Books by Theme


Heroes are not just characters in comic books, saving the day. They are real people who make a brave choice in a difficult situation, take a risk and beat the odds, or stand up for what's right when no one else will. Some heroes become famous and change the world for those who come after them. Some heroes change the world for one person. Whether or not you make history, the message in these recommended books for kids ages 0-9 is that we can find acts of courage all around us — even in ourselves.

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

Bronzeville Boys and Girls

By: Gwendolyn Brooks
Illustrated by: Faith Ringgold
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This collection of poems, first published in 1956, reveals the heroes we see in our everyday lives. Vibrant paintings add a fresh, new dimension and bring the poet's Chicago neighborhood to life.

Dear Mr. Rosenwald

By: Carole Boston Weatherford
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A 10 year old girl narrates this fictionalized story, based on real events and people, of how her rural southern town builds a new school for African American children with the help of Julius Rosenwald (then president of Sears Roebuck).


By: Jonah Winter
Illustrated by: Sean Qualls
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

John Birks Gillespie was an angry child from an abusive home. He was able to overcome huge obstacles when given a trumpet to channel his anger and begin the journey to jazz. 'Dizzy' Gillespie's story is told in swirling images and rhythmic language, telling the story of how music inspired him and how he used his talents to inspire others.

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman

By: Louise Borden, Mary Kay Kroeger, Teresa Flavin
Illustrated by: Teresa Flavin
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Bessie Coleman grew up picking cotton in Texas, but she aimed high — soaring into history as the first African American woman aviator. Her riveting story is told in inviting, rhythmic language and engaging illustration.

Just Like Josh Gibson

By: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: Beth Peck
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The year the narrator's grandma was born, Negro League great Josh Gibson hit a baseball so hard it went all the way from Pittsburgh and landed in Philadelphia! No surprise then that Grandmama learns to play baseball just like Josh Gibson. Warm and expressive illustrations depict this nostalgic saga of two heroes — Gibson and Grandmama.

Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals

By: Ashley Bryan
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Three well known spirituals, "This Little Light of Mine," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," have been interpreted in vivid, jewel-toned illustrations and presented in a large format for a new generation. A bit of information about the songs' history as well as musical notation for each are included.

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

By: Phil Bildner
Illustrated by: John Parra
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Cornelius Washington was proud of his hometown, New Orleans. His job as a sanitation worker was important before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city but became even more important after when Cornelius worked with others to help restore it. Textured illustrations and a hope-filled narrative combine fact with fiction for a moving look at a catastrophic event.

Pretty Brown Face

By: Andrea Pinkney
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Who is that beautiful face in the mirror? Why it is baby, held by a loving daddy. This simple yet appealing book is presented in a format appropriate for the youngest reader to hold.


By: Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rosa Parks was an ordinary woman who became a hero because she "was not going to give in to that which was wrong." A catalyst for the famous Montgomery Bus boycott in Alabama, she turned the nation's attention to a glaring injustice in our society. Powerful illustrations evoke a time before the Civil Rights era and give the reader a glimpse at a person, her impact, and a period in American history.

The People Could Fly: The Picture Book

By: Virginia Hamilton
Illustrated by: Diane Dillon, Leo Dillon
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

To escape the horrors of slavery, some people who remembered the old magic flew away from their enslavement. This is a richly illustrated homage to the reteller of the folktale (that first appeared in a 1985 collection) and to the dignity and history of African Americans.

Wind Flyers

By: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: Loren Long
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A young African American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle, who realized his dream of flying by becoming a Tuskegee Airman during World War II. Richly hued paintings evoke the period, and spare language allows the story to speak for itself.

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"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." — Walt Disney