Reviews & Recommendations

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Dear reader,

In the past on this page, you would find links a really random (but delightful) selection of books that I enjoy. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the (overdue) national call for racial justice, I am compelled to dedicate this page to helping you find books and resources to help build your own anti-racist reading lists.

Friends and parents of students are asking me, as an elementary school librarian and as a parent, what books they should read to help raise anti-racist kids. GREAT QUESTION. As a librarian, cultural competency and anti-racism are very important to me and my teaching work. I want students to understand and respect other cultures and traditions. As a white parent of white children, I am constantly thinking about this too. From the art that we have on our walls to the books that we keep on our shelves, what we fill our homes with sends subtle messages about what is right, normal, good and expected. If all the characters, authors, and illustrators on our bookcases are white, a message gets sent even if you didn’t mean for it to. You are right to be asking these questions and wanting to have these conversations. Good start!

 

First, remember I am learning in the anti-racism space too. I strongly suggest you follow organizations that are expert in this work, there are many. Some suggestions with more complete and more often updated lists are: The Brown Bookshelf, The Conscious Kid, Teaching Tolerance, We Need Diverse Books, the ALA’s Coretta Scott King Book Award, The African American Children’s Book Project, Teaching for Change, School Library Journal, and there are more.

 

Second, know that NONE OF THE LISTS BELOW ARE COMPLETE. I would never pretend that I, or anyone, could capture all the great books out there on one list. This is a journey – one that is lifelong. This list is a jumping off point, at best. The lists are in no particular order and will grow and change as I learn more too. As you buy books, think of how you can support local booksellers and black owned businesses. Mahogany Books in DC is one great option if you live near me.

 

There are so many great picture books and picture book biographies that delve into diversity, race, equity and inclusion. The concepts are big, even if the work is housed in picture books, so these books can work for lots of ages, especially when they are read with an adult and lots of good, courageous conversation goes with it. I firmly believe you are NEVER too old for a picture book.

(Note: where authors/illustrators have a website about their work, I am trying to link to that. Those are still in process…)

For the Kindergarten (and older) set:

 

For Slightly older elementary school kids – All the above books plus…:

 

Great PB Biographies and Non-fiction (all about equality and BIPOC, not all about black people only):

  • The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson
  • Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson
  • Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World b Susan Hood
  • Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
  • Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue
  • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed 
  • The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
  • Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • The United States vs. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
  • Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe Dimaggio by Robert Skead
  • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
  • Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: the Sammy Lee Story By Paula Yoo
  • The Girl with A Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca
  • The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca

 

Other great picture books featuring black main characters (there are many more to add to this list):

  • The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
  • I am Enough by Grace Byers
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de La Pena
  • The Roots of Rap by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Crown: Ode to a Fresh Cut by Denene Millner
  • Honey I Love by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
  • The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds
  • I am Human by Susan Verde
  • Hip Hop Speaks to Children Edited by Nikki Giovanni
  • Cece Loves Science
  • Blackout by John Rocco
  • Thank you, Omu by Oge Mora
  • Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton 
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Picture Book Edition) by William Kamkwamba
  • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Karascoet
  • What If… By Samantha Berger
  • Botitechs by Kim Smith
  • Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews (anything by her!)

 

MG/YA Chapter books that tackle these topics:

 

As for books with BIPOC as main characters but not about necessarily about race – there are lots of others:

  • Beyond the Bright See by Lauren Wolk
  • Many all of the Rick Riordan presents books have POC main characters – https://rickriordan.com/rick-riordan-presents/ — Specifically I recommend:
    • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
    • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • The Front Desk by Kelly Yang
  • Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez
  • Refugee by Alan Grantz
  • Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
  • Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Darius the Great is NOT OK by Adib Khorram
  • The Last Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles
  • All the books written by Hena Khan 
  • The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  • Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
  • It All Comes Down to This by Karen English
  • Hurricane Child By Kheryn Callender
  • As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
  • Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley
  • When Stars are Scattered (Graphic novel) By Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson
  • Elray Jakes Series by Sally Warner
  • Alvan Ho Series by Lenore Look
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
  • Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
  • Jayden Toussaint is the Greatest by Marti Dumas
  • Liberty Porter First Daughter Series by Julia DeVillers

 

Black Authors to dig in with (besides all the black and BIPOC authors listed above):

Jacqueline Woodson

Carole Boston Weatherford

Ezra Jack Keats (of course)

Kwame Alexander

Nic Stone

Nina Crews

John Lewis has done a trilogy called March – it’s great.

Don’t forget the illustrators! –

Anything illustrated by Bryan Collier, Floyd Cooper, Sean Qualls, Vashti Harrison, Marcus Williams, Nneka Myers, or Kadir Nelson is STUNNING.

Joe Truss at Culturally Responsive Leadership put together this amazing list of books for adults to read to build their skills and reflection around race in America.

 

I also have this anti-racism resource for parents that a colleague shared with me. Neither she nor I know who created it or I would be giving them all the credit. Whoever you are, well done and thank you.

 

The Kennedy Center has also created Diversity Equity and Inclusion resources – more geared towards adults perhaps but still useful.

 

There are so many more resources beyond me – please revisit the list of organizations at the top of this page. I’m always happy to talk about books. You should keep looking and learning. I know I am.  

Feel like learning more about me? Click here!

2 Comments on “Reviews & Recommendations”

    • Oh, my kindergartener too! I mean, it’s about superheroes AND underpants. And they use words like ‘pee’ and ‘poop’ from time to time. I mean, could it get any better?

      Honestly, as a mom, as a writer, and as a teacher, I am OK with these books. If they hook reluctant readers and convert them, AWESOME. Even if you have a voracious reader, these are fun reads. I think of a reading diet much like a regular diet. You aren’t only going to eat kale all the time (although, Mel, you might – good for you!). Sometimes a decadent, nutritionally less-than-kale little treat is just the thing. The same is true for reading. We all should read the good stuff often and it’s totally OK to read something that is pure entertainment too.

      Like

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