Children’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Featuring Pictures of People of Color in Positive Roles
By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian
I had a very vivid imagination as a child. My older sibling and I spent a lot of time playing ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and ‘Star Wars.’ My favorite games to play with my best friends, however, were very princess-centric for a long time. During my childhood, the Disney princesses included Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Mulan, but the rest of them had white skin and looked like me. There were very few picture books I had growing up that featured princesses who were POC (people of color). For those that don’t know, the term people of color refers to anyone who does not have white skin or is not of European heritage. Thankfully the number of picture books with people of color is steadily increasing.
Picture books are for everyone. Visual literacy teaches children vocabulary, communication, and social cues. When a child sees a character who looks like them, who has a cool job or special ability, they see themselves as being valuable and talented, too. Here are a few science fiction and fantasy picture books that feature people of color in positive roles.
• “Reading Beauty” by Deborah Underwood. I read this one in my online storytimes over the summer. This is a retelling of the fairytale with a sci-fi spin. And that isn’t the only twist.
• “Cosmo and the Robot” by Brian Pinkney. A brother and sister are on a mission. Cosmo’s robot is broken, but with his new fancy tool belt he thinks he can fix it.
• “The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School” by Judy Sierra. A science project that goes horribly wrong. Is there a good kind of mutant slime?
• “Charlie and Kiwi: An Evolutionary Adventure” by Eileen Campbell. Charlie has a presentation at school about birds. He chose the Kiwi. With a cool time machine, he learns about how birds have changed over time.
• “Rox’s Secret Code” by Nathan Archambault. Rox invents and programs a robot to clean her room, but the robot gets smarter and wants to do more.
• “Ta-Da!” by Kathy Ellen Davis. A game of imagination teaches the importance of taking turns and working together.
• “Amazingly Wonderful Things” by Marla J. Hohmeier. A story about the power of imagination.
• “The Evil Princess vs. The Brave Knight” by Jennifer L. Holm. Are ‘bad’ people all bad? Are ‘good’ people all good? Life is never boring in this kingdom where mischief reigns.
• “The Very Last Castle” by Travis Jonker. There is a mysterious castle in her town that everyone is afraid of. But Ibb makes friends with the guard, and when he invites her to come in, she accepts.
And here is my list of great sci-fi and fantasy graphic novels in our children’s section.
• “The Tea Dragon Society” by Katie O’Neill. The first in the series, this book introduces the (mostly) domesticated tea dragons and their unique caregivers.
• “One Trick Pony” by Nathan Hale. Aliens are destroying technology. A few friends fight to protect it, with the help of a robotic horse.
• “My Video Game Ate My Homework” by Dustin Hansen. Trying to create an awesome science project to win a cool prize, Dewey accidentally traps himself and his friend Ferg inside a video game.
• “Monster Mayhem” by Chris Eliopoulos. Zoe is stuck in her favorite monster movie. She uses her scientific prowess to escape disaster and befriends the monster.
• “That Night, a Monster” by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka. Translated by Marzena Sowa and Tom Kaczynski. Thomas wakes up one day to find his mother is gone and instead, there is now a …monster fern!
• “The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America” by Jaime Hernandez. A retelling of three folktales from Latin America.