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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

African-American Experience Children’s Literary Reference Guide (2011-2016)

There were a couple things I left undone when I took my leave of NYPL. Of them, the one I probably regret the most is that I didn’t devote more energy towards getting NYPL’s landmark Black Experience in Children’s Literature list up and running.  This historic list, started as early as the 1940s and possibly 30s, would be produced by NYPL every decade or so.  I think there’s been a sixteen year lag at this point (due, in large part, to the seismic shifts in the organization) and I never created a new one in the interim. Last year I decided to take the bull by the horns and produce a list for this blog that would effectively be some of the best books by and about African-Americans produced in the last five years. Now I have updated it.

Again, I would like to stress that this is not everything out there.  It’s limited in large part by what I’ve seen and read myself, after all.  It is, in truth, a compendium of what has been published, and fantastic, since 2011.  If there are books that you think were egregiously forgotten, mention them below (and bear in mind the pub date has to be 2011 or later, the books MUST be currently in print, and the books are for kids between the ages of 0-12).

Picture Books

Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks, ISBN: 9780606368001

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9780316209175

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, illustrated by John Parra, ISBN: 9781452125787

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha, illustrated Nicole Tadgell, ISBN: 9780807547823

Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer by Tonya Bolden illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9781419707926

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780670012855

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9781570917004

Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780399233425

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9780399166150

Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub, ISBN: 9780525428091

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson, ISBN: 9780399257742

Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, ISBN: 9781600604386

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780399252846

Red, Yellow, Blue (and a Dash of White Too) by C.G. Esperanza, ISBN: 9781629146249

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780312603267

Underground by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596435384

We March by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596435391

The Hula Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781600608469

Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young, ISBN: 9780763666606

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ISBN: 9781620140277

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ISBN: 9780761458104

Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, illustrated Sean Qualls, ISBN: 9780547362656

Sail Away by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan, ISBN: 9781481430852

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A.G. Ford, ISBN: 9780763658229

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, ISBN: 9780689873768

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781423119548

Hope’s Gift by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated Don Tate, ISBN: 9780399160011

Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, ISBN: 9780399252136

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter, ISBN: 9780399250033

Every Little Thing: Based on the Song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781452106977

One Love by Cedella Marley, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781452102245

These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780547215662

New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9780823425280

H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9781606842188

My Pen by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9781423103714

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9780761339434

Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ISBN: 9781467742085

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Bettye Stroud, Bettye, and John Holyfield, ISBN: 9780763640583

Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, a Young Artist in Harlem by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, illustrated by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9780870709654

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by A.G. Ford, ISBN: 9780545166720

Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by William Low, ISBN: 9780763643591

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9781600608988

I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9781619631786

As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9781600603488

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Sean Qualls, ISBN: 9780060583101

Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9780807576502

A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9781590787120

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, ISBN: 9781416961239

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson, Jacqueline, illustrated by James Ransome, ISBN: 9780399239861

Early Chapter Books

Dog Days by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780547970448

Election Madness by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780547850719

Skateboard Party by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780544283060

Substitute Trouble by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780544223882

Halfway to Perfect by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9780399251788

Keena Ford and the Secret Journal Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780142419373

EllRay Jakes and the Beanstalk by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780670784998

EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780670784974

EllRay Jakes Walks the Plank! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper, ISBN: 9780670063062

EllRay Jakes Is a Rock Star by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper, ISBN: 9780670011582

EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper, ISBN: 9780670062430

Ellray Jakes Rocks the Holidays! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780451469090

Ellray Jakes Is Magic! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780670785001

Middle Grade Fiction

Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, ISBN: 9781423178705

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, ISBN: 9780544107717

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen, ISBN: 9780061992728

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass, illustrated by Jerry Craft, ISBN: 9780545132107

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, ISBN: 9780545224963

Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg, ISBN: 9780545535649

Riding on Duke’s Train by Mick Carlon, ISBN: 9781935248064

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng, ISBN: 9781600604515

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, ISBN: 9780545156646

Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd, ISBN: 9780763650384

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon Flake, ISBN: 9780545609609

Winter Sky by Patricia Reilly Giff, ISBN: 9780375838927

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes, ISBN: 9781599902845

Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes, ISBN: 9781629792620

The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris, ISBN: 9780547255194

Buddy by M.H. Herlong, ISBN: 9780142425442

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, ISBN: 9780545525527

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana, ISBN: 9781452124568

Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin, ISBN: 9781595145468

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper, ISBN: 9781442494978

True Legend by Mike Lupica, ISBN: 9780399252273

Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon, ISBN: 9781416978053

The Sittin’ Up by Sheila P. Moses, ISBN: 9780399257230

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, ISBN: 9780763649227

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes, ISBN: 9780316224857

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, ISBN: 9780316043083

The Other Side of Free by Krista Russell, ISBN: 9781561457106

Animal Rescue Team: Gator on the Loose! by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, ISBN: 9780375851315

Animal Rescue Team: Special Delivery by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, ISBN: 978375851322

Animal Rescue Team: Hide and Seek by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, ISBN: 9780375851339

Animal Rescue Team: Show Time by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, ISBN: 9780375851346

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells, illustrated by Marcos Calo, ISBN: 9780544238336

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia, ISBN: 9780061938627

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia, ISBN: 9780062215871

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods, ISBN: 9780399257148

Crow by Barbara Wright, ISBN: 9780375873676

Non-Fiction

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld, and Ben Boos, illustrated by A.G. Ford, ISBN: 9780763645649

The Case for Loving by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, ISBN: 9780545478533

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9781419714658

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9781620141557

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9780802853790

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, ISBN: 9780375867125

The Cart That Carried Martin by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9781580893879

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey, by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome, ISBN: 9781481422215

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome, ISBN: 9781416959038

Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Ballerina by Michaela Deprince, Michaela and Elaine Deprince, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780385755153

Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey by Gary Golio, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, ISBN: 9780547239941

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Michele Wood, ISBN: 9780802853868

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale, ISBN: 9781419715365

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, ISBN: 9781596435407

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9781442420083

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield, ISBN: 9781419707964

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman: Olympic High-Jump Champion by Heather Lang, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9781590788509

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson, ISBN: 9781561456277

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Various, ISBN: 9781452101194

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9780807580356

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Will Allen, illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin, ISBN: 9780983661535

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
by Kadir Nelson, ISBN: 9780061730740

Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo, ISBN: 9780763669546

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls, ISBN: 9780763664596

Martin & Mahalia: His Words – Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Andrea Davis, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney, ISBN: 9780316070133

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney, ISBN: 9781423142577

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ISBN: 9781596439733

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson, ISBN: 9781452103143

Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by London Ladd, ISBN: 9781423114383

Jackie Robinson: American Hero by Sharon Robinson, ISBN: 9780545569156

Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige Vs. Rookie Joe Dimaggio by Robert Skead, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780761366195

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780061920820

28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596438200

Stars in the Shadows: The Negro League All-Star Game of 1934
by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780689866388

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone, ISBN: 9780763651176

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9781600602603

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate, ISBN: 9781561458257

My Uncle Martin’s Words for America: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Niece Tells How He Made a Difference by Angela Farris Watkins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9781419700224

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9781499801033

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph, ISBN: 9780807530177

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, ISBN: 9780763665319

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, ISBN: 9780399252518

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda Roberts and illustrated by Frank Morrison (Steptoe new talent for illustration)! Here is a review: http://www.amazon.com/Mozetta-Coretta-Steptoe-Talent-Illustrator/dp/0374336741

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ah, we had this discussion last year too, Ed. That’s pre-2011. I’m only looking for the last five years. But I friggin’ adore that book, you are right.

  2. I know I am biased, but the Coretta Scott King honor book, Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes certainly should have a place on this list? Also by Nikki Grimes is Chasing Freedom?

  3. That dang five year rule! But Words With Wings fits!

  4. What a great list! One correction: The Book Itch is by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.

  5. This is a great list! Thanks so much. I will share it with all my library friends.

  6. Melissa Henderson says:

    Wow! What an undertaking! Thanks for putting this together. Just plucked “Great Greene Heist” off the shelf — this one had escaped my notice.

  7. Ed Spicer says:

    You have been busy!

  8. Ruth Guerrier-PIerre says:

    Hello Betsy

    Thank you for the list!

  9. To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson, sequel to The Great Green Heist, just came out a week or so ago!

  10. I’m reading To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson right now. Fans of the Great Green Heist will be thrilled to have another great book by Johnson featuring these characters.

  11. Dear Bird:
    I am sure it was Augusta Baker who iniitally sparked this list, probably early 1940’s.

    THE GREAT MIGRATION: JOURNEY TO THE NORTH by Eloise Greenfied, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2011) is on a former list. Were titles combined to form this current list?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      They were indeed. Unfortunately the publication date for THE GREAT MIGRATION is December 21, 2010 according to Baker & Taylor. That would be why you don’t see it on the current list. It is an amazing book.

  12. I see that Zetta Elliot’s WISH AFTER MIDNIGHT has a 2010 pub date as well. Can I persuade you to move your cut-off date back? I can see why you would want to start in the first year of a new decade, but as the decade 2001-2010 is otherwise languishing, maybe you could make allowances?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      It’s tricky. Generally speaking a five year list makes a lot of sense. There are loads of amazing 2010 books, but what makes them any less worthy this year than next? Which is to say, why would I remove them next year if I didn’t this year? I think what’s clear is that we need more lists of this sort. A 2000-2010 list would be fantastic as well.

      With all that in mind I turn your attention to the amazing African American Literature Booklist of 100+ Recommended African American Children’s Books that was recently released: http://aalbc.com/books/children.php

  13. I think it’s just a typo, but the illustrator of Chris Barton’s book, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, is Don Tate (not State).

Trackbacks

  1. […] Betsy Bird has just published an updated African-American Experience Children’s Literacy Guide.  This is a great list of books that you need to have in your school library.  Compare this list to your schools holdings and see what you need to add.  February is the perfect month to look at the diversity of the books in your collection. […]