Favorite Books Featuring Black Characters
As you may already know, I adore children’s books, especially picture books as I find myself in awe of the illustrations and how far we have come in creating meaningful stories in even the most simple ways. My son recently brought this book home from the school library saying he brought it because it seemed like a “me” kind of book. When I wondered aloud what kind of book is a “me” kind of book, he described that the book encouraged children to think and wonder and be curious. You nailed it, kid. (It also happened to be illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Kenard Pak). I was delighted (and more than a bit amused) that he knew my taste in books so well. Books can indeed be transformational and can help parents take complicated topics and present them in ways that are both important and engaging for children. 
During Black History Month, many families are exploring ways to honor the history and achievements of Black individuals while also teaching children about racism and the need for more racial equity and inclusion. Books are certainly an excellent means of doing that. There are many wonderfully curated book lists featuring books about black history, oppression and anti-racism, like this one by Embrace Race Lead Curator Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock or this list created by a group of BIPOC teachers and librarians.
Diversity however, must not be limited to February nor must it be limited to stories of oppression and racism. It is vital to broaden the narrative to include books featuring Black characters with a full range of emotions, experiences, child-like wonder, and imagination even in everyday situations, where “otherness” is not the central issue. In so doing, not only do Black children see themselves represented more fully, but white children also develop empathy and connections for the full human experience of Black children and no longer see white characters as the default.
Below is a list of four of my favorite children’s books featuring Black characters that are also created by Black authors and illustrators. 

Rocket Says Look Up! By Nathan Bryon

Inspiring readers to dream big, Rocket is intent on helping her community stop and look up for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is a fun book with a powerful message to live in present and appreciate the moment. This book features fun and vibrant illustration by Dapo Adeola.

We’re Going to Find the Monster!

By Malorie Blackman

A funny, celebration of imagination, creativity and family, this book takes you on a charming, beautifully illustrated adventure. Shout out to illustrator Dapo Adeola who also illustrated Rocket Says Look Up!

Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora

A beautiful story of generosity and community, inspired by the strong female role models in author Oge Mora’s life. Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu’s stew, with an extra serving of love. An author’s note explains that “Omu” (pronounced AH-moo) means “queen” in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean “Grandma.” This book was inspired by the strong female role models in Oge Mora’s life.

Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper

A story of wonder, illustrated with lush paintings, explores the connection between a grandson and his grandfather. Max loves his grandpa. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa promises Max that the moon at Grandpa’s house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. On that swervy-curvy car ride back to his house, Max watches as the moon tags along. But what happens when the moon goes behind the clouds? An excellent book by author and illustrator Floyd Cooper who is a Coretta Scott King Award winner. 

Here are some additional children’s books featuring Black characters that are definitely worth checking out: 

Sulwe- Written by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, this story of Sulwe introduces children to the concepts of colourism, self-confidence, and inner beauty. This book is beautifully illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Sulwe is the tale of a little girl who has a darker skin tone than her family and school friends. All she wants is to be lighter, until one night she goes on a magical adventure, and her mind opens up to her natural beauty.

Change Sings– Written by poet Amanda Gorman, who gained much-deserved attention for her poem at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, and illustrated by Laurn Long,  Change Sings tells the story of a young girl as she leads a cast of characters on a musical journey and teaches them that they all have the power to make changes. 

You can also find out some of my other favourite children’s books on a variety of topics such as neurodiversity, grief, emotions and more on my pinterest board. 

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