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Children’s Book Recommendations:

African American Voices


A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee – “After attending a powerful protest, 12-year-old Shayla starts wearing an armband to school to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but when the school gives her an ultimatum, she is forced to choose between her education and her identity.” 

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds – “Multigenerational story about family love and bravery in the story of 11-year-old Genie, and his older brother Ernie, leave Brooklyn to spend the summer in Virginia with their blind grandfather.”

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes – “Visiting her grandmother in the Louisiana bayou, 10-year-old Maddy begins to realize that she may be the only sibling to carry on the gift of her family’s magical legacy.”

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz – “Raised by her aunt until she is six, Betty, who will later marry Malcolm X, joins her mother and stepfamily in 1940s Detroit, where she learns about the civil rights movement.”

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes – “Suspended unjustly from elite Middlefield Prep, 12-year-old Donte Ellison studies fencing with a former champion, hoping to put the racist fencing team captain in his place.”

Blended by Sharon Draper – “Piano-prodigy Isabella, 11, whose black father and white mother struggle to share custody, never feels whole, especially as racial tensions affect her school, her parents both become engaged, and she and her stepbrother are stopped by police.”

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods – “A biracial 11-year-old girl, whose father died before she was born, finally gets the chance to meet the African-American side of her family.”

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – “The author shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. She shares childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South.”

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone – “Part history lesson, part road trip.  Join biracial 12-year-old Scoob, as he heads off on a road trip with his beloved grandmother. He mostly goes to escape a punishment from his father, but as the two make their way through the South, Scoob learns more about the grandfather he never met, the interracial couple’s 1963 road trip, and the ways in which the world has changed and remained the same.”

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander – “14-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.”

Dactyl Hill Squad (series) by Daniel José Older – “It is 1863, and as the Civil War rages between dinosaur-mounted armies down south, and a tense New York City seems on the brink of exploding into riots, Magdalys Roca and the other children at the Colored Orphan Asylum are trying to survive; but when she receives a letter telling her that her brother Montez was wounded, Magdalys knows that somehow she must reach him–and just possibly her ability to communicate telepathically with dinosaurs may come in handy.”

Dragons in a Bag (series) by Zetta Elliot – “In Brooklyn, 9-year-old Jax joins a curmudgeonly witch who lives in his building, on a quest to deliver three baby dragons to a magical world, and along the way discovers his true calling.”

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome – “Discovering a book of Langston Hughes’ poetry in the library helps 11-year-old Langston cope with the loss of his mother, relocating from Alabama to Chicago as part of the Great Migration, and being bullied.”

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks – “12-year-old Zoe works through conflicts with her mother and her best friend and turns her passion for baking into more than a hobby, all while fighting for justice for her imprisoned father.”

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams – “13-year-old Genesis tries again and again to lighten her black skin, thinking it is the root of her family’s troubles, before discovering reasons to love herself as is.”

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes – “After seventh-grader Jerome is shot by a white police officer, he observes the aftermath of his death and meets the ghosts of other fallen black boys including historical figure Emmett Till.”

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson – “When six students are chosen to participate in a weekly talk with no adults allowed, they discover that when they’re together, it’s safe to share the hopes and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world.”

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons – “11-year-old Ella seeks information about her father while enjoying a visit with her mother, a jazz singer, in Boston in 1944, then returns to the harsh realities of segregated, small-town South Carolina.”

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis – “When his poor sharecropper father is killed in an accident and leaves the family in debt, 12-year-old Little Charlie agrees to accompany fearsome plantation overseer Cap’n Buck north in pursuit of people who have stolen from him; Cap’n Buck tells Little Charlie that his father’s debt will be cleared when the fugitives are captured, which seems like a good deal until Little Charlie comes face-to-face with the people he is chasing.”

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste – “11-year-old Corinne must call on her courage and an ancient magic to stop an evil spirit and save her Haitian island home.”

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds – “Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and weaves them into one funny, poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.”

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis – “With love and determination befitting the ‘world’s greatest family,’ 12-year-old Deza Malone, her older brother Jimmie, and their parents endure tough times during the Great Depression.”

New Kid (Graphic Novel) by Jerry Craft – “Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds–and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?”

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia – “In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to California to spend a month with the mother they barely know, 11-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother is resentful of the intrusion and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.”

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert – “In a predominately white California beach town, the only two black seventh-graders, Alberta and Edie, find hidden journals that uncover family secrets and speak to race relations in the past.”

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson – “12-year-old Candice Miller is spending the summer in Lambert, South Carolina, in the old house that belonged to her grandmother, who died after being dismissed as city manager for having the city tennis courts dug up looking for buried treasure–but when she finds the letter that sent her grandmother on the treasure hunt, she finds herself caught up in the mystery and, with the help of her new friend and fellow book-worm, Brandon, she sets out to find the inheritance, exonerate her grandmother, and expose an injustice once committed against an African American family in Lambert.”

Port Chicago 50 (Non-Fiction) by Steven Sheinkin – “An account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.”

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor – “A black family living in Mississippi during the Depression of the 1930s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which its children do not understand.”

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez – “In order to heal after his mother’s death, Sal learned how to meditate. But no one expected him to be able to take it further and ‘relax’ things into existence. Turns out he can reach into time and space to retrieve things from other universes.”

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon – “Meet Caleb and Bobby Gene, two brothers embarking on a madcap, heartwarming, one-thing-leads-to-another adventure in which friendships are forged, loyalties are tested and miracles just might happen.”

Some Places More than Others by Renee Watson – “Amara visits her father’s family in Harlem for her twelfth birthday, hoping to better understand her family and herself, but New York City is not what she expected.”

The Stars Beneath our Feet by David Barclay Moore – “A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity.”

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper – “When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.”

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis – “When the Watson family–10-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron–sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don’t realize that they’re heading toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history. The Watsons’ journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything.”

Track Series by Jason Reynolds

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia – “Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Kwame Mbalia’s epic fantasy, a middle grade American Gods set in a richly-imagined world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.”

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado – “Biracial sixth-grader Stephen questions the limitations society puts on him after he notices the way strangers treat him when he hangs out with his white friends and learns about the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Picture Books

Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes – “Celebrates the magnificent feeling that comes from walking out of a barber shop with newly-cut hair.”

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson – “Other students laugh when Rigoberto, an immigrant from Venezuela, introduces himself, but later he meets Angelina and discovers that he is not the only one who feels like an outsider.”

Firebird: Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like a Firebird by Misty Copeland – “American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland encourages a young ballet student, with brown skin like her own, and that some day, with practice and dedication, the little girl will become a firebird, too.”

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry – “A little girl’s daddy steps in to help her arrange her curly, coiling, wild hair into styles that allow her to be her natural, beautiful self.”

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson – “A picture-book interpretation of one of America’s best-known songs, focusing on landscapes and images of a boy and his family.”

Honeysmoke by Monique Fields – “A young biracial girl searches for the perfect color word to describe herself.”

King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes – “Instilled with confidence by his parents, a young boy has a great first day of kindergarten.”

Last Stop of Market Street by Matt de la Pena – “A young boy, CJ, rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.”

M is for Melanin: Celebration of the Black Child by Tiffany Rose – “Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they’re in.”

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed – “Mae wanted to be an astronaut. Her parents encouraged her, saying, ‘If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.’ This encouragement, along with her own curiosity, intelligence, and determination, paved the way for Mae Jemison to become the first African American woman to travel in space.”

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker & Jessica Curry – “Based on the viral photograph of African-American toddler Parker Curry, who, during a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, became mesmerized by Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, who she thought was a queen.”

Radiant Child The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Biography) by Javaka Steptoe  – “Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books, museums, games, words, and the pulsing energy of New York City.”

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o – “When five-year-old Sulwe’s classmates make fun of her dark skin, she tries lightening herself to no avail, but her encounter with a shooting star helps her understand there is beauty in every shade.”

Undefeated (Non-Fiction) by Kwame Alexander  – “This poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. Includes references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.”

What Is Given from the Heart By Patricia C. McKissack – “Despite their own poverty, Mama tells 9-year-old James Otis they need to help Sarah, whose family lost everything in a fire.”

Woke Baby by Mahogany Browne – “Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke.”

You Matter by Christian Robinson – “Illustrations and easy-to-read text reminds readers that no matter what happens or how one feels, he or she matters.”

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow – “Saddened by her classmates’ and teacher’s mispronunciations of her name, a girl is empowered by her discovery that names are like songs. Celebrates the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, Middle Eastern names.”