capture the helplessness that kids can feel when they see someone being bullied, as well as the power of simple acts of kindness and the strength that comes from standing together.
Culture clashes can appear in surprising places — even inside a lunch box! Salma and Lily are best friends until they get into a fight over whose lunch is better, Salma's hummus or Lily's peanut butter and jelly. Soon, their argument has polarized the school and resulted in a very messy food fight! Fortunately Lily and Salma realize that their friendship can overcome such minor differences and, before long, they're helping organize a multicultural lunch swap that celebrates everyone.
Six-year-old Emma is excited to be a big sister, but when her brother Isaac is born, her parents tell her that he has Down syndrome. Emma doesn't know what that means, so finally, she asks her father: "If Isaac has this Down thing, then what can't he do?" Her question helps her dad realize that, if they're patient, Isaac can probably do just about anything. A note at the end includes age-appropriate answers to common questions kids have about Down syndrome. This positive and sweet story helps readers see that kids with disabilities are just kids like them.
In Mexico, a little girl named Elena watches her father blow glass and dreams of becoming a glassblower herself. But girl's can't be glassblowers — or so he says. Refusing to accept this arbitrary limitation, Elena disguises herself as a boy and travels to Monterrey, where she can learn her craft and prove that a girl can do anything a boy can do. Full of dreamy magical realism and a spirit of determination and justice, this special book is a unique way to tackle sex and gender prejudice in a gentle, thoughtful way.
It's easy for kids to feel alone in their differences, especially if they don't know other people like themselves. But, as author Mem Fox reminds them, "whoever you are, / wherever you are, / there are little ones / just like you / all over the world." This book not only celebrates diverse cultures around the world, teaching kids that they are part of a global community, but also reminds the reader that we are more alike than different: "Joys are the same, / and love is the same. / Pain is the same, / and blood is the same."
Lena is painting a picture of herself and tells her mother that she needs brown for her skin — but her artist mother isn't going to let her get off that easily! She insists that there are many shades of brown, and to prove it, she takes Lena for a walk through the neighborhood, where she sees skin colors that look like honey, peanut butter, pizza crust, ginger, peaches, chocolate, and more. By the end of her walk, Lena has learned to see "brown" in a whole new way. This positive look at skin color will get kids finding and celebrating the unique color of their own skin tones.
Unhei has just moved to America from Korea, but she's already figured out that people in America find her name strange. So rather than introducing herself on her first day at school, she announces that she's picking a new name. Her classmates are fascinated, and start filling a big glass jar with "proper" American names like Suzy and Amanda. But when one of her classmates overhears her Korean name, the Name Jar mysteriously goes missing, allowing Unhei to embrace introducing herself by her real name (complete with a pronunciation lesson, Yoon-hey). This touching story is also an empowering reminder that no one should have to give up their name or identity to fit in.
Marisol doesn't look — or act — like anyone she knows: she has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin, enjoys peanut butter and jelly burritos, and loves being a soccer playing pirate princess! And for some reason, this confuses other people around her, who'd rather that she stop being herself so that she would fit into one of their boxes. But this Peruvian-Scottish-American girl doesn't mind, and she wouldn't give up her "mis-matched" life for anything. This English/Spanish bilingual picture book celebrate individuality and the power of being proud of your uniqueness.
Farah is a Muslim girl, recently immigrated to America, and her headscarf and minimal English make her feel like she’ll never belong. But when her class takes a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers that many things are familiar in her new country, from the dogs looking for a bite to eat to the laughter of children playing together. And when Farah selects a green apple to go in the cider press, instead of red apples like all the other children choose, she teaches her classmates that there is great value in intermingling different things. With a powerful message of hope and acceptance, this story will remind both immigrant children and children born to their countries that kids are more similar than different.
Everyone in class is excited about the big Mother's Day party... except Stella. She has two daddies, who help her with homework, tuck her in at night, and make her feel more loved than anyone else could. She also has lots of other people who love her: a large extended family who support her and encourage her in everything she does. But she doesn't have a mom to bring to the party. In the end, though, thanks to that same supportive crowd — and a little inspiration from a classmate — Stella finds the perfect solution to celebrate her very special family. This book provides a starting point for talking about the subtle ways that our assumptions about families can exclude people.
Imagine what it would be like to travel to a new country, miles from home, with nothing but the things that fit in a small suitcase. In this story, a teacher talks about her great-grandmother's long journey to a new country, and gives her class a challenge: what would you pack if it were you? What things do you own that say, "This is me"? Thought-provoking and lively, this timely book about immigration includes an interactive component: a pop-up suitcase on the back cover that kids can imagine filling with the things that would really matter if they were moving to a new country and a new life.
Clover's mom has always told her not to cross the fence that separates their home from where the white people live. But on the other side of the fence is Annie, who looks like she would be a wonderful friend. Eventually, the two girls connect, cautiously, and Annie points out that "a fence like this was made for sitting on." Suddenly, without breaking any rules, the wall between their communities becomes a meeting place. In fact, by the end of the summer, both Annie and Clover agree that "Someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down." This powerful story reminds kids that it wasn't so long ago that fences were everywhere... and that they have the power to break the barriers of today.
After seeing stories full of hate and fear on the news, a little girl wonders what she can do to make the world a better place. "Come with me," says her father, and shows her how friendly greetings on that subway can make people feel happy and welcome on their commute; "come with me," says her mother, and shows her how their diverse community comes together at the local grocers. Finally, the little girl is ready to try herself: "come with me," she says to the boy next door while walking the family dog, and together, the two kids see how small actions make a big difference. This poignant and hopeful book provides a powerful reminder that each of us can do our part to create a kinder, more accepting world — and ends with a call to action to the reader, urging them to do just that.
Marmee and Meema and their three children love each other, and they act just like any other family. So why do some of the other families where they live not want to speak to them? What’s so strange about a family that has two moms and no dad? Patricia Polacco tackles the difficult topic of discrimination against same-sex families with understanding and confidence, showing that different doesn’t mean wrong — and that love is what makes a family strong. This story is also a good choice for discussing adoption and multi-racial families with children, creating a broader view of what it means to be a family.
Molly's Russian Jewish family is unique in her new American hometown at the turn of the 20th century — and she is teased relentlessly by her classmates because of her strange accent and clothing. So when her teacher decides the class will build a Thanksgiving diorama, Molly just wants to fit in. To Molly's mother, though, the description of a Pilgrim — someone seeking freedom from persecution — sounds familiar, and she uses Molly's description to create a doll that looks more like a Russian peasant girl than the figures in black dresses her classmates provide. Fortunately, Molly's teacher steps in to point out that Thanksgiving was based on a Jewish holiday -- and that Molly is the only person in the class who could be considered a true Pilgrim. This heartfelt story provides a reminder that, from the Pilgrims to today's refugees, people come to America for the freedom to be themselves.
Tricia, who has dyslexia, is horrified to discover that the special education classroom at her new school is called "the Junkyard" — the kids, including a student with Tourette's Syndrome, a mute girl, and a boy with a visual impairment, are the misfits of the school. But their teacher, Mrs. Peterson, teaches them to adopt the name with pride, taking them to an actual junkyard and showing them the potential that lies within it — and them. And when one of their classmates dies, the Junkyard Wonders pay special tribute to him with something that most people would write off as trash. This heartfelt book will teach readers to seek the unique talents in every person.
When Elsa's grandmother Dounia has trouble sleeping after a nightmare, Elsa begs her to share why she is so sad. In response, Dounia shares a story even her own son has never heard: a story of a confused child being ostracized by neighbors and teachers, forced to wear a yellow star, and finally, concealed in a secret panel in a wardrobe while her parents are arrested and taken away. Author Loïc Dauvillier and illustrators Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo use a graphic novel format to provide a gentle introduction to the Holocaust — and the damage that is done when a country is divided by hate. For another book for young children to talk about Holocaust history, check out The Butterfly for ages 5 to 8.
Maddie's classmates sneer at Wanda for her strange Polish surname, for her unusual ways, and especially for wearing the same faded dress every day, and while Maddie never joins in, she never steps in to stop it, either. Wanda’s obvious lie that she has a hundred beautiful dresses at home only earns her more mockery from her peers. But one day, her father sends a letter to her teacher that they’re leaving town because of the discrimination the whole family has suffered. In that moment, Maddie realizes that she can never apologize for what people said to Wanda and resolves that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” This classic book about class and ethnic discrimination and the importance of standing up for others is as powerful today as when it was written. For a recently released book with a similar message, check out Each Kindness for ages 5 to 9.
Maria's name is long and important — Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, from both her grandmothers, her grandfather, and her father. But when she arrives in her new class after moving from Puerto Rico, her teacher declares that there are too many Marias, so she’ll be called Mary. How can Maria explain to her teacher that her special name is a reminder of where she came from? Fortunately, when the class is assigned a paper titled “My Greatest Wish,” Maria finally finds the words to tell everyone how special her name is — and why she will always be proud to be Maria Isabel. Spanish-speaking Mighty Girl fans can read the Spanish-language version of the book, Me Llamo Maria Isabel.
This unique look at one of the world's most iconic statues, the Statue of Liberty, explores an often-overlooked detail of the statue with powerful symbolic meaning. After a playful discussion of Liberty's history — her design and construction, and then her transport to the US as a gift from France — Eggers points out that Liberty is not standing passively on her pedestal, she is in mid-stride. The statue's right foot is raised, he observes: “She is on the move!” But why? Because, he suggests, Liberty is stepping out into the harbor to welcome the new arrivals, whether from Italy, Norway, Cambodia, or Syria. After all, Liberty is an immigrant too, and: “She is not content to wait... Liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around. These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest." At turns funny and profound, this insightful new book introduces young readers to the history behind the statue, while encouraging them to contemplate its significance.
Amina has always preferred to stay in the background, hanging out with her friend, Soojin. But with the start of middle school, things are changing fast. Soojin is hanging out with one of the "cool" girls, and is even talking about picking an "American" name; and Amina's uncle believes that her love of music is un-Islamic. Just as Amina starts wrestling with that, her mosque is vandalized, leaving her heartbroken. She's never spoken out before, but when she finds the courage and support she needs to make her voice heard, maybe she can bring her whole community together. This book celebrates the complexity and joys to be found in multicultural communities, as well as the power of one person's voice to change those around her.
12-year-old Rose is autistic and has a particular obsession with homophones — so when her father brings her home a dog, she names him Rain, a word with three homophones (rein, reign) that makes him extra special. When a storm causes flooding and Rain goes missing, she is determined to find her beloved dog, but when Rose discovers that Rain may belong to someone else, she faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge: breaking out of her routine and comfort zone to find Rain's owners, and maybe even giving back her beloved friend. Rose's authentic voice in this book captures her struggles with a life full of rules that are critical to her but unimportant or incomprehensible to those around her.
10-year-old Drita is a Muslim Albanian refugee, struggling with the transition from war-torn Kosovo to Brooklyn, New York; she doesn’t speak any English, and her mother is falling into depression. Maxie is an African-American girl who still wrestles with grief after her mother died in an accident, and as one of the “cool kids,” she doesn’t want anything to do with this strange new girl. But when their teacher assigns a project to Maxie, interviewing Drita about her life in Albania and her move to the US, the two girls slowly develop a friendship as they discover unexpected connections between their lives. This unique novel alternates between both girls’ perspectives, creating a poignant and powerful tale of friendship that bridges cultural divides.
It's 1969, and for Sarah Beth Willis, everything is changing. Her sister Robin has had a terrible accident, forcing Sarah to go live with her grandparents. Everyone in town seems upset about the new teacher, Mrs. Smyre, just because she's African American. And Sarah still doesn't understand why people think she shouldn't be friends with Ruby Lee just because their skin colors aren't the same. Fortunately, Mrs. Smyre is able to help Sarah understand this strange world of Freedom Riders and family struggles — and to get the whole community thinking about things in a new way. This story exploring racial tensions at a key point during the Civil Rights Movement highlighted the new possibilities that emerge when we work together.
After a serious illness at the age of four, CeCe discovers that she’s no longer able to hear. Hearing aids and lip reading involve unexpected challenges, and as she goes out into the wider world she realizes how little people understand what it's like to live with hearing loss -- and how hard it is to be friends when you can't even watch a TV show with a hearing child. To succeed in school, she gets a bulky device called a Phonic Ear that allows her to hear her teachers — even when they forget she's listening. Perhaps El Deafo can be a superhero to her peers after all... This delightful graphic novel provides an uplifting and humorous glimpse into life of a hard of hearing child, and even provides tips for how hearing people should interact with those who lip read or use hearing aids.
It's 1952, and Azalea is dreading a summer helping her Grandmother Clark — she struggles to make friends at the best of times, and now she'll spend months in an unfamiliar town. When Billy Wong, a local Chinese-American boy, shows up to help in her grandmother's garden, Azalea is startled that her grandmother encourages her to talk to him. Billy is easy to befriend despite their different backgrounds and experiences, and introduces Azalea to perspectives she'd never considered — including what it's like to be the only Chinese student at the local school, especially when not everyone is welcoming. This novel, which is told with Billy and Azalea's voices side by side, is inspired by true accounts of Chinese Americans living in the South during the civil rights era, and explores the power of befriending someone different than you.
Anna is growing up in Berlin, and thinks of herself as a German like everyone else she knows. Hitler’s face on posters around the city doesn’t mean anything to her — until one night her father disappears. Her mother explains that he had to leave, and soon, they will join him. Escaping Nazi Germany means a life as a refugee, leaving everything Anna knows behind. Anna’s confusion in the face of these upsetting changes captures the experience of children who suddenly find themselves the focus of a nation's resentment and hatred, and highlights the importance of preventing discrimination and prejudice from ruling a nation's decisions.
In Greenwood, Mississippi in 1964, the adults all say they're "being invaded" — by people from up north coming to help voter registrations in something called the Freedom Summer. At first, Sunny doesn't even worry about that; she's caught up in her own invasion, a new stepmother and siblings pushing their way into her life. But a moment at a public pool opens her eyes to the racism that pervades her hometown, and soon Sunny is trying to figure out how she too can fight for what's right and fair. Real source materials — including an actual KKK pamphlet from the time period — drive home the viciousness that civil rights campaigners faced during the time period, but the overall tone is one of triumph: good people, working together, can overcome almost anything.
Sylvia Mendez didn't want to be the center of a legal battle; she just wanted to go to school. Aki Munemitsu just wanted to stay on her family farm; instead, she's been relocated to a Japanese internment camp. It's 1943, and racism is changing the lives of both girls: Sylvia is being denied admission to a "white" school because she is Hispanic American, and Aki is being declared a potential traitor after Pearl Harbor because her family is Japanese. Their lives were tied together by coincidence: Sylvia's family rented the home that Aki was forced to leave behind. Through extensive interviews with both women, author Winifred Conkling has created a unique story about two Mighty Girls who faced their own struggles with racial discrimination. Younger kids can learn Sylvia's story in the picture book Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation for ages 6 to 9.
When people look at George and think they see a boy, but she knows she's actually a girl — which she thinks she'll have to keep a secret forever. When her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web, George wants to play Charlotte, but the teacher says she can't even try out for the part because she's a boy. So with the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan — not just so she can be Charlotte, but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. Alex Gino's middle-grade story of a transgirl's struggle is enhanced by the use of gender pronouns: while other characters consistently refer to George as "he", the narrator only uses female pronouns, providing further validation of George's identity as a girl. For another book about a transgirl who finds acceptance from a friend, check out Lily and Dunkin for age 10 and up.
Zomorod Yousefzadeh is the new kid — again. Her family's most recent home is California's Newport Beach, where she's going to start fresh; she's even picked a perfect new, and very American, name, Cindy. But in the late 1970s, with Iran making headlines in the U.S. with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages, even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can't protect Cindy from anti-Iran sentiments that are way too close to home. The first middle grade novel by the author of the best-selling adult memoir Funny in Farsi, this story show middle grade readers the challenges immigrants experience as they hold on to beloved traditions — even in the face of racism and fear — while also adopting new customs and friendships.
When 12-year-old Lou learns that her Civil War-era home, which has been in the family for 176 years, is slated to be torn down, she's determined to find a way to save it — maybe by having it declared a historic landmark, or by finding the gold that, rumor has it, was hidden nearby in the war. As she digs into her family's past, which is full of slave owners, renegades, thieves, and abolitionists, she finds that history is more complicated than history books sometimes let on...and when she learns that Isaac, the best player on the high school football team, lost out on a scholarship because of the coach's prejudice, she discovers that the attitudes that prompted the Civil War are still influencing people in the present. This complex story about a girl who confronts racism and demands justice highlights how events of the past are still hurting people today.
Minnie McClary is struggling: her family had to move after her father "blew the whistle" and lost his job, her uncle lost his leg in the Iraq War, and she doesn't know who she is any more. Her only friend is Amira, a Muslim girl whose headscarf isolates her as much as Minnie. Then a new teacher, Miss Marks, arrives. Minnie and Amira love her for her thought-provoking assignments that challenge prejudice and the status quo, while the rest of the community spreads rumors about her unconventional looks and methods. When Miss Marks' job is at stake, though, Minnie finds the courage to speak up: for Miss Marks and against prejudice of all kinds. Inspiring and powerful, Minnie's story will encourage middle grade readers to find their own voices.
10-year-old Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests. Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed. Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language? With enough courage, determination, and kindness, however, Mia might be able to help out her family and the other immigrants and pursue her dreams. Based on author Kelly Yang's own experiences in the 1980s and 1990s, this engaging story offers young readers an eye-opening look at the immigrant experience and the power of one girl to make a difference.
Kit Tyler is heartbroken when she has to leave her beloved Barbados to join an aunt and uncle she's never met in 1687 Connecticut. Things get worse when she finds herself the topic of disapproval and suspicion from the moment she arrives: in their Puritan community, a girl like Kit who swims and dares to talk back to her elders might get labeled a witch. And when Kit finds a kindred spirit in Hannah Tupper, a Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, she suddenly finds herself facing witch hysteria and a mob mentality with nothing but a sense of truth and justice. This Newbery Medal-winning novel will get kids thinking about society's tendency — in both the past and the present — to fear and hate the different.
Peregrine is proud of her heritage as a Latki noble, and she strives to live up to the expectations of her parents: she runs the fastest, speaks her mind freely, and joins her father in his disdain for the castle's weak and cowardly Bamarre servants. Then, Perry's life is turned upside down when the fairy Halina appears and reveals a shocking truth: Perry is actually Bamarre, and her quest is to free her people from the tyranny of the Latki. Perry will have to confront the depths of her own prejudice and reconcile her father's love for her with his hatred of the people she comes from if she's going to save her country. This prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre provides middle grade readers with a powerful story about self-examination and redefining what it means to be strong.
When the Ku Klux Klan moves into a small Vermont town in 1924, no one is safe — especially not twelve-year-old Leanora, who is African-American, and six-year-old Esther, who is Jewish. The Klan's "all-American" philosophy is, at first, embraced by members of the community but when a shadowy figure shoots at Esther and her father, people start to wonder exactly what the Klan's arrival has started and whether they can stop it. Told through eleven different voices in free verse, this story captures the insidious way that prejudice and violence can enter a community in seemingly harmless guises.
In desperate and dangerous times, people must do whatever they can to protect those at risk. Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning book tells the remarkable true story of how the Danish Resistance moved nearly seven thousand Jewish people — almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark — across the sea to safety in Sweden. Through the eyes of fictional 10-year-old Annemarie, whose family conceals her Jewish best friend, Ellen, this incredible moment of courage and conviction is given a personal quality for tween readers. Younger readers can learn about this inspiring moment of resistance and defiance in The Whispering Town for ages 6 to 9.
In Bumblebee, North Carolina, Stella is used to segregation: some stores she can go into, some she can't, and that's just the way it is. But she's never thought as racism as dangerous before. Until one day, Stella and her brother see something they aren't supposed to: a Ku Klux Klan meeting, practically right in their backyard. It's the beginning of many frightening and unpleasant changes to come. But Stella's community decides to draw together and stand up against the injustices around them, and as they do, Stella will not only learn that hope can come from strange places — even ashes — but also discover an unexpected talent and purpose. This historical novel featuring a warm, lively main character is inspiring and touching.
After Allie's older brother died, she and her mother left New Jersey and moved to a conservative North Carolina town. Allie hopes to make at least one friend, and she soon does: Sam, who is friendly and fun. And then, their friendship starts developing into more. But in the 1970s, Allie worries that admitting she likes girls will cause "the kind of pain that Eric’s death [did]" — and Sam's parents' aren't any more likely to be accepting. Fortunately, they have some adult role models who urge them to be true to themselves — and give them hope that, some day, their love will be accepted. This emotionally honest middle grade novel also provides an opportunity to discuss the history of gay rights in America.
It's 1958, and twelve-year-old Marlee struggles at school, friendless and shy to the point of silence outside of her own family... until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Fearless and determined, Liz knows just what to say to quiet the resident mean girl and to encourage Marlee to find her voice. Then, one day, Liz is gone — and rumor has it that she was only passing as white. But Marlee decides that she doesn't care: Liz is her best friend, and Marlee will do anything — even face the danger that comes with standing up against segregation — to have her friend back by her side. Heartfelt and touching, this book highlights just how arbitrary divisions based on race and skin color are.
Ever since her father died, astronomy-loving Calliope June has struggled with her mother's constant moves — and faced rejection among new sets of peers when her Tourette's syndrome causes facial tics and noises that she can't control. When they arrive in St. George, Utah, Calli once again tries and fails to blend in, but she finds friendship with her neighbor Jinsong, the student body president and a sports star. But will he be brave enough to make their friendship public? And what if Calli's mom decides to move again just as she's beginning to feel like her differences aren't the end of the world? Told in Calli and Jinsong's dual perspectives, in prose poetry and free verse, this touching story celebrates the power of acceptance and being true to who you are.
Even Annabelle's small Pennsylvania town has been touched by the two world wars that ravaged the world, but day to day life there has been quiet until the day a new student, Betty Glengarry, comes to her school. Betty is cruel and delights in bullying the vulnerable people around her — including reclusive World War I veteran Toby. Annabelle knows that Toby is kind, but the other people in town see nothing but his odd behavior. As Betty agitates the town against Toby, Annabelle will have to find the courage to be a voice of justice... even if she's standing alone. This poignant novel's questions about right and wrong and what marks the dark parts of history leave on all of us are sure to generate plenty of discussion.
Dani's Grandma Beans hasn't spoken to Avadelle Richardson for decades, and no one seems to know why — until Grandma Beans tells Dani to find an envelope and a key that she's hidden. Dani decides to investigate, and with the help of her friends she uncovers a whole history of their hometown in Oxford, Mississippi that they'd never heard before: segregation, violence, race riots, and a betrayal that cut Grandma Beans to the bone. For kids who usually hear a sanitized version of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, this book will open their eyes to the brutality of the process — and to the injustices that linger to this day.
Sumiko was used to being teased as the only Japanese girl in her class, but after Pearl Harbor, things go from taunts to outright suspicion. Suddenly, she and her family have to leave her beloved home and flower farm for an internment camp in the middle of a hot, barren desert. But Sumiko and her family aren't the only ones facing discrimination: the camp is on a Mohave reservation. At first, the Mohave residents and the Japanese detainees are at odds, but as the get to know one another, they realize that they have much in common — including being viewed as second-class citizens. And through a friendship with Frank, a Mohave boy, and her own garden, Sumiko starts to see hope for a better future. Complex and emotional, this novel will get young adult readers thinking about the divisions we don't always see.
Melody's classmates and teachers dismiss her as mentally challenged, because her cerebral palsy leaves her unable to walk or speak. But the truth is that Melody's mind is remarkable: deeply intelligent and with a photographic memory, she's capable of much more than anyone expects. And while she's been repeating the same preschool-level ABCs year after year, she's also been planning exactly what she'll say whenever she figures out how to communicate. Then her parents get a computer with a special keyboard that will allow Melody to talk. Melody has found her voice; are people ready to hear what she has to say This thought-provoking novel will open middle readers' eyes to the misconceptions about people with disabilities.
Tiffany Aching of the Chalk and her fellow Discworld witches might be a little... eccentric, and their magic isn't sparkly or impressive, but they help the people that others don't see: the needy, the sick, and the forgotten. So when dark rumors and angry words about witches start spreading — and the persecution and witch hunts begin — Tiffany knows she has to find a way to stop whatever's behind it. If she fails, she'll lose her life — and her beloved Chalk will fall with her. In this book four of the exceptional Tiffany Aching series, readers young and old alike will enjoy author Terry Pratchett's mix of humor and clever wordplay as he explores weightier topics of religious persecution and overcoming hatred.
Ally is clever — she knows that, if she's enough of a disruption in class, no one will figure out just how little she can read. But how can she be smart if she can't even read the simplest things? Her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, though, sees past her troublemaking exterior and puts a name to her reading problems: dyslexia. Lynda Mullaly Hunt provides a compassionate look at life with a learning disability, with an ending that's realistic: Ally's happy ending will involve small changes and a lot of hard work! Her demonstration that great minds don't always think alike — and that struggles with literacy can affect surprising aspects of a person's life — will remind kids that different perspectives all have something to offer.
Before the invasion, Ansul was a peaceful town that celebrated knowledge and books — but the conquerors have made reading and writing punishable by death. For Memer, though, Oracle House — a supposedly demon-infested building that houses the last books — is a safe haven. Then an Uplands poet named Orrec and his wife, Gry, arrive, and Memer's life is turned upside down. Perhaps there is a reason the conquerors consider words to be so dangerous.... This novel, with parallels to both ancient and modern history, will provoke intriguing discussions about oppression, religious fervor, and the power of words.
When Scout's father Atticus Finch is called on to defend Tom Robinson against a false charge of rape, her whole world will change. Maycomb, Alabama in the Depression is a dangerous place for a black man accused of raping a white woman — or for the family of the man who defends him. Through Scout's eyes, both the ugly side of her hometown and the courage and sense of justice of those like her father who refuse to be swayed by prejudice are poignantly brought to life. This classic novel about racism, justice, and the importance of seeing beyond a person's surface is still speaking to young readers today.
In 1959 Virginia, Sarah Dunbar and Linda Hairston are the last two people you'd think would become friends: Linda is the daughter of the town's most vocal segregationists, while Sarah is one of the first black students to study at the previously all-white high school. When they're thrown together on a school project, they draw closer — perhaps even as more than friends. But how can their relationship — as friends or otherwise — survive a community that expects them to hate one another? Or can the girls find a way to be true to the identities they're only just discovering for themselves? This insightful novel about finding your own truth — and refusing to let others silence your voice -- is both realistic and compelling.
Maleeka is used to the taunts she gets daily from her classmates; if they're not teasing her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, they're mocking her dark black skin. Maleeka would trade anything to be part of the in-group, rather than on the outside. But when a new teacher comes to the school — whose face bears a giant blotch of white — Maleeka is shocked but intrigued to realize that Miss Saunders doesn't really care what people say; she loves the skin she's in. Perhaps Maleeka can learn to love her own, too. Teens will appreciate Flake's realistic depiction of the pain this kind of criticism can cause and empathize with Maleeka's struggle to find her confidence and self-assurance.
When young Australian Muslim Amal decides to wear the hijab as an expression of her religious devotion, she discovers how much prejudice can be wrapped up in a piece of cloth. Suddenly, her head covering is all anyone wants to talk about, and classmates who used to have no problem with Amal now see her as a “towel-head” instead of a peer. And strangers in the street — and even prospective employers — seem to feel free to judge her on her choice as well. This novel counters the idea that young women only wear headscarves because of family pressure, and provides an intriguing opportunity to talk about how people's opinions of a person can change depending on how well they blend in to the majority culture.
What if you realize you are neither male nor female? Kristin Lattimer is a track and field champion with a full scholarship to university and a boyfriend she adores. But when she decides to have sex for the first time, it's obvious something is wrong, and a doctor's appointment results in shocking news: Kristin is intersex. She looks like a girl, but she has male chromosomes and even partial male genitalia. The news is bad enough, but when Kristin's diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, can she come to terms with her new identity — and stand up against the ignorance and prejudice she'll face? A rare young adult novel about the experiences of an intersex teen, this novel also includes resources about what it means to be intersex.
Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last Black Witch, but unlike her ancestor, she has no mystical power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else. When she has the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary at Verpax University, which admits all manner of people, including many of sworn enemies of the Gardnerians, she quickly learns how difficult it is to escape her family's legacy. As Elloren seeks out other outcasts for company, which forces her to confront the stereotypes and xenophobia she's been taught, she begins to realize that there may be good reasons for their opposition to her government. This complex, rich fantasy conveys powerful messages about prejudice and extremism; Elloren's story continues in The Iron Flower.
A new school and an ultra-conservative congressman father running for re-election are stressful enough, but Riley has a secret: Riley is genderfluid, identifying as a boy some days and a girl others. The strain of playing a role for the community and media is building, so on a therapist's recommendation, Riley starts an anonymous blog about what it's like to be a genderfluid teen. But when the blog goes viral — and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley's identity — Riley faces a choice: walk away from support, understanding, and a newfound cause, or come out and risk everything. This unique novel will provide teens on the gender binary with a thoughtful look at genderfluidity, and genderfluid teens with an all-too-rare role model in fiction.
Starr Carter already feels trapped between two worlds, her poor and crime-ridden neighborhood on one hand, her wealthy prep school on the other. Then, when her friend Khalil gives her a ride home, Starr witnesses his death at the hands of a police officer. Khalil's death becomes a national headline, with some calling him a thug and others calling him an innocent, and only Starr knows exactly what happened. But with both cops and drug lords exerting influence on her to tell the story as they want it told, Starr realizes that both her own life and the comparative peace of her community are at risk — all depending on what she does or doesn't say. Powerful and poignant, this thoughtful novel explores issues of racism and criminal justice with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty
Quincy and Biddy are "speddies," graduates of high school special education programs, and now they're taking on a new challenge: life in a supervised apartment space. Quincy is suspicious of everyone — no one has ever been kind to her before, so why would they start now? — while Biddy is terrified of everything beyond their front door. After being paired as roommates, though, what seems to be a poor fit turns into a deep friendship — particularly when Quincy goes through a traumatic experience that Biddy understands all too well. This novel opens young adult readers' eyes to the challenges facing people with intellectual disabilities — including high risk of sexual assault — and highlight the importance of support and understanding to their success in life.
In this personal, eloquently-argued essay — adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author's exploration of what it means to be a woman now — and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists. Thought-provoking and inspiring, this is a timely read for both teens and adults.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more empathy-building books for children and teens that emphasize the value of compassion, visit our Kindness & Compassion book section.
- For books for children and teens that continue to spread a message of love and acceptance, visit our Tolerance & Acceptance book section.
- At A Mighty Girl, we're committed to showcasing a diverse range of Mighty Girl characters and stories in our book collection. In our Multicultural Fiction book section, you can use the filter on the left menu, to sort our collection by numerous characteristics, including ethnicity such as African or Native American or location such as Europe or Latin America. This section also includes sections on people with disabilities and LGBTQ books.
- For books that explore discrimination — whether by gender, race, class, religion, or sexual orientation — visit our Prejudice & Discrimination book section, which can also be sorted into specific types of discrimination using the left menu filter.
- For books to help kids, parents, and teachers address bullying in their schools and communities, check out the reading recommendations in our three-part bullying prevention blog series: The End of Bullying Begins with Me: Bullying Prevention Books for Young Children, Taking A Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens, and Leading The Way: Bullying Prevention Books for Parents and Educators.