Black History Month Reading List 2022

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. For more recommendations, check out last year’s list or our list for World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture.

Picture Books:

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country
By Atinuke
Illustrated by Mouni Feddag
80 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536205374 | Candlewick
A Nigerian storyteller explores the continent of Africa country by country: its geography, peoples, animals, history, resources, and cultural diversity. The book is divided into five distinct sections – South, East, West, Central, and North – and each country is showcased on its own bright, energetic page brimming with friendly facts on science, industry, food, sports, music, wildlife, landscape features, even snippets of local languages. The richest king, the tallest sand dunes, and the planet’s largest waterfall all make appearances along with drummers, cocoa growers, inventors, balancing stones, salt lakes, high-tech cities, and nomads who use GPS! Atinuke’s lively and comprehensive introduction to all fifty-five African countries – a celebration scaled to dazzle and delight even very young readers – evokes the continent’s unique blend of modern and traditional. Complete with colorful maps, an index, and richly patterned and textured illustrations by debut children’s book artist Mouni Feddag, Africa, Amazing Africa is both a beautiful gift book and an essential classroom and social studies resource.

Because Claudette
By Tracey Baptiste
Illustrated by Tonya Engel
32 Pages | Ages 6-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593326404 | Dial BFYR
When fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin boarded a segregated bus on March 2, 1955, she had no idea she was about to make history. At school she was learning about abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, which helped inspire her decision to refuse to give up her seat to a white woman, which led to her arrest, which began a crucial chain of events: Rosa Park’s sit-in nine months later, the organization of the Montgomery bus boycott by activists like Professor Jo Ann Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Supreme Court decision that Alabama’s bus segregation was unconstitutional – a major triumph for the civil rights movement. Because of Claudette’s brave stand against injustice, history was transformed. Now it’s time for young readers to learn about this living legend, her pivotal role in the civil rights movement, and the power of one person reaching out to another in the fight for change.

Darryl’s Dream
By Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Shawnee Warfield, Johnny Warfield, and Adam Padilla
Illustrated by Tristan Tait
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593487747 | Random House BFYR
Meet Darryl, a quiet third grader with big hopes and dreams. He loves writing and wants to share his talents, but he’s shy – and the kids who make fun of his glasses only make things worse. Will the school talent show be his chance to shine? Darryl’s Dream, by iconic performer Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, is a story about finding confidence, facing bullies, and celebrating yourself. This full-color picture book is certain to entertain children and parents with its charming art and important message.

Hey You! An Empowering Celebration of Growing Up Black
By Dapo Adeola
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593529423 | Nancy Paulsen Books
This book addresses – honestly, yet hopefully – the experiences Black children face growing up with systemic racism, as well as providing hope for the future and delivering a message of empowerment to a new generation of dreamers. It’s a message that is both urgent and timeless – and offers a rich and rewarding reading experience for every child. To mirror the rich variety of the Black diaspora, this book showcases artwork from Dapo Adeola and eighteen more incredible Black illustrators in one remarkable and cohesive reading experience.

My Little Golden Book about Kamala Harris
By Rajani LaRocca
Illustrated by Ashley Evans
24 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593430224 | Golden Books
Help your little one dream big with a Little Golden Book biography all about the first female Vice President Kamala Harris! The perfect introduction to nonfiction for preschoolers! This Little Golden Book about Kamala Harris – the first woman, first African American woman, and first Indian American woman to be elected Vice President of the United States – is an inspiring read-aloud for young girls and boys.

My Little Golden Book about Misty Copeland
By Sherri L. Smith
Illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker
24 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593380673 | Golden Books
Help your little one dream big with a Little Golden Book biography all about Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre’s first Black principal dancer! The perfect introduction to nonfiction for preschoolers! This Little Golden Book introduces ballet prodigy Misty Copeland to the youngest readers. The first Black principal dancer in the history of the American Ballet Theatre – who didn’t start dancing until she was almost thirteen – continues to impress the world and pave the way for young Black girls to chase their dreams.

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone
By Traci N. Todd
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
56 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524737283 | Putnam BFYR
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small town North Carolina, Nina Simone was a musical child. She sang before she talked and learned to play piano at a very young age. With the support of her family and community, she received music lessons that introduced her to classical composers like Bach who remained with her and influenced her music throughout her life. She loved the way his music began softly and then tumbled to thunder, like her mother’s preaching, and in much the same way as her career. During her first performances under the name of Nina Simone her voice was rich and sweet but as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, Nina’s voice soon became a thunderous roar as she raised her voice in powerful protest in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination.

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch
By Heidi Tyline King
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101996294 | Putnam BFYR
MaVynee loved going to the beach. But in the days of Jim Crow, she couldn’t just go to any beach – most of the beaches in Jacksonville were for whites only. Knowing something must be done, her grandfather bought a beach that African American families could enjoy without being reminded they were second class citizens; he called it American Beach. Artists like Zora Neale Hurston and Ray Charles vacationed on its sunny shores. It’s here that MaVynee was first inspired to sing, propelling her to later become a widely acclaimed opera singer who routinely performed on an international stage. But her first love would always be American Beach. After the Civil Rights Act desegregated public places, there was no longer a need for a place like American Beach and it slowly fell into disrepair. MaVynee remembered the importance of American Beach to her family and so many others, so determined to preserve this integral piece of American history, she began her second act as an activist and conservationist, ultimately saving the place that had always felt most like home.

She Persisted: Coretta Scott King
By Kelly Starling Lyons and Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593353509 | Philomel BFYR
In this chapter book biography by award-winning author Kelly Starling Lyons, readers learn about the amazing life of Coretta Scott King – and how she persisted. Coretta Scott King is known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but she was a civil rights activist and leader in her own right! She was a singer and an author too, and her work made a difference for Black Americans and for all women for decades to come. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a list of ways that readers can follow in Coretta Scott King’s footsteps and make a difference! And don’t miss out on the rest of the books in the She Persisted series, featuring so many more women who persisted!

Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress
By Alicia D. Williams
Illustrated by April Harrison
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123683 | Anne Schwartz Books
Meet Shirley, a little girl who asks way too many questions! After spending her early years on her grandparents’ farm in Barbados, she returns home to Brooklyn and immediately makes herself known. Shirley kicks butt in school; she breaks her mother’s curfew; she plays jazz piano instead of classical. And as a young adult, she fights against the injustice she sees around her, against women and black people. Soon she is running for state assembly . . . and winning in a landslide. Three years later, she is on the campaign trail again, as the first black woman to run for Congress. Her slogan? “Fighting Shirley Chisholm – Unbought and Unbossed!” Does she win? You bet she does.

Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge
By Gary Golio
Illustrated by James Ransome
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984813664 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Sonny Rollins loved his saxophone. As a teenager, he was already playing with jazz stars and making a name for himself. But in 1959, at age twenty-nine, he took a break from performing – to work on being a better, not just famous, musician. Practicing in a city apartment didn’t please the neighbors, so Sonny found a surprising alternative – the Williamsburg Bridge. There, with his head in the clouds and foghorns for company, Sonny could play to his heart’s content and perfect his craft. It was a bold choice, for a bold young man and musician. Sonny’s passion for music comes alive in jazzy text and vivid, evocative paintings of New York City. His story celebrates striving to be your very best self, an inspiration to music lovers young and old.

Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
By Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524720643 | Random House Studio
Georgia Gilmore was cooking when she heard the news Mrs. Rosa Parks had been arrested – pulled off a city bus and thrown in jail all because she wouldn’t let a white man take her seat. To protest, the radio urged everyone to stay off city buses for one day: December 5, 1955. Throughout the boycott – at Holt Street Baptist Church meetings led by a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. – and throughout the struggle for justice, Georgia served up her mouth-watering fried chicken, her spicy collard greens, and her sweet potato pie, eventually selling them to raise money to help the cause. Here is the vibrant true story of a hidden figure of the civil rights movement, told in flavorful language by a picture-book master, and stunningly illustrated by a Caldecott Honor recipient and seven-time Coretta Scott King award-winning artist.

The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Laura Freeman
40 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593306505 | Random House Studio
When Elijah Cummings was a little boy, he struggled in school. His teachers thought he talked too much and asked too many questions. They said he’d never be able to read or write well. Despite his difficulties, Elijah never gave up. He persevered, having faith that with hard work, he’d be able to achieve his goals. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change. Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman marry words and images beautifully in this picture book biography of politician and civil rights champion Elijah Cummings, detailing his inspiring journey – from his humble beginnings as the son of former sharecroppers to his unwavering faith as he became a lawyer, state legislator, and leading congressman. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.

When We Say Black Lives Matter
By Maxine Beneba Clarke
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536222388 | Candlewick
In this joyful exploration of the Black Lives Matter motto, a loving narrator relays to a young Black child the strength and resonance behind the words. In family life, through school and beyond, the refrains echo and gain in power, among vignettes of protests and scenes of ancestors creating music on djembe drums. With deeply saturated illustrations rendered in jewel tones, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers a gorgeous, moving, and essential picture book.

Middle Grade:

Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South
By Wade Hudson
272 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593126356 | Crown BFYR
Born in 1946 in Mansfield, Louisiana, Wade Hudson came of age against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. From their home on Mary Street, his close-knit family watched as the country grappled with desegregation, as the Klan targeted the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and as systemic racism struck across the nation and in their hometown. Amidst it all, Wade was growing up. Getting into scuffles, playing baseball, immersing himself in his church community, and starting to write. Most important, Wade learned how to find his voice and use it. From his family, his community, and his college classmates, Wade learned the importance of fighting for change by confronting the laws and customs that marginalized and demeaned people. This powerful memoir reveals the struggles, joys, love, and ongoing resilience that it took to grow up Black in segregated America, and the lessons that carry over to our fight for a better future.

Fast Pitch
By Nic Stone
192 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984893017 | Crown BFYR
Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.
Strike two: Shenice’s focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending – and family-name-ruining – crime may have been a setup.
Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. Shenice’s teammates are beginning to wonder if she’s captain-qualified.
It’s up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family’s past – and fast – before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.

Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior
By Ed Clayton
Illustrated by Donald Bermudez
128 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9781536222906 | Candlewick
Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to helping people, first as a Baptist minister and scholar and later as the foremost leader in the African-American civil rights movement. An organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott and cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. As a result of his actions, the United States Congress passed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. This book’s powerful story and important message, originally published in 1964, remain as relevant today as they were more than fifty years ago. With a new foreword by the author’s widow, Xernona Clayton, the text has been reviewed and updated for a new generation and features striking new illustrations by Donald Bermudez.

Polo Cowboy
By G. Neri
Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536207118 | Candlewick
When Cole moves in with his dad, Harp, he thinks life will be sweet – just him and his horse, Boo, hanging out with Philadelphia’s urban cowboys. But when Harp says he has to get a job, Cole winds up as a stable hand for the polo team at George Washington Military Academy, where the players are rich, white, and stuck-up – all except Ruthie, the team’s first and only girl, who’s determined to show the others she can beat them at their own game. As Cole and Ruthie become friends – and maybe more – he starts imagining his future, maybe even at the academy. But between long workdays, arrogant polo players, and a cousin trying to pull Cole into his dangerous business, that future seems remote. Will Cole find the courage to stand and be seen in a world determined to keep him out? With striking illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson, celebrated author G. Neri’s novel weaves themes of tenacity and community into a rousing sports story inspired by Philadelphia’s real-life urban cowboys and polo players.

Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life
Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
208 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593381595 | Crown BFYR
In the stunning follow-up to The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth, award-winning Black authors and artists come together to create a moving anthology collection celebrating Black love, Black creativity, Black resistance, and Black life. Prominent Black creators lend their voice, their insight, and their talent to an inspiring anthology that celebrates Black culture and Black life. Essays, poems, short stories, and historical excerpts blend with a full-color eight-page insert of spellbinding art to capture the pride, prestige, and jubilation that is being Black in America. In these pages, find the stories of the past, the journeys of the present, and the light guiding the future.

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
By Kekla Magoon
400 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536214185 | Candlewick
In this comprehensive, inspiring, and all-too-relevant history of the Black Panther Party, Kekla Magoon introduces readers to the Panthers’ community activism, grounded in the concept of self-defense, which taught Black Americans how to protect and support themselves in a country that treated them like second-class citizens. For too long the Panthers’ story has been a footnote to the civil rights movement rather than what it was: a revolutionary socialist movement that drew thousands of members – mostly women – and became the target of one of the most sustained repression efforts ever made by the U.S. government against its own citizens. Revolution in Our Time puts the Panthers in the proper context of Black American history, from the first arrival of enslaved people to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Kekla Magoon’s eye-opening work invites a new generation of readers grappling with injustices in the United States to learn from the Panthers’ history and courage, inspiring them to take their own place in the ongoing fight for justice.

Tamil Heritage Month 2022

Since 2016, Tamil Heritage Month has been celebrated in January. Here are a few books starring Tamil characters to give you more insight into the culture.

Born Behind Bars
By Padma Venkatraman
272 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593112472 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born, because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. He’s never met his dad, so the only family he’s got are their cellmates, and the only place he feels least bit free is in the classroom, where his kind teacher regales him with stories of the wonders of the outside world. Then one day a new warden arrives and announces Kabir is too old to stay. He gets handed over to a long-lost “uncle” who unfortunately turns out to be a fraud, and intends to sell Kabir. So Kabir does the only thing he can – run away as fast as his legs will take him. How does a boy with nowhere to go and no connections make his way? Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid, and she takes him under her wing. But plotting their next move is hard – and fraught with danger – in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children. This is not the world Kabir dreamed of – but he’s discovered he’s not the type to give up. Kabir is ready to show the world that he – and his mother – deserve a place in it.

The Bridge Home
By Padma Venkatraman
208 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781524738136 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Life is harsh on the teeming streets of Chennai, India, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter – and friendship – on an abandoned bridge that’s also the hideout of Muthi and Arul, two homeless boys, and the four of them soon form family of sorts. And while making their living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to take pride in, too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

Tomatoes for Neela
By Padma Lakshmi
Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593202708 | Viking BFYR
Neela loves cooking with her amma and writing down the recipes in her notebook. It makes her feel closer to her paati who lives far away in India. On Saturdays, Neela and Amma go to the green market and today they are buying tomatoes to make Paati’s famous sauce. But first, Neela needs to learn about all the different kinds of tomatoes they can pick from. And as Neela and Amma cook together, they find a way for Paati to share in both the love and the flavors of the day. Bestselling author and host of Bravo’s Top Chef and Hulu’s Taste the Nation Padma Lakshmi takes young readers on an intergenerational journey full of delicious flavors and fun food facts that celebrates a family’s treasured recipes.

Coming soon:

I’ll Go and Come Back
By Rajani LaRocca
Illustrated by Sara Palacios
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536207170 | Candlewick
Release Date: March 29, 2022
When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond — looking at books together, making designs with colored sand, shopping at the market, playing games, eating chapatis, and sipping warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they “I’ll go and come back.” Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
By Shyam Selvadurai
280 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774880333 | Tundra Books
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Shyam Selvadurai’s brilliant novels, Funny Boy and Cinnamon Gardens, have garnered him international acclaim. In his first young adult novel, now with a new cover, he explores first love with clarity, humor and compassion. The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of monsoons. Fourteen-year-old Amrith is caught up in the life of the cheerful, well-to-do household in which he is being raised by his vibrant Auntie Bundle and kindly Uncle Lucky. He tries not to think of his life “before,” when his doting mother was still alive. Amrith’s holiday plans seem unpromising: he wants to appear in his school’s production of Othello and he is learning to type at Uncle Lucky’s tropical fish business. Then, like an unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith’s ordered life is storm-tossed. He finds himself falling in love with the Canadian boy. Othello, with its powerful theme of disastrous jealousy, is the backdrop to the drama in which Amrith finds himself immersed.