Black books: David Bowles

This year, I’ve invited non Black people who are in someway connected to youth literature to share a list of 5-10 books written or illustrated by Blacks that will appeal to children. I asked for anything from board books and graphic novels to biographies and adult crossover. The authors or illustrators could be living or dead, U.S. residents or not. The results have been quite amazing.

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Today’s post is from David Bowles. David is a Mexican-American author from south Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. He has written several titles, most notably The Smoking Mirror (Pura Belpré Honor Book) and They Call Me Güero (Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry, Pura Belpré Honor Book, Walter Dean Myers Honor Book). It’s important to note that Black culture isn’t really David’s area of expertise. However, when I DMed him on Twitter to ask if he could build a list, his response was immediate. Check out his list because these are books you’ll definitely need to have available for the young people in your life.


Ghost (Track vol 1) by Jason Reynolds. (Atheneum, 2016)

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson. (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018)

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. (Speak, 2011)


American Street by Ibi Zoboi. (Balzer + Bray, 2018)

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. (Balzer + Bray, 2020)

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. (Freeform Books, 2018)

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. (Henry Holt & Co, 2018)

Adult Crossover

Beloved by Toni Morrison. (Alfred A. Knopf, 1987)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker. (Harcourt, 1982)

Kindred by Octavia Butler. (Doubleday, 1979)


David’s work has also been published in multiple anthologies, plus venues such as Asymptote, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Metamorphoses, Rattle, Translation Review, and the Journal of Children’s Literature.

In 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

Connect with @DavidBowleson Twitter.