A list of Black children’s books to gift your little one this holiday season

Consider one of these books about Black children — written by Black authors — as holiday gifts for the young folks in your village.

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Whether Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah (yes, Black folks are Jewish, too), or other celebrations fill your home this season, holiday time is a great opportunity to refresh little readers’ book lists. Consider one of these books about Black children — written by Black authors — as holiday gifts for the young folks in your village.

Young Readers of All Ages

Hair Love (Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2019)

Written by Matthew A. Cherry | Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

This New York Times bestseller (and Oscar-winning short film) tells the story of Zuri and her hair that has a mind of its own. Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, but he has a lot to learn. But he loves his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her— and her hair — happy. 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (Agate Bolden, 2017)

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
(Photo: Agate Bolden)

Written by Derrick Barnes | Illustratrated by Gordon C. James

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly. 

Glow (Simon & Schuster, 2021)

Glow
(Photo: Simon & Schuster)

Written by Ruth Forman | Illustrated by Geneva Bowers

A poetic ode to the beautiful light of Black boys through the eyes of a young boy who joyfully celebrates his dark skin with a bright moon at the end of a perfect.

That’s My Daddy (Inspire the Masses LLC, 2021)

That's My Daddy
(Photo:Inspire the Masses LLC)

Written by Michael A. Woodward, Jr. 

A father and son’s bond is like no other. Shaped by high-fives, secret crushes, foot-races, and shiny gold jewelry, it’s no surprise this bond is everlasting! An honorable mention goes to Woodward’s Inspire(d) Collection that features stories of love, striving for academic excellence, and even “The Talk” between Black fathers and sons.

Infants & Toddlers

Whose Knees Are These? (LB Kids, 2006)

Who's Knees Are These?
(Photo: LB Kids)

Written by Jabari Asim | Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This playful verse celebrates a beautiful brown baby’s sweet little knees with an interactive rhyme full of toddler-appeal. It’s a perfect baby gift for parent-child playtime.

Baby Goes to Market (Penguin Random House, 2017)

Baby Goes To Market
(Photo: Penguin Random House)

Written by Atinuke | Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Join Baby and his doting mama at a bustling southwest Nigerian marketplace for a bright, bouncy read-aloud that offers a gentle introduction to numbers.

Look Up! (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2019)

Rocket Says Look Up!
(Photo: Puffin/Penguin Random House)

Written by Nathan Bryon | Illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Rocket is a hilarious, science-mad chatterbox—and she’s going to be the greatest astronaut, star-catcher, space-traveller who’s ever lived! But… Can she convince her big brother to stop looking down at his phone and start LOOKING UP at the stars? 

Brown Boy Joy (Dr. Thomishia Booker, 2018)

Brown Boy Joy
(Photo: Dr. Thomishia Booker)

Written by Dr. Thomishia Booker | Illustrated by Jessica Gibson and Vicky Amrullah

Full of happy illustrations and self-esteem boosts to stimulate the joyous imaginations of Black and Brown boys, this book is filled with all the things little boys love. 

Ages 4-9

Who Are Your People? (HarperCollins, 2022)

Who Are Your People?
(Photo: HarperCollins)

Witten by Bakari Sellers | Illustrated by Reggie Brown

New York Times bestselling author and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers releases his first children’s book as a tribute to the family and community that help make us who we are. The vibrantly illustrated picture book takes readers on a journey from cotton fields to sit-ins to the present day through the eyes of a young father and his children.

My Brother Charlie (Scholastic Press, 2010)

My Brother Charlie
(Photo: Scholastic Press)

By Holly Robinson Peete | Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Told through the eyes of the neurotypical big sister of Charlie, a boy who has autism. His brain works in a special way and it’s harder for him to make friends (or to stay safe). But as his big sister tells us, there are plenty more things that he’s good at. He knows the names of all the American presidents and all about airplanes. He can even play the piano better than anyone he knows.

Change Sings (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2021)

Written by Amanda Gorman | Illustrated by Loren Long

Presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman tells readers that anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes —big or small—in the world, in their communities, and most importantly, in themselves. 

Sulwe (Simon & Schuster, 2019)

By Lupita Nyong’o | Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

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.

Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019)

Written and Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

As a little girl and her father bake her birthday cake together, Daddy tells the story of her Grandpa Cacao, a farmer from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In a land where elephants roam and the air is hot and damp, Grandpa Cacao worked in his village to harvest cacao, the most important ingredient in chocolate. 

Thank You, Omu! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018)

Written and Illustrated by Oge Mora

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

 What Is Light? (Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster, 2020)

Written by Markette Sheppard | Illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson

Young readers will discover the special glow in everything—from nature to the smiles of loved ones—through this thoughtful and celebratory book. Each page reveals a different sparkle found in a child’s simple but extraordinary world. The light revealed on the final page makes a fitting finale for this sweet, bright tale.

The Undefeated (Versify, 2019)

Written by Kwame Alexander | Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to Black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the Civil Rights Movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. 

Ages 8-12

 Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (Little, Brown Books for Early Readers, 2017)

Written and Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Readers will learn about heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things—bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time (Plum Street Press, 2015)

Written Marti Dumas | Illustrated by Marie Muravski

Giant Afro, even Bigger Brain. Jaden Toussaint, 5-year-old scientist and all around cool dude, is on a mission to convince the grown-ups that he needs more SCREEN TIME. His only weapons are science, ninja dancing, and his super-powered brain power. Can Jaden Toussaint get the grown-ups to change their minds? Dumas gets another nod for The Little Human, which features an ambitious 9-year-old Black mermaid (who doesn’t love mermaids!?).

Dog Days: The Carver Chronicles, Book One (Clarion Books, 2014)

Written by Karen English | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

It’s tough being the new kid at Carver Elementary. Gavin had lots of friends at his old school, but the kids here don’t even know that he’s pretty good at skateboarding, or how awesome he is at soccer. To make matters worse, Gavin seems to have attracted the attention of the school bully. Will he be able to avoid getting pounded at the skatepark? 

People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009)

Written by Virginia Hamilton

This collection of 24 Black American folk tales features animal tales, supernatural tales, fanciful and cautionary tales, and slave tales of freedom. 

  1. Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History (Little, Brown Books for Early Readers, 2019)

Written and Illustrated by Vashti Harrison with Kwesi Johnson

An important book for readers of all ages, this Little Legends installment brings to life true stories of Black men in history. Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. The exceptional men featured include writer James Baldwin, artist Aaron Douglas, filmmaker Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, lawman Bass Reeves, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, and musician Prince. 

10 & Up

 Pig-Heart Boy (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2004)

Written by Malorie Blackman

You’re thirteen. All you want is a normal life. But most normal kids don’t need heart transplants. So, there’s this doctor. He says there’s a chance for you. But he also says it’s experimental, controversial, and risky. And it’s never been done before. 

Listen, Layla (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2021)

Written by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

School’s out for the summer! And Layla’s going to spend it getting her inventions ready for the grand design competition. But when her grandmother falls ill and her family must rush to Sudan to be with her, Layla feels like she’s being pulled in many different directions. Family, friends, home, inventions —there’s a lot to navigate. With big protests looming in Sudan, could Layla save the day with her revolutionary ideas? Exploring the diaspora experience, Listen, Layla is an own voices novel for young readers bursting with passion, humour and truth.

Brown Girl Dreaming (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2020)

Written by Jacqueline Woodson

Told in vivid and emotional poetry, this is the story of a childhood spent between New York and South Carolina, and of never truly feeling at home in either place. Of growing up as an African-American girl in the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers (Puffin/Penguin Random House, 2021)

Becoming

Written by Michelle Obama

Michelle Robinson started life sharing a bedroom with her older brother, Craig, in their family’s upstairs apartment in her great-aunt’s house. Her parents, Fraser and Marian, poured their love and energy into their children. She would go on to become Michelle Obama, the inspirational First Lady of the United States of America. Now adapted for younger readers, with new photographs and a new introduction from Michelle Obama herself, this memoir tells a very personal, and completely inspiring, story of how, through hard work and determination, the girl from the South Side of Chicago built an extraordinary life. 

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