I’ve shared dozens of book lists over the years. This month I’m sharing a collection of my favorite Black children’s book authors. I chose from the classics, but I know there are many newer Black authors that I’ve missed. Please share your favorites in the comments!
Angela Johnson, the author of over 4o books, is a definite favorite. Her first book, Tell Me a Story, Mama, is a wonderful book that can help spark ideas for children’s writing. Another favorite is When I am Old with You, about a little boy and his grandfather. Her books have just the right amount of text … and the stories of loving family members will tug right at your heart.
Faith Ringgold is another favorite African American author and illustrator. Her first book, Tar Beach, won the Caldecott Honor award in 1991. My favorite book of hers is long but beautifully written and illustrated: If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks.
Jacqueline Woodson often tells about history through her storytelling. This is the Rope tells how Black people came to New York City. Coming on Home Soon takes place in World War II, when little Ada Ruth’s mama must go off to work while Ada Ruth stays with her grandmother. You may have read The Other Side, a wonderful story about two girls who become friends in a segregated South.
My favorite Black children’s author is Jerry Pinkney, who in addition to being a masterful storyteller is an incredible artist. I especially love his retellings of classic stories – like The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Little Kittens, and his nearly wordless book Lion and the Mouse. Your listeners will request them again and again.
Patricia C. McKissack
Patricia C. McKissack died a few years ago, having written over 100 books. She wrote mostly nonfiction, focusing on issues of racism and Black history. She also write picture books unrelated to history, such as Flossie & the Fox and my preschooler’s favorite, The Honest to Goodness Truth. If you’d like to check out some of her nonfiction books, try the riveting Amistad: The Story of a Slave Ship.
John Steptoe wrote and illustrated one of my all-time favorite picture books, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. This is an absolutely stunning Cinderella story that has delighted all the children I’ve shared it with. (I should definitely try to find more of Steptoe’s books at the library!)
I’d never forget Donald Crews, an author and illustrator who has written and/or illustrated many classic picture books for young listeners, such as Freight Train, Bigmama’s, and Shortcut. His books are often used as mentor texts in writing workshop.
I’m sure I just scratched the surface! What are your favorite children’s picture books by Black authors? Let us know in the comments!