Black History Month Reading List

February is Black History Month, and we encourage you to visit your local bookstore or library (to learn more. In the meantime, we have compiled our reading recommendations for you.

Antiracist Baby
By Ibram X. Kendi
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
32 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110508 | Kokila
From the National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist comes a new 9×9 picture book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves, now with added discussion prompts to help readers recognize and reflect on bias in their daily lives. With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.

Before the Ever After
By Jacqueline Woodson
176 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399545436 | Nancy Paulsen Books
For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that – but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming
By Jacqueline Woodson
368 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780147515827 | Puffin Books
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

C is for Country
By Lil Nas X
Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593300787 | Random House BFYR
Join superstar Lil Nas X—who boasts the longest-running #1 song in history—and Panini the pony on a joyous journey through the alphabet from sunup to sundown. Experience wide-open pastures, farm animals, guitar music, cowboy hats, and all things country in this debut picture book that’s perfect for music lovers learning their ABCs and for anyone who loves Nas’s signature genre-blending style. Featuring bold, bright art from Theodore Taylor III, with plenty of hidden surprises for Nas’s biggest fans, C Is for Country is a celebration of song and the power inside us all.

I Am Every Good Thing
By Derrick Barnes
Illustrated by Gordon C. James
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525518778 | Nancy Paulsen Books
The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through – as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you – and shows you – who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything!
By Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young
Illustrated by Nneka Myers
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593206607 | Flamingo Books
Based on a viral video comes the story of one boy’s positive energy and how a sunny outlook can turn everything around. It’s a new day and Ayaan has woken up on the wrong side of the bed, where nothing feels quite right. What if he doesn’t know the answer at school? What if he messes up? But as he sets out that morning, all it takes is a few reminders from his mom and some friends in the neighborhood to remind him that a new day is a good day because . . . HE IS SMART, HE IS BLESSED, AND HE CAN DO ANYTHING!

Jabari Jumps
By Gaia Cornwall
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536202908 | Candlewick
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

Lubaya’s Quiet Roar
By Marilyn Nelson
Illustrated by Philemona Williamson
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525555551 | Dial BFYR
Newbery Honor winner Marilyn Nelson and fine artist Philemona Williamson have come together to create this lyrical, impactful story of how every child, even the quietest, can make a difference in their community and world. Young Lubaya is happiest when she’s drawing, often behind the sofa while her family watches TV. There, she creates pictures on the backs of her parents’ old protest posters. But when upsetting news shouts into their living room, her parents need the posters again. The next day her family takes part in a march, and there, on one side of the posters being held high, are Lubaya’s drawings of kids holding hands and of the sun shining over the globe – rousing visual statements of how the world could be. “Lubaya’s roar may not be loud, but a quiet roar can make history.”

Milo Imagines the World
By Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399549083 | Putnam BFYR
Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo – walking the same path, going to the exact same place – Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them.

My Rainbow
By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814609 | Kokila
Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is. So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is. With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

Nana Akua Goes to School
By Tricia Elam Walker
Illustrated by April Harrison
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525581130 | Schwartz & Wade
It is Grandparents Day at Zura’s elementary school, and the students are excited to introduce their grandparents and share what makes them special. Aleja’s grandfather is a fisherman. Bisou’s grandmother is a dentist. But Zura’s Nana, who is her favorite person in the world, looks a little different from other grandmas. Nana Akua was raised in Ghana, and, following an old West African tradition, has tribal markings on her face. Worried that her classmates will be scared of Nana – or worse, make fun of her – Zura is hesitant to bring her to school. Nana Akua knows what to do, though. With a quilt of traditional African symbols and a bit of face paint, Nana Akua is able to explain what makes her special, and to make all of Zura’s classmates feel special, too.

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman
By Andrea Davis Pinkney and Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593115657 | Philomel BFYR
Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman rose up to become one of the most successful, determined and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad. With her family’s love planted firmly in her heart, Harriet looked to the North Star for guidance – and its light helped guide her way out of slavery. Her courage made it possible for her to help others reach freedom too. In this chapter book biography by bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney, readers learn about the amazing life of Harriet Tubman – and how she persisted. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton!

Take Back the Block
By Chrystal D. Giles
240 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593175170 | Random House BFYR
Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That – and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games – is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it . . . before it’s too late? Exploring community, gentrification, justice, and friendship, Take Back the Block introduces an irresistible 6th grader and asks what it means to belong – to a place and a movement – and to fight for what you believe in.

The Day You BeginThe Day You Begin
By Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael López
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399246531 | Nancy Paulsen Books
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
By Christopher Paul Curtis
256 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593306499 | Yearling
When the Watson family – ten-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron – sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don’t realize that they’re heading toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history. The Watsons’ journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree about an unforgettable family on a road-trip during one of the most important times in the civil rights movement. This special edition makes a perfect gift and includes bonus content.

This Is Your Time
By Ruby Bridges
64 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593378526 | Delacorte BFYR
Written as a letter from civil rights activist and icon Ruby Bridges to the reader, This Is Your Time is both a recounting of Ruby’s experience as a child who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system and an appeal to generations to come to effect change. This beautifully designed volume features photographs from the 1960s and from today, as well as stunning jacket art from The Problem We All Live With, the 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell depicting Ruby’s walk to school. Ruby’s honest and impassioned words, imbued with love and grace, serve as a moving reminder that “what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past.” This Is Your Time will electrify people of all ages as the struggle for liberty and justice for all continues and the powerful legacy of Ruby Bridges endures.

What Lane?
By Torrey Maldonado
144 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525518433 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules – and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . . so what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his – and who should be with him. Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

When Stars Are Scattered
By Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy
264  Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525553915 | Dial BFYR
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

Need more ideas? Check out our list from last year or our Raising Conscious Kids listicle, and look out for a teen reading list this Friday!

Leave a Reply