30 Books for Young Readers that Celebrate Black Joy

“Joy is an act of resistance.”

Poet Toi Derricotte

Children’s books showcasing Black joy remind us of the beauty of family, friendship and community. They are touchstones that surround us with the blessing of who we are. In a world that tries to set us back, divide us and push us down at every turn, joy is affirmation, resistance and liberation. Perhaps no one needs that more than kids. Black children deserve to be happy, carefree and valued.

Celebrating joy in Black life has been an important part of Black children’s literature throughout its history. As I prepare for the release tomorrow of All Aboard and Zip, Zoom, the first two books in Ty’s Travels, my easy reader series with New York Times bestselling illustrator Nina Mata, I want to pay tribute to that legacy.

Below I share some of my favorite books by Black creators that salute the jubilant spirit of our kids. Please add yours in the comments. I will choose one commenter at random to receive a signed copy of book 2 in Ty’s Travels, Zip, Zoom.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon James








Me and Mama written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera








Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Bernette Ford, illustrated by George Ford








Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie Starring Indigo Blume by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Tim Bowers







Octopus Stew written and illustrated by Eric Velasquez









Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon








The Ring Bearer written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper









Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan









The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton








Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Duyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita








Bigmama’s written and illustrated by Donald Crews







Grandma’s Purse written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton







Red Shoes by Karen English, illustrated by Ebony Glenn







Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn







Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by A.G. Ford







Some of the Days of Everett Anderson by Lucille Clifton, illustrated by Evaline Ness







Raising Dragons by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Elise Primavera







A Girl Like Me by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews









Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier









Look Up by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola









Max Found Two Sticks written and illustrated by Bryan Pinkney









Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson








Furquan’s First Flat Top written and illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo









Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist








So Much! by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury









I’m a Big Sister Now by Katura J. Hudson, illustrated by Sylvia L. Walker









My Rainy Day Rocket Ship by Markette Sheppard, illustrated by Charly Palmer








My Aunt Came Back written and illustrated by Pat Cummings








Messy Bessey’s Family Reunion by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, illustrated by Dana Regan








Ready, Set, Raymond! by Vaunda Michaux Nelson, illustrated by Derek Anderson

15 thoughts on “30 Books for Young Readers that Celebrate Black Joy

  1. We raised our daughters with three of these books. Now you’ve given us a larger list for our grandson. Thank you!
    We also liked Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt, Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, and Eleanora E. Tate’s books.
    Congratulations on your new books!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind note! Love that you read some of these books to your daughters and continue the tradition with your grandson. Appreciate you sharing some of your faves.

  2. My 3 Brown boys are now 44,42, and 38. How I wish these books had been available when they were young. I searched every bookstore back in the day trying to find books that pictured them. Glad they are now available for grandchildren.

    1. Thanks so much for planning to share with your grandchildren. Without marketing support, children’s books celebrating Black joy had a hard time getting on bookstore shelves and finding their audience. Glad our books are becoming more visible. We still have a long way to go.

  3. I love the vibrant spirit that oozes from the characters on each book cover. They fill me with joy. I have not had a chance to read all of these books but hope to one day.

    Among my favorites are:

    My Nana and Me by Irene Smalls, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson
    Brothers of the Night by Debbie Allen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
    Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

  4. I especially joy reading distribing books some of the books on your book list.

    We all know, if could start a Black child reading books written especially written for them these books will be mirrors offering unlimited possibilities, with windows for them to look through and, sliding doors to walk through as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop has so elegantly stated.

    1. Thank you for reading and distributing the books we share! That means a lot. Love your phrasing of books offering unlimited possibilities. Dr. Bishop’s metaphor is one everyone should know.

  5. The winner of Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom is Pamela Elwood. I’ll email you to get your mailing address. Congratulations!

  6. Thank you for this lovely list of books that I can share with my future educators and university colleagues. Can’t wait to start reading!!!

  7. Hello my name is Robert Roberson, and I would like to tell you about a new book that’s on the market. It is called Night Sky, Anga La Usiku, it is the first story in a series called Tales from the Serengeti. It is based on one of the oldest versions of Cinderella in existence the original tale having African origins actually predates it’s European predecessor by at least 400 years. The original was not recorded until the Greeks wrote it down; most experts believe the tale is over 1000 years old. Please, take a look at the book’s first few pages on Amazon. I would love to know what you think.

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