Children’s literature has come a long way since the days of Orbis sensualium pictus, a 1658 volume generally recognized as the first picture book ever created for kids. But cutting through all the old classics and tired tropes to find stories that today’s young readers can really relate to does require a little internet elbow grease.
Bookversal can make your search a lot easier. The website was created by Aleksandra Melnikova and Laura Hobson, two UK-based digital designers who felt like the most widely promoted and distributed kids’ books don’t always emulate the diversity of their audiences.
“My kid could not relate to any of the beautiful golden-hair Rapunzels or Cinderellas out there. Things got even more complicated when I’d undergone a divorce and had to answer questions like 'why do I have two homes?'” Melnikova told The Big Issue.
The site is organized into categories based on age group and theme, so you can explore all the books for “older kids” (ages 10 and above), for example, or see all the stories on “breaking stereotypes.” Other sections include “diverse families,” “diverse cultures,” “diverse emotions,” and “true to self.”
Hobson’s personal favorite, A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza, falls under “diverse families.” The story follows a curious little bird who heads off on a quest to find his birth mother and eventually realizes mother doesn’t only mean “female who gave birth to you”—a more inclusive riff off P.D. Eastman’s 1960 picture book Are You My Mother?
Each book links to a place to buy it (mostly UK retailers, with a focus on BIPOC-owned indie bookstores), and the founders are planning to expand Bookversal so users can post reviews. If there’s a story you think should be added to the site, you can suggest it via a Google form on the homepage.
Explore Bookversal here.
[h/t The Big Issue]