Mutually Inclusive’s 23 Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2023

Happy early New Year, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for 2023. I have big plans for this year, both personally and for Mutually Inclusive (some of which may be related to the changes you’re seeing on the site this week) and I’m ready to get back to work and dive in.

So, to get the year started on the right foot, I want to share the 23 books I’m most looking forward to! As always, these titles will have inclusive characters or themes, and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories. I just can’t help it, my reading runs the gamut when it comes to kidlit.

Please note: This list will contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from purchases made using these links at no additional cost to you. This commission allows me to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.

Everybody Has a Body by Molli Jackson Ehlert, Illustrated by Lorian Tu

In this body neutral picture book, debut author Molli Jackson Ehlert and illustrator Lorian Tu show us all of the different ways bodies can look and all of the things they can do.

Everybody has a body. Whether you’re short, tall, fat, thin, hairy, bald, whether you use a wheelchair or have a limb difference, we all rely on our bodies to take us through the world.

From hiking a mountain to playing baseball to exploring an aquarium, debut author Molli Jackson Ehlert and illustrator Lorian Tu show us all the different ways that bodies can look and the things they can do, with representation of all different types of bodies,

With a body neutral approach – your body isn’t good or bad, it just is – this is an accessible and fun read that’s perfect for kids who have questions about the different bodies they encounter every day.

The Fire of Stars by Kirsten W. Larson, Illustrated by Katherine Roy

A poetic picture book celebrating the life and scientific discoveries of the groundbreaking astronomer Cecilia Payne!

Astronomer and astrophysicist Cecilia Payne was the first person to discover what burns at the heart of stars. But she didn’t start out as the groundbreaking scientist she would eventually become. She started out as a girl full of curiosity, hoping one day to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
 
With lyrical, evocative text by Kirsten W. Larson and extraordinary illustrations by award-winning illustrator Katherine Roy, this moving biography powerfully parallels the kindling of Cecilia Payne’s own curiosity and her scientific career with the process of a star’s birth, from mere possibility in an expanse of space to an eventual, breathtaking explosion of light.

US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s iconic poem “Remember,” illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade, invites young listeners to pause and reflect on the wonder of the world around them, and to remember the importance of their place in it. 

Remember the sky you were born under,
Know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn,
That is the strongest point of time.  

So begins the picture book adaptation of the renowned poem that encourages young listeners to reflect on family, nature, and their heritage. In simple and direct language, Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation, urges listeners to pay close attention to who they are, the world they were born into, and how all inhabitants on earth are connected. Michaela Goade, drawing from her Tlingit culture, has created vivid illustrations that make the words come alive in an engaging and accessible way.

This timeless poem paired with magnificent paintings makes for a picture book that is a true celebration of life and our human role within it.

Mother of Sharks by Melissa Cristina Márquez, Illustrated by Devin Elle Kurtz

Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree and globally renowned shark scientist Melissa Cristina Márquez teams up with award-winning illustrator Devin Elle Kurtz to create an informative, powerful picture book that explores Melissa’s personal journey from being an inquisitive ocean-loving child in Puerto Rico to becoming the Mother of Sharks.

As the sun sets over another gorgeous day at la Playita Del Condado in Puerto Rico, Meli doesn’t want to go home. She loves the ocean more than anything, and with only five minutes left at the beach, she knows exactly where her last stop should be: the tidal pools. They are small universes of their own teeming with critters and creatures of the ocean. While looking into the pools, she meets a crab, Jaiba, who takes her on a dreamlike underwater adventure, teaches her about the importance of shark conservation, and reveals Meli’s ultimate destiny: to become the Mother of Sharks.  

The Good Hair Day by Christian Trimmer, Illustrated by J Yang

A boy dreams of long hair in this sweet story about self-expression and embracing our most authentic selves.

Noah has a special day coming up, and he has a very long wish list. But there’s one thing missing from it, the thing he wants more than anything else in the world: long, beautiful, wavy hair.

Noah understands that his hair will grow if he just doesn’t get a haircut. But almost all the boys that Noah knows have short hair, and he’s heard people say mean things about men with long hair. So, he just doesn’t think he’s allowed to ask.

When a fresh trim brings Noah to his lowest point, it turns out his caring family has been paying closer attention than he thinks–and they have an idea that will show Noah it’s okay to be his gorgeous self.

This heartfelt, witty, encouraging story from Christian Trimmer and J Yang will empower kids to share their true selves with the world.

Summer Is For Cousins by Rajani LaRocca, Illustrated by Abhi Alwar

From Newbery Honor author Rajani LaRocca comes a celebration of extended family and summertime fun

Summer is for cousins.
Mom and Dad,
Two uncles, two aunties,
Thatha and Pati,
Seven cousins,
All of us are together.

Ravi can’t wait to spend summer vacation at the lake house with his family—especially his cousins! Summer vacation is for days at the beach, long hikes, paddleboarding, and—of course—ice cream. Ravi and his oldest cousin, Dhruv, had the same favorite flavor last year, but everything feels different now.

Dhruv’s much taller and his voice is deeper. Ravi’s worried that Dhruv won’t be interested in spending time with him, the little cousin. The ice cream shop doesn’t even have their favorite flavor this year. But on the last night of vacation, the cousins decide to make dinner, and Ravi’s in charge of dessert. He only has one special thing in mind!

This picture book all about summertime fun celebrates the resilient bond between extended family members.

The Wishing Flower by A.J. Irving, Illustrated by Kip Alizadeh

An LGBTQ-inclusive story about understanding your peers, your feelings, and yourself, The Wishing Flower is a love letter to longing, belonging, and longing to belong.

Birdie finds comfort in nature and books, but more than anything she longs for connection, to be understood. At school, Birdie feels like an outsider. Quiet and shy, she prefers to read by herself, rather than jump rope or swing with the other kids. That all changes when Sunny, the new girl, comes along. Like Birdie, Sunny has a nature name. She also likes to read, and loves to rescue bugs. And when Sunny smiles at her, Birdie’s heart balloons like a parachute. 

From the acclaimed author of Dance Like a Leaf, with stunning illustrations by Kip Alizadeh, this book will inspire readers to honor their wishes and show the world their truest selves.

La Guitarrista by Lucky Diaz, Illustrated by Micah Player

From the creators of Paletero Man—Latin Grammy–winning musician Lucky Diaz and celebrated artist Micah Player—comes a story about a tenacious girl who achieves her wildest dreams with a little help from her community and a broken guitar. 

Strum! Strum! Strum! Get ready to rock with la guitarrista!

When Canta finds a guitar in the trash, she is one step closer to becoming a rock star. Even though the guitar is broken and she doesn’t know how to play, nothing can stop Canta from going after her dreams!

Perfect for fans of Because and We Will Rock Our Classmates, readers will rock out to this empowering tale of resilience, community, the power of music—and never giving up on your dreams.

The book includes Spanish words and phrases throughout, an author’s note from Lucky Diaz, and a link to the song inspired by the book.

I Dare! I Can! I Will!: The Day the Icelandic Women Walked Out and Inspired the World by Linda Ólafsdóttir

A picture book inspired by the Long Friday—a real event in Iceland that inspired women around the world to stand up, walk out, and march together for women’s rights

Vera and Mamma are headed out for a march, but it’s not just any march: It’s October 24 in Reykjavík, and on this day in 1975, the women of Iceland took the day off, walked out of their homes and away from their jobs—as farmworkers, butchers, and fisherwomen; wives, daughters, and children—and marched to demand equality and change, chanting: “I dare! I can! I will!” And they did, inspiring and empowering girls and women to make change, not just in their country, but all around the world.

The Yellow Handkerchief (El pañuelo amarillo) by Donna Barba Higuera, Illustrated by Cynthia Alonso

A child confronts conflicting feelings of embarrassment and love for her Mexican abuela in this moving, personal story from Newbery- and Pura Belpré Award–winning author Donna Barba Higuera

My abuela wears an old yellow handkerchief that her grandmother gave to her.
I don’t like the yellow handkerchief.


When a young girl feels ashamed of her family for being “different” and subconsciously blames her abuela, she gradually grows to not only accept but also love the yellow handkerchief that represents a language and culture that once brought embarrassment.

Inspired by the personal experiences of award-winning author Donna Barba Higuera and expressively illustrated by Cynthia Alonso, The Yellow Handkerchief is a lyrical, honest, and intimate intergenerational story about embracing who we are, where we come from, and the people who shape us.

Ramen for Everyone by Patricia Tanumihardja, Illustrated by Shiho Pate

Hiro loves ramen. Every Sunday, Hiro’s dad makes delicious, perfect ramen for dinner, using a recipe passed down from his dad. There’s nori seaweed, briny like the ocean; nitamago egg, the yolk golden like the sun; and chashu pork so tender, it melts in your mouth. Yum!

Hiro’s dream is to make his own perfect bowl, and he’s sure he can do it after watching his dad and taking notes. But when he gets started, things don’t go according to plan. The seaweed crumbles! The eggs slip through his fingers! The pork falls apart! Hiro is worried he’ll never be a real ramen chef…but thanks to his father’s wise advice and his own creativity, Hiro discovers that every person’s perfect bowl of ramen is unique.

Naming Ceremony by Seina Wedlick, Illustrated by Jenin Mohammed

A sweet sibling story all about making family traditions your own–perfect for fans of Alma and How She Got Her Name and Welcome to the Party

Today’s the day! It’s Baby Sister’s naming ceremony, and big sister Amira could not be more excited. She has the perfect name picked out . . . or, at least, she hopes it’s the perfect name.

One by one, friends and family arrive. As Amira greets them, she asks what name they have brought to give to Baby Sister. Each is more beautiful than the last–ShakiraAkahanaUhwe. And each has its own special meaning–thankfulred flowermoonlight. Amira knows that Baby Sister will love these names. But will she love the name Amira has chosen? Is it special enough?

A story about rich traditions and the unique bond between sisters, Naming Ceremony celebrates multigenerational family and Black joy.

Chef Edna: Queen of Southern Cooking by Melvina Noel, Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

A warm and inviting picture-book portrait of African American culinary legend Edna Lewis, who brought Southern cooking to the masses

Edna loved to cook. Growing up on a farm in Freetown, Virginia, she learned the value of fresh, local, seasonal food from her Mama Daisy, how to measure ingredients for biscuits using coins, and to listen closely to her cakes to know when they were done. Edna carried these traditions with her all the way to New York, where she became a celebrated chef, who could even turn traditional French food into her signature Southern style. The author of several cookbooks and the recipient of numerous awards, Chef Edna introduced the world to the flavors of her home.

Manolo and the Unicorn by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Jonah Kramer, Illustrated by Zach Manbeck

A story about seeing, believing wholeheartedly in the extraordinary—unicorns and oneself

To Manolo, the world is a magical place, a place where he searches for the most magical creature of all: unicorns. Manolo loves unicorns. When the Wild Animal Parade is announced at school, and Manolo declares that he will come as his favorite animal, his classmates say there is no such thing as unicorns, making the world feel ordinary. That is, until Manolo meets a real unicorn—wild and graceful—and discovers that the world is truly extraordinary.

Milloo’s Mind: The Story of Maryam Faruqi, Trailblazer for Women’s Education by Reem Faruqi, Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

From the author of Lailah’s Lunchbox and Unsettled comes a powerful picture book biography about Maryam Faruqi, the founder of the Happy Home Schools, which provided education to thousands of girls across Pakistan at a time when girls weren’t encouraged to go to school.

Maryam was a trailblazer for women’s education and the author is her granddaughter, creating a personal, inspiring tale. Perfect for fans of Malala’s Magic Pencil and She Persisted!

Milloo lives in a time when school is considered unnecessary for girls. But to Milloo, education is essential.

When Milloo reads, her thoughts dance. Milloo courageously dreams of becoming a teacher, but in fifth grade her parents tell her she has had enough school. Milloo is heartbroken but finds a way to achieve her educational goals, graduating high school and college with honors. When she’s married, Milloo’s husband tells her to stay home, but she does not let that stop her.

She decides to open a school in her house and later opens more schools around Karachi, Pakistan, fulfilling her dreams

Just Like Grandma by Kim Rogers, Illustrated by Julie Flett

In this lyrical picture book by Kim Rogers (Wichita), with illustrations by Boston Globe-Horn Book Honoree Julie Flett (Cree-Métis), Becca watches her grandma create, play, and dance—and she knows that she wants to be just like Grandma.

Becca loves spending time with Grandma. Every time Becca says, “Let me try,” Grandma shows her how to make something beautiful.

Whether they are beading moccasins, dancing like the most beautiful butterflies, or practicing basketball together, Becca knows that, more than anything, she wants to be just like Grandma.

And as the two share their favorite activities, Becca discovers something surprising about Grandma.

Nell Plants a Tree by Anne Wynter, Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

This gorgeous picture book shows how one little girl’s careful tending of a pecan tree creates the living center of a loving, intergenerational Black family. For Earth Day and every day! Perfect for fans of Matt de la Peña and Oge Mora.

Before her grandchildren climbed the towering tree,

explored its secret nests,

                    raced to its sturdy trunk,

                                  read in its cool shade,

                      or made pies with its pecans…

Nell buried a seed.

And just as Nell’s tree grows and thrives with her love and care, so do generations of her close-knit family.

Inspired by the pecan trees of the creators’ own childhoods, Anne Wynter’s lyrical picture book, brought to life with breathtaking illustrations by Daniel Miyares, brims with wonder and love.

Plátanos Go with Everything by Lissette Norman, Illustrated by Sara Palacios

Paletero Man meets Fry Bread in this vibrant and cheerful ode to plátanos, the star of Dominican cuisine, written by award-winning poet Lissette Norman, illustrated by Sara Palacios, and translated by Kianny N. Antigua.

Plátanos are Yesenia’s favorite food. They can be sweet and sugary, or salty and savory. And they’re a part of almost every meal her Dominican family makes. 

Stop by her apartment and find out why plátanos go with everything—especially love!

Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar: The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

A picture-book biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the woman who invented rock and roll–a warm, inspiring tale of a childhood filled with music, community, and a drive to succeed.

Music is the heart of our story,” says Momma to young Rosetta, surprising her with her first guitar. Rosetta’s strums sound like ker-plunks. But with practice and determination, she makes music, fingers hopping “like corn in a kettle,” notes pouring over the church crowd “like summer rain washing the dust off a new day.” In this stunning picture book, author and illustrator Charnelle Pinkney Barlow imagines the childhood of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose rural roots inspired the music we still hear today. Young readers will see a child’s dream become reality through hard work and perseverance. And they’ll learn the overlooked story of a pioneering Black artist, whose contribution to music history is only now being discovered.

Wallflowers by MacKenzie Joy

People call you a wallflower.

Sometimes they call you shy. Sometimes they call you quiet, or maybe even scared. People think these are bad things, because sometimes they are LOUD.

But you are happy just the way you are. And maybe you don’t need to learn to be loud, they just need to learn to listen.

Mackenzie Joy beautifully pairs her gorgeous illustrations with minimalist text in this heartwarming book that doesn’t just acknowledge shy children, but celebrates them–because every wallflower deserves their chance to grow.

Door by Door: How Sarah McBride Became America’s First Openly Transgender Senator by Meeg Pincus, Illustrated by Meridth McKean Gimbel

A nonfiction picture book about Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride, who dreamed of making a difference as a kid and grew up to become the highest-ranking openly transgender political official in America.

As a kid, Sarah McBride dreamed of running for office so she could help people in her community. When her friends asked for bicycles for Christmas, Sarah asked for a podium. Her friends and family encouraged her to follow this path, but there was one problem: they saw Sarah as a boy, and Sarah knew she was a girl. Every night, she’d replay the day in her head, watching how it would have played out if she was able to live as the girl she knew herself to be.

In college, she finally came out as Sarah, and in 2020 she won her election to become a Delaware State Senator, making her the highest-ranking trans political official in the country and a hero to kids everywhere who want to live their dreams and be themselves!

Your One and Only Heart by Rajani LaRocca, Illustrated by Lauren Paige Conrad

A lyrical introduction to the many wonders of the human heart, from award-winning author and practicing doctor, Dr. Rajani LaRocca

In this stunning non-fiction picture book, poetry and science come together with playful cut-paper illustrations to create a moving ode to the human heart and all that it does. Complete with illustrative diagrams and copious backmatter, this is a one-of-a-kind non-fiction picture book that gently guides readers through the various systems make up our most vital organ.

Grandad’s Pride by Harry Woodgate

Grandad and Milly are back for another adventure, this time honoring the past and celebrating the future with a pride parade. This heartwarming tale continues to wonderful journey that began with the Stonewall Honoree and Waterstones Best Illustrated Book, Grandad’s Camper.

After Milly discovers a pride flag in Grandad’s attic, this adorable pair are motivated by the past to start a pride parade in their small town. Activism and celebration go hand in hand as the town gathers to help “build a world where everyone is proud to be themselves.” This beautiful follow-up to Grandad’s Camper is filled with heart and purpose.

What books do you have your eye on in 2023? Make sure to share in the comments below!

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