Young Readers

Beautiful Children’s Picture Books that Celebrate African American Culture

Beautiful Children's Picture Books that Celebrate African American Culture kids books

One of the best ways to help your children learn more about different cultures throughout history is by using picture books. Picture books can help young children break more complicated information into small, age-appropriate pieces, helping them digest and retain information quicker.

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”Martin Luther King Jr.

A Girl Called Problem children's bookA Girl Called Problem

Katie Quirk
Ages 10—14
Lexile: 770L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5404-9
243 Pages

Thirteen-year-old Shida, whose name means “problem” in Swahili, certainly has a lot of problems in her life — her father is dead, her depressed mother is rumored to be a witch, and everyone in her rural Tanzanian village expects her to marry rather than pursue her dream of becoming a healer. So when the village’s elders make a controversial decision to move their people to a nearby village, Shida welcomes the change. Surely the opportunity to go to school and learn from a nurse can only mean good things.

However, after a series of puzzling misfortunes plague the new village, Shida must prove to her people that moving was the right decision, and that they can have a better life in their new home.

For author pictures of Tanzania, a video depicting the life of a modern Tanzanian girl, discussion questions for each chapter of the book, and suggestions for further reading, please go to and follow the links for A Girl Called Problem.

The Herd Boy children book for kidsThe Herd Boy

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5550-3
36 Pages
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Malusi is a herd boy, which means that he must look after his grandfather’s sheep and goats and protect them from harm on the grazing slopes. This is a big job for a small boy and one Malusi does well. Still, he dreams of being more than a herd boy: he wants to be president!

When Malusi mentions these hopes, his friend Lungisa laughs and laughs. But after an attack by a hungry baboon and an encounter with Nelson Mandela, Malusi wonders if his dream isn’t so impossible after all…

In this poignant story set in South Africa, greatness often comes from humble beginnings. Niki Daly’s captivating prose and atmospheric illustrations help readers consider what builds the strength, courage, and integrity of a great leader.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”Martin Luther King Jr.

My Name is Sangoel children book for kids

My Name is Sangoel

Ages 6-10
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD440L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5307-3
32 Pages
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Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.

When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.

Written by the authors of the acclaimed Four Feet, Two Sandals, this poignant story of identity and belonging will help young readers understand the plight of the millions of children in the world who are refugees.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela

Son of a Gun children book for kidsSon of a Gun

Ages 11 & up
Lexile: 700L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5406-3
125 Pages

I was crazy. Crazy mad. That’s how I felt when I turned in my AK-47 rifle. The commanding officer’s growl still haunts me: “This gun is your god. You listen to the voice of your god and go where your gun tells you.”

This powerful and gripping story describes the journey of a brother and sister, eight- year-old Lucky and ten-year-old Nopi, who are kidnapped from school and forced to become child soldiers in Liberia’s fourteen-year-long civil war.

Lucky and Nopi manage to escape, but must continue fleeing. Even after they are reunited with their parents, they both know the pieces of their lives will never fit together like they used to. When will the war really be over, and when will they get to have the childhood they still dream about?

This sensitive and compelling narrative is based on true stories of former child soldiers interviewed by the author. Son of a Gun also includes a section of notes and further information about Liberia.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch children book for kidsThe Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Chris Barton
Don Tate
Ages 7 to 10
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0
50 Pages
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A unique biography of a remarkable Reconstruction figure

John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

This biography, with its informative backmatter and splendid illustrations, gives readers an in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the first African-American congressmen.

The Beatitudes childrens books for kidsThe Beatitudes

From Slavery to Civil Rights
Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 980L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5352-3
34 Pages
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Since the earliest days of slavery, African Americans have called on their religious faith in the struggle against oppression.

In this book the Beatitudes — from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount — form the backdrop for Carole Boston Weatherford’s powerful free-verse poem that traces the African American journey from slavery to civil rights.

Tim Ladwig’s stirring illustrations showcase a panorama of heroes in this struggle, from the slaves shackled in the hold of a ship to the first African American president taking his oath of office on the steps of the United States Capitol.

Readers of all ages will find this a book to return to again and again for encouragement and inspiration.

Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation childrens book for kidsBen and the Emancipation Proclamation

Ages 8-12
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: 670L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5541-1
32 Pages
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Ben, a young slave, uses every chance he gets to teach himself to read, practicing with the words he sees on street signs and in shop windows and even in cast-off newspapers he finds in the gutter.

But after the Civil War breaks out, his master leaves town and Ben finds himself in a slave prison. One night, the prisoners bribe a guard to get their hands on a newspaper, and to the applause of his fellow slaves, Ben reads aloud the momentous news of Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — surely one of the most remarkable readings of that document ever.

Based on the true story of Benjamin Holmes, Pat Sherman’s stirring text and the memorable illustrations of Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper pay tribute to the power of freedom — and to the power of the written word.

Come Sunday childrens book for kidsCome Sunday

Ages 4-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
Lexile: AD960L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5134-5
32 Pages
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Softly, quietly begins the day of the week that, for LaTasha, is always full of glorious sounds: the pipe organ, tambourine, and drum; the footfalls of ushers marching down the aisle of the sanctuary; the sweet harmonies of the choir; and the rich vibrato of the preacher’s voice. LaTasha sings along with the congregation, confident that Heaven hears each joyful note.

Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, Nikki Grimes’ poems and the lush tapestry of colors in Michael Bryant’s illustrations celebrate a day of worship viewed through the eyes of an exuberant little girl.

“To this day I believe we are here on earth to live, grow, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” ― Rosa Parks

I Lay My Stitches Down childrens books for kidsI Lay My Stitches Down

Ages 10 & up
Full-color illustrations throughout
Lexile: 990L
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5386-8
34 Pages
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This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

This moving and eloquent set of poems, brought to life by vivid and colorful artwork from Michele Wood, offers a timeless witness to the hardship endured by America’s slaves. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note.

9780802854452The Watcher

Bryan Collier
Nikki Grimes

Ages 6 to 10
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5445-2
42 Pages
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A poetic story inspired by Psalm 121

Jordan lives in fear of Tanya, the class bully. But Tanya has worries of her own, no matter how much she tries to ignore them. It seems impossible that Jordan and Tanya could be anything other than enemies, but the Lord is watching over them, guiding each of them along a path that might just help them to understand one another.

Nikki Grimes takes the words of a Psalm 121 and masterfully transforms them into a golden shovel poem of compassion, friendship, and faith. Coupled with powerful artwork from Bryan Collier, this heartfelt story is one that readers will treasure.

9780802852380The Lord’s Prayer

Tim Ladwig
Ages 5-10
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5238-0
32 Pages
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The beloved words of The Lord’s Prayer serve as the text for this remarkable book, in which Tim Ladwig illustrates how the words of this ancient prayer can have real meaning in our lives today.

In Tim’s paintings, a young girl and her father spend a day together helping an elderly neighbor. The love and guidance the child experiences in her relationship with her dad reflect the heart and will of our Heavenly Father in concrete ways children of all ages will understand.

Mississippi Morning

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5497-1
32 Pages
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It’s the middle of the Great Depression, but James William still enjoys his life in rural Mississippi. But his happiness starts to unravel when he discovers the fire that burned down the local preacher’s house wasn’t an accident, but a hate crime. When his friend LeRoy tells him about the Klan and their hanging tree, James William has a hard time grasping this harsh reality, until an unexpected encounter brings the issue close to home.A thought-provoking story of one boy’s loss of naiveté, Mississippi Morning will challenge young readers to question their own assumptions and confront personal decisions.

Psalm Twenty-Three children's booksPsalm Twenty-Three

Tim Ladwig
Ages 5-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5163-5
32 Pages
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Through poignant, heart-warming images of an urban African-American family, children experience the comfort and encouragement this favorite psalm still offers–the powerful message that they can rely on the Lord as they thread their way through the risk-filled maze of daily life in the city.

When Daddy Prays

Ages 4-9
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5266-3
32 Pages
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In this collection of new poems by Nikki Grimes, a child learns about prayer from his father, whose prayers carry the family through each day — no matter what the circumstances.

Nikki Grimes believes that spirituality and prayer are signs of true strength and power. When Daddy Prays celebrates fathers who help their children see this. Nikki writes, “In my view there is no more powerful image than that of a strong man bowing before God.”

And illustrator Tim Ladwig has created remarkable images, rich with tenderness and touches of affectionate humor, to enhance and complete this exceptional book.


5 comments on “Beautiful Children’s Picture Books that Celebrate African American Culture

  1. Cynthia

    I appreciate the shout-out for I Lay My Stitches Down! I’m honored to be a part of such an impressive and beautiful collection of books

    Liked by 1 person

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