Picture Books

Picture books do a wonderful job of sparking conversations around social justice issues that go beyond borders. Check out our carefully chosen research-based selection of picture books.


Multiple-award-winning richly illustrated history of Aotearoa New Zealand

Beautiful story of a young kiwi that intersects with issues of colonisation

This delightful story is a provocative parable of domination and a quiet plea for peace

This is the story of Jack Bull, who travels to New Zealand from London in 1798

Rich fable about colonisation, told from the viewpoint of the colonised

An allegory of the French colonisation of Africa, as seen by the complacent colonisers


This picture book depicts the life of Pedro under a military dictatorship

Based on the true story of a group of children that organise to build a playground


Emmanuel became an accomplished cyclist to prove that disability is not inability

This Picture book challenges stereotypical ideas of what it means to be a dragon

The story of Patrick, the penguin who wakes up one day turned bright pink!

A tale of a man who arrives at an island where he is rejected for being different

Economic Inequality

A heart-warming story of a child in Ghana and her courage to help her ill grandmother

A story about economic inequality between the Global North and South to awake development cooperation

Gender Equality

Delightful illustrations accompany this classic non-sexist story

This charming book tells the story of two male penguins, who create a family together

A story of a married female tortoise who ventures to begin a new life on her own

This powerful book breaks barriers by showing girls free to be themselves

Candy Pink is an elephant who subverts norms about how girls should look like and behave

The story of the activist Malala Yousafazai and her fight for girls’ education

This book challenges the unfair and often gendered distribution of work in the home

A modern fairy tale of a princess who doesn’t want to get married

Human Rights

This book provides children with many different examples of what freedom means

This moving book presents the story of two soldiers facing each other across a battlefield

This heartbreaking book recounts the story of a holocaust survivor

With vibrant illustrations, this book describes what it means to be a child with rights

This story tells the tragedy of a IIWW concentration camp through the eyes of a little girl

In the most horrible Nazi camps, solidarity and love are able to spark hope in the future

The story of a girl in Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban that finds her passion in music

A classic New Zealand picture book about the pointlessness of war

Labour Rights

A layered allegorical tale of an unappreciated and overworked cicada

An amusing picturebook about the collective demands of a group of cows to their farmer

Heartfelt story of a dancing bear that escapes from the cruel subjugation of a circus

This fable tells the story of a small bear who is orphaned and then enslaved by a white bear


A powerful book which explores issues of war, refugees, poverty and death

Bilingual story of Alfredo and his father’s journey from Mexico to the US without papers

This book of poetry delves into youth migration journeys from Central America to the US

This graphic novel tells the haunting story of a migrant, refugee or displaced

A tale of a man who arrives at an island where he is rejected for being different

Book drawn from real stories to depict the journey of a family seeking refuge overseas

A powerful introduction to the immigration story of the United States

A moving account of a little girl’s courageous journey across the sea to start a new life


A shy Japanese boy hides at school until a new teacher takes notices of him

The iconic picturebook of Elmer, the elephant, explores issues of prejudice and migration

Great story of two best friends that raises questions about diversity and (in)tolerance

A fictional account based on a true story about refusal to accept racial discrimination


Based on the true story of a children’s orchestral created from recycled materials

This picturebook explores the perennial topic of environmentalism in an urban world

Story, set in the Depression era, about a young girl and her rooftop garden in the city

A story about a woman who returns to her country, Kenya, and decides to plant trees

Beautiful story of a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth

This collection of picture books was selected by:



Robyn Ewing, Professor Emerita at The University of Sydney (Australia) and Co-Director of the Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education, Health and Wellbeing (CREATE) Centre. Robyn is passionate about the arts and education and the role quality arts experiences and processes can and should play in creative pedagogy and transforming the curriculum at all levels of education.

Paulino Pumarejo Gómez, Associate Lecturer at the University of Cantabria (Spain). Paulino has devoted his career as a teacher and educational scholar to exploring the pedagogical potential of picturebooks to engage children and young people in social issues. Part of this selection of picture books was based on his thorough PhD research study.


 We would like to sincerely thank them for this contribution to Arts Beyond Borders