10 Annotated Bibliographies of Multicultural Children’s/YA Books

Welcome back to this bi-monthly monthly series which focuses on culturally-relevant reading instruction. The last time I blogged, I listed ten telltale signs of a good multicultural children’s book. Now it strikes me that even with such a checklist, tracking down multicultural children’s books can be difficult. For one, mainstream bookstores and even some libraries don’t carry many of the books that we would label ‘multicultural.’ Also, there is always the practical issue of matching books with readers― how do I find multicultural children’s books that correspond to the reading and interest levels of my students? Moreover, as a teacher or parent, you simply might not know what’s out there. You may have a general sense of what you’re looking for, but you’re more likely to be successful finding books if you know specific titles.

In all of the above cases, published annotated bibliographies are extremely useful. Not only do they organize specific titles by country/culture of origin and theme, but many of them suggest ideas and activities for engaging children with multicultural material across the curriculum. Below is a list of 10 compelling and comprehensive published annotated bibliographies of multicultural children’s literature. With these resources in hand, you should be well-equipped to track down multicultural children’s books suitable for different types of readers.

Note: I’ve made no attempt to evaluate either the literary quality or the cultural content of the books listed in these biographies. It is left to you to use the checklist to determine each book’s appropriateness/relevance to your children and curriculum.

1. Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults (Vols. 1 and 2) by Kathleen T. Horning, Ginny Moore Kruse and Megan Schliesman

These selective bibliographies include more than 350 books by and about people of color published in the United States between 1980 and 1990 (Vol. 1) and 1991 and 1996 (Vol. 2) are recommended for children from birth to age 14. Covers: history, people and places; poetry; folklore, mythology and traditional literature; seasons and celebrations; books for babies; concept books; issues in today’s world; biographies; understanding oneself and others; picture books; fiction for new readers, young readers and teenagers. Appendices: lists authors and illustrators of color by ethnic origin; ethnic/cultural groups by country; and recommended resources.

2. Our Family, Our Friends, Our World: An Annotated Guide to Significant Multicultural Books for Children and Teenagers by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

An annotated guide to fiction and non-fiction on the history and culture of minority groups in the United States and Canada, and native cultures around the world. Bibliographies include books from preschool to high school level. Covers 1,000 of the best English-language fiction and non-fiction multicultural books published in the United States and Canada since 1970. Each chapter introduces a culture or ethnic group, a map of the region, and provides an annotated list of books for preschool through grade 12. Professional Sources, a List of Series, and a Directory of Publishers, as well as three indexes, are also included.

3. Connecting Cultures: A Guide to Multicultural Literature for Children by Rebecca Thomas

A comprehensive guide to multicultural literature for children, this valuable resource features more than 1,600 titles–including fiction, folktales, poetry, and song books–that focus on diverse cultural groups. The selected titles, published between the 1970s and 1990s are suitable for use with preschoolers through sixth graders and are likely to be found on the shelves of school and public libraries. Topics are timely, with an emphasis on books that reflect the needs and interests of today’s children. Each detailed entry includes bibliographic information. Use level is also included, as are cultural designation, subjects, and a summary. The invaluable Subject Access section incorporates use level culture information.

4. Kaleidoscope: A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8 (Editions 1-4) by various

Published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), each edition of this annotated bibliography collection offers students, teachers, and librarians a helpful guide to the best multicultural literature for elementary and middle school readers published between a specific time period. With approximately 600 annotations on topics and formats including picture story books, realistic fiction, history and historical fiction, ceremonies and celebrations, biographies and autobiographies, informational books, poetry, and folklore, this collection continues the “Kaleidoscope” tradition of focusing on books by and about people of color–specifically African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Each annotation provides bibliographic information and an informative summary that encapsulates not only content but also ethnic focus, nationality, or country of origin. A 16-page insert featuring some of the covers of annotated books showcases the talents of designers and illustrators. The collection contains an author index, an illustrator index, a subject index, and a title index, and it lists award-winning books and publisher addresses.

5. The New Press Guide to Multicultural Resources for Young Readers by Daphne Muse

With over 1000 reviews of multicultural children’s books and related materials, organized by theme and reading level, this book offers a comprehensive, definitive resource guide to multicultural books for children. The reviews are organized using an innovative thematic approach designed to aid librarians, teachers and parents in integrating these works into existing reading lists and at home. In addition, the Guide includes essays on key issues in multicultural education, such as recent immigrant experiences, human rights, and building cross-cultural relationships. The book consists of thematic chapters, subdivided into age levels from kindergarten to grade 8. Unlike similar titles, the entries offer critical reviews, not simply annotations. In addition, the 250- to 500-word entries include bibliographic information, the ethnicity featured, plot summaries, and, in some cases, related books.

6. Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World by Hazel Rochman

The editor recommends books for grade 6 through adult. Librarians and educators will find the theme index, including the types of journeys across cultures, racial oppression, and the ethnic United States, useful.

7. Culturally Diverse Library Collections for Youth by Herman Totten, Risa Brown, and Carolyn Garner

This single source bibliography is divided into four sections― African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Native American― to help school library media specialists diversify their collections. All books are listed with full bibliographic data, suggested ages or grades, and a brief annotation. Categories covered are nonfiction, biography, folk tales, and fiction, as well as relevant reference books and scholarly works.

8. Promoting a Global Community Through Multicultural Children’s Literature by Stan Steiner

Explore hot-button issues, such as conflict resolution among different cultural groups and the status of refugees in society, through more than 800 annotations of titles with compelling reflections of the social issues of diverse cultures. Interdisciplinary application strategies for titles range from reading aloud with follow-up discussions to social activism.

9. What Do I Read Next?: Multicultural Literature by Edith Maureen Fisher, Terry Hong, David Williams and Rafaela Castro

Divided into sections covering African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American authors, the book highlights children’s and young adult titles published mainly between the late 1980s and 1996. Sections begin with an overview of the literature and a brief discussion of current publishing. Each of the 1350 entries provides the author/illustrator’s name and ethnicity; the book’s title, publisher, and date of publication; general subject headings and reading age levels; major characters, time period, and locale together with the plot summary; awards; where the book had been reviewed; and other books by the author as well as similar titles of interest. Nine indexes allow a search by author, title, illustrator, subject, reading-age level, geographic location, time period, character name, and character description.

10. Worlds of Wonder: Resources for Multicultural Children’s Literature by Paula Kezwer

The editor reviews more than 370 multicultural titles, from picture books to young adult novels and from traditional folktales to the stories of contemporary immigrants. Each book is categorized according to age appropriateness. The third index categorizes many of the books reviewed into 20 cross-cultural theme areas representing some of the most commonly conceived subject themes in both elementary and secondary schools, thereby helping teachers ensure that diverse cultural voices are easily integrated into their theme studies.

About the Author

Summer Edward is a Ginkgo Prize-longlisted author and has written several books for young readers, amongst them The Wonder of the World Leaf, Renaissance Man: Geoffrey Holder’s Life in the Arts, and First Class: How Elizabeth Lange Built a School. Summer earned a Master of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more at summeredward.com