Books by Theme
The following are some of our favorite books for Black History Month — and all year long. Some describe our different histories while others show the joys and challenges that are shared by children of all colors as they learn and grow.
A Chair for My Mother
After a fire destroys their home and possessions, Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother save their money to buy a big comfortable chair. Suffused with warmth and tenderness, A Chair for My Mother celebrates family love and determination. A Caldecott Honor book. Spanish version also available.
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
Have you ever wondered how the Moon was placed in the sky? According to this Ashanti tale, Nyame, the god of all things, put it there when Anansi could not decide which of his sons deserved it. Brilliant illustrations accompany this classic retelling of a traditional tale.
Every year the narrator and his family take a trip down to Cottondale, Florida, to visit his grandmother, Bigmama. This autobiographical story recalls the joys of summer and the contrast between the author's life in the city and Bigmama’s lush, rural home. While the illustrations suggest it was a period of segregation, this thought never overpowers the carefree summer celebration.
Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin Cowboy
The most celebrated black cowboy was Bill Pickett, a fearless rodeo star with a knack for taming bulls that brought the crowds to their feet. The closing note in this book provides an overview of the history of rodeos and black cowboys.
Bright Eyes, Brown Skin
Four African American children interact with one another in a preschool environment, exploring their facial features, skin tones, what they wear, what they do, and how they learn from and enjoy each other. A happy book and nice addition to preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
Newbery Award winner Virginia Hamilton describes how Lindy and her family suffer through a long drought. Then a mysterious boy comes and teaches them the secrets of finding water hidden in the earth.
Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man
An engaging look at the many contributions of Frederick Douglass — including his work as a publisher, a diplomat to Haiti, a bank president, and a prolific writer. Chockful of quotes, excerpts from Douglass's writing, and images that capture the atmosphere of the times.
Joe and John Henry are friends who have many interests in common, including swimming. But because John Henry has brown skin and Joe's is the "color of pale moths," they cannot swim together in the town’s pool. Told by Joe and eloquently illustrated, the emotions and power of friends trying to understand an unfriendly world are timeless.
I Am Rosa Parks
The famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks has simplified her autobiography for young readers in this Puffin Easy to Read book. She describes how she was arrested for not giving up her bus seat and shows that her personal role was part of a wider political struggle.
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. grew up fascinated by big words. He would later go on to use these words to inspire a nation and call people to action. In this award-winning book, powerful portraits of King show how he used words, not weapons, to fight injustice.
My Daddy and I
A boy and his father, shown as African Americans in warmly hued illustrations, enjoy doing everyday activities together, from laundry to sharing a book and more. The simple pleasures of family life are conveyed affectionately through easy but flowing language and realistic paintings in a sturdy format.
This delightful book is set on a Caribbean island and features a little white rabbit who admires a beautiful black girl. He asks her what her secret is and she tells him to drink lots of black coffee and to eat lots of black beans. He doesn't give up though and in the end finds what change he can make.
Soonie's great grandmother was only seven-years-old when sold to the big plantation. A quilt that showed the way to freedom and chronicled the family's history connects the generations, and continues to do so. Idealized illustrations and the poetic text provide an unusual family story.
A young girl learns to find beauty in her sometimes gritty urban neighborhood, showing how the way one sees makes a difference that affects others. Luminous watercolors detail the child, her neighborhood, and suggest what she sees around her.
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Clara is born into slavery but learns an important skill when she becomes a seamstress. Her quilting ability allows Clara to put together directions to escape north to freedom when she overhears a conversation about a route to Canada.
The Gold Cadillac
Set in the 1950s, this book by Mildred Taylor is frank in its portrayal of racism. Lois and Wilma are proud when their father buys a brand new gold Cadillac. Only their mother won't ride in it. On a trip from their home in Ohio to Mississippi, there are no admiring glances only suspicion directed toward the black man driving such a fancy car. For the first time, Lois knows what it's like to feel scared because of her skin color.
Publishers Weekly called this delightful book a "landmark in children's literature." Made from her old pajamas and curtains, a young girl's new quilt inspires a dream adventure. The squares of the quilt become part of a dreamscape she enters into in order to find her lost stuffed dog. An ALA Notable Children's Book.
Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales
One of the most well known of African American folktales are the Uncle Remus tales, originally written down by Joel Chandler Harris over a hundred years ago. This four-book series drops the heavy and difficult dialect of the original tales and adds contemporary language and references to Brer Rabbit's fun.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
Stirring poems and vibrant collage illustrations combine to celebrate the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of the Civil Rights and voting rights movements during the 1950s through the 1970s. Born in the Mississippi delta, the youngest of 20 children, Hamer had to drop out of school after sixth grade to work in the cotton fields before she became a powerful voice for her people. The book vividly brings to life Hamer’s legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.
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