This month, we would like to recognize five lesser-known children’s books by Black authors to celebrate black authorship in our field. Black authorship is important because it ensures that the voices, experiences, and stories of various black communities and cultures are recognized and that these experiences are depicted authentically.
These texts help non-Black children explore black lives and to develop an emerging awareness of and appreciation for new cultures, dialects, and communities. These texts can also affirm black children’s sense of identity and self-worth.
Hair Love, by Mathew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison is a wholesome, delightful story about Zuri, a girl who is on a mission to create a fabulous hairstyle. When she has difficulty doing her hair, her father steps in to help! One of the reasons this book is so enjoyable is because of the fun, loving relationship between the girl and her father throughout the story. The illustrations are simple and cheerful and the message of self-love is easily conveyed.
Whose Knees Are These? is a book written by Jabari Asim and Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This is an extremely simple book that is perfect for mobile infants and toddlers who are beginning to explore their bodies.
I Got the Rhythm is a book that was written by Connie Schofield-Morrison and illustrated by Frank Morrison. This book follows a young black girl as she sees, hears, feels, and smells rhythm throughout her daily experiences. The story depicts common daily activities, but the powerful poses of the characters transform seemingly mundane experiences to ones rich with passion, expression, and movement.
Firebird, a book written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers, tells the story of a ballerina who explores her self-doubt and discovers the importance of perseverance. The story is poetic and lightly philosophical, but the illustrations are captivating and dramatic. This book is also an Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book and the illustrator is a Caldecott-winning artist.
Sulwe is a book by Lupia Nyong’o that addresses issues of self-esteem and self-love related to skin color. The main character, Sulwe, is darker than the members of her family and tries to turn herself lighter because she perceives lighter skin color as more beautiful. A magical adventure unfolds and Sulwe comes to appreciate her unique beauty.