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

© 2020 Cooperative Children's Book Center

June 2020: We’ve received a number of requests from around Wisconsin in recent days for books for children and teens 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.

Finally, 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.

We have chosen most of the books for this list from among titles we’ve recommended for our annual best-of-the-year list, CCBC Choices, emphasizing books by Black creators. It is far from exhaustive; there are many other books we’ve recommended, and as the Cincinnati Public Library and other lists attest, 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.

Click on underlined book titles to see the CCBC review of the book, and/or the cover image.
Complete list of CCBC bibliographies

PreK-Grade 2

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

    Cooper, Floyd. The Ring Bearer. Philomel, 2017. 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 Books, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 3-8

    Evans, Shane W.. We March. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2012. 32 pages. Ages 5-9

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

    Johnson, Angela. Daddy Calls Me Man. Illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell. Orchard, 1997. 32 pages. Ages 6 - 9

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

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

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

    Mora, Oge. Saturday. 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 Pinkney. Scholastic, 2000. 28 pages. Ages 3 - 11

    Pumphrey, Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey . The Old Truck. Norton Young Readers, 2020. 40 pages. Ages 18 months - 3 years

    Thompkins-Bigelow, Jamilah. Mommy’s Khimar. Illustrated by Ebony Glenn. Salaam Reads / Atheneum, 2018. 32 pages. Ages 3-6

Grades 3-5

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

    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

    Clark-Robinson, Monica. Let the Children March: . Illustrated by Frank Morrison. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 32 pages.

    Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Finding Langston. Holiday House, 2018. 107 pages. Ages 8-11

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

    Draper, Sharon. Blended. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2018. 308 pages. Ages 9-12

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

    Giovanni, Nikki. Rosa. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Henry Holt, 2005. 32 pages. Ages 6-10

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

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

    Lyons, Kelly Starling. Going Down Home with Daddy. Illustrated by Daniel Mintner. Peachtree, 2019. 32 pages. Ages 5-8

    Magoon, Kekla. The Season of Styx Malone. Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2018. 297 pages. Ages 9-12

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

    Shabazz, Ilyasah and Renée Watson . Betty Before X. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. 256 pages. Ages 8-12

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

Grades 6-12

    . Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy. Illustrated by Various Artists. Penny Candy, 2018. 40 pages. Age 8 and older

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

    Hudson, editor, Cheryl and Wade Hudson, editor. Foreword by Ashley Bryan . 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 13 and older

    Magoon, Kekla. Light It Up. Henry Holt, 2019. 358 pages. Age 13 and older

    Morrow, editor, Bethany C.. Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2019. 245 pages. Age 11 and older

    Petrus, Junauda. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Dutton, 2019. 312 pages. Age 14 and older

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

    Reynolds, Jason. Look Both Ways. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2019. 188 pages. Ages 10-14

    Shabazz, Ilyasah and Kekla Magoon . X: A Novel. Candlewick Press, 2015. 348 pages. Age 14 and older

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

    Weatherford, Carole Boston and Ekua Holmes . Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Candlewick Press, 2015. 34 pages. Age 10 and older

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

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

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

This list may be reproduced and distributed by educational and/or nonprofit organizations so long as credit is given to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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