Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

#readblack: What Would You Include If Someone Asked for a Quick List of Recent Titles Starring Black Kids?

DragonsBagLast week I attended one of Library Journal / School Library Journal’s “Equity in Action” webinar courses. Lots of good information was included (and I’m not just saying that because their name’s above the banner here) with a variety of different speakers touching on everything from the state of the publishing industry to how you create an equity assessment on a collection to, amongst other things, booklists. A lot of time was taken to emphasize that not all booklists are created equal. If you just Google for a list on a topic, for example, you might find books that are hugely problematic listed alongside other titles that are perfectly decent.

This all ties in nicely to a request I received from a group in my town. Recently an after school program in Evanston told me that they had $325 to spend on books and that they really wanted titles for kids with black protagonists. What would I recommend?

What considerations go into creating booklists? Well, first and foremost you want the list to be filled with books that are currently in-print. You might love a title to pieces but it will do the people making the request very little good if they can’t get their hands on a title. Next, you have to consider why the list is being considered. Is it a teacher asking for a class with a specific topic in mind? A list needed for a display in a bookstore? If, as in this case, it’s an after school program then you’ll want to have a wide array of titles that are fun to read. Funny books are welcome too. Finally, do you want to go with classics or titles that are brand new? In the case of today’s list, I opted to include books out in the last two years, with a couple exceptions thrown in here and there.

Here’s the list I handed over. Note that most of the ISBNs are for paperback editions, because if you only have $325 to spend you’ll want books that don’t cost as much money. And, of course, early chapter books were the most difficult to think up.

Picture Books
The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan (9780374301231 )
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick D. Barnes (9781572842243)
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller (9780316562584 )
The Field by Baptiste Paul (9780735843127 )
Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (9781524714314 )
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwell (9780763678388 )
Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (9780763690458 )
My Hair Is a Garden by Cozbi Cabrera (9780807509234 )
The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke (9781536200317 )
The Ringer Bearer by Floyd Cooper (9780399167409 )
Where’s Rodney? by Carmen Bogan (9781930238732 )

Easy Readers (5-7 Year Olds)
Don’t Throw It to Mo by David Adler (9780670016310 )
Get a Hit, Mo by David Adler (9780448480107 )
Kick It, Mo! by David Adler (9780425289815 )
King and Kayla :The Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler, ill. Nancy Meyers (9781682630150 )
King and Kayla: The Case of the Mysterious Mouse by Dori Hillestad Butler, ill. Nancy Meyers (9781682630174 )
King and Kayla: , The Case of the Secret Code by Dori Hillestad Butler, ill. Nancy Meyers (9781561458783 )
Pass the Ball, Mo! by David Adler (9780425289785 )

Early Chapter Books (6-9 Year Olds)
All the Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke
The Dyamonde Daniel series by Nikki Grimes
The New Kid by Karen English (9781328703996 ) and all the other books in the Carver Chronicles series!
The Nikki & Deja series by Karen English
The Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro

Novels (9-12 Year Olds)
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott (9781524770457 )
Ghost by Jason Reynolds (9781481450164 )
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (9780545525534 )
Jake the Fake Keeps It Real by Craig Robertson (9780553523515 )
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (9781616205928)
Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (9781580897778 )
Mango Delight by Fracaswell Hyman (9781454929628 )
Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds (9781484787489 )
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (9780060760908 )
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (9780545946179 )
Patina by Jason Reynolds (9781481450195 )
Rebound by Kwame Alexander (9780544868137 )
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (9781524715953 )

Comics and Graphic Novels:
Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos (9780735231245 )
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440 )
Sci-Fu by Yehudi Mercado (9781544413327)

What would you include if someone asked you to make a list of your own?

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.


  1. Picture Books:
    Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Ruehl
    The Hat that Wore Clara B by Melanie Turner-Denstaedt
    Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson
    When Louis Armstrong Taugh Me Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein

    Short Chapter:
    Lulu books

    • Great list! Just a couple of ideas
      Picture Books
      I Walk with Vanessa

      Can I Touch Your Hair?
      Dactyl Hill Squad
      Length of a String
      We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

  2. Crystal Allen’s Magnificent Mya Tibbs series needs to be on the chapter books list!

  3. Was this specifically a request for fiction? Because there’s some great nonfiction with black protagonists out there as well! And lots of kids do find nonfiction fun! Off the top of my head, I’d for sure include:

    Whoosh! by Chris Barton, illus. by Don Tate
    Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker, illus. by Dow Phumiruk
    Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
    Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
    Seeing into Tomorrow by Nina Crews

  4. Aud Hogan says:

    I would add the Hilo graphic novels by Judd Winick. Hilo himself presents white, but the narrator and his best friend are both children of color. They’re also a lot of fun!

  5. Lulu series by Hilary McKay. I’m most devoted to Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door, but the whole early-chapter-book series is good and deserves to be better know.n.

  6. Becky Shillington says:

    I would definitely add the fabulous picture book I AM FAMOUS by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (I USED TO BE FAMOUS comes out in 2019!).

    In the chapter book category, the JADA JONES series by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton is outstanding, too.

  7. First, I was surprised that one of your consideration was not to favor #OwnVoices.
    Second, I would include that anyone making a list should not act in isolation. No one is an expert in all areas of #kidlit, I know I reach out to non-fiction experts, experts in poetry in the regular.
    Third, the graphic novels and comics that should probably be on the list …
    Black Panther
    Bingo Love
    Moon Girl and Devil Dino
    Strange Fruit, Talented 10th, Bessie Springfield … hell all of Joel Christian Gill’s books

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I would agree. I did not mention #ownvoices, and I should have, but it was on my mind. Of the picture books nine of the eleven are #ownvoices, but I had a much harder time finding #ownvoices Easy Books. If anyone has any insights on where to find those, I welcome them. Happily the novels were entirely #ownvoices authors.

      And I too agree that no one should work in a vacuum. That was part of my reason for asking for input on this list here.

      The graphic novels you’ve mentioned here are great too. They’re YA for the most part, which is why I didn’t mention some of them. I was just considering books up until the age of 12. I’m intrigued by your mention of Joel Christian Gill. I don’t know his work. I think I need to find his books pronto.

      Thanks for the suggestions!