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The Best Blacks Kids Books

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Sulwe
Written by Lupita Nyong'o & illustrated by Vashti Harrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

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Mama Panya's Pancakes
Written by Mary Chamberlin and Rich Chamberlin & illustrated by Julia Cairns
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

How many people did we invite for pancakes tonight? Adika, skipping two steps ahead, sang his reply, All of our friends, Mama.

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Beatrice's Goat
Written by Page McBrier & illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

More than anything, Beatrice longs to be a schoolgirl. But in her small African village, only children who can afford uniforms and books can go to school. Beatrice knows that with six children to care for, her family is much too poor. But then Beatrice receives a wonderful gift from some people far away – a goat! Fat and sleek as a ripe mango, Mugisa (which means “luck”) gives milk that Beatrice can sell. With Mugisa’s help, it looks as if Beatrice’s dream may come true after all.

Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter beautifully recount this true story about how one child, given the right tools, is able to lift her family out of poverty. Thanks to Heifer Project International – a charitable organization that donates livestock to poor communities around the world – other families like Beatrice’s will also have a chance to change their lives.

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The Water Princess
Written by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel & illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Based on supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood, a young girl dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her African village

With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is a beautiful land. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village. And try as she might, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well. Instead of a crown, she wears a heavy pot on her head to collect the water. After the voyage home, after boiling the water to drink and clean with, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own.

Inspired by the childhood of African–born model Georgie Badiel, acclaimed author Susan Verde and award-winning author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have come together to tell this moving story. As a child in Burkina Faso, Georgie and the other girls in her village had to walk for miles each day to collect water. This vibrant, engaging picture book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water.

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Young, Gifted and Black
Written by Jamia Wilson & illustrated by Andrea Pippins
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement - from figureheads, leaders and pioneers such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, to cultural trailblazers and sporting heroes, including Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams. Strong, courageous, talented and diverse, these extraordinary men and women’s achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream … whatever it may be.

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  • A Long Walk to Water - The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

  • Radiant Child - A visually stunning picture book biography about modern art phenomenon Jean-Michel Basquiat, written and illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award winner Javaka Steptoe. Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message and art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

  • Never Forgotten - A 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. This gorgeous picture book by Newbery Honor winner Patricia C. McKissack and two-time Caldecott Medal-winning husband-and-wife team Leo and Diane Dillon is sure to become a treasured keepsake for African American families. Set in West Africa, this a lyrical story-in-verse is about a young black boy who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his father who is left behind to mourn the loss of his son. Here’s a beautiful, powerful, truly unforgettable story about family, memory, and freedom.

  • Seven Spools of Thread - In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars.

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I Just Want to Say Good Night
Written & illustrated by Rachel Isadora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Caldecott Honor-winner Rachel Isadora’s stunning oil paintings illustrate this delightful bedtime tale, set on the African plains.

The sun has set and the moon is rising, and that means it’s bedtime. But not if Lala has a say—because she’s not ready to go to sleep! First she needs to say good night to the cat. And the goat. And the chickens. And, and, and . . . Lala’s adorable stalling strategy will ring true for all parents whose little ones aren’t ready to say goodbye to the day—and all will appreciate the wonderful culmination to the bedtime ritual.

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Leon and Bob
Written & illustrated by Simon James
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-6

Leon spends his time with his imaginary friend Bob, whom no one else can see, but when a new boy the same age as Leon moves in next door, Bob suddenly disappears, leaving Leon feeling insecure and nervous about making friends with his new neighbor.

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The Mystery of the Missing Lion
Written & illustrated by Alexander McCall Smith
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

Staying with Aunty Bee at a safari camp in the Botswana countryside where a film crew is making a movie about a lion, nine-year-old Precious Ramotswe and her resourceful new friend Khumo use their detective skills to find the movie star lion when he goesmissing.

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The Soccer Fence
Written by Phil Bildner & illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

As a boy, Hector loved playing soccer in his small Johannesburg township. He dreamed of playing on a real pitch with the boys from another part of the city, but apartheid made that impossible. Then, in 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and apartheid began to crumble. The march toward freedom in South Africa was a slow one, but when the beloved Bafana Bafana national soccer team won the African Cup of Nations, Hector realized that dreams once impossible could now come true.

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The Red Pencil
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney & illustrated by Shane W. Evans
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.She collects both my hands in hers.”The Janjaweed attack without warning.If ever they come– run.” Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala– Amira’s one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey– on foot– to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind– and all kinds of possibilities. New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.

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  • Hue Boy - Full-color illustrations and a Caribbean setting highlight the story of little Hue Boy, who is constantly teased and given advice about his height but who learns how to stand tall, in spite of his size.

  • Bella Broomstick #1: Magic Mistakes - Sometimes being true to yourself is the most bewitching magic of all! This young middle-grade series is hilarious, enchanting, and filled with mischief! Perfect for fans of The Worst Witch!

  • Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged! - In 1946, Viola Desmond bought a movie ticket at the Roseland Theatre in Nova Scotia. After settling into a main floor seat, an usher came by and told her to move, because her ticket was only good for the balcony. She offered to pay the difference in price but was refused: You people have to sit in the upstairs section. Viola refused to move. She was hauled off to jail, but her actions gave strength and inspiration to Canada s black community. Vibrant illustrations and oral-style prose tell Viola s story with sympathy and historical accuracy.”

  • A Story about Afiya - Some people have dresses for every occasion but Afiya needs only one. Her dress records the memories of her childhood, from roses in bloom to pigeons in flight, from tigers at the zoo to October leaves falling. A joyful celebration of a young girl's childhood, written by the late Coretta Scott King Book Award-winning Jamaican poet James Berry.

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The Jumbies
Written by Tracey Baptiste
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Corinne La Mer claims she isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters made up by parents to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest, and shining yellow eyes follow her to the edge of the trees. They couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they? <p/> When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger at the market the very next day, she knows something extraordinary is about to happen. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, danger is in the air. Severine plans to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and to save her island home.

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Jumbie God's Revenge
Written by Tracey Baptiste
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12
Thunder rumbles, lightning strikes, danger appears . . .
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