15 Beautiful Children's Books Featuring Black Characters, Authors or Illustrators | Do Say Give

15 Beautiful Children’s Books Featuring Black Characters, Authors or Illustrators

Classic Children's Books

children's books with black characters

This week I’ve been thinking about how I can use my platform, skillset, and influence to draw attention to black voices. DoSayGive readers will already know that one of our niches is highlighting classic children’s literature and books with exceptional illustrations and/or rich storylines that may not always be front and center at big box book stores. 

Today I am sharing a collection of beautiful children’s books that specifically feature black characters, authors or illustrators. I have shared some of these books before – and several were part of past book summer clubs – but I hope that compiling all in one post can be a helpful resource to you as you expand your own collection of children’s books to be more reflective of our beautiful, diverse world. 

picture books with black characters

Classic Picture Books with Black Characters

These picture books don’t necessarily draw attention to the main character’s race. They are just sweet books for children that will help you add diversity of characters to your child’s book collection. 

Corduroy
Any child with a favorite stuffed animal can relate to this story of Lisa and her missing bear. Great board book.
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Snowy Day
Written in 1976, it is still a Caldecott medal winner that so many families enjoy.
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Whistles for Willie
Most people know Snowy Day but don’t know Ezra Jack Keats has so many wonderful books.
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Peter’s Chair
A cute book when a new baby sibling is coming home!
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Last Stop on Market Street
A newer book but winner of the 2016 Newberry Medal about finding the helpers and finding beauty in any situation.
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Come On, Rain!
This was in our book club last year. Any child that likes to play in the rain will enjoy!
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children's book about diversity

Historical Figures and Historical Fiction about the Black Community

Some of these are mature topics so you will definitely want to read before sharing with your child to make sure it’s age appropriate. Some of the books are older so could be a conversation starter as to why we don’t use certain words any more as well as an opportunity to talk about perspective.  

Martin’s Big Words
Another favorite from our book club last year is this fantastic picture book about MLK, JR.
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Amos Fortune, Free Man
A riveting Newberry Medal winning book about an African prince's capture into slavery and journey to freedom. Note: contains dated language.
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Band of Angels
This one was in our book club last year that tells the amazing history of Jubilee Singers from Fisk University.
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Phoebe the Spy
This is about a little girl who is a spy for George Washington. A good book for 6-10 year olds.
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Goin’ Someplace Special
From our book club last year, this takes place in Jim Crow era but about a grandmother who reminds the character of her innate worth.
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Pink and Say
A Civil War era story about kindness and compassion was passed down through the generations of one family. Illustrated by Patricia Polacco.
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Black Illustrator Jerry Pickney 

I also wanted to highlight the talented illustrator, Jerry Pinkney, who has illustrated dozen of books including editions of these classics:

The Ugly Duckling
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Noah’s Ark
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Aesop’s Fables
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diversity in children's books

Children’s Books about Diversity

Not award-winning but the sweet picture books below may be helpful to talk about how God made us all different and beautiful. The second two have a Biblical perspective. 

We're Different, We're the Same
A Sesame Street book you may remember from childhood. I think there is a coordinating song!
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God's Very Good Idea
You can find on Christian bookstore sites.
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God Made Me and You
Recommended by our church.
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What books can you recommend? Share below!

If you’re interested in learning more about classic children’s literature, our Classic Children’s Summer Book Club begins in two days and you’ve still got time to sign up before we start reading. The book club officially begins in two days so sign up here

Lee
What do you think?
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12 thoughts on “15 Beautiful Children’s Books Featuring Black Characters, Authors or Illustrators

  1. Lee,
    Thank you for this wonderful list. Ezra Jack Keats was one of my favorite authors as a small child. My mother saved all the books and gave them to me when my oldest was born. My girls loved them, too. Whistle for Willie might be my most favorite. I ordered some of your other suggestions for my youngest daughter.
    xo
    Alicia

  2. Lee, I’m sooo glad to see this post. During this sad and eye-opening time, I am humbly asking the Lord to open my eyes and show me the ways that we can do better in our family. What has been impressed upon me is that my children are where I should focus, and books are a wonderful way to do that!
    Great suggestions – I would add the David Adler MLK book, as well as his Harriet Tubman (I think?). Also, Dave Eggers’ Her Right Foot, though more about immigration. Also, Friends Around the World Atlas in that same vein.

    1. Oh thank you so much for these great suggestions!! I will look them up! And, yes, we have a big job to do as mothers. Thank you for the encouragement!

  3. My daughter loved “Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop” when she was a pre-schooler, and then loved Bird’s music when I played it for her.

  4. Thanks for this list. We love Last Stop on Market Street, it has inspired many thoughtful questions from my 4 year old. We also have Freedom in Congo Square (this one is a picture book but it is heavier, probably better for older kids, but it taught me things I didn’t know about the history of New Orleans), and Thank You, Omu (a sweet book about sharing in a community). The Case of the Elevator Duck is an entry level chapter book about a boy who lives in public housing in NYC and he plays detective in his building when he finds a duck on the elevator.

  5. Hi! Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is an awesome compilation of women taking a stand throughout history. It represents women of every color and many countries throughout the world….plus it’s sends a powerful message that woman can do anything 🙂

    Also, ‘Love is’ by Diane Adams is darling