Diversify Your Library: Picture Books from Black Authors & Allies


Some books are windows, some are mirrors. This is a phrase I’ve repeated so often (including in my last post). There’s an addition I am hearing more recently and love: Some books are sliding doors. This addition invites us to not only look into someone else’s world but crossover into it. Such a powerful idea. 

I fully believe all  kids should be able open a book and see other kids who look and live like them. Yet sometimes, we need to use books as a window into worlds less familiar to us to help us work toward greater empathy and understanding. Sometimes we need to pull back the slider and walk on through.

No one will be astonished to learn that the publishing industry is skewed toward white authors, illustrators and characters. In fact, according to this 2018 study by the Cooperative Center for the Book , 50% of picture books feature white children. However, would you be surprised to learn that 27% of picture books feature animal characters vs. 10% featuring Black children? Check out this compelling infographic

In my previous post, I highlighted some favorite chapter books that have helped me build empathy and celebrate the robust talent of Black authors and illustrators. I hope these picture books from Black authors and allies invite you and your family to pull back the sliding door or be reflected in the mirror.

These picture books from Black authors (and allies) are sure to become classics on your shelf!

For great book lists and resources on diversity and inclusion I always turn to the experts. Some of my favorites:

Picture Books with a sprinkling of Ally-ship and Anti-racism:

Not My Idea by Anastasia Higginbotham

This is such a thoughtful, honest, and basic explanation of why racism IS my problem, even if it is “not my idea”. Higginbotham is a master at tackling the tough stuff with our young ones. Best for 4 years+ 

picture books from black authors

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester

This vibrantly illustrated book helps children understand that the skin color is just a covering to dreams, hopes and ambitions. Julius Lester writes lyrically about his own experiences with racism in an accessible and poetic way.

Anti-racist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi 

Look at that girl- LOVE HER! Dr. Kendi’s picture book is also now available in board book format. It has 9 simple steps to raising an antiracist child from the beginning. 

Something Happened In Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, et al

Written by a team of child psychologists, this story follows two families- one Black, one white- after a police shooting in their small community. Tough topic to discuss with your little ones but SO IMPORTANT and expertly handled. One of the greatest books about race for young children.

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices Edited by Wade Hudson 

50 diverse authors share their thoughts about what we can tell our children in such a divisive and painful world. Stunning illustrations accompany these short essays. The audiobook is equally powerful. You will want to keep these on the shelf for years to come.

A smattering of #ownvoices   

Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood

Perfect for anyone who has a large family and never has enough room. This sweet book counts family members and friends who come into Grandma’s house until there is no room! What will they do next? 

The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan

This book makes me laugh out loud. Anyone have a kiddo who thinks mama’s bed is her bed too? Poor daddy gets the short end of the stick, as usual. Adorably illustrated and hilarious.

picture books from Black authors - Hair Love

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

Written by the creator of the Pixar short film by the same name, Hair Love, tells the loving story of Dad trying to do his daughter’s hair just like Mama does. This daddy-daughter duo melt my heart. Grab the tissues – one of my favorite picture books from Black authors. 

Picture books from Black Authors - Parker Looks Up

Parker Looks Up by Parker and Jessica Curry 

Based on the true “extraordinary moment” when Jessica Curry’s daughter stares in awe at the portrait of Michelle Obama in the National Portrait Gallery.   So powerful and so heart-warming. I want to be Michelle Obama when I grow up too… May all kids have a moment like this in their lives!

Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

I am absolutely in awe of all Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations.  Best known for his illustrations of Aesop’s fables, he won the prestigious Caldecott Award for this wordless retelling of a classic.  It also happens to be one of my favorites.

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Do your kids love eye-spy books? They will love this story of a little girl who goes to her grandfather’s afterschool. Every day he has “lost” something and she has to find it.  Help her find the hidden objects in these lush illustrations by Jerry Pinkney.

Do you have any books about race for young children to recommend? We’d love to hear about them!