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Celebrating Black Joy: A Collection of Picture Books by Black Authors

This collection of joyful picture books by Black creators includes some of our very favorite inclusive picture books that shine a light on beautiful friendships, families, traditions and fun.

Every month of the year, and particularly in February when we celebrate Black History Month, it is important for children to read and listen to stories that showcase Black joy - books that show Black kids and families doing everyday things and sharing community, hopes, and dreams with people they love. We believe that these books belong in classrooms and homes all year long.

To read complete descriptions of each book and purchase and/or donate, please visit our Bookshop page here.

The ABCs of Black History | Author: Rio Cortez | Illustrator: Lauren Semmer | Publisher: Workman Publishing Group

The ABCs of Black History includes uplifting and affirming information about Black history. This book includes bright and lively illustrations and pages at the back with more in depth information. It can be read in one sitting, or more slowly to deepen knowledge and critical thinking about each topic. This book is the perfect one to revisit again and again.

My Rainbow | Authors: Trinity and DeShanna Neal | Illustrator: Art Twink | Publisher: Kokila

This book is written by a real-life mother-daughter duo. It is a beautiful representation of the power of being loved by people who truly embrace our full selves. Trinity is a transgender girl who wants long hair just like her dolls. She cannot find a wig that makes her feel like herself, so her mom works to create a wig that is just as special as her daughter. This book is sure to give you the warm and fuzzies!

Soul Food Sunday | Author: Winsome Bingham | Illustrator: C.G. Esperanza | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Food is so often used to connect people to each other and to their pasts. In Soul Food Sunday, our narrator is thrilled that he is now old enough to help Granny with their big Sunday dinner. This is a beautiful celebration of food, family, and tradition and will leave anyone reminiscing about time spent with family and wishing they could join this family for their Sunday gathering.

Grandma’s Purse | Author/Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

This is a sweet ode to the magic of Grandmas. In this story, Grandma Mimi’s special purse is full of all the best things and makes everything more fun - you never know what you will find inside! The vibrant and fun illustrations and joyful story make this a special one to share with someone you love. Don’t miss some of our other favorites by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, including Becoming Vanessa and Just Like Me.

When My Cousins Come to Town | Author: Angela Shante | Illustrator: Keisha Morris | Publisher: West Margin Press

We selected this book as a 2021 Books We Love. It is a wonderful celebration of extended family and the fun and unique relationships children often have with their cousins. In this book, every cousin has their own special nickname - earned from a summer of fun and inside jokes and experiences - except one cousin. She’s determined that this is her year to get a nickname like everyone else! This book is about both standing out and fitting in, and we love how it will both make you laugh and make you want to give your cousins a call.

Saturday | Author/Illustrator: Oge Mora | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Saturday is this mother and daughter’s very favorite day. They are busy with work and school every other day, but Saturday? Saturday is the best because they always spend it adventuring together. Unfortunately, on this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong, leaving them feeling exasperated and disappointed. They eventually realize that nothing about their day is as important as time spent together. This is a beautiful ode to hardworking, magic-making, single moms everywhere!

Time for Bed, Old House | Author: Janet Costa Bates | Illustrator: A.G. Ford | Publisher: Candlewick

Intergenerational stories are some of our very favorite types of stories, so we are thrilled to share this latest discovery with you! Isaac is sleeping over at Grandpop’s for the first time and is both excited to, and nervous about being away from home. Grandpop senses this in him, so when it’s almost time for bed, he asks Isaac to help him put the house to bed - quietly turning off lights, pulling down the shades, and getting it ready for a restful night of sleep. We love the relationship between Isaac and his Grandpop, and how universal it is to feel anxious about something new - it always helps when someone you love is there to help you through it.

Sulwe | Author: Lupita Nyong’o | Illustrator: Vashti Harrison | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

In this book, Sulwe is darker than everyone in her family and does not feel as beautiful as her sister or mom. She is also darker than her friends at school, and wants more than her mom to see her beauty. One night, she is taken on a magical journey where she learns the story of Night and Day. She also learns a very important lesson - to celebrate the brightness and beauty in herself and others.

I am Perfectly Designed | Authors: Karamo Brown and Jason “Rachel” Brown | Illustrator: Anoosha Syed | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

We love the message of this book - you are perfectly designed just as you are. This book is written in a fun conversation style between a real-life father-son duo who remind us of the power of loving and fully seeing the special people in our lives.

Hair Love | Author: Matthew A. Cherry | Illustrator: Vashti Harrison | Publisher: Kokila

Hair Love is the cutest book that showcases the special relationship between a father and his daughter. Zuri loves her hair and the many ways she can style it, even if it has a mind of its own sometimes. When she wants the perfect look for a special occasion, she can only ask dad for help, but he does not know how to do all the styles like mom. Her dad commits to figuring it all out for his daughter, and together, they work to create her most special look yet!

I am Every Good Thing | Author: Derrick Barnes | Illustrator: Gordon C. James | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

This is a beautiful book written from the perspective of a young Black narrator who is confident and excited for his future, and also afraid because he is often misunderstood. I am Every Good Thing is a rhythmic celebration of Black boyhood and their right to thrive. It may have been written for young readers, but the message is for readers of every age: all Black boys are worthy and deserving of love.

All Because You Matter | Author: Tami Charles | Illustrator: Bryan Collier | Publisher: Orchard Books

All Because You Matter is an important book for our times - it is an affirming and loving reminder for every Black and brown child (and any child) just how much they matter. A young Black couple first starts speaking to their baby in its womb, reassuring them how much their life already matters. As the child grows older and has new experiences, the message from his family remains constant. While they do not shy away from hard truths, they always support and uplift, too. This lyrical and gorgeous book belongs in every classroom and home, and can help facilitate powerful discussions about race in America.

Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color | Author: Monique Fields | Illustrator: Yesenia Moises | Publisher: Imprint

In Honeysmoke: A Story About Finding Your Color, a young biracial girl wants to find the perfect color that represents her skin tone. She ultimately chooses her own and creates a new word to define her identity: honeysmoke. This is an empowering story that encourages children to create their own self identity.

Magic Like That | Author: Samara Cole Doyon | Illustrator: Geneva Bowers | Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Magic Like That is a celebration of how one Black girl’s natural hair is magical - its beauty mirroring some of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. It is an affirming book full of confidence and beauty, and one that simply cannot be missed.

I’m Growing Great | Author/Illustrator: Mechel Renee Roe | Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers

This is such a pretty book of affirmations for growing young people. We cannot help but fall in love with this book and its gorgeous floral illustrations and short and impactful text. The repetition of, “I am growing each day!” will also make this a fun story to read over and over again with eager young kids who want to read with you.

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment | Authors: Parker and Jessica Curry | Illustrator: Brittany Jackson | Publisher: Aladdin

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment was written by a real-life mother-daughter duo and the moment that one ordinary outing turned into an extraordinary experience. Parker and her family visited the National Portrait Museum, but nothing held her interest until she came across First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait. In it, she saw someone like her - someone strong, bold, beautiful and with skin just like hers. This moment speaks to the power of representation and how it can help children dream big. Don’t miss the next book in this series, Parker Shines On: Another Extraordinary Moment.

The Year We Learned to Fly | Author: Jacqueline Woodson | Illustrator: Rafael Lopez | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

This book is the much anticipated follow-up to The Day You Begin, and comes from the same incredible author/illustrator team. In The Year We Learned to Fly, two kids take their grandmother’s advice about using their imaginations when they are faced with boredom.

They later discover that their mind can take them all sorts of places, in all sorts of circumstances - not just when they are bored, but when they are angry, or sad, or worried, too. One of the most special parts of this book is how their grandmother explains how this skill was first used by their ancestors, “who showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds.”

I am You: a Book About Ubuntu | Author: Refiloe Moahloli | Illustrator: Zinelda McDonald | Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

This book is about the universal interconnectedness of us all. In South Africa, the concept of “ubuntu” is the idea that we are all connected. This book showcases how we all have a shared sense of community and reminds us of the importance of treating each other with love, humanity, and compassion. It also has colorful, lively and inclusive illustrations that make its worthy message all the more sweet.

You are Not Alone | Authors: Alphabet Rockers | Illustrator: Ashley Evans | Publisher: Sourcebooks Explore

You are Not Alone is an empowering book about the importance of solidarity and remembering that we are all in this together. Too often, children feel alone in their quest for a better world and social justice, but if we remember to use our voices for good and to amplify others, we can and will make a difference.

When Langston Dances | Author: Kaija Langley | Illustrator: Keith Mallett | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Ever since Langston saw a dance company perform, all he wanted to do was dance - to learn how to do all the beautiful and technical things he saw. Sure, he likes basketball, too, but that is not where his heart is. This is such a joyful and affirming book that breaks traditional gender constructs and shows us a Black boy who loves dance, and has the support of his whole community.

Dream Street | Author: Tricia Elam Walker | Illustrator: Euka Holmes | Publisher: Anne Schwartz Books

Dream Street is based on a community in Boston, but it could be anywhere in the world. The people who live and work on Dream Street are supportive of each other, and friendships transcend age - people of all ages find comfort and joy in each other’s company. This neighborhood is filled with warmth, big dreams and a shared sense of community.

My Very Favorite Book in the Whole World | Author: Malcolm Mitchell | Illustrator: Michael Robertson | Publisher: Orchard Books

We know that not every child loves reading at first, and many struggle to find the right book or feel confident to read on their own. This book was made for that child. It is empowering! It reminds us all that everyone has an important story to tell, and that we can never stop looking for the perfect book to ignite a love of reading.

Amara’s Farm | Author: Ja’Nay Brown-Wood | Illustrator: Samara Hardy | Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company

This is the perfect book for fall. Amara is hosting a potluck for her family and friends but needs to find the pumpkins to complete the feast! This book is playful and fun and introduces readers to wonderful new vocabulary and learning. It also includes a super yummy recipe for molasses pumpkin bread in the back.

Red Shoes | Author: Karen English | Illustrator: Ebony Glenn | Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Red Shoes is a sweet story about an unexpected connection between two girls who live on different continents. When Nana gives Malika a pair of red shoes, they make her happy beyond measure! Unfortunately, it is not long before she outgrows them and feels heartbroken. She and Nana sell them to a resale shop and the shoes end up finding themselves all the way in Ghana and become another little girl's most prized possession. Giving up things we love is a lot easier when we know they can bring joy to someone else.

Boo Stew | Author: Donna L. Washington | Illustrator: Jeffrey Ebbeler | Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company

Curly Locks loves to cook, but nobody likes to eat anything she makes! One day, she is shocked that someone (or something!) takes one of her dishes from the windowsill. She then learns that Scares from Toadsuck Swamp are inside the mayor’s house and terrorizing everyone. Nobody knows what to do, but Curly Locks has a solution - maybe they will enjoy her cooking! With its detailed and lively illustrations and dialogue, this is a great story to read aloud, and a wonderful example of what an empowered heroine looks like.

Educators, check out these amazing teaching resources from the publisher that include a cookbook, an activity kit and teaching guide, to make this story come to life for your little readers.

Gator, Gator, Gator | Author: Daniel Bernstrom | Illustrator: Frann Preston-Gannon | Publisher: HarperCollins

This rhyming book is a wonderful read aloud. You are invited to a swamp to find a gator, gator, gator - are you scared yet? You have to pay close attention or else you might miss something important! This book is so fun, exhilarating and joyful - young readers are sure to love it!

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures | Author: Nikki Grimes | Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon | Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

This book is a gift to every caregiver who has ever dealt with a child resisting bedtime. In this imaginative tale, a parent goes through the familiar motions of putting their “sweet creature” to bed - only to find them tossing their mane like a lion, clinging to them like a koala, and sneaking from their bed like a sly wolf.

Off to See the Sea and Playtime for Restful Rascals are other books in this series that are perfect for bringing more joy to bath and playtime. All three of these books "celebrate imagination, playful moments, and the love between parents and child."


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