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Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog) RSS feed

Books for and about children of color

assembled by Pat McNees.  Updated 9-23-2020.

You can buy many of the following books from Bookshop or Indie Bound (paths to independent bookstores) or from any of these (AALBC) or these  black-owned bookstores (LitHub, 6-3-2020). Click the links to learn more about each book. I've provided Amazon links because they are helpful and easy to get to. (I get a small commission for Amazon sales from these links.) Many if not most of these books have received book awards, which Amazon lists in its book descriptions (and see awards lists below).
A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Haunting tale of two boys' lives changed by police assault. Age 12+
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds. Poignant summer adventure brims with family love and hope.


Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Lively profile of a brave man living in a dangerous time. Age 9+
Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes. When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally. Ages pre-school to 3.
Black Women in Science: A Black History Book for Kids by Kimberly Brown Pellum. Age 9+
The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illust. R. Gregory Christie. Lively tale of store that aided civil rights struggle. Age 7+
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds. Soul-gripping story of teen's grief and hope. Age 12+
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Captivating poems depict coming-of-age in tumultuous 1960s. Age 10+

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Civil Rights Then and Now: A Timeline of the Fight for Equality in America by Kristina Brooke Daniele, illus. by Lindsey Bailey. Ages 12+
Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Grades K-Gr3. Ada Ruth's mama must go away to Chicago to work, leaving Ada Ruth and Grandma behind. It's wartime, and women are needed to fill the men's jobs.
Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe. From a 'fro-hawk to mini-twists and crisp cornrows, adorable illustrations of boys with cool curls, waves, and afros grace each page, accompanied by a positive message that will make kids cheer. Ages 3+
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Soaring, poignant novel in verse centered on basketball hits all the right spots. Age 9+
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes. Joyful, foot-tapping celebration of fresh haircut, culture. Age 5+
Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers, Two boys, a writer and a runner, are drawn together in the struggle to overcome the obstacles that life in Harlem throws at them. Age 13+
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illust. by Bryan Collier. Amazing award-winning historical story told in free verse. Age 6+


Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. A surprising novel of reluctant heroism on the part of eleven-year-old Elijah, the first child born free in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Age 9+
Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. When eleven-year-old Langston's father moves them from their home in Alabama to Chicago's Bronzeville district, it feels like he's giving up everything he loves. First in a trilogy. Age 8+
Firebird by Misty Copeland, illust. by Christopher Myers. Soaring, rhythmic story for dancers with big dreams. Age 5+
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illust. by R. Gregory Christie. Slaves' lives, jazz roots shown in stunning nonfiction book that exposes young readers to realities of slavery in an age-appropriate way. Age 5+
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan. Moving portraits of slaves’ lives, drawing on historical slave documents. Age 6+


Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. Age 11+
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history. Age: 10+
Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, illust. by Daniel Minter. Joyful story of a deeply loving multigenerational family.
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia. The story of the Gaither sisters as they travel from the streets of Brooklyn to the rural South for the summer of a lifetime. Book 3 of 3. Age 8+
Grandma's Gift (Age 4+, winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award) and Grandma's Records (Age 5+) by Eric Velasquez


Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illust. by John Holyfield. Born a slave, William ""Bill"" Lewis spent the majority of his life 'renting himself' as a blacksmith in order to purchase his family's freedom. Age 7+
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Pinkney, illust. by Brian Pinkney. Ten influential black men-including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King Jr.-are profiled in this husband-and-wife team's vibrant collaboration. Captivating storytelling makes these heroes relatable. Age 9+
Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel, illust. by Shane W. Evans. "A clever, celebratory book that affirms all the positive, joyful ways kids can put their hands up."
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Powerful story of police shooting of unarmed Black teen. Age 13+
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson. Beautifully illustrated account of African-American history. Nelson knits together the nation’s proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history. Age 9+
A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich by Alice Childress. The story of Benji's addiction to heroine is told from several perspectives. Published in the '70s, this book is still relevant for many young readers.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman. An inspirational story. Age 4+
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith. Chills galore in Southern supernatural thriller. Age 10+
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson. Poet's moving civil rights memoir in free verse charts her '50s childhood. Age 12+
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Haunting look at killing of unarmed African American teen. Age 14+

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I Can Do Hard Things: Mindful Affirmations for Kids by Gabi Garcia, illustr. by Charity Russell
If You Were a Kid During the Civil Rights Movement by Gwendolyn Hooks. Age 7+
I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr., illust. by Kadir Nelson. Stunning art amplifies meaning of King's words for kids. Age 6+


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. Tender story of Nana showing grandson city beauty via bus. Age 3+
Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Age 6+
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Gripping, unnerving story of teen boy contemplating revenge. Age 12+
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illustr. Alexander Nabaum. Age 10+


Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustr. by AG Ford
A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang (a Hmong American writer), illustr. by illust. by Seo KimYang. Age 5+. Yang, author of the adult memoir The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, has two more picture books featuring Hmong families coming out in 2020.
March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustr. by Nate Powell. This triloly documents the struggle for equal rights and civil liberties in the early 1960s. Powerful graphic novels capture the spirit of desegregation. Before he became a respected Congressman, Rep. Lewis was clubbed, gassed, arrested over 40 times, and nearly killed by angry mobs and state police, all while nonviolently protesting racial discrimination. Book One spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Dr. King, the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. Age 12+
---March: Book Two details the real-life heroes of the 1960s, covers the lunch counter sitdowns in Nashville, and continues with events that took place in the South between 1960 -1963, culminating with the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Age 12+ 

---March: Book Three From the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church's Youth Day celebration through fractious struggles within the SNCC that threaten to derail the march from Selma to Montgomery. Age 12+ Uplifting finale to terrific series reveals tragic violence. Age 12+

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Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. A gripping novel about the mystery of one teenage girl’s disappearance and the traumatic effects of the truth. Age 14+
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isable Quintero, illust. by Zeke Peña. A celebration of the love between a father and daughter, and of a vibrant immigrant neighborhood, by an award-winning author and illustrator duo. Age 4+
My People by Langston Hughes. Photos bring sparkling tone to simple poem of celebration. Age 5+


The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes, illustr. by Charles R. Smith Jr. Words and watercolors sing in a voice as deep as the river. Age 6+
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson. Stellar art portrays key aspects of Mandela's life for kids. Age 6+
New Kid by Jerry Craft. Funny, heartfelt middle school tale explores race, class. Age 8+
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Gripping story of a girl's bravery during Hurricane Katrina, one of several excellent novels by the author. Age 10+
Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes. His semi-autobiographical tale of an African-American family in rural Kansas--a powerful and moving portrait of race and poverty in America, as well as hope and perseverance.


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. The story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. A gem, with strong girl characters, part 1 of a trilogy. Each humorous, unforgettable story in this trilogy follows the sisters as they grow up during one of the most tumultuous eras in recent American history. Age 11+
Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry, illus. by Brittany Jackson. A visit to Washington, DC’s National Portrait Gallery forever alters Parker Curry’s young life when she views First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait. Age 4+
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. Kids investigate past racist incident in gripping mystery. Age 8+
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. Powerful, insightful tale of self-awareness, power of art. Age 13+
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. Tween coming-of-age set amid shifting family, '60s dynamics. Age 9+

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The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld. When Taylor is sad, his animal friends suggest remedies, but the rabbit just listens. Sometimes empathy is all we need. Age: 3+
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe. Exuberant, visually stunning biography celebrates artist who had success when young. Age 6+
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this story of one family's struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice is also Cassie's story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family. Age 11+
Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden, illust. by Don Tate. A story based on an incident from the life of astronaut Ron McNair. When nine-year-old Ron tries to take library books home instead of just looking at them, he knowingly challenges the rule that "only white people can check out books." Ages 6+


Saturday by Oge Mora. An up-and-down journey reminds a mother and daughter that what's best about Saturdays is precious time together. Age 4+
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illust. by Eric Velasquez. “Carole Boston Weatherford’s descriptions and Eric Velasquez’s illustrations make clear how tirelessly Schomburg searched for books, pamphlets and art that could ‘tell our stories, proclaim our glories’…Although he died about 80 years ago, his library in New York City is a national historic landmark, as big and bustling as ever.”~ Washington Post. Age 8+
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon. Heartwarming story of friendship and adventure. Age 8+
Seeing into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright, illust.and with biography by Nina Crews. Age 5+
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh. Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court.
Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (Lado a Lado: La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez) by Monica Brown, illust. by Joe Cepeda. Excellent bilingual story about farm workers in the USA--great for civil rights and LatinX empowerment. Age 4+
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats captures the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall. Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal.
Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen. No matter how or why people march, they are powerful because they march together.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus. Teen girls fall in love, face death in breathtaking tale. Age 14+
The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustr. by Ekua Holmes. Poetic and imaginatively illustrated book introduces big cosmic concepts to little humans--from the beginning of our universe to life itself, starting with a small floating speck that suddenly explodes. "Bauer suggests that, just possibly, the power of creation and the power of love are not so different." Age 4+
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison. Girl learns to embrace her dark skin in magical tale. Age 4+

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Tobe by Stella Sharpe. A critical edition of a children's book published in 1939. "In the story, Tobe and his siblings are shown working on a family farm. The text is written for beginning readers. It is the photos [by Charles Anderson Farrell] that really make this is a book worth having. They are well done with a good eye to composition and capture well a moment in time; a look at North Carolina at the end of The Great Depression."
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky: Tristan Strong, Book 1 of 2 by Kwame Mbalia. "Mbalia expertly weaves a meaningful portrayal of family and community with folklore, myth, and history--including the legacy of the slave trade--creating a fast-paced, heroic series starter." Age 8+
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews. Fun, upbeat story of a boy, a trombone, and jazz. Age 4+
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander. Poetic tribute to African American heroes and struggles. Age 6+
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustr. by Ekua Holmes. A welcome addition to civil rights literature for children. Age 10+
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illust. by Frané Lessac. "Cheerful, richly detailed folk art-style illustrations in bright, saturated colors show contemporary Cherokee life as one family participates in cermonies and festivals through each season of the year." Age 3+
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson. Amazing paintings + compelling history = a grand slam. Age 9+
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illust. by Michaela Goade. "In this tribute to Native resilience, Indigenous author-and-illustrator team Lindstrom and Goade invite readers to stand up for environmental justice." Age 3+
We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands/Tenemos El Mundo Entero en las Manos by Rafael López. "A beloved spiritual gets an imaginative and anthropocentric rendering in this vibrant picture book celebrating unity." Age 3+

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What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illust. by April Harrison. "A loving tribute to collective work, responsibility and the joy that comes from giving freely from the heart." Age 4+
When Aidan Becomes a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illust. by Kaylani Juanita. This sweet and groundbreaking #ownvoices picture book celebrates the changes in a transgender boy's life, from his initial coming-out to becoming a big brother. Age 4+
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill. Kid-friendly intro to the history of hip-hop. Age 6+
You Hold Me Up/Ki Kîhcêyimin Mâna by Monique Gray-Smith, illust. by Danielle Daniel (some editions include text in Plains Cree and English) Age 3+
Young Water Protectors...A Story about Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor, Kelly Tudor, and Jason Eaglespeaker. Beautiful art. Age 9+
Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thomkins-Bigelow, illust. by Luisa Uribe. Age 5+

 

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Anti-racist resources for children, including children's books

You'll find even more titles recommended in these articles:


Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati on the African American Children’s Book Fair African American Literature Book Club (AALBC)
A Children's Booklist for Anti-racist Activism (Embrace Race) 31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
Anti-Racist Resources for Children, Families, and Educators (Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, KidLit Rally 4 Black Lives, Brownbookshelf, 6-4-2020)
Teacher’s Reading List of Antiracist Books for Kids Goes Viral (Melissa Locker, Time, 6-5-2020)

Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners (recommendations by age group)
8 tips for choosing “good” picture books featuring diverse, BIPOC characters (Dr. Krista Aronson, Anne Sibley O'Brien and Dr. Andrea Breau of Diverse BookFinder, Embrace Race)
Top 154 Recommended African-American Children’s Books (African American Literature Book Club)
Black Books Matter: Children's Books Celebrating Black Boys (the conscious kid)
Black Boy Joy: 30 Picture Books Featuring Black Male Protagonists (Read Brightly)
Depictions of Race in Children's Literature (YouTube video, 80 minutes, an installment of Silver Spring Village's Racial Justice Series) Dr. Margaret Musgrove and Dr. Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo share perspectives on depictions of race in children's picture books. Why is it that so many decisions about whether to publish or present an award for books true to life as experienced by children of color are decided by white people, who often go for a white person's perspective, or a safe alternative like choosing a book featuring animals.
Young, Black and Lit
Here Are the 50 Must-Read Black Children’s and Young Adult Books of the Past 50 Years (Keyaira Boone, Essence, 4-30-2020) A roundup of titles over the years, including classic kids' favorites.
Black Voices: Pushing for Change in Children’s Book Publishing (Vimeo webinar, 75 minutes, Authors Guild, 6-22-2020) Available only to AG members. From agenting to editing, from sales to marketing, less than five percent of publishing professionals are Black, according to the results of the most recent Lee & Low diversity graphic on Black representation in the publishing industry. How does institutional exclusion and racism impact the success of books by Black authors and the trajectory of Black creators? In this panel, industry experts offer insights, share experiences and concerns, and suggest ways to create change. Participants: Cheryl Davis (AG), Kelly Starling Lyons, Judy Allen Dodson, Vanessa Lloyd-Sgambati, Christopher Myers, Cheryl Wills Hudson, Wade Hudson, Queressa Robinson, Jalissa Marcelle Corrie. Worth a listen for the big picture.
Centering Black Creators (Authors Guild, vimeo--available only to Authors Guild members). The second part of the series Black Voices: Pushing for Change in Children’s Book Publishing, explores the journeys of Black authors and illustrators. What are institutional barriers to success? How can the industry disrupt racism and support Black creators? How can Black creators advocate and advance?

 

SEE ALSO An anti-racism reading and resource list (Writers and Editors)

       For a recommended-reading list for adults -- both books and articles.

 

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."


"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor"

~ Desmond Tutu

 

"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."

~ James Baldwin

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