Part 2 of our Black Lives Matter series focuses on joyful Black children’s books by Black authors and illustrators. Check out these phenomenal books, and read them with your kids today!
Joyful Black Children’s Books by Black Authors
“Joy is revolutionary.”
Denene Millner — author, journalist and publisher extraordinaire — spoke these words at the Kidlit Rally for Black Lives, and they struck me deeply. Millner spoke about the importance of sharing books with children that showcase beautiful Black and Brown kids being just that — kids. For every book we share with children on topics such as slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and the fight for civil rights, Millner said we should share three to four times that number of books showing Black boy joy and Black girl magic — books that depict kids of color in every day situations, facing the ups and downs and wonders and exuberance of childhood.
Honoring and Celebrating Black Children
Part 1 of our Black Lives Matter series focused on Children’s Books About Racism, Anti-Racism, and Identity. We curated that list of phenomenal books with an eye towards talking with children not only about the skin they are in, but how to stand up against racism and be an ally to the Black community.
This particular list, on the other hand, features books by Black authors that honor Black children in ordinary situations. These are the books that showcase Black kids simply being kids — kids going to school, snuggling with mom, getting haircuts and gathering for family celebrations — books that link all of us through universal experiences and emotions. These are the books — books celebrating Black joy — that will help us begin to eradicate stigma, challenge harmful stereotypes, and highlight important commonalities among all people, something we should strive for every single day as parents.
When we teach kids from the time they are young that learning about people of all colors and cultures is as inspiring as it is important — when we show them that diversity is beautiful and similarities always abound — we help bridge the perceived divides between us.
And when we do this, when we showcase Black joy during storytime, it helps children be less wary and fearful of differences — especially those having to do with the color of our skin. This is how we change the narrative.
Joy, after all, is revolutionary.
Without future ado, here is our list of joyful Black children’s books by Black authors, a list we hope you find as magical and meaningful as we do! Enjoy!
Dream Big, Little One, by Vashti Harrison: A board book version of the best selling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, this is a perfect, simple book to introduce babies and toddlers to trail blazing, strong women who have accomplished greatness in their respective fields. A perfect gift for a baby! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Saturday, by Oge Mora: With tenderness, humor and gorgeous collaged artwork, this is the story of a mother and daughter who set out to spend a special day together, only to have it turned upside down. When their new hairdos, storytime date and afternoon picnic all get ruined, Mom is on the brink of despair. Leave it to her child, with warmth and a healthy dose of optimism, to remind Mom that being together is all that matters, and their Saturday dates are always a gift even if they don’t go according to plan. Between the mother-daughter relationship, the child’s resilience and the exquisite illustrations, this one is an absolute gem! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Please, Baby, Please, by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Every parent will relate to this fun and funny book about a little girl giving her exhausted parents a run for their money. From eating sand to middle of the night wake ups, drawing on the walls and not sharing balls, you will laugh, your kids will be delighted, and you will close the book with a big hug and a kiss. Can’t beat that now, can you? This is one of our favorite diverse baby books! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James: This one blew me away on the first read through, with its striking illustrations, fabulous pacing, and breathtakingly phenomenal voice. From the very first sentence, Barnes transports his readers right into barbershop culture through vivid details that come to life with brilliant authenticity. It is a celebration of self-confidence and self-worth, a beautiful window into one boy’s transformation that enables him to feel recognized and powerful. The voice, the word choice, the rhythm – it is all astonishingly perfect. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration, by Samara Cole Doyon and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita: Oh, how I love this book! This beautiful and poignant story is told by a variety of narrators who discover their own beauty as they witness the everyday wonders around them. It is both a celebration of the skin you’re in as well as community, family and play, told in rich poetry I fell in love with in an instant. As if the gorgeous prose isn’t enough, the illustrations make this one a standout, depicting an array of kids of all ages and abilities, instantly embracing every child within its warm pages. No matter what your children look like, you will adore this vibrant story, reminding us that beauty is all around — and if you look closely enough, you’ll find that beauty within you, too. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Going Down Home With Daddy, by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter: When Lil Alan, his parents and siblings go “down home,” they are heading to Granny’s house, where a big family reunion allows them to celebrate each other and their ancestors. Each child is tasked with finding a memorable way to pay tribute to their family history, but Lil Alan just can’t think of anything to share! This gorgeous book celebrates past and present, traditions and celebrations, and a warm, multigenerational family. Stunning! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
I am Enough, by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo: This is a lovely poem about finding your inner beauty, respecting yourself and treating others with kindness. If you are looking to teach your kids about self worth and confidence, this lyrical book is the perfect tool! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Big Bed, by Bunmi Laditan and illustrated by Tom Knight: A young girl has no interest in sleeping in her own room at bedtime (*ahem* nope, can’t relate to that one at all!) and wants only to sleep in her parents’ room in bed with her mom. So what does the girl do? She gifts her dad a camping cot and attempts to convince him that he should sleep there instead of his actual bed where he belongs. I love the way this books helps kids learn to frame an argument and explain their positions! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Mary Had a Little Glam, by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton: In this twist on the Mother Goose poem, Mary is a style maven who helps other nursery rhyme characters get their glam on. But will they be too dressed up for recess? A total hoot, especially for your budding fashionistas! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The King of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton: Just when you think back to school books are all the same, a new one comes out and blows the others out of the water with its unique spin and beautiful voice. This story of a young boy ready to make his mark on kindergarten is fresh, unique, and oh-so-fun! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Not Quite Snow White, by Ashley Franklin and illustrated by Ebony Glenn: What do you do when you love the theater, and an audition for Snow White is coming up? Tameika dives in head first, of course. She can’t wait to finally play a princess! But then Tameika starts hearing snickers from the other kids. Tameika is too chubby, too tall, and too brown to play Snow White. Will Tameika let these nay-sayers turn her away from playing a part she so desperately wants? We love the way this story showcases a young girl finding her courage in the midst of a major confidence shake-up! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Baby Goes to Market, by Atinuke and illustrated by Angela Brooksbank: This is a fabulous concept book that takes place in a bustling Nigerian market as a mother and her toddler shop for food. Baby is so cute that all the vendors can’t help but give him treats! As Mama’s basket keeps getting heavier and heavier, Mama can’t help but worry that Baby is getting hungry. Little does she know that Baby having the time of his life, eating the special foods he’s been given, and putting some into Mama’s basket as well! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison: Not only is Hair Love an ode to loving your natural characteristics – such as Zuri’s hair that kinks, coils and curls every which way — but it is also a tender story of the things a father will do for his daughter and the special love shared between them. When Daddy steps in to style sweet Zuri’s locks for a special occasion, he’s got a lot to learn. But for his girl, he will do whatever it takes to make her happy. Such a fun, sweet story showcasing a father’s love and devotion to his daughter! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Giselle Potter: When Mama catches Libby in her very first lie, she makes a promise to herself that from now on, she will only tell the truth. Soon, she’s telling everything about everyone! But even though she may be speaking the truth, some of these truths actually hurt — and everyone seems to be mad at her. Ruthie eventually gets a dose of her own medicine, and it’s then that she learns there is a right way — and a wrong way — to tell the truth! Support local bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org, here!
My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Fathers, by Hope Anita Smith: If you like poetry, you will LOVE this gorgeous book! At once tender, funny and powerful, this poetry collection is a sentimental celebration of fathers by a Coretta Scott King honor winning poet. Told from a child’s perspective, this collection celebrates the heartwarming, everyday moments that fill our lives with magic and meaning, from guitar playing to wrestling matches to snuggling together in bed. I just love it. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Field, by Baptiste Paul: A group of children assemble on a field and get ready for a game of soccer. They have their bol (ball), soulye (shoes) and goal (goal), and just like that, they are off! Paul weaves Creole words into the narrative, and the story simply buzzes with energy, from the vibrant illustrations to the fast paced game, reminding us that we can weather all challenges, no matter how daunting they may seem. If your athlete loves children’s books about sports, he will adore this one! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Mommy’s Khimar, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn: This is a quiet beauty about a young Muslim girl who plays dress-up in her mother’s colorful headscarf. It is a gorgeous and oh-so-important mirror book for Muslim children and a wonderful window book for others, especially as it so elegantly challenges Islamaphobic chatter. Mommy’s Khimar exudes warmth, love and tenderness, and it is a relatable story for so many kids. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
I Love My Hair, by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and illustrated by E.B. Lewis: This book has become a classic, in print for more than twenty years! This is a wonderful story celebrating the beauty of African American hair. This diverse board book centers around a child named Keyana who discovers that her hair is beautiful — and magical and musical, too. We adore this story of a child learning to love herself, as well as its beautiful watercolor illustrations. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
My Mommy Medicine, by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Shannon Wright: I have long adored Edwidge Danticat’s writing and was so excited to see this beautiful new story about “Mommy Medicine,” the best antidote for any child’s illness! From yummy cups of hot chocolate to warm bubble baths, from card games to bedtime songs and stories made up with love, this tender book celebrates the way that mom has the uncanny ability to heal any sickness with love, tenderness and an unlimited amount of snuggles for her baby. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Thank you, Omu!, by Oge Mora: In this beautiful debut, certain to become a classic, Omu makes a delicious red stew and its delectable scent travels all over the neighborhood. As one neighbor after another visits Omu to ask for a bowl of stew, Omu generously shares with all. But when she goes to make her own dinner, she realizes there is none left for her! Whatever will she do? This is a gorgeous story founded in Nigerian culture, highlighting gratitude, generosity, selflessness and paying it forward. I am head over heels in love. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
My Hair is a Garden, by Cozbi A. Cabrera: In this exquisite book, Mackenzie is frustrated because she is continually made fun of for her natural black hair. She seeks comfort from her neighbor, Miss Tillie, who, using the backyard gardens as a metaphor, tells Mackenzie how to maintain and care for her hair with love. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Grandma’s Purse, by Vanessa Brantley Newton: Grandma Mimi is coming! And though she always brings oodles of hugs and treats, nothing is better than… Grandma’s purse! There’s no guessing what is inside Grandma’s magical, mystical bag. Whether it’s fancy jewelry, souvenirs from around the world, or other magical treasures, chance are, that purse will contain something special, something that will transform an ordinary day into one that is extraordinary! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Hands Up!, by Breanna McDaniel and illustrated by Shane W. Evans: What a joy this book is! Putting a new spin on the phrase “hands up” — which could often be viewed in the negative — this story instead shows all the ways a joyful Black child puts her hands up as she grows. From greeting the sun, to reaching for a book to, eventually, raising those hands in protest at a march, this book celebrates this loaded phrase and all the ways we throw our hands up in joy and strength. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
M is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child, by Tiffany Rose: What a fabulous way to teach the ABCs! We adore this fabulous concept book, a celebration of Black children that is exuberant, positive, and oh so much fun. From A for Afro to M for Melanin to W for Worthy, this is an alphabet book like you have never seen before, one that honors Black childhood and teaches children to love the skin they are in. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
You Matter, by Christian Robinson: Near or far. Big or small. First or last. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you matter. And Robinson beautifully reminds us of that in his newest book, one that conveys how we are all interconnected and important. No matter our respective journeys, feelings and emotions are universal, and this affirming story makes sure each and every reader recognizes his worth and his importance to the world as a whole. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Cool Cuts, by Mechal Renee Roe: My boys love this book so much! Whether your kids have straight blonde hair or awesome fro-hawks, this fun book celebrates a diverse array of awesome Black hairstyles, sure to please any little guy in your home. It is filled with vibrant illustrations of radiant Black boys looking confident and stylish with their ‘dos. The epitome of Black Boy Joy, this one is such fun and is impossible not to love as it fills kids with confidence and helps them see the beauty in their natural features and characteristics. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Black is a Rainbow Color, by Angela Joy and illustrated by Ekua Holmes: Black may not be a color in the rainbow, but it is a beautiful, powerful rainbow color nonetheless. This gorgeous book showcases the elegance, beauty and joy in the color black. From a friend’s braids to the tires on a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, black describes not only beloved things, but also influential people who made our world a better place. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
I Believe I Can, by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo: This beautiful picture book provides a much-needed affirmation for kids (although, who am I kidding— it resonates so much with adults too!!) By encouraging children to believe in themselves, dream big dreams, and recognize their endless potential, this book is a gorgeous ode to self-empowerment, reminding all children that belief in themselves can trump any self doubt or fear they harbor within. We all matter. There is value in each of our names. And this lovely book is a perfect read to share with children who need a reminder that they are strong, capable and powerful. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, by Ibtihaj Muhammed, S. K. Ali and illustrated Hatem Aly: At the beginning of a new school year, Faizah knows it’s going to be a special one. After all, the first day of school means its Faizah’s big sister’s first day of hijab. Her sister chooses a hijab of luxurious blue, but Faizah quickly learns that not everyone views the hijab as beautifully as she does. This extraordinary book shows children how to stand strong in the face of bullying, and that family bonds — especially those shared between sisters — are unbreakable. We love this breathtaking story — it is a necessary and important mirror book for some children and a powerful window book for others. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez: So many of us have felt anxiety upon standing in a doorway about to enter a room where the blanket of faces staring back at us look wholly different from our own. This book tells that story, that of a young girl who walks into a new classroom and finds no one like her. But eventually she sits down and her classmates begin talking, and as their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connection. A breathtaking read, both in pictures and prose. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B.Lewis: Clover, an African-American child, lives alongside a fence that segregates her town, and she is given strict instructions by her mother that she must never climb over. So what happens when she notices a white child on the other side of the fence, and that child notices Clover, too? The two strike up an unlikely, tentative friendship, and though both are told not to cross the fence, they decide to sit on top of it instead. Though once a harsh barrier, the fence that was supposed to divide this pair instead becomes a peaceful place for the new pals to form a connection, inspiring other neighborhood kids to join them. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Full Full Full of Love, by Trish Cooke and illustrated by Paul Howard: I absolutely adore baby books you can nearly sing because their prose is lyrical and perfectly rhythmical. This is one of those fabulous stories, all about a child who goes to dinner at Grannies and is so full — full of hugs and kisses, tasty dishes, happy faces and so much love! A fabulous diverse baby book that I guarantee will be on heavy rotation in your home! Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete and illustrated by Shane Evans: Charlie’s big sister knows there are things that are harder or more challenging for Charlie than other kids, but she also knows that there are a ton of things that Charlie does really well. This book beautifully showcases the compassion and acceptance one little girl develops for her younger brother, and most of all, it shows that there are no limitations on love, no matter what kind of differences we each face. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!
Hey Black Child, by Useni Eugene Perkins and illustrated by Bryan Collier: All children need to be empowered and encouraged to live and pursue their dreams, and this forty year old poem by Perkins, a leader of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s, is an ode to Black children, inspiring them to do just that! Lyrically written and exquisitely illustrated, this prose reminds Black kids to go after their goals, whether they want to be astronauts or artists. With illustrations depicting the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements, this powerful book is a joy to read and remind kids that Black is beautiful, strong, and perfect. Support independent bookstores and get the book on Bookshop.org right here!