I think Indian culture is so colorful, and I’ve read several engaging picture books about Indian culture, so I wanted to share this list with you! You’ll find books about Indian celebrations, food, families, dress, and culture overall. I know you’ll find lovely books to educate, delight, and entertain your young readers. Most of these are by authors of Indian descent, but you might find the odd one by authors of another culture.
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Delightful Picture Books About Indian Culture
Here are 24 picture books about Indian culture:
Published: March 16, 2021
This charming picture book is about a little girl who loves her bindis (and the many creative shapes they come in!). The bindis are also a connection to her Nani who lives in India. When Nani comes to visit Bindu and brings the bindis to her, it is just in time to wear something new to the school talent show. Bindu and Nani work together to shine their brightest and embrace their sparkle, even when they stand out from the crowd.
Published: October 15, 2021
When their train makes a 10-minute stop at the station in Jaipur, a young girl and her mother hurry to get in line for a cup of chai. While the girl waits for her mug of milky spiced tea, readers are treated to the sights, sounds, and smells of the Chaiwala’s cart. The aroma of ginger, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon sticks swirls in the air. Tea leaves rustle, milk bubbles, and the hot drink is poured back and forth until―clink!―the cups are filled and placed on the stand. With a biscuit and a rusk added to their order, it’s time to find a spot to sit and enjoy!
Published: January 1, 2022
Published: March 2, 2021
Laxmi never paid much attention to the tiny hairs above her lip. But one day while playing farm animals at recess, her friends point out that her whiskers would make her the perfect cat. She starts to notice body hair all over–on her arms, legs, and even between her eyebrows.
With her parents’ help, Laxmi learns that hair isn’t just for heads, but that it grows everywhere, regardless of gender.
Tomatoes for Neela
Published: August 31, 2021
Neela loves cooking with her amma and writing down the recipes in her notebook. It makes her feel closer to her paati who lives far away in India. On Saturdays, Neela and Amma go to the green market and today they are buying tomatoes to make Paati’s famous sauce. But first, Neela needs to learn about all the different kinds of tomatoes they can pick from. And as Neela and Amma cook together, they find a way for Paati to share in both the love and the flavors of the day.
Bilal Cooks Daal
Published: June 4, 2019
Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does?
Festival of Colors
Published: January 30, 2018
Spring is here, and it’s almost time for Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors. Siblings Mintoo and Chintoo are busy gathering flowers to make into colorful powders to toss during the festival. And when at last the big day comes, they gather with their friends, family, and neighbors for a vibrant celebration of fresh starts, friendship, forgiveness, and, of course, fun!
Leila in Saffron
Published: June 18, 2019
Sometimes I’m not sure if I like being me.
When Leila looks in the mirror, she doesn’t know if she likes what she sees. But when her grandmother tells her the saffron beads on her scarf suit her, she feels a tiny bit better. So, Leila spends the rest of their family dinner night on the lookout for other parts of her she does like.
I’ll Go and Come Back
Published: March 29, 2022
When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond—looking at books together, making designs with colored sand, shopping at the market, playing games, eating chapatis, and sipping warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they say “I’ll go and come back.” Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?
Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth
Published: September 19, 2012
The bold, bright colors of India leap right off the page in this fresh and funny picture book retelling (with a twist) of how Ganesha came to help write the epic poem of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata. Ganesha is just like any other kid, except that he has the head of an elephant and rides around on a magical mouse. And he loves sweets, especially the traditional dessert laddoo. But when Ganesha insists on biting into a super jumbo jawbreaker laddoo, his tusk breaks off! Ganesha is terribly upset, but with the help of the wise poet Vyasa, and his friend Mr. Mouse, he learns that what seems broken can actually be quite useful after all. With vibrant, graphic illustrations, expressive characters, and offbeat humor, this is a wonderfully inventive rendition of a classic tale.
Published: August 28, 2018
Each autumn we gather with our friends and family and light our brightest lanterns. It’s time for Diwali, the festival of lights! In this lovely board book with illustrations from Archana Sreenivasan, readers learn that the five days of Diwali are a time to pray for a bountiful season, celebrate the special bonds between siblings, and rejoice in the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk
Published: January 12, 2016
This picture book brings an international twist to the beloved nursery rhyme, The Wheels on the Bus, by bringing you aboard a busy three-wheeled taxi in India! Anything can happen as the tuk-tuk rolls through town—from an elephant encounter to a tasty treat to a grand fireworks display. And in the midst of all the action, one thing’s for sure: passengers young and old love every minute of their exciting ride as the wheels of the tuk tuk go round and round!
Published: September 1, 2020
Binny is excited to talk to her class about her favorite holiday. But she struggles to find the words.Taking a deep breath, she tells her classmates about the fireworks that burst like stars in the night sky, leaving streaks of gold and red and green. She shares with them delicious pedas and jalebis. And she shows them clay lamps, called diyas, which look so pretty all the children ooh and aah.Featuring a heartwarming story by Thrity Umrigar, enchanting illustrations by Nidhi Chanani, and detailed information about the Hindu festival of lights, Binny’s Diwali is a holiday treat.
Published: July 20, 2021
Grown-ups never seemed to notice, but Kalamata’s kitchen table was magical. Under her table, she and Al Dente could transport themselves anywhere….
Tomorrow is Kalamata’s first day at a new school, and she’s nervous! What if the kids aren’t friendly? Or worse, what if they don’t like alligators!? If only Kalamata and Al Dente could go to back to the Indian spice market they visited this summer, then maybe she’d remember how to feel brave when new experiences seem scary.
Luckily for Kalamata, all the magic required for her journey is right in her own kitchen! As Kalamata and her alligator friend, Al Dente, transport themselves to a magical land filled with tasty ingredients, she realizes being brave is exciting! And most importantly, she learns that when we’re nervous about trying new things, food can comfort us and remind us to stay curious, courageous, and compassionate.
Published: May 4, 2021
Every morning Papa combs through his daughter’s waves like he does his own—parting it down the middle, using coconut oil to get all the tangles out.
Some days he braids her hair in two twists down the side of her face. Other days he weaves it into one long braid hanging down her back, just like a unicorn tail. But her favorite style is when he combs her hair in a tight bun on the top of her head, just like the joora he wears every day under his turban. They call this their hair twin look!
The Katha Chest
Published: March 1, 2022
Asiya loves to visit Nanu’s house where she can rummage through Nanu’s katha chest filled with quilts. There are stories in each of the quilts that her Nanu has collected through the years, all about the bold and brave women in Asiya’s family. Among all of the games and exciting things at Nanu’s house, Asiya thinks these hidden histories are the grandest treasure.
Where Three Oceans Meet
Published: August 24, 2021
“I want to see what’s at the end of the earth!”
Sejal, Mommy, and Pati travel together to the southern tip of India. Along the way, they share meals, visit markets, and catch up with old friends.
For Pati, the trip retraces spaces she knows well. For Mommy, it’s a return to the place she grew up. For Sejal, it’s a discovery of new sights and sounds. The family finds their way to Kanyakumari, where three oceans meet, and delight in making it to the end of the earth together.
This own voices picture book celebrates the beauty of India and the enduring love of family.
How to Wear a Sari
Published: June 22, 2021
Being a little kid isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes, it’s downright annoying.
When a little girl tires of being treated like she’s TOO little, she sets out to prove to her family that she can do ANYTHING she puts her mind to . . .
. . . including putting on a colorful, twinkly, silky sari. Sure, they’re long and unwieldy—but that only means her family will be even more impressed when she puts it on all by herself.
Naturally, there are some hiccups along the way, but she discovers that she’s not the only one in her family who has set out with something to prove, with hilariously chaotic results. That’s what photo albums are for!
A Gift for Amma: A Market Day in India
Published: August 21, 2020
A young girl explores the vibrant rainbow of items for sale in a southern Indian street market as she searches for a gift for her mother. Includes facts about the items mentioned and markets around the world, as well as photographs taken by the author in her hometown of Chennai, India.
Tiny Travellers India Treasure Quest
Published: May 26, 2020
In Tiny Travelers India Treasure Quest, readers journey from the magical Taj Mahal to fabulous Bollywood. From the beautiful festival of color Holi, to the incredible Himalayas, Tiny Travelers will enjoy getting closer to Indian culture, making magical discoveries along the way.
Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala
Published: March 26, 2019
Priya lives in the United States and her family is from India. She feels the magic of the place her family comes from through her Babi Ba’s colorful descriptions of India–from the warm smell of spices to the swish-swish sound of a rustling sari. Together, Priya and Babi Ba make their heritage live on through the traditions that they infuse into their everyday lives.
A Sari for Ammi
Published: November 9, 2021
Ammi weaves the most beautiful saris but never gets to wear any of them. Her two little daughters decide to do something about it―break their piggy bank! But when there isn’t enough money to buy Ammi a sari, the two girls must work together to find a solution. Will they be able to buy Ammi the gift she so deserves? With a text full of heart, and bright, cheerful artwork, this story brings readers into the home of a weaver’s family in Kaithoon, India, where the creation of saris is an art form. The book includes a glossary of Indian terms and a note about the saris made in this region.
Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps
Published: June 30, 2021
On Sundays, Varun has his karate lesson, and his sister Varsha heads to dance school with their grandfather. One weekend, Varun reluctantly accompanies his sister to her lesson. Bored of waiting, he peeks into the classroom, and almost immediately, he is fascinated by the rhythm and grace of bharatanatyam, a dance from India that Varsha is learning to perfect. Varun tries a few moves at home in secret because…well, boys don’t dance, do they? His grandfather is not so sure. Will Thatha be able to convince Varun to dance in his footsteps?
There they are: 24 beautiful picture books about Indian culture! Which of these have you read and loved? What did I miss?
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