JPL Logo
My Library Account

"How Do I...?"

Ask a Librarian logo

Multicultural Reading List

Recommended Books For Grades 5-12

Developed by the Literacy Coalition of the Duval County Public Schools and Jacksonville Public Library to develop the love of reading. Listed in order of the Lexile Reading Level score.

Book cover image
A Picnic in October by Eve Bunting
Published: September 2004
Lexile: 310
In their annual visit to Liberty Island, an Italian-American family tells of their immigration to America, their gratitude at arriving to New York City, and their respect for the freedom represented by the Statue of Liberty.
The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton
Published: August 2000
Lexile: 360
A West Indian version of "Rumpelstiltskin" told in the rhythmic West Indian dialect and represented by opulent illustrations.
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
Published: October 1991
Lexile: 470
A Japanese boy's mother folds delicate silver cranes from origami paper to decorate the his very first Christmas tree.
Book cover image
Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe
Published: May 1989
Lexile: 500
A compassionate mouse is given the gift of powerful hind legs from a generous frog. The mouse helps many animals and is rewarded for his goodness and kindness in this Native American legend.
The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor
Published: April 1997
Lexile: 520
Wonderful descriptions of the plants and animals of the desert, the Native Americans who live there and the secrets they know about the desert that no one else knows!
Her Seven Brothers by Paul Goble
Published: September 1993
Lexile: 520
This story is a Native American legend about the origin of the Big Dipper.
Book cover image
Cendrillon by Robert San Souci
Published: January 2002
Lexile: 540
A Caribbean version of Cinderella tale, told with the lyrical cadences of French and Creole words.
Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema
Published: January 1998
Lexile: 560
The Coyote wants to eat the little lamb in this Mexican folk tale. The story shows how the lamb tricks the big coyote using his intellect.
The Boy of the Three Year Nap by Diane Snyder
Published: October 1993
Lexile: 610
A Japanese tale of a wise mother determined to change her son's lazy habits as she uses his own trick to avoid work to her own advantage.
Jambo Means Hello by Muriel Feelings
Published: July 1992
Lexile: 640
This Swahili alphabet book introduces the reader to a different language and culture. Each of the twenty-four letters is represented by a Swahili word. Illustrations are outstanding.
Book cover image
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
Published: February 2006
Lexile: 640
Zlata, who begins her diary at the age of eleven, has been described as the Anne Frank of Sarajevo. This diary, written from 1991 to 1993 tells the story of the Bosnian War in Sarajevo.
The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor
Published: February 1998
Lexile: 650
Two black girls living in the North take a trip to the South and encounter racial prejudice for the first time.
Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
Published: January 2002
Lexile: 650
The author, a Japanese American man, tells of his grandfather's journey to America and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries.
Francie by Karen English
Published: October 1999
Lexile: 660
Growing up in Alabama in the 1940's, Francie Weaver is the 12-year-old heroine. She is a black girl in the South encountering obstacles. She tutors a sixteen-year-old boy accused of murder.
Book cover image
Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac
Published: March 1999
Lexile: 680
After moving from a Mohawk reservation to Brooklyn, New York, eight-year-old Danny Bigtree encounters stereotypes about his Native American heritage.
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Published: March 1987
Lexile: 720
A tale from Zimbabwe, which is a variation of Cinderella. Manyara and Nyasha, the sisters, both vie for the royal crown. The kind sister wins.
Book cover image
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord
Published: October 1986
Lexile: 730
A young Chinese girl moves to Brooklyn where she becomes Americanized at school, in her apartment building, and by her love for baseball.
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Published: December 2006
Lexile: 740
Set in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, this story tells of two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia. Despair darkens the close friendship of these two sisters when one sister becomes terminally ill.
Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola
Published: April 1996
Lexile: 740
This Indian legend tells how a little girl's sacrifice resulted in the wild flowers of Texas. The bluebonnet became the Texas state flower.
Book cover image
Esperanza Rising by Pam Ryan
Published: June 2002
Lexile: 750
Esperanza is from a Mexican family of wealth and privilege. Her life changes dramatically as she and her mother go to work in Southern California where they encounter great hardships on the eve of the depression.
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema
Published: August 1992
Lexile: 770
A West African tale involving a chain of events that upsets all the animals in the jungle. It begins with an outrageous tale and ends with all the animals realizing mosquito is to blame.
Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco
Published: March 1996
Lexile: 780
Babushka rescues an injured goose. The goose, Rechenka, breaks painted eggs prepared for a Ukrainian festival. The goose lays eggs to replace the broken ones and they are miraculously colored eggs.
Winter People by Joseph Bruchac
Published: October 2004
Lexile: 800
As the French and Indian War rages in October of 1759, Saxso, a fourteen-year-old Abenaki boy, pursues the English rangers who have attacked his village and taken his mother and sisters hostage.
Book cover image
One Grain of Rice by Demi
Published: April 1997
Lexile: 830
An Indian tale in which a clever girl tricks a wicked raja into sharing the rice he was hoarding.
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Ryan
Published: October 2005
Lexile: 830
Naomi and little brother, Owen, live with their Gram. Their mother who abandoned them resurfaces after seven years and wants to take them back. The story of Naomi's efforts to avoid her mother and her journey to Mexico in search of her father is very moving.
Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie de Paola
Published: April 1996
Lexile: 840
A young Indian boy, Little Gopher, cannot perform like the other boys. He has a vision of becoming an artist and does in fact paint a master work – the sunset.
Book cover image
Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
Published: August 1975
Lexile: 870
The story of a young Chinese boy who joins his father in San Francisco and helps him realize his dream of making a flying machine.
When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor
Published: April 1987
Lexile: 880
The daily life and customs of prehistoric southwest Indian tribes are retraced from the designs on the remains of their pottery.
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland
Published: February 1997
Lexile: 880
A young Vietnamese girl takes a lotus seed from the Imperial Garden. Years later, her grandson plants it in his garden--where it blooms again.
Jesse by Gary Soto
Published: October 2006
Lexile: 900
This young adult novel is about two brothers of Mexican heritage. They hope college will help them get good jobs and escape physical labor.
Book cover image
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
Published: July 1998
Lexile: 920
A quilt was made from items brought from Russia by Patricia Polacco's great grandmother. The quilt was passed down to future generations and used for many different purposes and celebrations, which are documented in the book. The quilt is a symbol of love and tradition in the family.
Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers
Published: March 2007
Lexile: 930
Summer, 1925 and Harlem is hot for sixteen-year-old Mark Purvis. All Mark wants is a chance to wail on his saxophone and impress Fats, Harlem's own piano-playing musical giant. Fats offers Mark another opportunity first, a simple little delivery job for some fast cash. Too bad the cold-blooded gangster Dutch Schultz was in on the deal and wants his money from Mark...or else!
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Published: September 2004
Lexile: 950
Bud is a 10-year-old African-American orphan living in Michigan during the Depression-era. He yearns to find the famed jazz musician, Herman E. Calloway, to determine if Calloway is indeed his long lost father. A story of grim and harsh conditions punctuated with an aura of hope and optimism.
Book cover image
Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope by Jenna Bush
Published: September 2007
Lexile: 970
The story of a seventeen year old young mother who is HIV-positive. Although Ana has lost her mother, father, and youngest sister to AIDS, her life is one of strength and determination as she struggles to make a brighter future for herself and her child. Based on Jenna Bush's UNICEF work in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Gandhi by Demi
Published: September 2001
Lexile: 980
The story of Gandhi, born in India in 1869, who grew up to become one of the most influential and well-respected political and social leaders of the world.
Saladin: Nobel Prince of Islam by Diane Stanley
Published: August 2002
Lexile: 990
This book is for young adults. It is the story of a young boy who becomes a brilliant warrior. This hero longed for peace and became a model for his time.
Book cover image
Confucius by Russell Freedman
Published: September 2002
Lexile: 1080
The story of Confucius who went from poverty to the top of the ruling class is documented. He then quit his post and became a philosopher. It tells of his ideas and influence on the world.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Published: March 1968
Lexile: 1090
In this Chinese folktale a boy falls into a well. Getting the child help took a long time because of the fascination with his name.
In the Days of the Vaqueros by Russell Freedman
Published: October 2001
Lexile: 1180
Mexican vaqueros perfected skills which they taught American cowboys. They rounded up cattle and brought down steers. Cowboys copied their techniques and clothing among other things. Russell Freedman explains their important role.