As you may recall, in February I 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 young readers. I asked for anything from picture books and graphic novels to non-fiction and poetry. The authors or illustrators could be living or dead, U.S. residents or not. I think the posts served to highlight excellent examples of children’s literature while emphasizing that books written and illustrated by Blacks are not meant to only be enjoyed by Black people. Mirrors and windows my friends; mirrors and windows. (Sims-Bishop)
So, along those same lines, today’s post is a simple reminder that Black books, like Black history, should never be limited on a particular time or place. Donalyn Miller is helping to prove that point today with a very special list she curated first by reflecting on outstanding selections that were mentioned in February and then adding a few more.
Chances are you already know Donalyn through her work as a literacy advocate. Donalyn is an award-winning Texas teacher and the author or co-author of several books about engaging young people with reading, including The Book Whisperer (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Game Changer: Book Access for All Kids, co-written with Colby Sharp (Scholastic, 2018). Donalyn is the co-founder ofThe Nerdy Book Club blog and the founder of the summer reading and book giveaway initiative, #bookaday. It’s simple: follow Donalyn on Faceboook where she gives away a book each day.
Donalyn served as a Scholastic Book Fair’s reading ambassadors and traveled the world sharing the importance of book access and reading choice. She currently works as a literacy consultant and professional speaker. You can find her at bookwhisperer,com or Twitter: @donalynbooks and Instagram: @donalynm.
Narrowing a list of recommended books written or illustrated by Black creators to ten titles or less is an impossible task! One benefit of submitting my list later in February (Thanks for the extra time, Edi!) Is that I have already been able to enjoy the wonderful lists by other invited posters this month and shift some books around on my list without worrying that some favorites would get left off my final list.
Here are a few books on my list that have already been recommended this month. Check out these (and other) fantastic lists during this month’s blog series.
Along with Brendan Kiely, I recommend Jason Reynold’s The Boy in the Black Suit. It’s one of the most beautiful books about grief, healing, and family I have ever read.
Along with Brendan and Lilliam Rivera, I recommend Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together. Renée Watson has crafted a powerful book about race, class, and young womanhood. The lush writing and strong narrative voice bring readers right into Jade’s world.
Along with Traci Sorell, I recommend Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes. Nikki Grimes is a legend. Over the years, I have seen so many of my students get excited about reading (and writing) poetry because of her books. This memoir in verse—traveling through her childhood and into adulthood—shows how writing helped Nikki survive and thrive.
Along with Adib Khorram, I recommend Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia. Kids love Tristan Strong and his epic quest based on African and American traditional literature stories and characters like John Henry, Brer Rabbit, and Anansi. Besides, I love a book with a map on the endpapers. Readers know there’s adventure ahead!
Now, that I’ve added another vote for these amazing titles, I have a few more suggestions. I focused on recent publications.
The Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor. Binti, the first Himba to be accepted into the prestigious Oomza University, finds herself in the middle of an interstellar war between Earth and the jellyfish-like Meduse. This series of novellas won both Hugo and Nebulla awards for the best science fiction and will appeal to teens as well as adult readers.
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson. With fifty stunning poems, award-winning poet, Marilyn Nelson describes her life from age four to fourteen growing up during the tumultuous 1950’s amidst the Civil Rights Movement and the Communist Red Scare. A master class in poetry that gives readers a deeper understanding of post-World War II life in the United States.
The Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste. Raised on fairy tales of the wicked and dangerous Jumbies, Corinne doesn’t really believe they exist until a mysterious woman appears and sets her sights on Corrine’s widower father. Investigating strange events around their island, Corinne and her friends must launch a desperate attempt to save their home from these ancient monsters. The perfect series for kids who want a “scary” book, but not that scary! Read the first book in the series aloud and kids will beg for the next one.
Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden. Few authors weave extensive research and primary sources into compelling narratives like Tonya Bolden. This fascinating biography of Frederick Douglass’s life and work provides a rich and accessible portrait of one of the most influential people in United States’ history.
Thank you for inviting me to share some recommendations! I look forward to reading all of the posts and discovering more books to read and share.
Thank you, Donalyn and Brendan, Adib, Traci, Lilliam, Meg, Michelle, Sarah and everyone who has contributed to this series!