11 books that help with free and open conversations about diversity and race

This handful of books provide good lead-ins to explicit conversations about race and ethnicity; some also highlight historical discrimination or hardship.

ZIBA CAME ON A BOAT — the story of Ziba and her family and the circumstances that led to them choosing to become refugees and taking the risky step of travelling to a new country and to freedom in a refugee boat.

A SWEET SMELL OF ROSES — two girls join Martin Luther King Jr’s Freedom March. The feeling of pride the girls have is contrasted with the anxiety of their mother at the end of the story. The illustrations do a really great job of filling the story with humanity.
(Names: Minnie, Martin)

NELSON MANDELA LONG WALK TO FREEDOM — a picture book version of Mandela’s autobiography, this is a hybrid of a picture book and a chapter book. There’s a lot of content here and it can be confronting—probably best read over a few days.

SAMI AND THE TIME OF THE TROUBLES  — Sami tells what it's like to live in a time when your home is being bombed and when there is no escape. He also shares the simple pleasures of his life when the bombing stops. This is a hope-filled book even though it deals with very sad times. (Names: Sami)

A TRUE PERSON — Zallah is living in an Asylum Center and yearns to become ‘a true person.’ Her mother helps her to see that she has always been a true person, but the pain and anxiety Zallah feels are palpable throughout the book. There’s also a bit of a call to action in this one—a reminder to see and love others. (Names: Zallah)

LET THE CELEBRATIONS BEGIN  — so good. Here's the link to our review

THE RED PIANO — loosely based on the true life story of Zhu Xiao-Mei, a famous Chinese pianist, this is a book about triumph. It takes us into the world of Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution.

FOUR FEET TWO SANDALS  — a lovely story of sharing and giving. Two girls share one pair of sandals in a refugee camp until one girl finally receives approval to go to America. This sweet and tender story is great for talking about refugees and the hardships they face, but equally wonderful for thinking about service and sacrifice in everyday life.


STOLEN GIRL  — an absolute favourite. A young Aboriginal girl is taken from her mother and sent to a school to be taught domestic duties. Yet she finds the courage and the strength to run away from the school and find her way home.

THE BUTTER MAN — here's our review, this one is out of print at the time of writing, so next trip to the library maybe?

I hope you find something in that starter list to love and you might also like to check out this book about raising compassionate children who aren't hampered by racism.

P.S. The books are linked to Book Depository or their posts, but if you'd like to search for them through our other affiliate booksellers (thank you!), here are the generic links: Amazon - Book Depository 

Names in these books - Minnie, Martin, Sami, Leila, Harriet, Zallah, Nelson, Ziba