16 Kids Books with Black Heroes & Leads

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Children’s books should represent the world around us because children need to see themselves represented in the world. While there are many wonderful kids’ books celebrating Black History, these books celebrate the joys of Black childhood with Black lead characters and heroes. Read on for 15 we recommend and order them from a Black indie bookstore.

photo: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The Me I Choose To Be

In this gorgeously photographed book, your little reader will see the beauty of Black and brown children come to life. NYT bestselling author Natasha Tarpley has teamed up with husband-and-wife duo Regis and Kahran Bethencourt of CreativeSoul Photography to show children that they can be anything they want to be: a free spirit, artistic, joyful, smart, creative and more. 

Get it here, $15. 

photo: DG Publishing

Boobies Go Bye Bye: A Weaning Story

This new book introduces the concept of weaning to your toddler in a healthy, compassionate way, addressing a scarcity in the book market. Not only are there very few books on this topic written for the children themselves, this is the first weaning picture book written by Black women and is the first weaning book ever featuring Black characters. Inspired by personal experience, The Momference, co-founder, Nikki Osei-Barrett, and bestselling author, Cyana Riley teamed up to co-author, Boobies Go Bye-Bye, a toddler weaning story. Ages: 0-3 (or whatever age you need to talk about weaning!)

Order your copy today, $20

photo: Candlewick Press

The Camping Trip

This sweet book from author-illustrator Jennifer K. Mann invites us along on Erenstine’s first-ever camping trip. She’s got her bags packed with all the things she thinks she’ll need but nothing prepares her for what it’s really like to be in the great outdoors. The author encourages kids to try new things and celebrate the beauty of the wild. Ages 3-7.

Buy it now, $15

photo: Adiba Nelson

Meet Clarabelle Blue

When mother and author Adiba Nelson struggled to find a single children's book that showed a Black child with disabilities, she wrote one herself. Inspired by Nelson's desire for her own child, who is special needs, to see herself joyfully in a book, and in the world around her, Adiba wrote Meet Clarebelle Blue to do just that. Follow Clarabelle through her day and learn how she is just like you—she loves to giggle, she has to brush her teeth, she loves to laugh—just like all kids. An important book for children of all abilities to read to gain insight, compassion, and the importance of representation. Read more about author Adiba Nelson and the book here

Buy it here, $6

Zoey Has an Allergy

Meet Zoey, a sweet, smart, and spunky five-year-old girl who discovers she has a food allergy. Kids will learn along with Zoey what a food allergy really is, and why Zoey (and any kid) doesn't need to be ashamed. Kids with food allergies can have a hard time speaking up for themselves and keeping themselves safe. Not only will this book do a great service by boosting the confidence of children with food allergies, it will also foster compassion from teachers and peers to understand just what a food allergy means. As such, it belongs in every school and classroom library to help normalize and foster discussion around food allergies. Zoey is the first Black female character in an allergy book to display an anaphylactic allergy and the use of an epi-pen. Author Anisha Angella is an early childhood education and is a childcare coach, consultant, and specialist. Anisha has allergies and struggled with speaking up to keep herself safe, so she wrote the book she wished she had when she was a little girl. Ages: 3 and up.

Buy your copy here, $19

photo: Nancy Paulsen Books

I Am Every Good Thing

Author Derrick Barnes captures the young and confident Black narrator of this book perfectly, demonstrating the pure joy of childhood where each day brings challenges and adventures. The exuberant and beautifully done illustrations by Gordon C. James make this book one that will inspire your kids to embrace their own beauty even if things aren't always perfect or they make mistakes, and stay true to their truth, even when they are misunderstood or called things they are not. Ages: 3-7

Get yours here, $12

photo: Simon & Schuster

Sulwe

Written by Kenyan-born actress Lupita Nyong'o, this is as much her personal story as it is the story of young Sulwe, a girl whose skin is the color of midnight. The stunningly gorgeous illustrations by Vashti Harrison are reason enough alone to want this book in your library, but the story itself is beautifully told; it's about differences, acceptance of oneself no matter how we think others see us, it's about wanting to fit in and yet being unique. A vital message for every kid out there, regardless of race or gender. Read it today with your kids. Ages 4-8

Buy yours here, $10

photo: Tilbury House

Astronaut Annie

As Annie prepares for career day at her school, she talks to her family about their hopes for her future as she plans her future career as an astronaut. Suzanne Slade's book includes lots of bonus material about famous female astronauts and facts about the moon, all accompanied by enchanting illustrations by Nicole Tadgell. Ages: 4-7

Buy it now,$12

photo: Roaring Brook Press

Black Is a Rainbow Color

When debut author Angela Joy set out to teach her children their first Black History lesson she was not expecting her preschooler to say, "But Mama, we're not black, we're brown." It was then that she realized that she wanted her children, and all children, to understand that being Black was about culture as much as color. Vibrant, stained-glass-like artwork by Coretta-Scott King Award-winning illustrator Ekua Holmes accompanies Joy's poetic text as we join a little girl on a journey to discover all the wonderful things that Black is. Includes a suggested playlist as well as an expanded explanation of the historical references in the text to allow parents to explain Black history to their kids. It's an exceptionally designed, written, and thoughtful new book appropriate for kids of all ages and ethnicities. Ages: 4-8 but we think older kids can benefit from this book due to the important historical talking points in the back of the book

Get your copy here. $14

photo: Aladdin

Parker Looks Up

Written by Parker Curry (age 4) and her mama, Jessica Curry, with an afterword by Michelle Obama. Illustrated by Brittany Jackson. This is the sweet story of Parker Curry, a young girl, who went to the National Portrait Gallery one afternoon with her mom. She saw a prancing horse, blooming flowers, a bushy mustache...but before she went twirling off toward home, Parker Curry looked up. There on the wall, she saw the magnificent portrait (by Amy Sherald) of Michelle Obama. Parker didn't just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen, a woman with regality, beauty, truth and self-assurance, a woman who looked like her. This moving story will delight any young dreamer. A great addition to any home library or classroom.  Ages: 4-8

Buy it, here. $11

photo: Belle Publishing

Princess Cupcake Jones Won't Go to School

One of several books in the Princess Cupcake Jones series, we find Princess trying everything in her power to avoid her first day at school. Author Ylleya Fields created Princess Cupcake Jones when, while reading to her then two-year-old, she was struck by the lack of books that featured strong Black children. And so, Princess Cupcake Jones was born. All of the books are rich with the whimsical, spirited illustrations of Michael DeLuca. Ages: 5-7

Get your copy today, $15

photo: Delacorte

Black Boy Joy

From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors, edited by Kwame Mbalia—author of the beloved Tristan Strong series—comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood. And if it isn't already painfully clear why we need this book in every school library, public library, and bookshelf in every home in America, the dedication says it all: "To the ones they called angry, broken, sad, and hopeless, but were silent amidst your joy." Includes a new short story by Mbalia, too! Ages: 9-12

Get it here, $15.

photo: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

When our young reader finished this book he had one critique: the stories were so good he wished there were more! Jason Reynolds weaves together ten different stories, one per block, during the walk home from school. From boogers to jokes to bravery, the neighborhood is full of detours and Reynolds captures them in can't-put-down, totally NOT boring stories. Ages: 10 and up.

Get your copy here, $10

The Only Black Girls in Town

Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years until Edie moves in across the street. As they become friends, they discover a box of journals in the attic of Edie’s new house. The journals reveal secrets of the past and shocking truths as the 12-year-olds learn that nothing is as it seems. Written by award-winning YA author Brandy Colbert. Ages: 8-12

Buy it now, $15

photo: Rick Riordan Presents (Disney)

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching (Book 3)

Children around the world are jumping for joy and waiting with bated breath for the release of the third (and final) book in the wildly popular Tristan Strong series by Kwame Mbalia. We find our hero on a journey to Mississippi to face his arch-nemesis, King Cotton. Along the way Tristan and Ayanna are met with obstacles brought on by the haints and must outsmart them, with a little help from the gods. Weaving African and African-American folklore into the fantasy setting, make sure your kiddo's calendar is cleared when this book arrives because they will not want to put it down. And if you haven't read the other two books in the series, the third one is due out in early October, so there's time! Ages: 8-12

Join the ranks and preorder it now (out October 5, 2021), $16

photo: Nancy Paulsen Books

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA

Written by Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author Brenda Woods, The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA tells the story of a unique friendship between a young white boy and a black WWII veteran. Mr. Meriwether Hunter returns to Jim Crow South in 1946. When he saves little Gabriel’s life during a bike accident, Gabriel’s father offers Meriwether a job as a mechanic at their family garage. Gabriel and Meriwether form a friendship that endures in spite of the extreme prejudices in the world around them. A beautiful read. Ages 10 and up. 

Get it here.$13

featured image: iStock

—Amber Guetebier

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