Best 25 Multicultural Books - Diverse Books for Grades 3-5
We've selected 25 of our favorite multicultural stories that expose children to cultural and ethnic diversity and celebrate differences. This exclusive collection portrays children from diverse background and ethnicities (e.g. Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Middle-Eastern and Native American), and includes both picture books as well as chapter books to meet the needs of diverse readers in grades 3-5.
Readers will be exposed to diverse cultures and learn about the challenges of immigrants and refugees. These books help children embrace their heritage and learn to respect the unique experiences of those around them.
Note: If you are looking for a set of multicultural books for younger grades, see our set of Children's Books About Diversity for Grades 1-3 or our set of Multicultural Books for Preschoolers and Kindergartners.
All books are in English. If you want bilingual multicultural books, click here or visit our language-specific pages.
• A girl struggles with feelings of loneliness because her best friend is moving away. In times of great sorrow she has abuelita to comfort her, but as another loss strikes, she finds herself wondering how to move on.
• An Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Winner, this is a loving story about a young boy who exchanges letters with his grandmother who lives far away in Korea. They understand each other despite the fact that they can’t speak the same language, showing that the bond between families is stronger than any barrier.
• This coming-of-age chapter book tells the story of a multinational girl who is Jewish, Indian and American and is trying to balance school, Hebrew school, a boyfriend and a mistake she made ruining a family heirloom. Navigating through the life of a teenager is hard... will she be able to accomplish it all?
• A Muslim child struggles to fit in, and does not know what to do when he and his sister get bullied because they are different. His teacher offers encouragement to stay true to who he is.
• A story about a sixth grade girl whose mother was deported to Honduras while she was left in the United States. She needs a new home just like the dogs and cats she works with at the pet adoption center. In this chapter book, our young protagonist struggles to create a new life for herself while hoping to one day see her mom again.
• Zuri and Danitra are the closest friends that girls can be, and their personalities bring out the best in each other. The two girls grew up in the inner-city and have an unforgettable bond. An ALA Notable Book and a Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book.
• This inspiring story about a boy and his grandfather who are day laborers teaches children the value of honesty and the importance of working hard to earn money.
• In this powerful Algonquin retelling of the Cinderella story, a rough-faced girl who has to tend to the fire all day while living with her cruel sisters is rewarded for her kind heart and her ability to see natural beauty.
• This captivating book is about a girl whose father was taken by the Taliban, leaving her family with no main breadwinner. She steps up by disguising herself as a boy to start earning the family income even though getting caught could lead to a punishment worse than jail time.
• A young man has his perfect life turned upside down when a famous Bollywood star comes to town and he has to manage her affairs. He makes sure everything is just the way she likes it and gets her everything she wants no matter how exotic, all the while trying to ensure that it does not turn into a disaster.
• A child solider refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo is finally reunited with his family when they leave the country for a new life in Canada. After years of struggle, he must try to adjust to a new life as a regular child in Canada. An eye-opening book that teaches children about the extreme challenges and hardships faced by many refugees.
• A young Muslim girl wants to fast during Ramadan but her family believes she is too young. She makes a vow to fast every Friday of Ramadan, but when her non-Muslim friend’s party is on a Friday, she runs into a problem. She has to make hard choices as her two cultures collide.
• Winner of the Newbery Honor Award, this story tells about a young boy and his four friends who get stranded at sea and end up on a deserted island. They are unable to return home to Japan and end up on an American ship, traveling the world to places that they couldn’t have even imagined. Yet, despite many adventures, our young hero longs to return home to Japan and become a Samurai.
• Winner of the Caldecott Honor Book and the Coretta Scott King Award, this book tells the story of Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and was promptly arrested. The book profiles the women who fought to get her freedom and the activism that Rosa Parks continued after she was released.
• A Japanese-American girl speaks Japanese and eats traditional food with her family in San Francisco, but she also loves spending time engaging in American traditions with her American friends. When her parents move her back to Japan, she finds herself feeling very homesick for America and tries to create a new life for herself in a country that feels like anything but home.
• Aneesa’s parents have made the pilgrimage to Mecca for Eid and she misses them a lot during this holiday. When she goes with her grandmother to the mosque to pray, she meets two girls who are refuges from the Middle East, realizing that she has a lot to be thankful for and a lot she can offer to her new friends.
• This "New Voices, New World" Winner follows a multi-ethnic family living in Hawaii and their energetic child who is now old enough to help prepare their favorite meal for New Year’s. This fun loving story celebrates family and friends and the joy that the New Year brings.
• A girl from North Carolina must move to Harlem to live with her Aunt Valentina, who is an actress. She finds herself in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance and loving her life in the city, something she thought she would hate in the beginning.
• The narrator shares the story of the Hmong people who immigrated to Laos from China many years ago, and how they dealt with a government that wanted them to change their culture and the way they lived their day-to-day lives. They struggled to create a new home, but eventually succeeded in their efforts.
• An entertaining Native American folktale that explains how the crane got his current shape and why the rabbit hops around after an eventful trip to the moon!
• A Caldecott Honor Book and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner, this folktale tells the story of a very lazy Japanese boy, who is the son to a very poor yet hardworking mother. He spends his time sleeping all day long and never helps his mother out with any chores or tasks. Kids will enjoy finding out why he changes his lazy habits and how the family escapes poverty.
• A chapter book about how two friends from very different backgrounds fight to keep their friendship when the Americans and British battle near their trading post in the Indiana Territory. The actions around them cause the friends to question their relationship and how they will be able to survive the war.
• In this popular West-African folktale, a mosquito starts a chain reaction, wreaking havoc in the jungle. This Caldecott Medal book shows how one misinterpreted message can lead to very grave circumstances for everyone.
• A multi-award winning chapter book about three young girls who take a long trip to Oakland, California to look for their mother who had deserted them at a young age. Along the way they learn many important lessons about family and forgiveness. (Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalist, Newberry Honor Book, Scott O’Dell Award)
• In this story, a girl lives with her brother and her grandmother in a trailer park. They have a hard life, but they are getting by until the girl's mother shows up seven years after abandoning her children. Our heroine must learn how to fit her mother into her life again while trying to become less shy in school and create an identity for herself.
Here are just a few reviews of the books in this collection:
- “This quiet story charmingly emphasizes the importance of both friendship and inter-generational relationships.” – Booklist
- “This is a compassionate family story that functions beautifully as both mirror for Muslim-American children and window for their non-Muslim friends.” – Kirkus Reviews
“One of the most poignant, beautifully told family histories.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“... perfectly captures the intergenerational love and respect shared by the two characters and the grandfather’s strong sense of honesty and integrity.... softly colored illustrations reflect the feelings of the characters and the setting.” – School Library Journal
- “A timely and important story about immigration, deportation and abandonment wrapped in a warm-hearted tale that will appeal to all.” – Sonia Manzano, award-winning author
“The messages that can be conveyed without words, language differences between generations, and family ties across great distances are gently and affectingly handled in this first picture book.” – Kirkus Reviews
- “Humorous, entertaining and with a sprinkle of stardust, this book is an enjoyable treat for the tween set, including reluctant readers.” – School Library Journal
- “A great kids’ book… a graphic geopolitical brief that’s also a girl-power parable.” – Newsweek
- “After reading this book, children will have a greater appreciation for the Muslim culture and will have no problem realizing that love is an action word.” – Library Media Connection
- “Charms readers from the get-go!” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
- “Adventurous, heartwarming, sprawling and nerve-racking.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
- “... sure-handed storytelling and affection for her characters convey a clear sense of Naomi’s triumph as she becomes ‘who I was meant to be.’” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
- “We feel the girls’ energy and their bond, in joyful games and in quiet times together.” – Booklist
- “A strong, distinctive tale with art to match.” – Kirkus Reviews
Please note: Occasionally book substitutions are necessary when items in original set are unavailable at the time the order is picked. Language Lizard reserves the right to make substitutions that are of similar price and fit with the theme of the set.