When it comes to picture books, Australia’s multicultural nature hasn’t always been easy to find.
Fortunately, things are changing, with more culturally diverse picture books being published. One author who is part of that welcome renaissance is Inda Ahmad Zahri, with whom I’ve been connected for several years via social media and writing communities.
I’ve been thrilled to watch her star rise with the publication of two picture books – Salih and Night Lights – and more on the way.
When I asked Inda to create a list of culturally diverse picture books for young Australians, she came back with a very thoughtful collection (click the titles to find out more about each title or to purchase*).
“It was no surprise that when I was putting together a list of Australian picture books showcasing the culturally diverse stories of our migrant society, grandparents were often present and always lovingly depicted,” Inda says.
“These stories invite you to experience different cultures through language, nature, food or traditional dress. And I’m happy to report that you’ll meet some wonderful grandparents, including my own.”
5 picture books that explore cultural diversity with grandparents
By Inda Ahmad Zahri
Grandparents are wise, wistful and a little bit magical – they’re like a portal to a different time and place.
They know the perfect tale for every occasion. They have a hoard of old possessions laden with memories. And let’s be honest, they had the best life-hacks even before life-hacks became a thing. In our diverse society, they are often a bridge to our culture and heritage, too.
Night Lights by Inda Ahmad Zahri & Lesley McGee (Little Pink Dog Books 2021)
Let me take you to my childhood stomping grounds, my grandparents’ village home in Malaysia. While the days were full of mischief and play, the nights were for memories, discovery, and the wonder of lights.
With stunning illustrations by Lesley, be prepared to feel the warmth of the tropics and the hum of the night as you turn the nature-filled pages.
One Tree by Christopher Cheng & Bruce Whatley (Puffin Books 2019)
Grandfather used to tell stories of his mountain home, but now that nature has been overtaken by the city, he sits in their Hong Kong apartment, quiet and sullen. Luckily, his grandson’s love is as tenacious as the seedling he finds under the rush of busy feet in the market.
Chris tells a moving tale of family and nature, and Bruce adds intrigue to his Oriental scenes with a wood-block-printing style.
Slowly, Slowly by Tina Marie Clark & Hélène Magisson (Wombat Books 2017)
If Bongani can catch a monkey, he will surely prove that he’s taller than a hyena and big enough to go to school like his cousins. Grandfather teaches him how, but Bongani will keep stumbling until he remembers to take his time and go slow.
Inspired by a Ghanaian proverb known across the continent, Tina and Hélène bring us this catchy yet gentle story from the Africa of their childhood.
The Katha Chest by Radhiah Chowdury & Lavanya Naidu (Allen & Unwin 2021)
As Asiya unfurls the katha quilts from the chest at her nanu’s house, she uncovers a lifetime of memories. The quilts, which are ubiquitous in South Asian homes, are made from old cotton saris that tell the stories of her aunts, her mother and her grandmother – stories of strength, sorrow and love.
Radhiah’s lyrical prose is perfectly matched with Lavanya’s vibrant and emotive illustrations.
Tayta Remembers by Amal Abou-Eid & Cara King (Amal Abou-Eid 2021)
On Sundays, Tayta cooks a scrumptious feast with her family. Each dish is a chance for Tayta to slip through time and revisit her childhood in Lebanon. Amal peppers the pages with Arabic greetings and food names, while Cara draws loveable family scenes.
This book includes a glossary as a guide to Arabic terms and the delicious Lebanese cuisine.
Inda Ahmad Zahri is a writer and illustrator who loves languages, Malaysian rice dishes and the ocean. She is also a surgical doctor, swapping her writer’s hat and paintbrush for scrubs and a scalpel when duty calls.
Inda is the author of Salih and Night Lights.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!
*Disclosure statement here
Congratulations Alison and Inda for putting this thought-provoking book review together!
Congrats to Tina, Christopher and all!
Well done !
Hey Alison and Inda
What an amazing blog post! Thank you so much for including our Slowly! Slowly! In your round up – and of course I can’t go past and not comment on how precious grandparents are.
So glad that Bongani and his family touched you.