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Diverse picture book collections

Do you want to improve the diversity in your library’s children’s picture book collection? Update your collection by purchasing some of the books listed below, suggested by NSW public library staff and assessed by our academic partners in this project.

The Diverse Picture Book project began in 2020 when the State Library was contacted by Helen Caple and Ping Tian to assist them in their research into diversity in picture book collections in NSW public libraries. Helen is an Associate Professor in Communications and Journalism at UNSW. Ping is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Linguistics as the University of Sydney. Helen and Ping have recently been exploring the representation of diverse characters in Australian children’s picture books.

In February 2021 we sent a survey to NSW public library staff asking them to suggest children’s picture books with diverse characters from their library or personal collection. Each book has been assessed by Helen and Ping using criteria listed at the end of this page.

Diverse picture book categories

Australian picture books focusing on:

  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander characters
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse characters
    (please note the focus is English language books that feature CALD characters)
  • Gender, sex and sexually diverse characters
  • Characters with disability 
  • Characters from regional or rural areas 

Diverse picture book lists

The full list of books is in the following spreadsheet Diverse picture book list

Book cover image - Anisa's alphabet

Anisa's Alphabet

Author: Mike Dumbleton 
Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing, Australia
ISBN: 9781925227574

Beautiful illustrations introduce children to a distressing subject with a hopeful ending.
Therese, Yass Valley Library

Culturally and linguistically diverse characters

 

Book cover image - Ayu and the perfect moon

Ayu and the perfect moon

Author: David Cox
Publisher: Walker Books, Australia
ISBN: 9781921720222

Ayu is a small Balinese girl trained in traditional dance, Legong, originating in Balinese Palaces. By tradition the first dance is held on the night of a full moon. When the girls grow older, they no longer perform the dance.
Donna, Maitland City Library

Culturally and linguistically diverse characters

Book cover image - Baby business

Baby Business

Author: Jasmine Seymour
Publisher: Magabala Books
ISBN: 9781925768671

Great introduction of social diversity and rituals, very easy and caring depiction of a newborn baby welcoming to country. Informative and revealing parts of Aboriginal law and customs.
Wilma, Berrigan Shire Library

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters

Book cover image - The flying optometrist

The Flying optometrist

Author: Joanne Anderton
Publisher: National Library of Australia
ISBN: 9780642279132

A book that illustrates the importance of the Flying Doctor service for those living in remote communities whose access to healthcare is sometimes limited. It hints at the patience and gratitude of those living in the rural town, including the main character, Stephanie, who needs a new pair of glasses.
Jennifer, Maitland City Library

Characters from rural and regional areas

Book cover image - Hello from nowhere

Hello from Nowhere

Author: Raewyn Caisley
Publisher: Penguin Australia Pty Ltd
ISBN: 9781760897734

Hello from nowhere is a moving celebration of the Australian outback and the special connection between grandparent and grandchild.
Jess, Maitland City Library

Characters from rural and regional areas

Book cover image - Mrs White and the red desert

Mrs White and the red desert

Author: Josie Boyle
Publisher: Magabala Books, Western Australia
ISBN: 9781925360578

What really struck me when I first read this book, is how it is set in the outback home of an Indigenous family, and it lightly tells the story of why the children's homework is always so "grubby". The family invite the teacher, Mrs White to dinner one evening and when a big red sandstorm suddenly whips up, Mrs White finds out firsthand that such storms not only turn the children's homework red and dusty, but everything else, including dinner. A very different lifestyle and the problems it throws up for an outback Indigenous family is explored in this gently written story.
Judy, City of Canada Bay Libraries

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters

Characters from rural and regional areas

Book cover image - Something wonderful

Something wonderful

Author: Raewyn Caisley
Publisher: Picture Puffin (Penguin Books Australia)
ISBN: 9780143506669

Sam lives in a small country town and is endlessly curious about how things work and enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together in new ways. While his exploring distracted him from daily chores, his tinkering leads him to create a machine to help with his chores.
Laurelle, Maitland City Library

Characters from rural and regional areas

Book cover image - Spotty dotty lady

The Spotty dotty lady

Author: Josie Boyle
Publisher: Magabala Books
ISBN: 9781922142108

Spotty dotty tells how art can bring a community together and the main character overcomes loneliness by using art to connect with her neighbours. 
Holly, Maitland City Library

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters

Book cover image - Took the children away

Took the children away

Author: Archie Roach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Australia)
ISBN: 9781760857219

Took the Children Away is a moving indictment of the treatment of Aboriginal children from the stolen generations. including some stunning landscapes of south-west Victoria by renowned Queensland artist Peter Hudson.
Nichola, Maitland City Library

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters

Book cover image - Two mates

Two mates

Author: Melanie Prewett
Publisher: Magabala Books
ISBN: 9781921248450

I love 'Two mates' mainly because it is a sweet story of childhood friendship. It tells the true story of two Broome boys, Jack and Raf, and their adventure filled days hunting for barni (goanna) and collecting feathers and seeds. Jack is indigenous and Raf has Spina Bifida, but it's their friendship that takes centre-stage in this book.
Eleni, Willoughby City Library

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters

Characters from rural and regional areas

Characters with disability

Book cover image - Who's your real mum?
Who's Your Real Mum?

Author: Bernadette Green
Publisher: Scribble UK
ISBN: 9781925849493

This book points a spotlight on the scrutiny some children who live in non-traditional families may face with their peers but teaches a beautiful lesson about how the role of the parent is far more than pure biology.
Caitlin, Libraries ACT

Gender, sex and sexually diverse characters

Book cover image - Wrestle
Wrestle

Authors: Maya Newell and Charlotte Mars
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
ISBN: 9781760296810

A lovely read-aloud that celebrates family, identity and understanding.
Emma, Inner West Libraries

Gender, sex and sexually diverse characters

Assessment Criteria

Inclusiveness
The picture book includes characters from diverse backgrounds.

Character representation/characterisation
The characters are represented in a non-stereotypical manner with an identity that is described and developed through the story.

Theme
The theme of the picture book is closely related to issues of diversity. It is developed through the story, using narrative to create and share lived experiences of the characters.

Multimodal storytelling
The illustrations and text work together to develop ambience and atmosphere, creating a complex world. The story world is open to different interpretations and emotional responses to the characters and themes. 

Educational engagement
The picture book serves as an educational tool for the discussion of diversity issues for library staff, carers and teachers. This could be through the story and theme or through additional information or background content in the book.

The assessment criteria were developed by Helen Caple and Ping Tian. 

You can use the Assessment criteria spreadsheet to assess books that you are considering purchasing for your library collection.