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by | Jan 11, 2019

Stories from the road less travelled – children’s books that celebrate diversity

Every child deserves to see lives like their own represented in powerful, beautiful stories. Because really everyone wants to imagine themselves – or find themselves – in a book.

Here are some of my favourite tales celebrating children from all over the wide and wonderful world we live in. Stories about children carving their own path in the world. Stories to keep you up reading or imagining all night. Stories to fall in love with again and again and again.

Sam Wu is NOT afraid of Ghosts!

Katie and Kevin Tsang | Suitable for children aged 6+

In the first of this delightful, brilliantly engaging series, we meet our brave hero Sam Wu, who is definitely, absolutely not frightened of anything. Especially not ghosts, and especially not the Ghost King. I love the hilarious tone of this book and its cast of memorable characters. The layout is really fun and Sam is utterly charming. A laugh-out-loud story to treasure that gets diversity spot on without ever making it the focal point.

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Cilla Lee Jenkins, Future Author Extraordinaire

Susan Tan | Suitable for children aged 8+

This book is wonderfully amusing and clever, and very relatable for many young readers. Cilla Lee Jenkins is half American, half Chinese – but most importantly, she’s a future author extraordinaire! Written with a glowing humour that shines a light on the gentle side of cultural differences, there are many brilliant moments where Cilla outwits the less aware adults around her… It’s bursting with charm and character and has a very authentic voice.

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The Extincts

Veronica Cossanteli | Suitable for children aged 8+

A weird and wondrous tale about not quite fitting in, especially if you just so happen to have magical abilities and can recognise that a large lonesome horse is actually a unicorn called Big Nigel. George takes care of the wild and mythical beasts who live in secret on Wormestall Farm. When one of these creatures of legend goes missing, it’s George’s mission to find it before the safety of all the other animals is endangered. I was swept away by the imagination and loveliness of this story, which puts an emphasis on friendship, accepting your differences and finding your place in the world.

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Sky Song

Abi Elphinstone | Suitable for children aged 8+

A thrill-seeking adventure of a book set in an icy world bereft of magic, where a wicked ice queen rules. Eska is accidentally rescued from the ice queen by Flint, who is trying to save his parents, and together they try to stop her before she devours all the magic. I was touched by the wintery enchantment of this world and the fierce courage of Eska, Flint and his sister Blu. I loved the tenderness and fight with which Blu, a character with additional needs based upon the author’s own sister-in-law, is written.

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The Island at the End of Everything

Kiran Millwood Hargrave | Suitable for children aged 10+

A simply beautiful story, full of heart, courage and love and written in poetic, hopeful prose that drew me in from the first sentence. Ami lives with her mother on the fated ‘island at the end of everything’, where leprosy sufferers are sent to live and form a community of their own. In some ways it’s a prison, but it’s all Ami has ever known, and it’s beautiful. When Ami is forced to leave her beloved mother and is sent to an orphanage, she befriends a girl who knows the quiet struggle of being different. Together they form a very real friendship and hatch a plan to return to the island at the end of everything. Prepare to have your heart broken; I was weeping by the end of this stunning story.

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Kelly Barnhill | Suitable for children aged 10+

n enchanting fairytale full of wonder and familiarity, with a gorgeous moonlight-drinking heroine at its heart. The people in Luna’s village believe that leaving a baby in the woods once a year will keep them safe from an evil witch. Only the witch isn’t evil at all. When she rescues Luna, she accidentally feeds her moonlight, and Luna grows up to more powerful than any other creature in the forest. I fell completely in love with this story and adored how Luna’s ethnicity is described.

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The Smell of Other People’s Houses

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock | Suitable for children aged 12+

I absolutely adored this book. Written from four different perspectives and set in 1970s Alaska, it’s moving, witty and told from a place of high insight and experience. It follows the lives of four very different teenagers who all live in the same winter-bright community. We learn their dreams and hardships, how nothing is ever easy, but nothing is ever truly lost. The subtle detail and glorious storytelling bring the time, place and individual journeys of the four protagonists together with such warmth and luminosity, it’s impossible not to fall in love with.

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The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas | Suitable for children aged 12+

This dazzling star of a book deserves every bit of praise it has received. It’s intelligent, hopeful, daring, necessary and breathtakingly moving. Written with clarity of experience and a deep empathy, it dazzles a spotlight on race in American society, as seen through the eyes of its gentle and courageous heroine Starr. Starr has grown up living two separate lives, one in her working-class neighbourhood and another at her affluent school. Through a series of devastating events, Starr must learn to be herself in both her worlds, find her voice and use its power. I can’t shout loud enough about how essential and brilliant this book is, or how much of a lasting impact it had on me. Read it. Read it. Read it.

Note: this book contains strong language, in context with the narrative.

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By Cerrie Burnell

The Girls with the Shark’s Teeth

Cerrie Burnell

Minnow is different from the other girls in her town. There’s plenty to set her apart: the blossom of pale scars which lie beneath her delicate ears, her affinity with the water which leaves people speechless, and the time when, in deep, deep water, her body began to glow like a sunken star. She has grown up on a boat, raised on stories and songs about a strange, enchanted ocean called The Wild Deep. Now with her mother missing, and questions to be answered, Minnow must make the dangerous journey to a hidden world, where fairytales become reality. Can a girl who is lost on land find answers in the Wild Deep?

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