At a time when many people around the world find themselves willing to focus on the material truth that Black Lives Matter, we want to make sure that all kids—regardless of identity—have plenty of access to books that show and tell the wide range of interests, appearances, languages, and concerns that everyone, including Black children, shares. Next time you’re able to visit a library or book shop, make sure to pick up a few of these:
Brand new and available in two different formats from two of our favorite publishers is Shabazz Larkin’s The Thing about Bees: A Love Letter. The picture book version was published by Readers to Eaters less than a year ago. Just publishing is Live Oak Media’s delightful audiobook version, which, of course, author and illustrator Larkin also performed, along with a small cast of family.
Also from Live Oak Media, be sure to listen to Odyssey Honor winner Trombone Shorty, the picture book autobiography by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier, and performed by Dion Graham. The trio has created a followup, too, 5 O’clock Band. For a rousing good time learning about the making of a New Orleans bandleader, their work together can’t be beat.
Tilbury House’s recent picture book, Magnificent Homespun Brown, by Samara Cole Doyon with illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, has collected starred reviews everywhere you turn. And not only is it stuffed with little Black girls of many shades and hairstyles, engaging in many activities that connect them to the natural world, the poetic text bounces, too.
Some of Tilbury House’s older picture book characters are collecting fan art depicting the Black lives they reflect. One of Worcester Public Library’s bookmobiles sports a giant reproduction of Astronaut Annie, by Suzanne Slade with illustrations by Nicole Tadgell, a picture book that might well inspire your local science explorer.
There’s a lot of Black joy and shared human experiences beyond the United States, of course. Author artist Mylo Freeman’s picture book work is available from Nigerian/British publisher Cassava Republic. Princess Arabella is a character who stars in her own series—not always eager to cede the spotlight—so finding out how she adjusts in Princess Arabella Is a Big Sister provides older siblings an instant heroine/role model. In Hair, It’s a Family Affair, Freeman offers every variation on hair texture, styling, and skin tone the extended Black family in its illustrations can sport.
Getting beyond the immediate family circle, Cassava Republic also gives young readers the opportunity to visit good times in Ilisan with Lola Shoneyin’s Mayowa and the Masquerades, illustrated by Francis Blake. This one gives kids (and adults) lots of inspiration to dance! One reviewer (linked at the title) noted that perhaps 90% of this book is smiles.
From Spanish publisher NubeOcho, and available in both Spanish and English editions, Federico and All His Families, by Mili Hernandez with illustrations by Gomez, introduces a neighborhood through the intentional visiting cycle of Federico the cat. All kinds of families live in the neighborhood and Federico finds a way to fit into each one’s day.
BAME-focused Lantana Publishing’s A Story about Afiya, by Jamaican poet James Berry with gorgeous illustrations by Anna Cunha, may be the perfect book for this pandemic summer of changed routines in readers’ own lives. Each day of her summer season, Afiya’s white dress collects the beuty of that day’s adventures.
From Brazil, Otavio Junior’s story of his favela home comes to English language readers in a colorfully illustrated edition published by Barefoot Books. From My Window, with art by Vanina Starkoff can both take kids abroad to a community they may never see in person and suggest a daily activity to pursue at home. What can they see from their windows? How does the sight make them feel? What colors do they need to paint it? We all have a lot in common and yet everywhere we look we can spot something or someone new to enjoy, consider, mourn, or find hopeful.