In honor of Black History Month, we’ve gathered a selection of titles for young readers that commemorate the impact of African American cultural and political figures both past and present.
Glenda Armand, illus. by Keisha Morris. Scholastic Press, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-338-76689-9. Ages 4–8. This child’s view of the Great Migration begins with Thelma, a Black third grader living in Vacherie, La., watching trains pass by. One train, the Sunset Limited, is headed for California, where the child’s uncle fled when “a man named Jim Crow had made trouble.” Soon, Thelma joins a train of her own: the schooltrain, a line formed by Black kids of all ages to travel together to school. The book received a starred review from PW.
Kwame Alexander, illus. by Dare Coulter. Little, Brown, $18.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-316-47312-5. Ages 4–8. In this picture book, a narrator questions how to retell the painful history of America as a class of schoolchildren start a lesson. The book received a starred review from PW.
Kimberly Annece Henderson. Dial, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-059-352924-9. Ages 3–7. Addressed to “yesteryears”—African American individuals featured in archival photographs from the turn of the century—this history-steeped picture book debut offers a visual retrospective of ancestors who paved the way for Black Americans today.
Kim Taylor. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5224-8. Ages 4–8. The events of the first Juneteenth are depicted from the perspective of Huldah, an African American child whose 10th birthday is on June 19, 1865.
Roberta Flack with Tonya Bolden, illus. by Hayden Goodman. Random House/Schwartz, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-5934-7987-2. Ages 4–8. Flack reflects on her childhood filled with musical inspiration and how a gift from her father kickstarted her personal passion for music. See our story on the making of the picture book. The book received a starred review from PW.
Traci N. Todd, illus. by Shannon Wright. Orchard, $21.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-338-30590-6. Ages 7–10. This picture book biography follows the journey of Ormes (1911–1985) towards becoming the first nationally syndicated Black woman cartoonist.
Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Frank Morrison. Candlewick, Apr. 11 $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-1554-0. Ages 7–10. This picture book follows the achievements of MacNolia Cox (1923–1976), who in 1936 became the first African American to win the Akron, Ohio, spelling bee, thus qualifying for the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The book received a starred review from PW.
Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman, illus. by Keith Mallett. Crown, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-56322-9. Ages 4–8. Beginning his life in Philadelphia, where slavery was outlawed, Augustus Jackson (1808–1852) worked to become a successful Black ice cream vendor, his creations taking him all the way to the White House.
Katheryn Russell-Brown, illus. by Kim Holt. Viking, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-40354-9. Ages 4–8. Russell-Brown recognizes the contributions of Black “sheroes of the Civil Rights Movement” in this collection of 12 brief biographies, followed by a spread on freedom marchers.
Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. Doubleday, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-5935-7106-4. Ages 3–7. The sounds of early 20th-century Cotton Plant, Ark., contribute to a child’s musical innovations in this early life portrait of Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973), godmother of rock and roll. The book received a starred review from PW.
Sandra Neil Wallace, illus. by Bryan Collier. S&S/Wiseman, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-5344-5103-2. Readers can trace the life of civil rights activist Diane Nash (b. 1938), from her childhood in Chicago to her first encounters with segregation in Tennessee. The book received a starred review from PW.
Alana Tyson, illus. by London Ladd. Philomel, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-593-52570-8. Ages 4–8. A Black child narrator explores what the American flag means to them.
Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by Keturah A. Bobo. Thomas Nelson, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4002-3125-6. Ages 4–8. Lee (b. 1926), a Black activist and storyteller known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” is celebrated in this picture book biography for her work to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday.
Tonya Bolden, illus. by R. Gregory Christie. HarperCollins, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-0629-9438-7. Ages 4–8. Readers learn of the early life of rock and roll trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973), following her childhood traveling with her mother and singing gospel. The book received a starred review from PW.
Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by James E. Ransome. Holiday House, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3702-3. Ages 6–9. Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax (1814–1894), inventor of what was originally known as the saxophon, is highlighted for his contributions to music across the world. The book received a starred review from PW.
Tameka Fryer Brown, illus. by Nikkolas Smith. HarperCollins, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-309344-7. Ages 6–10. Best friends Keira and Bianca have a difficult conversation about race when Keira discovers a Confederate flag flying from Bianca’s home.
Selene Castrovilla, illus. by Laura Freeman. Holiday House, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3863-1. Ages 4–8. Readers will learn about tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover (b. 1973) in this picture book biography spanning from his early childhood commitment to dance to a career on the Broadway stage.
Angela Dalton, illus. by Lauren Semmer. HarperCollins, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-307321-0. Ages 4–8. This tribute to Nichelle Nichols (1932–2022) begins with a Black child’s family tuning in to Star Trek, proud to view Nichols’s Lieutenant Uhura.
Tami Charles, illus. by Bryan Collier. Orchard, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-338-75204-5. Ages 4–8. Collaborators Charles and Collier celebrate the Black diaspora across time and space in this ode to Black historical figures. The book received a starred review from PW.
You Are My Pride: A Love Letter from Your Motherland
Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Astra Young Readers, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-63592-387-2. Ages 4–8. Told from the perspective of Mother Africa, this picture book highlights the connection of humanity and nature.
Chiquita Mullins Lee and Carmella Van Vleet, illus. by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. Kokila, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-40650-2. Ages 4–8. In a fictionalized story centering woodcarver and folk artist Pierce (1892–1984), a narrating child and their father head into Pierce’s barbershop.
Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge. Zest, $17.99 paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-7284-6407-7. Ages 10 and up. Using the historic autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself as this book’s source material, educators Edinger and Younge craft a found-verse narrative that draws from the subject’s life. The book received a starred review from PW.
Crystal Simone Smith. Holt, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-85436-0. Ages 14 and up. Poet Smith presents an affecting collection of blackout poems—pieces developed by redacting sections of an existing work to create something new—using passages from George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo.
Krystal Marquis. Dial, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-46333-8. Ages 12 and up. In this historical YA romance inspired by the real life of automobile manufacturer C.R Patterson, the children of William Davenport navigate classism, familial expectations, gender norms, and racism in 1910 Chicago. See our q&a with Marquis. The book received a starred review from PW.