Friday, May 29, 2020

100 Picture Books Including Black People and Communities & Why You Need Them

*Update 6/5/2020: After seeing tweets from several Black educators/ authors/ scholars about the need to promote Black voices first and foremost in any work right now, it made me reconsider this list. Upon reflecting on my initial process for adding titles I recognize that it was a mistake to put together a list like this at this time for this purpose without consideration of who created the book. Although I considered positive representation of the characters and families, I should also have considered the representation of the creators. I have removed the 21 books from the original list that were from non-Black authors/illustrators. I have replaced those titles with new selections from Black authors and/or illustrators with the same focus on joyful everyday experiences instead of oppression. I did leave books that have Black illustrators even if a non-Black author or a Black author with a non-Black illustrator. The additions begin after Hey, Black Child.

*Edited 6/4/2020 to include links to additional recommendation lists from Black librarians and other BIPOC created recommendation lists I saw after publishing mine. Though my original purpose in this list was to speak more directly to non-Black educators, I want to be sure to also amplify Black and BIPOC voices for you to follow. They appear before the start of my list.
Black Lives Matter - Home | Facebook
When the news comes out about things in this country that shatters hearts, & we see Black people bleeding their pain onto the screen in the hope that it will get through to white folx, it shows that we white folx have so much more work yet to do. It is work that doesn't ever stop, but if you haven't even started yet... what the hell are you waiting for? Lives are at stake. And it's going to take all of us to do this work.

Because Black Lives Matter. 

We have to stand next to our Black colleagues and those we learn from and bear witness to what they share. And then we have to act. We have to do the work, the internal work, to do and be better. Because standing by should not be an option. As Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi make clear in STAMPED: RACSIM, ANTI-RACISM, AND YOU, if you're not being anti-racist, by definition you are being racist. Read the book as your starting point and then share and discuss with the kids in your life.

Because Black Lives Matter. 

White women especially, we have work to do. When we know that calling the police on a Black man can lead to his death, and when we hear stories like those that come out over and over and over and over and over and over and over again about the fear Black people in this country live with, sometimes it's hard to feel like you know what to do. But there is one thing we can always do - and that is consider how, in our role as educators, we can impact belief systems that start when kids are young. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

What can we do as white educators? What can we do as educators to lean in to anti-racist practices? It starts with doing the internal work necessary to acknowledge & break down biases and stereotypes & catch ourselves heading into the kind of thinking that leads to Black people being killed. And Black children being killed. Consider how your actions in the school building might be perpetuating racism. Consider what Christina Torres reminds us of: we need to check our own biases or we are perpetuating systems of oppression.

We look at the systemic racism and oppression that leads to white people walking up to steps carrying weapons and allowed to peacefully protest having to stay at home while Black communities get tear gas and riot gear. If you're more concerned about Colin Kaepernick's knee than that police officer's, you have serious work to do on gaining a deeper understanding of systemic oppression. We can grow in our anti-racist practices and understanding of these systems through books & resources that educate us. This link intended for white parents, that also applies to white educators (shared by Brittany Packnett Cunningham on twitter), could be a good starting point. And this site, Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice supports a deeper understanding of how to move from actor through ally to accomplice.

Because Black Lives Matter. 

But what about in an elementary school? First, we have to understand that it starts young! And we need to reflect on how we act toward Black boys, in particular, as Dr. Kim Parker shared in this open letter, and the impact that has on developing beliefs about self and toward others. This is the time when kids are learning about others & growing opinions and developing their stances. We can't avoid it just because they are young - we have to start here

Because Black Lives Matter. 

And it starts with humanizing Black people. Edith Campbell shares scholarship around the history of depicting Black people as simians and what that does to perpetuate stereotypes. Something that embedded doesn't just stay in historical times. We have to read that research and listen to it and reflect on it and sharpen our own critical lenses and understand how it plays out in the books we share with kids at an impressionable age. We have to know it so we can see it and work to find stories that humanize Black people instead of perpetuating a view of them being less than human. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

We have to know that if we only share stories about oppression & struggle, that is the singular story that kids begin to internalize about Black people (if you don't already know Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk about the "Danger of a Single Story" you should). In 1990 Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop coined the theory of mirrors, windows, & sliding glass doors which you likely know. But have you really considered all of what she was saying?
"Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self- affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” 
It matters desperately for Black kids to see mirrors of themselves in books in positive, joyful ways. Bishop further points out, "When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part." But do you also know and acknowledge this part of her piece? 
"Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but they, too, have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others. They need the books as windows onto reality, not just on imaginary worlds. They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in... In this country, where racism is still one of the major unresolved social problems... If they see only reflections of themselves, they will grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own importance and value in the world"
Because it's equally vital that white kids see windows into the lives, communities, & humanity of Black people. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

So we are obligated to do more. We have to show Black Girl Magic & Black Boy Joy. We have to celebrate Black people (and not just in February). We have to show everyday stories of Black people. We have to show pride in Black peoples' stories. We have to show the joyfulness and strength in Black communities. We have to honor Black people and communities. We have to do this in our curriculum and through the books we choose to share. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

Over the past days, my mind kept returning to how educators have the ability to use books in response to current events. To pull picture books off the shelf right now to read with kids to show love for Black students & for other students to see that love. Because as children's book author/illustrator Christian Robinson points out, "When children see themselves and their experiences reflected in books, they are being sent a message that their story matters and that they matter." And they need to be seen in all of wholeness of all of their humanity. So we need to reach for those books that will remind Black kids in our classrooms the beauty within their skin. Those books that will remind other kids of the wholeness of their humanity. Those books that can impact hearts & minds. It's one thing I know I can do. It's one thing you can do, too. 

Because Black Lives Matter.
And they have to matter to all of us.

*Before getting to my list, I want to give a shoutout to two Black librarians who I greatly admire who have shared their own lists of books (for all levels, not just picture books)!

Edith Campbell - Books for Black Children - Edi "selected titles that Black parents, caregivers and teachers can use to help Black children to feel safe, to embrace their blackness and become better able to talk about and confront racism."

Alia Jones - Black Joy Booklist for Children and Young Adults - Alia " highlighted some books in our Library collection that affirm Black childhood and encourage Black youth to dream, speak up, and get started on the path towards liberation. "

*And also share more BIPOC-created recommendation lists:
Sujei Lugo Vázquez & Alia Jones partnered to create this incredible Black Lives Matter Reading List for Children

Brittany, a Black educator, shared a thread of Children's Books that Discuss Race & Racism

Karina Yan Glaser, Chinese-American author, shared a thread of 100 Must-Read Children's Books by African-American Creators.

100 Picture Books Including Black People & Communities
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I Am Every Good Thing
by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

M is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child
written and illustrated by Tiffany Rose
43822627. sx318

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
34144489. sx318

Hair Love
by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
40944115. sx318

by Lupita Nyong'o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Bedtime Bonnet
by Nancy Amanda Redd, illustrated by Nneka Myers
51326665. sx318 sy475

Black is a Rainbow Color
by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
44280848. sx318

Early Sunday Morning
by Denene Millner, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
31305936. sx318

The King of Kindergarten
by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
41854889. sx318

Grandma's Purse
written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Freedom Soup
by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
44526373. sx318

Not Quite Snow White
by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
42282944. sx318

I Can Write the World
by Joshunda Sanders, illustrated by Charly Palmer

written and illustrated by Oge Mora
43269386. sx318

I Am Enough
by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
35396839. sx318

I Believe I Can
by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
46206677. sx318

Looking for Bongo
written and illustrated by Eric Velasquez
26516190. sx318

The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
37506301. sx318

by Monique Fields, illustrated by Yesenia Moises
34499226. sx318

Hands Up!
by Breanna J. McDaniel, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

What is Given from the Heart
by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison
40640773. sx318

Double Bass Blues
by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Rudy Gurierrez
36817104. sx318

Trombone Shorty
by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
23167689. sx318

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
18552623. sx318

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop
by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison
40396142. sx318

I Got the Rhythm
by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison

I Got the Christmas Spirit
by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville
by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison
29066447. sx318

Mae Among the Stars
by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

The Undefeated
by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
40796177. sx318

Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change
by Michelle Cook, illustrated by 14 Black Artists

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate

by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers

Astro Girl
written and illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
43679871. sx318

The Patchwork Bike
by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd

Don't Touch My Hair!
written and illustrated by Sharee Miller
38929947. sx318

I Can Be Anything! Don't Tell Me I Can't
written and illustrated by Diane Dillon
35140635. sx318

Thank You, Omu!
written and illustrated by Oge Mora
34642482. sx318

Happy Hair
written and illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe
43744347. sx318

Cool Cuts
written and illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe
44904787. sx318

That Is My Dream!
by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
29420535. sx318

The Field
by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
35297103. sx318

Nighttime Symphony
by Timbaland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
7775818. sx318

written and illustrated by Christian Robinson
39992292. sx318

Rocket Says Look Up
by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeloa
49610549. sx318 sy475

Calling the Water Drum
by Latisha Redding, illustrated by Aaron Boyd
27791902. sx318

How to Find a Fox
written and illustrated by Nilah Magruder
27414370. sx318

Baby Goes to Market
by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
34002095. sx318

The Ring Bearer
written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

My Daddy Rules the World
written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith

Being You
by Alexs Pate, illustrated by Soud
38509680. sx318

My Hair is a Garden
written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
26722926. sx318

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba
by Nansubuga Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra Van Doorn
34028172. sx318

Cece Loves Science
by Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
36260495. sx318

Princess Hair
written and illustrated by Sharee Miller

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Loretta's Gift
by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Alea Marley
36373232. sx318

When Aidan Became a Brother
by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration
by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
46041193. sx318

Going Down Home with Daddy
by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter
40685673. sx318

I Got Next
written and illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley
42686643. sx318

Sing a Song: How "Lift Every Voice and Sing" Inspired Generations
by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Keith Mallett
42920022. sx318

The Night Is Yours
by Zachariah Abdul-Razak, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
42359549. sx318

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
36373534. sx318

Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

 Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream
by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures
by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
37572178. sx318

Who Will You Be?
written and illustrated by Andrea Pippins
48549044. sx318

Nana Akua Goes to School
by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison
52783249. sx318 sy475

Brown Sugar Babe
by Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Akem Akem
50183146. sx318 sy475

Just Like a Mama
by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Dream Big, Little One
written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison
38496751. sx318

A Girl Like Me
by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews
45701852. sx318

You Matter
written and illustrated by Christian Robinson
52768168. sx318

Blue Sky White Stars 
by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
31626023. sx318

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy
by Tony Medina, illustrated by 13 Artists

Dear Black Boy: It's OK to Cry.
written by Ebony Lewis, illustrated by Jasmine Grant
48572146. sx318

Hey Black Child
by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier

*The newly added titles to replace ones that were from non-Black authors/illustrators start here.

The Hula-Hoopin' Queen
by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

A Night Out with Mama
by Quvenzhane Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
34078845. sx318

Homemade Love
by bell hooks, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
34523689. sx318

by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
25986287. sx318

My People
by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr.

Parker Looks Up
by Parker & Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson
43822431. sx318
Please note this critique of the Native representation in this particular book. It should not be shared uncritically. 

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
by Ibtihaj Muhammad & S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly
43853210. sx318

Max and the Tag-Along Moon
written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

My Mommy Medicine
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Shannon Wright
39073380. sx318

B is for Baby
by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
41189578. sx318

Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles
by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
40501312. sx318

Mommy's Khimar
by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
35297368. sx318

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle's Journey to Alvin Ailey
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
24885797. sx318

Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me
by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier

City Shapes
by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Visiting Day
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Real Sisters Pretend
by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
28824330. sx318

Dancing in the Wings
by Debbie Allen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children
by Sandra L. Pinkney, illustrated by Myles C. Pinkney

Woke Baby
by Theodore Taylor III, illustrated by Mahogany L. Browne
39073410. sx318

And a few bonus books to deepen understanding about why this list is necessary...

Anti-Racist Baby
by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
52535437. sx318 sy475

Skin Again
by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka
51393. sx318

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness
written and illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham
39979639. sx318

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
by Irene Latham & Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work
written by Tiffany Jewell, illustrated by Aurélia Durand

STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism, and You
A REMIX of the National Book Award winning STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING
written by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
52220686. sx318 sy475

Because Black Lives Matter. 

*The books that were originally on the list that show positive, joyful representation of Black people, but removed during the edit to focus on Black creators, are listed below:
Swashby and the Sea
Must Love Books
Marvelous Cornelius
Little Humans
What is Hip Hop?
Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet
Jabari Jumps
Say Something
The Word Collector
Harriet Got Carried Away
What If...
My Kicks
Ada Twist Scientist
Allie All Along
Charlie Takes His Shot
Happy Right Now
The Camping Trip


  1. What a beautiful list! Thank you.

  2. One of my favorites is No Mirrors in My Nana's House.

  3. Wow! This is an amazing list! Thank you so much!!

  4. Excellent that you created this list and shared your process! Thank you. -Caroline