Black books: Kate Messner

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. Today, children’s author Kate Messner provides a well curated list of books that extend from picture books through young adults. Take out your pens and add to you TBR piles. 

Kate Messner


Thanks again for asking me to participate in this – I’m delighted to be able to share some favorite titles! (Also? This was HARD. I know my list is longer than you asked for, but I have so many favorites!)

Picture Books


SOMEDAY IS NOW: CLARA LUPER AND THE 1958 OKLAHOMA CITY SIT-INS by Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich and Jade Johnson. Seagrass Press, 2018.

HAIR LOVE by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison. Kokila, 2019.

EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson and EB Lewis. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012.

FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie. Little Bee Books, 2016.

TINY STITCHES: THE LIFE OF MEDICAL PIONEER VIVIEN THOMAS by Gwendolyn Hooks and Colin Bootman. Lee and Low, 2016.

Chapter Books

The JADA JONES series by Kelly Starling Lyons and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Penguin Workshop.

The DYAMONDE DANIEL series by Nikki Grime and R. Greg Christie. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Middle Grade Books

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS by Renee Watson. Bloomsbury, 2019.

THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste (ALSO sequels – RISE OF THE JUMBIES and THE JUMBIE GOD’S REVENGE!). Algonquin.

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON by Janae Marks. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020.

THE GREAT GREENE HEIST  (The Great Greene Heist #1) by Varian Johnson. Arthur A. Levine, 2014,

GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia Williams. Atheneum, 2020.

Young Adult Books

HOW IT WENT DOWN (How It Went Down #1) by Kekla Magoon. Henry Holt, 2014.

 LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds. Atheneum, 2017.

ORDINARY HAZARDS by Nikki Grimes, Wordsong, 2019.

THE BELLES by Dhonielle Clayton. Disney-Hyperion, 2018.

Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the SnowUp in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, and How to Read a Story; novels like The Seventh Wish, Breakout, and Chirp; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series with Candlewick, Scholastic’s popular Ranger in Time chapter book series; as well works of nonfiction, including Insect Superpowers, The Next PresidentTracking Pythons and the upcoming History Smashers series with Random House. Before becoming a full time writer,  Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is trying to summit all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in between book deadlines. Follow her on Twitter @KateMessner and check out her website,