Today is Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and also celebrates African-American culture. Here’s a reading list to keep the conversation going any day of the year.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water
By Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson
Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
48 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593307359 | Kokila
The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson. A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.
Build a House
By Rhiannon Giddens
Illustrated by Monica Mikai
40 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536222524 | Candlewick
As an acclaimed musician, singer, songwriter, and cofounder of the traditional African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has long used her art to mine America’s musical past and manifest its future, passionately recovering lost voices and reconstructing a nation’s musical heritage. Written as a song to commemorate the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth – which was originally performed with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma – and paired here with bold illustrations by painter Monica Mikai, Build a House tells the moving story of a people who would not be moved and the music that sustained them. Steeped in sorrow and joy, resilience and resolve, turmoil and transcendence, this dramatic debut offers a proud view of history and a vital message for readers of all ages: honor your heritage, express your truth, and let your voice soar, even – or perhaps especially – when your heart is heaviest.
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.
Emile and the Field
By Kevin Young
Illustrated by Chioma Ebinama
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984850423 | Make Me A World
Emile loves the field close to his home – in spring, summer, and fall, when it gives him bees and flowers, blossoms and leaves. But not as much in winter, when he has to share his beautiful, changeable field with other children . . . and their sleds. This relatable and lyrical ode to one boy’s love for his neighborhood field celebrates how spending time in nature allows children to dream, to imagine . . . and even to share.
By Ibram X. Kendi
Illustrated by Cbabi Bayoc
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110515 | Kokila
As children all over the world get ready for bed, the moon watches over them. The moon knows that when we sleep, we dream. And when we dream, we imagine what is possible and what the world can be. With dynamic, imaginative art and poetic prose, Goodnight Racism delivers important messages about antiracism, justice, and equality in an easy-to-read format that empowers readers both big and small. Goodnight Racism gives children the language to dream of a better world and is the perfect book to add to their social justice toolkit.
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!
Mae Makes a Way
By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Illustrated by Andrea Pippins
48 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525645856 | Crown BFYR
Mae had a dream to make one-of-a-kind hats. But the path for a Black female designer was unclear, so Mae made a way, leaving her home in the segregated South to study at the Chicago School of Millinery. Mae had the skills, but craved the independence to create her own styles. So Mae found a way. In Philadelphia, she became the first Black woman to own a business on South Street. Whether you were Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson or a lady from the neighborhood, Mae wanted you to look good and feel special in one of her original hats. A mother, a successful entrepreneur, and a community advocate, Mae led the way. Published in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, acclaimed author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Two Naomis) and award-winning illustrator Andrea Pippins (I Love My Hair) bring the life of fashion entrepreneur and civic organizer Mae Reeves to the page. And when you are done reading, explore Mae’s store and styles in person at her permanent exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations
By Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by Keith Mallett
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525516095 | Nancy Paulsen Books
In Jacksonville, Florida, two brothers, one of them the principal of a segregated, all-black school, wrote the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” so his students could sing it for a tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. From that moment on, the song has provided inspiration and solace for generations of Black families. Mothers and fathers passed it on to their children who sang it to their children and grandchildren. Known as the Black National Anthem, it has been sung during major moments of the Civil Rights Movement and at family gatherings and college graduations. Inspired by this song’s enduring significance, Kelly Starling Lyons and Keith Mallett tell a story about the generations of families who gained hope and strength from the song’s inspiring words.
Why Not You?
By Ciara and Russell Wilson
Illustrated by Jessica Gibson
With JaNay Brown-Wood
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593374405 | Random House BFYR
We all have big dreams! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine our big dreams coming true. But what if someone saw all the amazing and spectacular parts of us – our winning smiles, our fancy feet, our warm hearts – and asked, “Why not you?”. Whether it’s becoming a football player or a pop star or the president or a scientist: Why not you? In this picture book debut, superstars Ciara and Russell Wilson encourage readers to see themselves achieving their dreams, no matter how outrageous they may seem. It’s a lyrical celebration of self-esteem, perseverance, and daring to shoot for the stars.
For older readers:
By Nic Stone
240 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781101939529 | Crown BFYR
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up – way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice
By Bryan Stevenson
288 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593177044 | Ember
In this very personal work – adapted from the original #1 bestseller, which the New York Times calls “as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so” – acclaimed lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom. Stevenson’s story is one of working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society – the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization. Through this adaptation, young people of today will find themselves called to action and compassion in the pursuit of justice. Proceeds of this book will go to charity to help in Stevenson’s important work to benefit the voiceless and the vulnerable as they attempt to navigate the broken U.S. justice system.
Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman
By Kristen R. Lee
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593309155 | Crown BFYR
Savannah Howard sacrificed her high school social life to make sure she got into a top college. Her sights were set on an HBCU, but when she is accepted to the ivy-covered walls of Wooddale University on a full ride, how can she say no? Wooddale is far from the perfectly manicured community it sells on its brochures, though. Savannah has barely unpacked before she comes face to face with microaggressions stemming from racism and elitism. Then Clive Wilmington’s statue is vandalized with blackface. The prime suspect? Lucas Cunningham, Wooddale’s most popular student and son of a local prominent family. Soon Savannah is unearthing secrets of Wooddale’s racist history. But what’s the price for standing up for what is right? And will telling the truth about Wooddale’s past cost Savannah her own future? A stunning, challenging, and timely debut about racism and privilege on college campuses.
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.
What Is Juneteenth?
By Kirsti Jewel and Who HQ
Illustrated by Manuel Gutierrez
112 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593384695 | Penguin Workshop
On June 19, 1865, a group of enslaved men, women, and children in Texas gathered around a Union solder and listened as he read the most remarkable words they would ever hear. They were no longer enslaved: they were free. The inhumane practice of forced labor with no pay was now illegal in all of the United States. This news was cause for celebration, so the group of people jumped in excitement, danced, and wept tears of joy. They did not know it at the time, but their joyous celebration of freedom would become a holiday – Juneteenth – that is observed each year by more and more Americans. Author Kirsti Jewel shares stories from Juneteenth celebrations, both past and present, and chronicles the history that led to the creation of this joyous day.