As an avid reader and author, I'm always looking for great books to read and share with my friends and family. One of my favorite activities with my kids when they were little was visits to the library. We went 2-3 times a week and they'd always leave with dozens of books to last until our next visit. My love for reading continues even though my kids are big and not interested in library visits with me any longer.
One of my personal goals is to diversify my bookshelf by reading as many books by BIPOC authors as I can. For Black History Month, I wanted to amplify Black authors and their work. Publishing remains a predominantly white enterprise with Black and minority authors, editors, agents, etc. lacking in representation. That's why it's important that we support the #ownvoices movement, books written by us and for us. We are empowered to tell our OWN stories and deserve a seat at the table.
I reached out to my author friends for recommendations of new children's and middle-grade books that were published in 2020. This list is just a snapshot of some of the great books published by Black authors and illustrators last year. It is not an extensive list, but a list to get you started on diversifying your children's bookshelves. I hope that you explore the pages of these books (and others) with your children.
Don't forget that you can request books from your local library for FREE! So let's get started.
Praline Lady by Kirstie Myvett - In nineteenth-century New Orleans, a praline lady strolls the French Quarter, selling her delectable sweets. These entrepreneur women of color were once a common sight in the neighborhood. Young readers will go along with this praline lady as she makes her pralines, sells them from her basket, and grows her business.
Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown - From sunset to bedtime, two brown-skinned parents lovingly care for their beautiful brown baby: first, they play outside, then it is time for dinner and a bath, and finally a warm snuggle before bed.
Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow - Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl's mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.
Let's Dance! by Valerie Bolling - Tap, twirl, twist, spin! With musical, rhyming text, author Valerie Bolling shines a spotlight on dances from across the globe, while energetic art from Maine Diaz shows off all the moves and the diverse people who do them. From the cha cha of Cuba to the stepping of Ireland, kids will want to leap, dip, and zip along with the dances on the page!
Tiara's Hat Parade by Kelly Starling Lyons - Tiara has a gift for storytelling; her momma has a gift for making hats. When a new store opens that sells cheaper hats, Momma has to set her dreams aside, but Tiara has an idea for helping Momma's dreams come true again.
The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard - In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read.
Magnificient Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon Told by a succession of exuberant young narrators, Magnificent Homespun Brown is a story -- a song, a poem, a celebration -- about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin. With vivid illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, Samara Cole Doyon sings a carol for the plenitude that surrounds us and the self each of us is meant to inhabit.
A Place Inside Me by Zetta Elliot - In this powerful, affirming poem by award-winning author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year.
There is a place inside of me
a space deep down inside of me
where all my feelings hide.
Red Shoes by Karen English- Malika is delighted when Nana surprises her with a beautiful new pair of red shoes! And with a click-clack-click and a swish, swish, swish, Malika wears her wonderful new shoes everywhere she goes. But one day, the shoes begin to pinch Malika's toes. And alas, they don't let her forget that her feet have grown! Soon Malika and Nana are off to the Rare Finds Resale Shop, where the shoes can be resold -- so somebody else can enjoy them!
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes - 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!
Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera - With lyrical prose and a tender touch, the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Mama and Me is an ode to the strength of the bond between a mother and a daughter as they spend a rainy day together.
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles - A lyrical, heart-lifting love letter to Black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will, from powerhouse rising star author Tami Charles and esteemed, award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier.
Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton - An ode to the girl with scrapes on her knees and flowers in her hair, and every girl in between, this exquisite treasury will appeal to readers of Dear Girl and I Am Enough and have kids poring over it to find a poem that's just for them.
Black Is A Rainbow Color by Angela Joy - A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.
Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan - Carol Olivia Clementine lives with Mama Rose. Mama Rose is everything—tender and sweet. She is also as stern and demanding as any good parent should be. In the midst of their happy home, Carol misses her mother and father. She longs to be with them. But until that time comes around, she learns to surrender to the love that is present. Mama Rose becomes her “home.”