There's a Book for That: Black History Month for Young Readers


This week we honor Black History Month with a special focus on outstanding books for young readers, including books on activists, artists, and pioneers. Please also visit Penguin Random House’s initiative, All Ways Black for books for all ages.



“Life is how you look at it.” And for Black photographer Roy DeCarava, life in his neighborhood was beautiful. Follow Roy through 1940s Harlem, as he takes out his camera, pops in a roll of film, and opens his eyes to the beauty all around him. There’s a little boy drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. SNAP! A young man at the bus stop with a baby in his arms. SNAP! Kids playing in an open fire hydrant. SNAP! Looking at them all, Roy sees beauty everywhere in Harlem, and so do the people who look at his photos. This deeply researched picture book also includes additional information on DeCarava, a list of places to view his photos, a bibliography, and photos.


Stitch by Stitch by Connie Schofield-MorrisonSTITCH BY STITCH: ELIZABETH HOBBS KECKLY SEWS HER WAY TO FREEDOM by Connie Schofield-Morrison, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

An awe-inspiring African American woman! A talented seamstress, born a slave, bought freedom for herself and her son. This inspiring story and picture book about an unsung hero is beautifully illustrated with oil paint, cut paper and fabric collage and hand-embroidery by Elizabeth Zunon that brings Lizzy’s dresses to life. Connie Morrison writes with straightforward honesty and clarity, seamlessly including research on fashion, life, and politics of the time. The backmatter includes a bibliography for further reading.


Coretta's Journey by Alice Faye DuncanCORETTA’S JOURNEY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CORETTA SCOTT KING by Alice Faye Duncan, R. Gregory Christie

Who was Coretta Scott King? Her black-veiled image at the funeral of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was moving and iconic. This book introduces readers to the woman behind the veil—a girl full of spunk and pluck, bravery and grit. Much more than just a wife, Coretta Scott King was Martin’s partner in the fight for justice…When Martin died, it was Coretta who carried on the struggle, and preserved his legacy so that his voice would be heard by future generations. This important story, told in poetry and prose, is a riveting introduction to an important and instrumental figure in the history of activism and civil rights.


Invincible by Wade HudsonINVINCIBLE: FATHERS AND MOTHERS OF BLACK AMERICA by Wade Hudson, E. B. Lewis

In a poetic narrative of the origins of Black America, acclaimed Black author and publisher Wade Hudson teaches us about the little-known men and women who had a profound effect on the history of the nation. Black America was built by brave pioneers—men and women taken from Africa, who suffered and struggled to build a country, a culture, and institutions. Emphasizing that freedom didn’t ring for all when the United States gained its independence from Great Britain, Hudson shows the slow process by which Black Americans fought for justice over the course of many generations.


A Long Time Coming by Ray Anthony ShepardA LONG TIME COMING: A LYRICAL BIOGRAPHY OF RACE IN AMERICA FROM ONA JUDGE TO BARACK OBAMA by Ray Anthony Shepard, R. Gregory Christie

This YA biography-in-verse of six important Black Americans from different eras, including Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama, chronicles the diverse ways each fought racism and shows how much—and how little—has changed for Black Americans since our country’s founding.


It's Not Bragging If It's True by Zaila Avant-gardeIT’S NOT BRAGGING IF IT’S TRUE: HOW TO BE AWESOME AT LIFE, FROM A WINNER OF THE SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE by Zaila Avant-garde, Marti Dumas

Kids will be inspired to embrace their inner weirdness and persevere through obstacles after reading this empowering collection of true stories from teenage Scripps National Spelling Bee champ and Guinness World Record holder Zaila Avant-garde! Includes 8 pages of never-before-seen photos.



How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carole Boston WeatherfordHOW DO YOU SPELL UNFAIR?: MACNOLIA COX AND THE NATIONAL SPELLING BEE by Carole Boston Weatherford, Frank Morrison

A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book

In 1936, eighth grader MacNolia Cox became the first African American to win the Akron, Ohio, spelling bee. And with that win, she was asked to compete at the prestigious National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, where she and a girl from New Jersey were the first African Americans invited since its founding…But celebration turned to chill when the train crossed the state line into Maryland, where segregation was the law of the land. Prejudice and discrimination ruled—on the train, in the hotel, and, sadly, at the spelling bee itself. With a brief epilogue recounting MacNolia’s further history, How Do You Spell Unfair? is the story of her groundbreaking achievement magnificently told by award-winning creators and frequent picture-book collaborators Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison.


A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen BryantA SPLASH OF RED: THE LIFE AND ART OF HORACE PIPPIN by Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet

As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw…Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn’t lift his right arm, and couldn’t make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint–and paint, and paint! Soon, people–including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth–started noticing Horace’s art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country. Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.


Brave. Black. First. by Cheryl Willis HudsonBRAVE. BLACK. FIRST: 50+ AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD by Cheryl Willis Hudson; Illustrated by Erin K. Robinson

Harriet Tubman guided the way.

Rosa Parks sat for equality.

Aretha Franklin sang from the soul.

Serena Williams bested the competition.

Michelle Obama transformed the White House.

Black women everywhere have changed the world!

Published in partnership with curators from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, this illustrated biography compilation captures the iconic moments of 50 Black women whose heroism and bravery rewrote the American story for the better.


The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée WatsonTHE 1619 PROJECT: BORN ON THE WATER by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, Nikkolas Smith

The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.


When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba ClarkeWHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER by Maxine Beneba Clarke

In this joyful exploration of the Black Lives Matter motto, a loving narrator relays to a young Black child the strength and resonance behind the words. In family life, through school and beyond, the refrains echo and gain in power, among vignettes of protests and scenes of ancestors creating music on djembe drums. With deeply saturated illustrations rendered in jewel tones, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers a gorgeous, moving, and essential picture book.


This Is Your Time by Ruby BridgesTHIS IS YOUR TIME by Ruby Bridges

Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges—who, at the age of six, was the first black child to integrate into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans—inspires readers and calls for action in this moving letter. Her elegant, memorable gift book is especially uplifting in the wake of Kamala Harris making US history as the first female, first Black, and first South Asian Vice President.


For more information on these and related titles visit the collection Black History Month for Young Readers 2024

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Posted: February 7, 2024