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Diverse Books for Children @ SCF Libraries: African American Lit for Children

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Recommended books for children* by and about African Americans

African American Kidlit

The People Remember

Picture Book

The People Remember tells the journey of African descendants in America by connecting their history to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Sumptuously illustrated, this is an important book to read as a family--a story young readers can visit over and over again to deepen their understanding of African American history in relation to their own lives and current social justice movements.

Last Stop on Market Street

Picture Book

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.  

Change Sings

Picture Book

"I can hear change humming In its loudest, proudest song. I don't fear change coming, And so I sing along."   In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes--big or small--in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly, in themselves.   

Black Boy Joy

Grades 4-7

Black boy joy is... Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit. Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race. Finding your voice-and your rhymes-during tough times. Flying on your skateboard like nobody's watching. And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.

One Crazy Summer

Grades 4-7

Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer. 

A Place Inside of Me

There is a place inside of me, a space deep down inside of me where all my feelings hide. In this powerful, affirming poem by award-winning author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year. Summertime is filled with joy--skateboarding and playing basketball--until his community is deeply wounded by a police shooting. As fall turns to winter and then spring, fear grows into anger, then pride and peace. In her stunning debut, illustrator Noa Denmon articulates the depth and nuances of a child's experiences following a police shooting--through grief and protests, healing and community--with washes of color as vibrant as his words. Here is a groundbreaking narrative that can help all readers--children and adults alike--talk about the feelings hiding deep inside each of us.

My Hair Is Magic!

Picture Book

This little girl knows her hair is great just as it is. When people ask, "Why is your hair so BIG?" she answers, "Why isn't yours?" Her hair is soft, it protects her, it's both gentle and fierce. While some might worry about how it's different and try to contain it, she gives it the freedom to be so extraordinary it almost has a life of its own.

I, Too, Am America

Picture Book

Winner of the Coretta Scott King illustrator award, I, Too, Am America blends the poetic wisdom of Langston Hughes with visionary illustrations from Bryan Collier in this inspirational picture book that carries the promise of equality.

Bud, Not Buddy

Grades 3-8

Ten-year-old Bud, a motherless boy living in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression, escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father--the renowned bandleader, H.E. Calloway of Grand Rapids.

The Book Itch

Picture Book

In the 1930s, Lewis's dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch--a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore. And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father's bookstore was one of a kind.

Minty

Picture Book

Young Harriet Tubman, whose childhood name was Minty, was stubborn and headstrong--considered a problem slave by her master. Her dream of freedom was the only thing that made life bearable on the Brodas plantation in the 1820's.

Josephine

Picture Book

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Verse novel - Grades 4-8

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she 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. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world. 

Freedom over Me

Picture Book

Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a person with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.

The People Could Fly

Picture Book - Folktales

"The well-known author retells 24 black American folk tales in sure storytelling voice: animal tales, supernatural tales, fanciful and cautionary tales, and slave tales of freedom. All are beautifully readable. With the added attraction of 40 wonderfully expressive paintings by the Dillons, this collection should be snapped up."--(starred) School Library Journal. 

Disclaimer

* What does "recommended" mean?

The titles included in this page have been selected by the SCF Librarians based on literary merit, accuracy and authenticity of treatment of the culture portrayed, and age appropriateness. They are books mostly written by "own voices": authors and illustrators belonging to the cultural group portrayed.

* About the age and reading level categories: 

The books in this page can be read by people of all ages! They vary in reading level. We do not assign AR or Lexile levels,  because we want you to read a book because you like it, not because of a school-assigned level.

Those classified as "picture books" are suitable for independent reading or for an adult to read to and with children, while showing the "pictures".

Those classified as "children" are best suited to be read by children in grades as recommended. Some are short books, chapter books, or novels, with or without illustrations. They can also be graphic novels.

* Books for ALL children:

The titles recommended in this page represent mirrors for all children in our community, windows to see experiences different from their own, and sliding doors to enter other worlds and discover commonalities and differences (Bishop, 1990).

We recognize that the experiences portrayed in these books do not reflect each kid's experience, but we strive to include representations of as many experiences as possible. We invite parents, caregivers, and teachers to explore these books with their children and discuss what their children have in common (or not) with the children in these stories.

 

 

 

Bishop, R. S. (1990). "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors". Perspectives 6(3). https://scenicregional.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mirrors-Windows-and-Sliding-Glass-Doors.pdf