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Black Experiences: Affirmation and Resilience, Activism and Resistance in 45 Books for PreK-Grade 12

©2024, 2020 Cooperative Children's Book Center

June 2020: We’ve received a number of requests from around Wisconsin for books addressing systemic racism. But just as important, we know, thanks to Black colleagues and book creators, are books that go beyond pain narratives and celebrate Black lives.

We also know that the work of seeking out and sharing books about Black experience is the responsibility of all of us doing work related to connecting young readers with books, not just of Black librarians and educators. But it’s important to know there are other wonderful curated lists available. Here are two to start with:

If you’re interested in purchasing books on any of these lists, check out this list of Black-owned bookstores.

By all means share the books on this list with white children, too; as a matter of course and intention sharing diverse books is essential. But if you are also looking specifically for books about race and racism, we have also created Race and Racism: Selected Books for Children and Teens.

Most of the books for this list are among titles we’ve recommended for our annual best-of-the-year list, CCBC Choices. It is far from exhaustive; there are many other books we’ve recommended, and many other books available for children and teens acknowledging that Black Lives Matter by celebrating and affirming Black identity and speaking the truth of Black experiences.

PreK - Grade 2

Barnes, Derrick The King of Kindergarten. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 3-7

Bingham, Winsome Soul Food Sunday. Illustrated by C. G. Esperanza. Abrams, 2021. 40 pages. Ages 4-8

Cabrera, Cozbi A. Me & Mama. Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. A Denene Millner Book/Simon & Schuster, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Charles, Tami All Because You Matter. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Orchard/Scholastic, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Copeland, Misty Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. Putnam, 2014. 32 pages. Ages 5-10

Duncan, Monique When Mama Braids My Hair. Sweet Pea, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 3-8

Evans, Shane W. We March. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook, 2012. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

Harrison, Vashti Big. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Little, Brown, 2023. 64 pages. Ages 4-8

Hughes, Langston My People. Illustrated by Charles R., Jr. Smith. Atheneum/Ginee Seo Books, 2009. 32 pages. Age 3 and older

Johnson, Angela A Girl Like Me. Illustrated by Nina Crews. Lerner/Millbrook, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Joy, Angela Black Is a Rainbow Color. Illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Roaring Brook, 2020. 40 pages. Ages 4-10

Larkin, Shabazz The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter. Illustrated by Shabazz Larkin. Readers to Eaters, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 2-7

McDaniel, Breanna J. Hands Up!. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Dial/Penguin, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 4-9

Mora, Oge Saturday. Illustrated by Oge Mora. Little, Brown, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 3-8

Perkins, Useni Eugene Hey Black Child. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Little, Brown, 2017. 32 pages. Ages 3-8

Pinkney, Sandra L. Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children. Illustrated by Myles C. Pinkney. Scholastic, 2000. 28 pages. Ages 3-11

Pumphrey, Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey The Old Truck. Illustrated by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey. Norton, 2020. 40 pages. Ages 18 months - 4 years

Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah Mommy's Khimar. Illustrated by Ebony Glenn. Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 3-6

Grades 3 - 5

Alexander, Kwame The Undefeated. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify, 2019. 40 pages. Age 8 and older

Ali, S. K. and Ibtihaj Muhammad The Proudest Blue. Illustrated by Hatem Aly. Little, Brown, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 4-8

Alston, B.B. and Dean Atta, Jerry Craft, Jay Coles, P. Djeli Clark, Lamar Giles, Don P. Hooper, George M. Johnson, Varian Johnson, Kwame Mbalia, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Tochi Onyebuchi, Julian Randall, Jason Reynolds, Justin A. Reynolds, Davaun Sanders, Julian Winters Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood. Delacorte, 2021. 296 pages. Ages 8-12

Barnes, Derrick Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Illustrated by Gordon C. James. A Denene Millner Book/Bolden, 2017. 32 pages. Ages 6-10

Barnes, Derrick I Am Every Good Thing. Illustrated by Gordon C. James. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2020. 32 pages. Ages 4-10

Craft, Jerry New Kid. Illustrated by Jerry Craft. Harper, 2019. 249 pages. Ages 9-13

Draper, Sharon M. Blended. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2018. 308 pages. Ages 9-12

Elliott, Zetta Dragons in a Bag. Illustrated by Geneva B. Random House, 2018. 154 pages. Ages 7-10

Elliott, Zetta A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart. Illustrated by Noa Denmon. Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, 2020. 32 pages. Age 6-9

Giles, Chrystal D. Not an Easy Win. Random House, 2023. 245 pages. Ages 9-12

Johnson, Varian The Parker Inheritance. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2018. 331 pages. Ages 8-11

Joy, Angela Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Illustrated by Janelle Washington. Roaring Brook, 2022. 56 pages. Ages 8-12

Lyons, Kelly Starling Sing a Song: How "Lift Every Voice and Sing" Inspired Generations. Illustrated by Keith Mallett. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 6-9

Watson, Renee Ways to Make Sunshine. Bloomsbury, 2020. 175 pages. Ages 8-10

Weatherford, Carole Boston How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. Candlewick, 2023. 40 pages. Ages 6-9

Woodson, Jacqueline Harbor Me. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2018. 176 pages. Ages 9-12

Grades 6 - 12

Brown, Echo Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard. Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, 2020. 294 pages. Age 14 and older

Bryan, Ashley Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2016. 56 pages. Age 9 and older

Callender, Kacen King and the Dragonflies. Scholastic Press, 2020. 259 pages. Ages 9-12

Dionne, Evette Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box. Penguin Random House/Viking, 2020. 170 pages. Age 12 and older

Hudson, Cheryl Willis and Wade Hudson, compiler. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices. Crown, 2018. 87 pages. Age 8 and older

Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin March: Book One. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2013. 121 pages. Age 12 and older

Magoon, Kekla Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the People. Candlewick, 2021. 390 pages. Age 12 and older

Medina, Tony Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and Floyd Cooper and Cozbi A. Cabrera and Skip Hill and Tiffany McKnight and Robert Liu-Trujillo and Keith Mallett and Shawn K. Alexander and Kesha Bruce and Brianna McCarthy and Ekua Holmes and Javaka Steptoe and Chandra Cox. Penny Candy, 2018. 40 pages. Age 8 and older

Petrus, Junauda The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Dutton/Penguin Random House, 2019. 308 pages. Age 14 and older

Ramee, Lisa Moore A Good Kind of Trouble. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2019. 358 pages. Ages 10-13

Watson, Renee Piecing Me Together. Bloomsbury, 2017. 264 pages. Age 12 and older

Williams, Alicia D. Genesis Begins Again. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019. 364 pages. Ages 11-14

Woodson, Jacqueline Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2014. 336 pages. Age 10 and older

Zoboi, Ibi, compiler. Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2019. 400 pages. Age 12 and older

Zoboi, Ibi Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler. Dutton/Penguin Random House, 2022. 112 pages. Age 12 and older

Zoboi, Ibi Nigeria Jones. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2023. 369 pages. Age 14 and older

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Our Recommended Book Search includes subject access to CCBC-recommended titles based on subject headings created by our staff.