Hidden Shelf
February 11, 2020

Black History Month: Childrens Books

17 min read

Black History Month Book List


Featuring children’s books by black authors.


In our house, we try to make sure that the books we are reading to our kids, and the books they are reading to themselves, expose them to a wide array of diversity; racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, socio-economic, and thematic.


When considering the representation in our stack of books from the library, a couple of things that I look at are:
~ Diverse representation in characters
~ Diverse representation in authors
~ Diverse representation in content
AND I also look for books with content that specifically raises awareness about topics of
diversity, social justice, and racial inequality.


February is Black History Month-

“Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history” (www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month)

This is a great time to sit down with your children, grandchildren, students, and friends, to explore children’s books that celebrate the achievements of African Americans, to discuss the problems of racial inequality, and to seek out stories by African American authors, and stories that feature African American characters. Let Black History Month serve as a starting point for including picture books with diverse representations and minority voices into your everyday reading, and your weekly library trips, but don’t let the exploring and the inclusion of African American and minority stories stop at the end of February.

Here are some 2018/2019 books that I am excited to explore with my kids this month:
Full disclosure: I am the person that comes out of the library with overflowing book bags hanging off both of my shoulders, and multiple overstuffed bags clutched in each hand. I love children’s books and my kids love books as well. So this is a long list of books that I narrowed down from an even larger list, based on what was available in my library system, and it is only a small portion of all the wonderful books out there.

I am also including this great link: https://bcbooksandauthors.com/. (This site puts out lists each month, for children’s books by black authors that have been released that month.)


Books We’ve Read: 

{with guest book reviewers: Cormac (age 6) and Jude (age 2).} 

Click on book images to view on Amazon


Not Quite Snow White, by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
• Cormac: “It was exciting. If somebody is not being nice to you, you should tell your parents and you shouldn’t listen to what others think of you.”
• Jude: “I liked it.”
• Rachel: Great Pictures. I appreciated that it revealed racism in a way that kids could understand and recognize. It is also a story about confidence and being yourself.

Rocket Says Look Up! By Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
• Cormac: “You shouldn’t look at screens the whole day, you’ll miss lots of stuff.”
• Jude: “I like the girl”
• Rachel: Fun illustrations! I love Rocket’s infectious enthusiasm as she gets the people in her community excited about viewing the meteor shower. I was also glad that my son picked up on the message about not being glued to your phone.

Freedom Soup, by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
• Cormac: “Having slaves is not nice.” “The soup sounds yummy!”
• Jude: “I don’t want soup.” “The fighting scares me.”
• Rachel: I loved the lyrical rhythm of the text that danced through the pages. I also liked the multi-generational connection through food and tradition. It was probably a little bit too long and involved to keep my 2-year-old engaged.

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History, Vashti Harrison
• Cormac: “I liked that a lot of people tried to keep people equal.” (activists)
• Jude: (Loved looking at the pictures,over and over, but too many words on each page to keep him engaged while reading)
• Rachel: I loved the idea of this book. Each section includes the individuals name at the top, years they lived, and what they were known for (poet, activist, inventor), with a full page of information about who they are and what they did, the other half of the page is a simplistic character illustration to represent the individual. When we first sat down to read this book, it quickly became apparent that this was not a book to be read in one sitting. The descriptions are long, and it’s hard to keep the attention of little kids for more than a single page. We then decided to read this more like a chapter book. Each night we read and discuss one person. We all are learning about some people we did not know anything about, before this book.

Buzzing the Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner, by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
• Cormac: “ I liked all the bugs and experiments.” “ I am glad he was safe, but it was sad that some people burned the houses”
• Jude: (too long for him to sit and listen)
• Rachel: I was excited about this book, and I thought my “inquisitive minded” son would enjoy it as well. It was really interesting to learn about the different experiments that Charles did with insects. The book was long, and very detailed, Jude dropped out pretty early, even my older son, had a little bit of trouble staying fully engaged for the whole book. I appreciated the clever word choice and the writing style that webbed the details and the subject together.

My Mommy Medicine, by Edwidge Danticat
• Cormac: “I thought it was going to be about a mommy that has to take medicine.”
• Jude: “MOMMY!”
• Rachel: Great idea for a book, demonstrated that connection we have with our mommy (or daddy or caregiver), that proves to be the best medicine when we need it the most. A fun and easy read, with a great rhythm.

Astro Girl, by Ken Wilson-Max
• Cormac: “The cereal bar sounds good!”
• Jude: “Bar!”
• Rachel: The painted illustrations are simple yet full of texture. I love how the seemingly basic story provides context for elevating women scientists, women in space, and the endless possibilities for girls to dream of.

The Proudest Blue, Ibtihaj Muhammad
• Cormac: “You shouldn’t laugh at people who are different”
• Jude: “I didn’t like it”
• Rachel: love the imagery. Ibtihaj Muhammad, is a gold medalist and she is the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics. However, this is not a story about the Olympics. It is a story about pride, and faith, and confidence in who you are, even when others do not understand. It is a story about sisters, admiration, and strength.

Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride, by Joel Christian Gill
• Cormac: “I like it cause girls can go fast, not just boys”
• Jude: (No comment)
• Rachel: Girl Power. Equality. Motorcycles. Enough Said

Where is Mommy? By Pat Cummins
• Cormac: “ I liked it.” “You should keep looking if you can’t find someone.”
• Jude: “Brother read it”
• Rachel: A cute hide and seek easy reader book.

Hello, Crochet Friends! By Jonah Larson with Jennifer Larson
• Cormac: “I liked that he showed that boys can do crochet.”
• Jude: “ I like the blanket”
• Rachel: Apparently Jonah Larson is an internet sensation, something I knew nothing about before reading this book. I like this book because it encapsulates so much – its a story about Ethiopia, about adoption, about struggle in school, about learning something new, normalizing crafts/sewing/crocheting for all genders and ages, giving back, and even includes lessons, tips, terms so that YOU too can learn to crochet!

More Books on our “To Be Read List”

Several of these titles are young adult or early reader chapter books.
(also don’t forget to check out the link at the top of the page, to read MORE books by black authors!)

Also be sure to check out this article and video about a group of 6th grade students who posed as iconic African American figures.

Click on book images to view on Amazon

New Kid, Jerry Craft

I Can Write the World, Joshunda Sanders

A Visit to Grandad, an African ABC’s book, Sade Fadipe

Saqid Series, Siman Nuurali

Dragons in a Bag, Zetta Elliott

Fresh Princess, Denene Millner

Colorblind: a story of racism, Jonathon Harris

Hair, a family affair, Mylo Freeman

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

Reaching for the Moon, Katherine Johnson

Child of the Dream: a memoir of 1963, Sharon Robinson

Written by Rachel Wickstrom 

Rachel Wickstrom coordinates marketing at Hidden Shelf Publishing house. She’s an avid reader, master party-planner, craft enthusiast, a mom to two young boys with wildly long hair, and is married to a hospital chaplain. As an Oregon native, Rachel’s childhood memories are scented with juniper berries and the crisp mountain air of Central Oregon. She currently lives in Boise, Idaho where her days are scented with lukewarm coffee, and spilled snacks.

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