STORIES AND HISTORY

Last Updated by Laura Dimock on

The following are some of our favorite books for Black History Month (and anytime!). Some describe our different histories while others show the joys and challenges that are shared by children of all colors as they learn and grow.

A Chair for MotherA Chair for My Mother
By: Vera Williams
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
After a fire destroys their home and possessions, Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother save their money to buy a big comfortable chair. Suffused with warmth and tenderness, A Chair for My Mothercelebrates family love and determination. A Caldecott Honor book. Spanish version also available.

Amazing GraceAmazing Grace
By: Mary Hoffman, Caroline Binch
Illustrated by: Caroline Binch
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Grace loves to act, but one day some kids tell her she can’t play the part of Peter Pan because of the way she looks. Grace’s grandmother helps this young girl realize that with effort anything can be achieved. An inspiring and heartwarming story.

Anansi the SpiderAnansi the Spider: A Tale From the Ashanti
By: Gerald McDermott
Illustrated by: Gerald McDermott
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Have you ever wondered how the moon got where it is? According to this Ashanti tale, Nyame, the god of all things, put it there when Anansi could not decide which of his sons deserved it. Brilliant illustrations accompany this classic retelling of a traditional tale.

Bigmama'sBigmama’s
By: Donald Crews
Illustrated by: Donald Crews
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Every year the narrator and his family take a trip down to Cottondale, Florida, to visit his grandmother, Bigmama. This autobiographical story recalls the joys of summer and the contrast between the author’s life in the city and Bigmama’s lush, rural home. While the illustrations suggest it was a period of segregation, this thought never overpowers the carefree summer celebration.

Bill PickettBill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin Cowboy
By: Andrea Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Brian Pinkney
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
The most celebrated black cowboy was Bill Pickett, a fearless rodeo star with a knack for taming bulls that brought the crowds to their feet. The closing note in this book provides an overview of the history of rodeos and black cowboys.

Bright Eyes, Brown SkinBright Eyes, Brown Skin
By: Cheryl Hudson, Bernette Ford, George Cephas Ford
Illustrated by: George Cephas Ford
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader
Four African American children interact with one another in a preschool environment, exploring their facial features, skin tones, what they wear, what they do, and how they learn from and enjoy each other. A happy book and nice addition to preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

DrylongsoDrylongso
By: Virginia Hamilton
Illustrated by: Jerry Pinkney
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Newbery Award winner Virginia Hamilton describes how Lindy and her family suffer through a long drought. Then a mysterious boy comes and teaches them the secrets of finding water hidden in the earth.

I Am Rosa ParksI Am Rosa Parks
By: Rosa Parks, James Haskins
Illustrated by: Wil Clay
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
The famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks has simplified her autobiography for young readers in this Puffin Easy to Read book. She describes how she was arrested for not giving up her bus seat and shows that her personal role was part of a wider political struggle.

Martin's Big WordsMartin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
Martin Luther King Jr. grew up fascinated by big words. He would later go on to use these words to inspire a nation and call people to action. In this award-winning book, powerful portraits of King show how he used words, not weapons, to fight injustice.

My Daddy and IMy Daddy and I
By: Eloise Greenfield, Jan Spivey Gilchrest
Illustrated by: Jan Spivey Gilchrest, Eloise Greenfield
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader
A boy and his father, shown as African Americans in warmly hued illustrations, enjoy doing everyday activities together, from laundry to sharing a book and more. The simple pleasures of family life are conveyed affectionately through easy but flowing language and realistic paintings in a sturdy format.

Nina BonitaNina Bonita
By: Ana Machado, Rosana Faria
Illustrated by: Rosana Faria
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
This delightful book is set on a Caribbean island and features a little white rabbit who admires a beautiful black girl. He asks her what her secret is and she tells him to drink lots of black coffee and to eat lots of black beans. He doesn’t give up though and in the end finds what change he can make.

Something BeautifulSomething Beautiful
By: Sharon Wyeth, Chris K. Soentpiet
Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
A young girl learns to find beauty in her sometimes gritty urban neighborhood, showing how the way one sees makes a difference that affects others. Luminous watercolors detail the child, her neighborhood, and suggest what she sees around her.

The Stories Huey TellsStories Huey Tells
By: Ann Cameron, Roberta Smith
Illustrated by: Roberta Smith
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
These five short and funny stories show the mischief that Huey gets into in daily adventures with his annoying older brother Julian. The stories are filled with fun and warmth.

Sweet Clara and the Freedom QuiltSweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
By: Deborah Hopkinson, James Ransome
Illustrated by: James Ransome
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
Clara is born into slavery but learns an important skill when she becomes a seamstress. Her quilting ability allows Clara to put together directions to escape north to freedom when she overhears a conversation about a route to Canada.

The Dream Keeper and Other PoemsThe Dream Keeper and Other Poems
By: Langston Hughes, Brian Pinkney, Brian Pinkney
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader
The great American poet Langston Hughes chose the poems in this classic collection, originally published for young people in 1932.
 

The Gold CadillacThe Gold Cadillac
By: Mildred Taylor, Michael Hays
Illustrated by: Michael Hays
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader
Set in the 1950s, this book by Mildred Taylor is frank in its portrayal of racism. Lois and Wilma are proud when their father buys a brand new gold Cadillac. Only their mother won’t ride in it. On a trip from their home in Ohio to Mississippi, there are no admiring glances only suspicion directed toward the black man driving such a fancy car. For the first time, Lois knows what it’s like to feel scared because of her skin color

The QuiltThe Quilt
By: Ann Jonas
Illustrated by: Ann Jonas
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader
Publishers Weekly called this delightful book a “landmark in children’s literature.” Made from her old pajamas and curtains, a young girl’s new quilt inspires a dream adventure. The squares of the quilt become part of a dreamscape she enters into in order to find her lost stuffed dog. An ALA Notable Children’s Book.

Through My EyesThrough My Eyes
By: Ruby Bridges
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader
Six-year-old Ruby Bridges became the first African American to integrate an elementary school. Her memories of that year, when so much hatred was directed at her, makes for a powerful memoir. A 1999 Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner.
 

Uncle Remus: The Complete TalesUncle Remus: The Complete Tales
By: Julius Lester
Illustrated by: Jerry Pinkney
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader
One of the most well known of African American folktales are the Uncle Remus tales, originally written down by Joel Chandler Harris over a hundred years ago. This four-book series drops the heavy and difficult dialect of the original tales and adds contemporary language and references to Brer Rabbit’s fun.

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