I’m often the go-to person for friends looking for multicultural children’s book recommendations. But when a buddy asked me recently for suggestions of Easter-themed books that feature African-American characters, I was stumped.
Thankfully, help was just a click away. Through online searches and suggestions from my FaceBook friend, Kathleen T. Horning of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, I found a few books with Easter themes that feature African-American characters and/or were written by African-American authors.
KT Horning also let me know that Marian Anderson’s famous concert at the Lincoln Memorial happened on an Easter Sunday. She mentioned When Marian Sang and Sweet Land of Liberty as two books about that historic time. “Sometimes you’ve gotta get creative,” she said. Amen to that :).
The list I shared with my friend is below. Sadly, some of the books are out of print. But you can still purchase them at used book sites or check them out from many libraries. Please add any others you know in the comments. Thanks so much.
Wishing you and your family a beautiful holiday!
Miz Fannie Mae’s Fine New Easter Hat by Melissa Milich, illustrated by Yong Chen
“Tandy and her Daddy go off to the big city to buy her mama an Easter hat. As soon as she spots the broad-brimmed beauty with fruits and flowers and four little eggs nestled at one side, Tandy knows this is the right one, and her father buys it in spite of the high price. Mama insists that the expensive item be returned, but Daddy wears it on his milk-delivery route so that she must keep it. As the proud family sits in church that Easter, the eggs begin to hatch and are mothered by a starling sitting in the rafters. Mama’s hat ends up on a tree limb and serves as a nest to generations of birds. The tale is based on a true family memory, but children will have to decide for themselves when fantasy takes over. The warm evocation of family and small-town life is in the vein of Gloria Jean Pinkney’s Sunday Outing (Dial, 1994) and Elizabeth Howard’s Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) (Houghton, 1991). Chen’s mellow watercolors feature happy faces bathed in the warm sunshine of memory and a variety of interesting perspectives. The solid reality of this family and the fun of the ending help move the story along. A gentle read-aloud that provides a chance for some casual discussion of the past.”
– School Library Journal
Easter Parade by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
“In this holiday story set in 1943, Leanna, an African American girl in Chicago, and her older cousin Elizabeth in Washington, D.C., look forward to their respective Easter celebrations. The joys of black patent-leather shoes and hats with ribbons – de rigeur for the promenade to church – are mingled with the more serious concerns of tight finances and Elizabeth’s father, who is off fighting in the Second World War. Greenfield’s careful, emotionally astute writing convincingly portrays the girls’ viewpoints and takes an original approach to the arrival of a long-awaited letter from the front: Elizabeth “sits across the room from her mother, facing away from her. She wants to be alone and try to hear her father’s voice.” Gilchrist, who previously collaborated with Greenfield on For the Love of the Game, contributes realistic, smudgy sepia drawings in the oval format of old photographs. The last one uses a burst of color to convey the excitement of the parade for little Leanna. This petite, Easter-egg-bright book would add a sweet-spirited and affecting touch to a holiday basket.”
– Publishers Weekly
At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter by Nikki Grimes with woodcuts by David Frampton
“Through beautiful, lucid free verse, Nikki Grimes explores some of the ambiguous, enigmatic events and circumstances leading up to the central theme behind the annual Easter observance. Twenty-two poems introduced by a brief explanatory paragraph portray the story through the imagined eyes of the principals involved. Details of the Last Supper, Pilate’s wife’s role, the religious council tribunal, Mary’s grief, the darkening of the sky at the time of the crucifixion and the site of the ascension are all included. Questions raised in each piece encourage discussion of multiple interpretations, as in the poem titled “What’s in a Name?,” which refers to Judas’s role as one of betrayer and the subsequent altered implication to his name. Poetry is gentle yet thoughtful, alluding to the brutality of the execution while providing an almost prayer-like personal reflection. Multi-colored woodcuts suggest the emotion and mood of each scene in a parody of stained glass. A handsome, well-designed offering for middle readers and families.”
– Kirkus, starred review
Painted Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies by Toni Trent Parker with photographs by Earl Anderson.
Happy Easter, Everyone! A Lift-the-Flap Story by Hopi Morton, illustrated by Robert Powers
Children love to learn and are always figuring things out about themselves and the world around them. And the more they know, the better equipped they are to handle the challenges of growing up.
Little Bill encourages children to value their family and friends, to feel good about themselves, and to learn to solve problems creatively.
I hope young readers will see Little Bill as their friend and enjoy his real-life adventures.