Staff Picks for Black History Month: 19 Books Celebrating Black Children
These staff favorites make for excellent reads all year long and especially during the month of February when we celebrate Black History Month.
1. Amazing Grace
By Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch (Scholastic)
Amazing Grace is an old school favorite about a young girl named Grace who loves stories, movies and plays. When she fights for the chance to play the lead role in Peter Pan, Grace's fierce determination and love of words lets young readers know they too can be anything they aspire to be!
“I remember reading this book with my mom growing up. The protagonist’s dream of playing Peter Pan was one of my first exposures to gender role limitations. I loved reading about a young black girl pursuing her dreams, despite how others categorized her!” – Morgan Moran, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN)
2. In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers
By Folami Abiade and Dinah Johnson (Lee & Low Books)
In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall testifies to the powerful bond between father and child, recognizing family as our greatest gift, and identifying fathers as being among our most influential heroes.
“What a refreshing book to read, as often times images and characteristics of black men in the media are portrayed negatively. This book showcases the importance of black fathers and the positive influence and confidence they give to their children.” --Shikitta Tavares, Save the Children
3. Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
by Ilyasah Shabazz (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
A unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X’s daughter and author Ilyasah Shabazz delivers a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today—that we must all strive to live to our highest potential.
“Most schools teach children about Martin Luther King Jr. I always thought it was important to show other strong leaders during the civil rights movement. Malcolm X gets left out of the mainstream narrative. Malcolm Little tells our children that it’s okay to be curious, outspoken and expect respect for all beings.” – Jennifer Saunders, Save the Children
4. Brown Boy Brown Boy What Can You Be?
By Ameshia Arthur (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
A story about a boy named Matthew who who asks himself a very simple but powerful question: Brown Boy Brown Boy, What Can You Be? From a scientist who studies bumblebees to a meteorologist who predicts the weather, the sky is the limit for Matthew and all children.
“As a mom of four courageous brown boys, this book is one of my favorites to read to my sons and they love reading about Matthew and most importantly they love that Matthew looks like them!” – Shikitta Tavares, Save the Children
5. I Am Enough
By Grace Byers (Balzer + Bray)
Empire actor and activist Grace Byers along with artist Keturah A. Bobo have written a lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.
“While we enjoy the graphics and words in this book, the best part has been getting to learn more about the lives of Grace Byers and Keturah Bobo. Hearing how they came to write and draw has been inspirational for my budding cartoonist and actress.” – Nana Dagadu, Save the Children
6. Skin Like Mine
By LaTashia Perry (G Publishing)
An entertaining yet creative way to address and celebrate diversity among young children.
“My 7-year old son and 4-year old daughter are intrigued by how different even our own family members’ skin tones are so they enjoy ‘finding’ us, their cousins, friends, and others in this book and shouting, ‘Beautiful!’”! – Nana Dagadu, Save the Children
7. Dream Big, Little One
By Vashti Harrison (LB Kids)
This book showcases women who changed the world and is the perfect goodnight book to inspire big dreams.
“We have a cult following for Vashti Harrison and cannot recommend her books enough. Boys and girls who are young in age and young at heart will love them.” – Nana Dagadu, Save the Children
8. I Love My Hair
By Natasha Tarpley (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
A girl named Keyana discovers the beauty and magic of her special hair, encouraging black children to be proud of their heritage and enhancing self-confidence.
By Lupita Nyong'o (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
A whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.
“Lupita Nyongo shows that in addition to being an Oscar-winning actress, she is also an outstanding children’s author! She is a role model for generations of Black women and girls.” – Morgan Moran, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN)
10. The Night Is Yours
By Abdul-Razak Zachariah (Dial Books)
A lyrical and empowering bedtime story of family love and community, and most of all feeling great in your own skin.
“I want my kids to have the opportunity to celebrate and be proud of their beautiful features and culture since they are not always represented well in children’s literature in the U.S. I want other children to be able to have the same exposure and to experience the delight I see on my little ones’ faces (or hear in their excited questions) when we read these books. These books can also help guide parents when having difficult conversations with their kids about their culture, racism, societal discrimination and other interactions.” – Nana Dagadu, Save the Children
11. Goin’ Somewhere Special
By Patricia C. McKissack (Aladdin)
Through moving prose and beautiful watercolors, award-winning author-illustrator duo collaborate to tell the poignant tale of a spirited young girl who comes face to face with segregation in her southern town.
“This is a book that sits on the bookshelf in my home because I shared it with my children when they were young. This book is a child-friendly way to talk about the subject of segregation. Children get to see how the main character takes her grandmother’s positive affirmations along with her on this interesting journey to someplace special. All of our children need someplace special that they can go to, especially in these trying times.” – Sharonda Burison-Harris, Save the Children
12. Lessons by Nature Joshua’s Learning Exploration in the Wild
By Anthony Broughton (Anthony Broughton)
While Joshua explores the wild, he encounters animals who speaks and empowers him with life-long lessons. He listens carefully to the messages of the animals, and learns from them; even when others say that "animals can't talk." A book of empowerment, inspiration, and child-friendly wisdom! Journey with Joshua!
“This is a great books that allows children to escape into a world where animals have a way of speaking and teaching Joshua important lessons about life. What children haven’t learned from humans, they will surely learn from these friendly creatures.” – Sharonda Burison-Harris, Save the Children
13. Something Beautiful
By Sharon Dennis Wyeth (Dragonfly Books)
A little girl longs to see beyond the scary sights on the sidewalk and the angry scribbling in the halls of her building. When her teacher writes the word beautiful on the blackboard, the girl decides to look for something beautiful in her neighborhood. Her neighbors tell her about their own beautiful things. Miss Delphine serves her a “beautiful” fried fish sandwich at her diner. At Mr. Lee’s “beautiful” fruit store, he offers her an apple. Old Mr. Sims invites her to touch a smooth stone he always carries. Beautiful means “something that when you have it, your heart is happy,” the girl thinks. Her search for “something beautiful” leaves her feeling much happier. She has experienced the beauty of friendship and the power of hope.
"This books is a perfect example of looking beyond your current circumstance or environment and finding something beautiful in everything. Now, more than ever, children need something to inspire them to see the beauty in things beyond the negativity and challenges of our current world.” – Sharonda Burison-Harris, Save the Children
14. Tar Beach
By Faith Ringgold (Dragonfly Books)
Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the 'tar beach' of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with color and texture. Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one's world by flying over it. A practical and stunningly beautiful book
"Who doesn’t love the beach? This one is a tar beach where the main character flies throughout the city to places she would normally not be able to go. This books inspires children to be imaginative and travel without limits. The pictures are amazing, too.” – Sharonda Burison-Harris, Save the Children
15. Miss Tizzy
By Libba Moore Gray (Aladdin)
The neighbors may think Miss Tizzy quite peculiar, but the children love her. They love her colorful house and her colorful clothes, but most of all they love the special attention she pays to them all.
Together, they bake cookies, make pictures full of sunshine and butterflies for folks who have stopped smiling, play dress-up, put on puppet shows and parades, or stretch out on bright quilts in Miss Tizzy's backyard of an evening to sing moon songs.
When Miss Tizzy becomes ill and takes to her bed, the children know just what to do to let her know she is missed and loved. Here's a picture book certain to touch the hearts of children of any age.
"This is another book that I read to my own children when they were young. I love the idea of having that elder in the community who children love and learn from. Ms. Tizzy is that person. When she becomes ill, she sees the impact that she has on all of the children in the neighborhood. This is a great lesson in bonding with those elders in our neighborhood and allowing them to pass down wisdom to the youngest of us.” – Sharonda Burison-Harris, Save the Children
16. Moses When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
By Carole Boston Weatherford (Hyperion Book CH)
In this award-winning book, acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford and bestselling artist Kadir Nelson offer a resounding, reverent tribute to Harriet Tubman, the woman who earned the name Moses for her heroic role in the Underground Railroad.
"I am fortunate to have five nieces, and we spend a lot of time talking about strong and brilliant female role models. I can never downplay the grit and determination of Harriet Tubman, the woman who challenged an unjust system as an abolitionist and helped change the course of history.” – Precious Brooks, Save the Children
17. Heart and Soul
By Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray)
The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. In Heart and Soul, Kadir Nelson's stirring paintings and words grace 100-plus pages of a gorgeous picture book—a beautiful gift for readers of all ages, a treasure to share across generations at home or in the classroom.
"As a young girl and avid reader, I was always eager to learn more about my Black American roots, and I wish this book was around when I was growing up! Kadir Nelson brings our history to life in stunning illustrations and a beautiful narrative that is real and raw – depicting not only heartbreak and racial prejudice, but also courage, bravery, hope, and black excellence.” – Precious Brooks, Save the Children
18. Hair Love
By Matthew A. Cherry (Kokila)
Zuri's hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it's beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he'll do anything to make her -- and her hair -- happy.
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair -- and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
"I wish this book was around when I was a little girl. I love how this book portrays a little girl that loves her hair and knows how absolutely magical it is. Even as an adult this book has contributed to my own hair love. Also be sure to check out the Oscar winning animated short based on the book, it’s everything!” – Janel Noblin, Save the Children
19. My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World
By Malcolm Mitchell (Scholastic)
Meet Henley, an all-around good kid, who hates to read. When he's supposed to be reading, he would rather do anything else. But one day, he gets the scariest homework assignment in the world: find your favorite book to share with the class tomorrow.
“It’s hard to get my nieces away from their iPad and cell phones, so it was a nice to get them to settle down and read this book with me! I hope they’ll be inspired, like Henley, to read and write their own stories.” - Marise Montrose, Save the Children
Pin this post to save our list!
We’ll be in touch! By signing up to receive emails from Save the Children you will receive a subscription to our monthly eNews, access to breaking emergency alerts and opportunities to get involved. To ensure delivery of Save the Children emails to your inbox, add email@example.com to your contact list.