Books make great presents for children. Shared reading with young kids improves their literacy and listening skills and provides the perfect opportunity to snuggle in and bond over a great book.
Reading also encourages kids to use their imagination, exposing them to new worlds and ideas.
Here are our six picks of children's books celebrating love, diversity and tolerance.
Under the Love Umbrella
By Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys
Scribe Publications RRP: $24.99
Under the Love Umbrella is a heart-warming meditation on love and belonging by writer Davina Bell from Western Australia and illustrator Allison Colpoys.
Bell’s appealing verse speaks to common childhood anxieties: “When big dogs bark/Or wave crash loud/Is that a shark?/When friends won’t share/And things aren’t fair/There’s always my love umbrella.”
Colpoys’ vivid neon illustrations show children and families of diverse compositions and backgrounds in moments of celebration (whacking a piñata at a party, fireworks exploding above a city) and trouble (making a mess, waking from a bad dream). Cuddles and umbrellas feature liberally throughout.
This book is a beautiful bedtime read that celebrates the bond between children and the grown-ups in their life who care for them: “In every weather/It’s us together/My love for you goes on forever/Be still, breathe deep/Wherever you sleep/You’re under my love umbrella.”
By Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Moira Court
Fremantle Press RRP: $24.99
Award-winning children’s author Ezekiel Kwaymullina is from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. His latest book Colour Me teaches young readers colour recognition through his evocative text and illustrator Moira Court’s vibrant images of animals and landscapes. “If I was red,” opens the book, “I’d be as dazzling as the rising sun.”
Colour Me closes with a rainbow and the strong message of diversity and inclusion that the rainbow has come to represent: “We are all different. But together we colour our world amazing.”
I’m Australian Too
By Mem Fox, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh
Scholastic Australia RRP: $13.99
Australian writer Mem Fox has authored dozens of picture books for children, including perennially popular titles like Possum Magic and Where Is the Green Sheep? Her latest offering is I’m Australian Too, a book that celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity and promotes tolerance as it takes its readers on a tour around the country: “My Dad grew up in Darwin, my mum in Humpty Doo. Our mob’s been here forever – now we share the place with you.” Other characters reveal how their families came from countries like Italy, Ireland, Lebanon and Vietnam to make their home in Australia. Every page finishes with the question ‘how about you?’ to encourage readers to talk about their own family heritage.
Fox doesn’t shy away from tough topics: she talks about the wars in countries like Somalia and Syria, from which many Australians have fled, and includes a stanza from a girl living in detention: “Sadly, I’m a refugee – I’m not Australian yet. But if your country lets me in, I’d love to be a vet.” Rhonojoy Ghosh provides wonderful illustrations of classic scenes from Australia’s cities.
I Love Me
By Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press RRP: $16.99
I Love Me is both the title and the feel-good message that underpins Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina colourful picture book. Both women are Palyku people of Western Australia’s Pilbara region and they have created two smiling Indigenous kids to tell their tale. Each page is an explosion of colourful pictures and patterns and text that’s all about accepting and celebrating ourselves and other as we are. “I love the inside me. I love the outside me. I love the short and fat and tall and thin. And I love, love, love me when I grin.”
By Pip Jones and Sara Ogilvie
Simon and Schuster RRP: $14.99
Izzy Gizmo, the star of a new picture book by London author Pip Jones, is a girl who loves to invent. Bespectacled and curly-haired, Izzy has an impressive imagination and a terrific temper that she has a hard time controlling when her inventions malfunction.
‘Well, Izabelle, who was so clever and bright, would get rather cross when things didn’t go right. And she huffed, “It’s a duff! I’ve had it! I quit.”
She kicked her invention – and called it a “TWIT!”’
With some timely mentoring from her Grandpa and her own ingenuity, Izzy learns to try and try again when things don’t work out. Her tenacity pays off and, in the end, she helps a very important friend. Sara Ogilvie’s illustrations capture the craziness of creativity and depict the feisty Izzy’s inventions with spark and humour.
Malala’s Magic Pencil
By Malala Yousafzai
Penguin RRP: $24.99
Malala Yousafzai has led a remarkable life. In her 20 years, Yousafzai has at turns been a schoolgirl blogger, a human rights activist, and the world’s youngest Nobel laureate. She survived an attack by a Taliban gunman in 2012 and went on found the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation, and write an international best-selling book, I am Malala. In 2017, she enrolled at Oxford and somehow found time to write her first children’s book, Malala’s Magic Pencil.
The autobiographical story begins when Malala is a child and dreams of having a magic pencil that she could use to change the world around her. “If I had a magic pencil, I would use it to…put a lock on my door, so my brothers couldn’t bother me,” she writes. Every night she wishes the pencil will magically appear when she wakes in the morning. When it doesn’t, she realises it’s up to her to change the world. The inspiring tale is illustrated by Kerascoët, French husband-and-wife illustrators who show Malala in her signature pink scarf and capture the magic of her story.