Black History Month is a way to honor and remember how far we have come in the march for racial justice and how much work remains to be done. In celebration of the many voices and stories the Black community has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of new books, both fiction and nonfiction, for young readers and aspiring advocates.
Rio Cortez, illus. by Lauren Semmer. Workman, $14.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-5235-0749-8. Ages 5 and up.
Poet Cortez presents key names, moments, and places in Black history with lyrical text. The book offers an opportunity for children to learn their alphabet while being introduced to big ideas.
Kekla Magoon, illus. by Laura Freeman. Quill Tree, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-291251-0. Ages 4‒8.
Magoon and Freeman team up to present this overview of the life of Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, covering his early-20th-century childhood in segregated Baltimore, his persistent fight against segregation, his initiation as the first Black member of the Supreme Court in 1967, and his death in 1993. The book received a starred review from PW.
Alicia D. Williams, illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-5344-1913-1. Ages 4‒8.
Newbery Honoree Williams crafts distinctive prose evoking Black folktales from the American South in this picture book biography of Zora Neale Hurston, “a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitos to skin.” A lively, joyfully rendered portrait of a literary legend. The book received a starred review from PW.
Katherine Johnson, with Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, illus. by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. National Geographic, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4263-7193-6. Ages 4‒8.
This picture book reveals what is was like for a young Black mother of three to navigate the difficult world of the 1950s and ’60s and to succeed in an unwelcoming industry to become one of the now legendary “hidden figures” of NASA computing and space research.
Ray Anthony Shepard, illus. by Keith Mallett. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-30704-2. Ages 3‒6.
In this picture book debut, historian Shepard pens a free verse poem addressing Ona Judge, a young Black woman who emancipated herself from George and Martha Washington’s ownership. The book received a starred review from PW.
Andrea Davis Pinkney, illus. by Gillian Flint. Philomel, $14.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-593-11565-7. Ages 6‒9.
In this chapter book series opener expanding upon Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger’s She Persisted picture book series, Coretta Scott King Award winner Pinkney presents an accessible portrait of abolitionist, activist, nurse, and spy Harriet Tubman. The book received a starred review from PW.
Moira Rose Donohue, illus. by Laura Freeman. Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5341-1097-7. Ages 7–8.
Though a disability stunted his growth, William Henry “Chick” Webb did not let that get in the way of his musical pursuits. This picture book biography details the life of the Black American jazz drummer, who in the 1930s led one of the big bands of the swing era, earning him the nickname the “King of the Savoy.”
Brian Pinkney. Greenwillow, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-073528-9. Ages 4 and up.
In four stories, Pinkney guides readers through a young child’s day. With the help of his family, Kenny finally gets his own favorite outfit on. Then he must overcome his fear of the monstrous vacuum cleaner, learn to play soccer with his big sister, and get ready for bedtime. The book received a starred review from PW.
Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5415-8120-3. Ages 9‒12.
Author Weatherford and illustrator Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history. In words and pictures, they trace the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district and chronicle the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. The book received a starred review from PW.
Doyin Richards, illus. by Joe Cepeda. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-26651-4. Ages 3–5.
In this picture book based on a true story of Richards’s father, young Joe comes to America from Africa. And like so many immigrants before and after him, Joe succeeds when many thought he would fail. The book received a starred review from PW.
Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, illus. by Raissa Figueroa. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-22902-1. Ages 4‒8.
From civil rights trailblazer Roundtree comes a picture book about a precious early-morning moment between her and her grandmother—the woman who taught her everything she knew about self-worth, strength, and justice. The book received a starred review from PW.
Denise Lewis Patrick, illus. by Daniel Duncan. HarperCollins, $15.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-06-288966-9. Ages 8–12.
This joint series starter (with Dr. Mae Jemison: Brave Rocketeer) offers a comprehensive introduction to a Black pioneer whose work is often overlooked. Howard Latimer—scientist, inventor, poet, artist, and the son of “escaped slaves.” Born free in Massachusetts as the last of four children, Lewis worked odd jobs to help support the family, eventually becoming a draftsman; assisted Alexander Graham Bell with the patent drawings for the telephone; worked at the Edison Company; and fought for Black lives and equality.
B.B. Alston. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-297516-4. Ages 8–12.
A girl must earn a spot at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs in order to find her missing brother—only to discover that her unprecedented levels of potential and power have marked her as a suspect in the ongoing fight against an evil magical threat. The book, which kicks off the Supernatural Investigations series, received a starred review from PW. Read our profile on Alston.
Randi Pink. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-76847-6. Ages 12 and up.
In this historical YA novel that takes place during the Greenwood Massacre, in an area known as the “Black Wall Street,” Isaiah Wilson looks like the town troublemaker, but is an avid reader and secret poet. Angel Hill is a loner. Her father is dying, and her family’s financial situation is in turmoil. Life changes for both of them on May 31, 1921 when a vicious white mob storms the community of Greenwood. The book received a starred review from PW. See our q&a with Pink here.
Angie Thomas. HarperTeen/Balzer + Bray, $19.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-284671-6. Ages 14 and up.
Four years after publishing The Hate U Give, Thomas’s bestselling Black Lives Matter-inspired novel, she returns to her acclaimed fictional universe to explore the origins of Maverick Carter, the father of Starr Carter, THUG’s central character. The book received a starred review from PW. See our q&a with Thomas here.
Elise Bryant. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-298283-4. Ages 14 and up.
Debut author Bryant creates a wholly genuine protagonist in Tessa, a biracial Black teen and aspiring romance author who enrolls in a prestigious program for creative writing. But even as her social life flourishes, she can’t surmount a case of writer’s block. To alleviate her fear of embarrassment and lack of romantic experience, Tessa creates her own love story with Nico, a rich, white classmate. The book received a starred review from PW.
Nikki Grimes. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-68119-944-3. Ages 10–14.
In this expansive introduction to Harlem Renaissance women poets, Grimes utilizes the Golden Shovel poetry technique to create a contemporary collection of innovative feminist remixes. The book received a starred review from PW. See our q&a with Grimes here.
Kosoko Jackson. Sourcebooks Fire, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-9434-2. Ages 14 and up.
In his YA debut, Jackson features an interesting premise as well as a likeable protagonist who faces sociocultural realities across time. Days after Andre’s liver transplant operation, he passes out, and wakes up back in the 1960s. There he meets, Michael, with whom he feels an instant connection. But just as suddenly, Andre slips back to present-day Boston. Confused, the family of his donor soon reaches out, explaining the time-travel side effects of his new liver.