Books and Reading

100 Children’s Books with Black Protagonist Written by Black Authors

Stories about black lives are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed, and even celebrated. Check out this unabashed list of children's books with black protagonists written by black authors.
Back to Basics: Dancehall ABC

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“Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin” Author Christopher Myers writes in his 2014 New York Times op-ed, titled the Apartheid of Children’s Literature. Sadly, there are more children’s books written about animals than there are about children of color. “This apartheid of literature – in which characters of color are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery but are never given a pass card to traverse the lands of adventure, curiosity, the imagination of personal growth…”  may lead young children to think that stories of happy black children do not exist in real life or books. 

Are there books about talking animals?… And superpowers? And the olden days when people dressed funny? And all the combinations of those things? Like talking animals with superpowers in magical futures… but no me?

Opinion ┃ The Apartheid of Children’s Literature – The New York Times

In the most recent years, there has been a significant increase in black children’s book authors and stories with black protagonists. Data shows a 10% increase, from 2% of children’s books published in the year 2013 being about black people to 12% in the year 2020. Stories about black lives are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed, and even celebrated. Many of the newly published books with black protagonists are about self-love, these stories affirm the readers’ own identity. 

Below is an unabashed list of 100 children’s books with black protagonists written by black authors. The list is meant to celebrate stories about black youth. The list is broken up into 3 categories: 15 board books for baby to age 2, 60 picture books for children 3 to 7, and 25 children’s books for ages 8 to 12. Reading about different cultures, ethnic groups, and races is beneficial to all children. The list is not just for black children or black parents; please consider diversifying your bookshelf, no matter the skin color of the child who will read the book.

15 Board Books for Baby to Age 2: featuring Black Characters

Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker

1. Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker

Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison

2. Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison

Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Paul Howard

3. Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Paul Howard

Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee illustrated by Kadir Nelson

4. Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee illustrated by Kadir Nelson

5. Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora

6. Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora

One Love  by Cedella Marley

7. One Love by Cedella Marley

8. Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

8. Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs illustrated by Shane W. Evans

9. Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim

10. Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim

Live your life in full color, every tint, every hue. Discover. Explore! Have faith, but love more.

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

11. When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

Cassie's Colorful Day by Faith Ringgold

12. Cassie’s Colorful Day by Faith Ringgold

Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley

13. Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley

I Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Kim Wilson- Max

14. I Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Kim Wilson- Max

Baby Dance by Ann Taylor, illustrated by Marjorie van Heerden

15. Baby Dance by Ann Taylor, illustrated by Marjorie van Heerden


60 Picture Books for kids age 3 to 7: Stories about Joyful Black Children

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1. Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell

1. Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell

2. Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, illustrated Vanessa Brantley-Newton

2. Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, illustrated Vanessa Brantley-Newton

3.  Get Up, Stand Up by Cedella Marley

3. Get Up, Stand Up by Cedella Marley

5. ABC I love Me by Miriam Muhammad

5. ABC I love Me by Miriam Muhammad

6. Doc like Mommy and Doc Like Daddy by Dr. Crystal Bowe

6. Doc like Mommy and Doc Like Daddy by Dr. Crystal Bowe

7. The Patience Song by Dr. Crystal Bowe

7. The Patience Song by Dr. Crystal Bowe

8. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o illustrated by Vashti Harrison

8. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o illustrated by Vashti Harrison

9. Just the Two of Us by Will Smith illustrated by Floyd Cooper

9. Just the Two of Us by Will Smith illustrated by Floyd Cooper

10. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen illustrated by Kadir Nelson

10. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen illustrated by Kadir Nelson

I like to go walking and talking with my mom. First we zigzag walk down the street; it looks strange to the people we meet. Then we take big giant steps, … and talk in loud giant voices…

Johnathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls
11. Johnathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls, illustrated by Michael Hays

11. Johnathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls, illustrated by Michael Hays

12. My Nana and Me by Irene Smalls illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

12. My Nana and Me by Irene Smalls illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

13. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley illustrated by E.B. Lewis

13. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley illustrated by E.B. Lewis

14. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley illustrated by E.B. Lewis

14. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley illustrated by E.B. Lewis

15. Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons

15. Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons

16. Double Bass Blues by Andrea J. Loney

16. Double Bass Blues by Andrea J. Loney

17. Olivia's Doctor Adventures by Dr. Ashley Denmark

17. Olivia’s Doctor Adventures by Dr. Ashley Denmark

Imani's Moon by Janay Brown-Wood

18. Imani’s Moon by Janay Brown-Wood

19. The Meteorologist in Me by Brittney Shipp

19. The Meteorologist in Me by Brittney Shipp

20. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

20. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

Look, look my Pop Pop is a cook.

Pat, Pat. I love my chef hat.

My Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe by Irene Smalls
21. My Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe by Irene Smalls, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

21. My Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe by Irene Smalls, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

22. Blue Moon by Alicia Keys & Jessica Walton

22. Blue Moon by Alicia Keys & Jessica Walton

23. Swift Walker Science and Geography Books for Kids by Verlyn Tarlton, illustrated by Ravhsan Karimov

23. Swift Walker Science and Geography Books for Kids by Verlyn Tarlton, illustrated by Ravhsan Karimov

24. Doc 2 Doc Series by Dr. Dale Okorodudu

24. Doc 2 Doc Series by Dr. Dale Okorodudu

25. Nola The Nurse Series by Dr. Scharmaine Lawson Baker, illustrated by Marvin Alonso

25. Nola The Nurse Series by Dr. Scharmaine Lawson Baker, illustrated by Marvin Alonso

Sleeping on Tar Beach was magical. Laying on the roof in the night, with stars and skyscraper buildings all around me, made me feel rich, like I owned all that I could see.

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
26. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

26. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

27. RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherfield, illustrated by Frank Morrison

27. RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherfield, illustrated by Frank Morrison

28. Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

28. Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

29. Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Faith Ringgold

29. Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Faith Ringgold

31. Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

31. Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

32. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illustrated by Tom Knight

32. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illustrated by Tom Knight

33. Back to Basics: Dancehall ABC by Latoya Wakefield, illustrated by Kavion Robinson

33. Back to Basics: Dancehall ABC by Latoya Wakefield, illustrated by Kavion Robinson

34. Magic Trash by J. H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

34. Magic Trash by J. H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

35. Kayla the Modern Day Princess by Deedee Cummings, illustrated by Charlene Mosley

35. Kayla the Modern Day Princess by Deedee Cummings, illustrated by Charlene Mosley

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36. The Sound that Jazz Makes by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

36. The Sound that Jazz Makes by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

37. Cassie's Word Quilt by Faith Ringgold

37. Cassie’s Word Quilt by Faith Ringgold

38. Stitchin' and Pullin' by Pratricia McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

38. Stitchin’ and Pullin’ by Pratricia McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

I am a canvas being painted on by the words of my friends, family, and community. Sometimes the words are painted with blacks and grays, that leave me feeling confused. Other times the palette is filled with blues that make me want to scream and holler in a bluesy kind of way “I am not feeling it today!”

Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
41. Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

41. Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

42. Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold

42. Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold

44. Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

44. Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

45. Life is Beautiful by Keb' Mo', illustrated by Marco Furlotti

45. Life is Beautiful by Keb’ Mo’, illustrated by Marco Furlotti

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46. A Girl Like Me by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews

46. A Girl Like Me by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews

47. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

47. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

48. Grandma's Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

48. Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

49. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

49. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

50. Saturday by Oge Mora

50. Saturday by Oge Mora

51. I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

51. I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

52. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by  Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

52. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

53. Curlilocks and the Big Bad Hairbrush (series)by Yolanda King, illustrated by Fanny Liem

53. Curlilocks and the Big Bad Hairbrush (series)by Yolanda King, illustrated by Fanny Liem

54. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

54. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

55. Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

55. Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

56. A Night Out with Mama by Quvenzhane Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

56. A Night Out with Mama by Quvenzhane Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

57. Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe

57. Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe

58. Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe

58. Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe

59. Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier

59. Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier

60. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

60. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

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25 Children’s books with Black Protagonist for kids age 8 to 12

1. Little Miss Dancey Pants by Kourtni Mason

1. Little Miss Dancey Pants by Kourtni Mason

2. Firebird by Misty Copeland illustrated by Christopher Myers

2. Firebird by Misty Copeland illustrated by Christopher Myers

3. Bunheads by Misty Copeland illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey

3. Bunheads by Misty Copeland illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey

4. Freedom Soup by Tami Charles illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara

4. Freedom Soup by Tami Charles illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara

5. Salt in His Shoes by Daloris & Roslyn Jordan illustrated by Kadir Nelson

5. Salt in His Shoes by Daloris & Roslyn Jordan illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Today is Laundry day! My name is Gary and I love to learn about Great Inventors. Please join me as I learn about Thomas Jennings, the first African American to receive a patent for his invention in the United States.

Gary and the Great Inventors: It’s Laundry Day!
6. Gary and the Great Inventors: It's Laundry Day! by Akura Marshall Illustrated by Adriel Meka

6. Gary and the Great Inventors: It’s Laundry Day! by Akura Marshall Illustrated by Adriel Meka

7. Skin Like Mine by LaTashia M. Perry

7. Skin Like Mine by LaTashia M. Perry

8. The Real Slam Dunk by Charisse Richardson illustrated by Kadir Nelson

8. The Real Slam Dunk by Charisse Richardson illustrated by Kadir Nelson

9. Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni

9. Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni

10. The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford illustrated by Frank Morrison

10. The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford illustrated by Frank Morrison

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11. When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Lanam Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor the 3rd

11. When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Lanam Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor the 3rd

12. Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

12. Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

13. Sasha Savvy Starts it Up by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

13. Sasha Savvy Starts it Up by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

14. The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Tiffany Cambridge, illustrated by Chloe Ji Yoon

14. The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Tiffany Cambridge, illustrated by Chloe Ji Yoon

16. Black Women in Science by PhD Kimberly Brown Pellum

16. Black Women in Science by PhD Kimberly Brown Pellum

17. Twins: A Graphic Novel by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright

17. Twins: A Graphic Novel by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright

18. Sophie Washington Series by Tonya Duncan Ellis

18. Sophie Washington Series by Tonya Duncan Ellis

19. Simone Visits the Museum by Dr. Kelsi Bracmort, illustrated by Takeia Marie

19. Simone Visits the Museum by Dr. Kelsi Bracmort, illustrated by Takeia Marie

20. Amma's Adventures: A Normal School Day by Abena Ofori

20. Amma’s Adventures: A Normal School Day by Abena Ofori

One day a man came to the VanDerZee home with a huge contraption called a camera. It was the only camera in Lenox. Click! Boom! The man took the family’s picture and left.

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Valesquez

22. Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Valesquez

The 5 O'clock Band by Troy Andrews

23. The 5 O’clock Band by Troy Andrews

Jada Jones Series by Kelly Starling Lyons

24. Jada Jones Series by Kelly Starling Lyons

The Magnificent Markers Series by Theanne Griffith, illustrated by Reggie Brown

25. The Magnificent Markers Series by Theanne Griffith, illustrated by Reggie Brown

When you purchase books using links on our website, Unabashed Kids may receive a small commission (at no added cost to you). Your support helps us continue to discover and share incredible kids’ books!

Unabashed Editor

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