From the Shop Floor: Diversity Books

Sarai Tuhua founded Diversity Books in 2023, an online bookstore dedicated to stocking stories that uphold inclusion and celebrate diversity. In our first From the Shop Floor segment of the year, Sarai gives us the rundown on her shop’s kaupapa, history, successes, and more. 

Give us a one-paragraph history of your shop.

I have four children, three are teenagers now, and my youngest is four. To me, literature is a big part of the fabric of childhood, so ensuring my children are provided with stories that enhance their lives and characters has always been important to me. There’s a lot of mindless stuff out there, and of course, like everything else, children’s books are dominated by patriarchal ideology. Sourcing books that uphold empathy, compassion, inclusion, social justice and equity has been a recurring topic of discussion amongst my friends who are parents— shared challenge that I thought could be addressed if someone would just screen texts and put them all in one place. I have ADHD and love a project, so I decided last year to just do it. Worst case scenario is I end up with a massive pile of books. 

What are you recommending this month?

Another passion of mine is children’s mental health. Raising three teenagers has made me realise the importance of teaching tamariki coping strategies and emotional regulation from an early age. We all know how hard it is to learn and apply strategies when we are already struggling. I’ve had really great support from an organisation called Yellow Brick Road, where the neuroscience-based books by Karen Young were recommended to me. There are five of them—Hey Warrior, Hey Awesome, Dear You, Love from Your Brain, But We’re not Lions, and the newly released Ups and Downs. They’re easy to understand and the illustrations are really adorable.

Books are a powerful way to expand a child’s worldview

What new releases are you looking forward to over the next few months?

I’m looking forward to the new-to-me graphic novels that The Sapling has recommended! I think my kids are going to really enjoy them.

What do you wish was selling better?

I hope that parents will think about how their children will respond when they come across children who are different from themselves. Children are not naturally equipped with the skills to show kindness—exclusion and bullying are still significant issues here in Aotearoa. Don’t let a marginalised child be your child’s learning opportunity—you can make sure your child is familiar with other types of people through the books and other media you give to them. Give your sons books where girls are the protagonists. Give your Pākehā children books with brown mermaids, princesses and superheroes. Books are a powerful way to expand a child’s worldview, which is something we desperately need as a society if we want every individual to be able to participate safely in it.

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Sarai holds a copy of Ups and Downs by Karen Young

What’s a nice story you have about matching a book to a customer/reader?

Maybe the one who was looking for non-white Santas. They and I had both resorted to colouring in white Santas on everything—books, cards, Christmas decorations, wrapping paper…I did eventually find a book featuring a black Santa, but unfortunately it had to travel all the way from the USA to get here.

What do you wish publishers would publish?

More inclusive children’s books (and more inclusive books in general). There’s definitely a lot more out there than there was ten years ago. But it’s not enough. We don’t need any more white, male-centric stories. At all. And the diverse features do not need to be the theme of the story—we need stories that just happen to feature a variety of people.

We need stories that just happen to feature a variety of people

What unique challenges/opportunities do you face in your business?

I’ve really enjoyed learning all the new things I’ve had to learn. It’s an ADHD dream. I designed everything on Canva myself (I’m sure designers can tell!). Finding out where to actually buy the books from and how to set up the accounts was fun (I have dyscalculia). I did an extramural business certificate through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa that really helped.

Marketing is challenging for me—it feels rude and uncomfortable to tell people to buy things. I’d really prefer to give all the books away, but I need the money so I can buy more books.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about things you care about, events you have planned, new initiatives, complaints, compliments, anything?

I’ve had people contact me asking if they can donate money so I can distribute books in the community, so I have a fund specifically for that. Books are expensive to produce and inaccessible to many families, and I really enjoy being able to give them away. Anyone who wants to contribute to this project, or nominate a recipient, can email me at

Check out Diversity Books here.

Sarai Tuhua

Ko Mātaatua te Waka
Ko Maungapōhatu Te Maunga
Ko Waikaremoana te Moana
Ko Whakatāne toku Awa
Ko Tūhoe-pōtiki te Iwi
Ko Ruatāhuna te Rohe
Ko Ngāti Kuri toku Hapu
Ko Kakanui te Wharenui
Ko Wharekauri Tuhua toku koroua
Ko Whetumarama Tuhua toku whaea
Ko Sarai Tuhua taku ingoa

I grew up in Rotorua but have lived in Whakatū (Nelson) for 16 years. I love learning things, particularly anything to do with how children develop and how people's brains work. Watching my three teenagers develop and grow has fed my passion, and I'm lucky enough to be doing it all again with my four-year-old. I love paper; I collect all kinds of interesting pieces of ephemera for art that I rarely create, and I'm drawn to boxes like a cat. I have a long list of abandoned hobbies, but reading always remains, so I am optimistic that Diversity Books will not be abandoned.