Pleasingly, there are an increasing number of children’s and young adult books which centre on characters who may have previously existed only on the margins of such stories. With a little help from the organisation Inclusive Minds – who campaigns for publishers to support books that deal with issues of equality, and which feature diversity, inclusion and accessibility – we’ve picked out ten to get you started.
Ade's Amazing Ade-ventures: Battle of the Cyborg Cat
by Ade Adepitan
As someone who grew up never seeing himself in a book, this is something that is really important to me,’ says Ade Adepitan of this, his first children’s book. Inspired by his own experiences the book follows the adventures of wheelchair using Ade, who - having moved to the UK from Nigeria - doesn't always feel welcome in his new community especially as he looks different to everyone else. But Ade is brave and takes on the school bullies, surprising himself and the kids on his new street help him make new friends.
Through The Eyes of Me
by Jon Roberts
Through The Eyes of Me is a story about Kya, a four-year-old girl who loves to run, read, look at – and rip up – stickers. It was written by Jon Roberts when his own daughter, also called Kya, was diagnosed with autism, and aims to encourage understanding of the condition among siblings and classmates of children on the autism spectrum. The book’s illustrations are by Hannah Rounding.
In the video below Jon Roberts talks about why he wrote Through the Eyes of Me.
by Nadine Kaadan
Everything about Yazan’s life at home in Damascus is changing. He no longer sees his friends, his parents are always watching the news; things are very different. Will he ever be able to go outside and play again? Nadine Kaadan’s Tomorrow is an uplifting and evocative story about a brave little boy growing up in Syria during a time of conflict that captures the personal tragedy of war and the strength of family love.
Ossiri and the Bala Mengro
by Richard O’Neill & Katharine Quarmby
Travellers and itinerant ethnic groups rarely take centre stage in children’s literature so Ossiri and the Bala Mengro, by Romani storyteller Richard O’Neill and picture book author Katharine Quarmby, makes a refreshing change. The book tells the story of Ossiri, a Traveller girl, who builds her own musical instrument and is advised not to practise it in the hills for fear of awakening an ogre; advice she doesn’t always heed.
She Is Not Invisible
by Marcus Sedgwick
The ‘she’ in the title of Marcus Sedgwick’s book is Laureth. Along with her brother Laureth, who is blind, try to solve the mystery of what has happened to their beloved father who has gone missing. Without her sight Laureth must use all the skills she has been taught by her father to find her own way in the world, in order to make the connections and find him. She Is Not Invisible was published in a number of accessible formats, with the audiobook read from the Braille version.
by Alex Gino
Alex Gino’s George features an authentic, transgender character at its heart, speaking in her own words. This character is Melissa, who knows she’s a girl even though some people think they see a boy when they look at her. One of those people is Melissa’s teacher who tells her that because she’s a boy she can’t audition for the role of Charlotte in the school play. Can Melissa and her friends come up with a plan so that she can be herself – and play Charlotte on stage?
In the video below, Alex Gino talks about George and other transgender fiction for young readers.
Step Into Your Power
by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippin
From the author and illustrator team behind Young, Gifted and Black comes this book, which every young girl needs. Jamia Wilson and illustrator Andrea Pippin share lessons from their own experiences of growing up to mentor other young girls and help them emulate their heroes. A great book that shows children how to harness their own power and make their big dreams a big reality.
Young Adult Fiction
Queens of Geek
by Jen Wilde
Queens of Geek follows BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie on their trip to SupaCon; they know it’s going to be a great trip, but what they hadn’t been expecting it to be quite so life-changing. Wilde’s empowering book explores several contemporary teen issues and gives voice to diverse young female characters – one a bisexual woman of color, the other an autistic woman dealing with anxiety – who are defined by much more than their sexuality, race, and mental health.
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Expanded from a short story she wrote in college in response to the police shooting of Oscar Grant, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give follows events in the life of a 16-year-old black girl, Starr Carter, who is drawn to activism after she witnesses the police shooting of a childhood friend. A powerful and timely book, it debuted at number one in The New York Times’ young adult best-seller list and remained there for almost a year.
In the video below, Angie Thomas explains how she came to write The Hate U Give.
Love, Hate and Other Filters
by Samira Ahmed
Samira Ahmed’s story centre’s on 16-year-old Maya Aziz, who lives in a pretty much all white community in Illinois. Whilst her overprotective parents want her to be more traditional, Aziz would rather study film in New York, but just when it seems she may have won them round, a terrorist bomb kills 125 people in a nearby city. With the terrorist initially presumed to be Muslim (and also called Aziz), a wave of Islamophobia against Maya and her family begins. Though set in America, the central theme of Ahmed’s book will no doubt resonate with young Muslim readers in the UK.