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10 best children’s books by African American Authors

Even today, it can be hard to find children’s books with Black characters, or by Black authors. Children deserve to see themselves in popular media, including books, cartoons, and movies. While topics, characters, and stories are getting more inclusive, diverse, and mainstream, we still have a long way to go before representation is equal. A study by the Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin found that out of around 4000 children’s books they received, only about 200 were by African American or African authors. So in honor of Black History Month in February, we thought we’d list out some of our own favorites! Here they are:

1. Look Up! By Nathan Bryon

 

 

 

Look Up! Is a story about Rocket, a little black girl who wants to be an astronaut when she grows up - like the first African American woman in space - Mae Jemison. She’s so passionate about a meteor shower that is going to happen, that she convinces a lot of people in her neighborhood to come to watch the shower with her! Everyone, that is, except her brother Jamal who is glued to his phone. The book is peppered with interesting facts about meteor showers and space and is great for little kids who like everything about space exploration.

 

 2. Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

 

 

Hair love is all about a special relationship between a black dad and his daughter as he tries to get her beautiful kinky hair just right for a special day. Even though he fails, again and again, the little girl helps her dad get her hair just right! This book is based on an Oscar-winning short film with the same story - a tribute to accepting and loving natural hair. You can also watch the short film here.

 

3. Baby Says by John Steptoe

 

 

This story is for really small babies - especially ones that like to trouble their older siblings. It’s about a little baby who just wants his older brothers’ attention. With really simple words and beautiful expressions and illustrations, Baby Says is a great board book for babies to see themselves in. 


4. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot 
Lee Shetterly

 

 

Hidden Figures is based on the true story of four African American women who helped put a man on the moon during the space race. The book was even been adapted into a movie in 2016. The women, who were mathematicians just wanted to serve their country and fought an uphill battle against segregation, racism, and sexism. This book is great for slightly older children or tweens.  

 

5. Hands Up! By Breanna J. McDaniel

 

 

This book puts a positive spin on the controversial phrase “Hands Up”. The phrase is still scary and relevant to numerous police brutality cases specifically against African Americans. This book recounts all the positive things you can do with your ‘hands up’. The story ends with the main character - a little girl, putting her ‘hands up’ with the rest of her community to join a protest. 

 

6. The Night is Yours by Abdul-Razak Zachariah 

 

 

A beautiful story about the nighttime, The Night is Yours is about a little girl named Amani and how she enjoys the night - playing with her friends, enjoying the cool breeze, and embracing the darkness of the night, just like the darkness of her own skin. The story is narrated by Amani’s mother - who watches her brave and joyful child embracing the night. The book has beautiful full-page illustrations and is perfect for a goodnight story. 

 

7. Don’t touch my hair by Sharee Miller

 

 

Don’t touch my hair is about a little black girl who just gets so frustrated that everyone wants to touch her hair - all day long! She tried to escape to a whole lot of different places when no one will touch her hair, but just can’t seem to do it. Finally, having had enough, she screams and tells people that they can’t touch her hair without her permission. She finally learns to set boundaries and feel comfortable in her own skin. 


8. All Because You Matter by Tami Charles

 

 

All Because You Matter is a love song to every child of color that they do matter in this world, irrespective of what anyone else says, or systems that make them feel otherwise. An extremely timely and beautiful book, this story is one of strength and love, all rolled into one. All Because You Matter was also chosen as The #1 Amazon Best Children's Book of 2020, among a slew of other awards. 


9. Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow

 

 

This story is about a little girl whose name is different and hard to pronounce. All the kids and teachers at school have such a hard time pronouncing it, that she doesn’t want to ever go back again. When she tells her mom what happened, her mom teaches her all about how names are songs and the emotions and melodies behind them. The book has an amazing melody and rhythm that moves the story along beautifully. 

 

10. Lottie Paris lives here by Angela Johnson

 

 

Lottie Paris lives here is a carefree whimsical tale of a girl named Lottie who lives across from a park. Best suited for younger readers, this book follows Lotties around as she plays and wanders around the park discovering new things, enjoying simple pleasures and imginging big and wonderful things. 

 

If you’re looking for more books by African-American authors, or that have African-American characters, check out books in these lists:

Penguin
AALBC
Brightly
Growing Book by Book

 

Did we miss any really good ones? Tell us in the comments.

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