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.
As you’ve been following the series, you’ve probably noticed the various ways contributors collated titles. Librarian extraordinaire Angie Manfredi curated an impressive list of books that she recommends for parents, educators or librarians to read aloud to young children.
One of the requests I see librarians make the most often are books by Black creators that are “good for storytime.” Of course this is an amorphous question! Storytime looks so differently from library to library or even week to week at the same location. Some crowds love longer books, some crowds need books that only have a few words per page. One of the biggest challenges of storytime (and one of the biggest joys, I think!) is the way you need to be prepared for everything. But luckily there are tons of great books from Black creators that are perfect for all kinds of storytimes. These are just a few awesome books to share with audiences ages 0-6 all year round and to have as part of your regular storytime repertoire. Some are old favorites and others are brand new titles. This list encompasses wordless picture books, classic poetry, books celebrating hair, style, and self-love and more. These titles also make a perfect collection to use to build a Black History Month/African American Read-In storytime. (titles are listed alphabetically by author’s last name.)
good for sharing with smaller groups, one on one during lapsit, play times, or by buying multiple title sets for choral/group readings
Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison. (LB Kids, 2018) ISBN: 978-0316475099
What is Light? written by Markette Sheppard illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson. (Agate Bolden, 2018) ISBN: 978-1572842472
Baby Says by John Steptoe. (Harper Festival, 2018) (new board book reprinting of a classic!) ISBN: 978-0062847539
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1524740740
Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by AG Ford. (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux) ISBN: 978-0374307523
Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. (Roaring Brook Press, 2018) ISBN: 978-1250308986
Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum, 2003) ISBN: 978-0689847318
I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo. (Balzer+Bray, 2018) ISBN: 978-0062667120
Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison. (Kokila, 2019) ISBN: 978-0525553366
Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. (Tilbury, 2020) ISBN: 978-0884487975
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2020) ISBN: 978-1492638322
Lullaby for a Black Mother by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean Qualls. (HMH 2013) ISBN: 978-0547362656
Sail Away by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan. (Atheneum, 2015) ISBN: 978-1481430852
Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. (Simon and Schuster, 2006) ISBN: 978-0689832338 (available as a board book)
Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. (Simon and Schuster, 2005) ISBN: 978-0689868047
Every Little Thing: Based on the song ‘Three Little Birds‘ by Bob Marley adapted by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. (Chronicle, 2012) ISBN: 978-1452106977 (available as a board book)
One Love adapted by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. (Chronicle, 2011) ISBN: 978-1452102245 (available as a board book)
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora. (Little Brown, 2018) ISBN: 978-0316431248.
If You Plant A Seed by Kadir Nelson. (Balzer+Bray, 2015) ISBN: 978-0062298898 (available as a board book on 18 Feb)
Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier. (Little, Brown. 2017) ISBN: 978-0316360302
Another by Christian Robinson. (Atheneum, 2019) ISBN: 978-1534421677
Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe. (Mechal Roe, 2014) ISBN: 978-1984895547
Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe. (Doubleday, 11 Feb 2020) ISBN: 978-1984895578
I Got The Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison. (Bloomsbury, 2014) ISBN: 978-1619631786
Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin. (Enchanted Lions Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1592702886
Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez. (Holiday House, 2016) ISBN: 978-0823435654
Angie Manfredi is a youth services librarian and writer currently living, working, and trying to stay warm in the Midwest. She is the editor of the first ever fat positive YA anthology The Other F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce (Abrams, 2019) and enjoys overthinking movies and reading too many books at once. You can find her online at Twitter @misskubelik.