Illustration by Lauren Tobia from Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
Since we began collecting and coding titles for the Diverse BookFinder in 2015, we've been keeping track of the appearances of bi/multiracial families -- that is, parents and/or children of different races and/or mixed-race people, including families built through transracial adoption. (We include titles with any depiction of multiracial families, including those shown only in illustrations who may not be main characters.)
The most striking finding about the representation of multiracial families in recent picture book is that there are more titles. A lot more titles.
Searching the collection for "Diverse Families" (in the sidebar under Content), I found 315 titles with a depiction of a bi/multiracial family in books published between 2002 and 2020. (We're constantly adding titles, so this number will keep increasing.)
That's approximately 10% of our picture book collection. (Interestingly, in 2010, the U.S. Census reported 10% of U.S. households were interethnic and interracial heterosexual married couples.)
Next I searched by year. Here's what I found:
- 2002-2008: The numbers of books with depictions of multiracial families was in the single numbers each year.
- 2009 - 2014: the number ranges from 7-14 books/year.
- 2015: 25 titles!
- 2016: 21
- 2017: doubling to 42!
- 2018: 69!!
- 2019: 44 and counting. (We have many more books still to code for 2019 and 2020.)
In 10 years we've seen a 6-fold increase in the appearances of multiracial families in picture books! Now that's a trend.
Who is represented?
The second clear finding is that the majority of characters of mixed race depicted in picture books have one white parent. These white characters are most commonly paired with a Black or Brown parent.
It's still uncommon to see parents of different races who are both BIPOC. Here are two exceptions, each with one Black parent and one Asian:
"A young girl, observing that life with her family is not easy, imagines the quintet as a pod of pelicans, a swarm of bees, or a herd of buffalo. Includes note about, and list of, collective nouns for animals." --|c(Source of summary not specified)
"Aidan, a transgender boy, experiences complicated emotions as he and his parents prepare for the arrival of a new baby"--|cProvided by publisher
Diversity of Multiracial Families
Though we still have room to grow, it's wonderful to see the range and variety of mixed-race families that appear in contemporary picture books. More and more, we're seeing that multiracial families and mixed-race characters are being featured in books that aren't about racial identity or family makeup.
With each new title published, chances increase that multiracial families will be seen as part of the organic fabric of our nation and their children will be able to open a book and say, "This looks like my family!"
A boy helps his father keep their very old car running as they make a trip to Havana for his newborn cousin's zero- year birthday. Includes author's note about cars in Cuba
A couple celebrates their new roles as parents by spending the first days of their baby's life alone in their home, where a new dynamic of cuddling, connecting, and learning unfolds.
"“How MUCH is the crazy-much love?” This simple question is answered as two parents recount the journey of adopting their daughter and the many milestone moments that follow. From the child’s first bath and first time riding a tricycle, all the way to her boarding that big yellow bus, the crazy-much love grows SO MUCH that it spills out the windows and busts down the doors. A warm, lyrical celebration of the deep love parents hold for their children, and a comforting message for kids about how there can be only one special YOU." -- publisher
"Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal." -- publisher
A delightfully rhythmical read-aloud text is paired with bright, bustling art from the award-winning Lauren Tobia, illustrator of Anna Hibiscus, in this joyful exploration of the new skin of babyhood. A wonderful gift book for new mums and toddlers; all children can see themselves, and open their eyes to the world around them, in this sweet, scrumptious celebration of skin in all its many, many, wonderful forms.
Luna loves library day: that's the day she spends with her dad. Exploring the shelves they find magic, mystery, and even start to mend their own history. Includes an inset of a title Luna and Dad read together, The Troll King and the Mermaid Queen, a story that parallels Luna's life
A young girl finds a way to give the gift of a traditional Japanese garden back to her beloved grandfather and accept a difficult change. |cProvided by publisher
Safe in the knowledge that adoption has made them "forever family," stepsisters Mia and Tayja improvise an imaginary adventure with a joyful homecoming to a real home with their two moms
As a young girl observes that each of six women in her life wears her hijab and hair in a different way, she considers how to express her own style one day.
"A snowy day includes a journey with Grandma from home in the country to her house in town, sledding, snow angels, and cozy cuddling with Grandpa by the fire"--|cProvided by publisher
For more of our favorites, see this list of highlighted titles featuring multiracial families, published in the last five years.