I have a list of wonderful books with Balck girls as main characters that can be found here, but we are well overdue for a list filled with books that celebrate Black boys. For all of you, teachers like me who teach at a predominantly white school this list is absolutely for you just as much as it is for teachers who have more racially diverse students. All children need to have books that celebrate children of a variety of races on their bookshelves and is imperative that your students have books that celebrate boys who look like them. No matter what your students look like you need these books.
If you want to buy any of these books each title is linked with an affiliate link to Amazon to make it much easier for you to do that. Let’s all fill our bookshelves with amazing options including many books that celebrate Black boys!
Crown: an Ode To The Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes is a book every teacher from preschool through high school needs to have. We tag along to the barbershop but instead of a lesson in hair cutting we get a lesson in affirmation, self-love, and confidence! This book is filled with the pride young boys feel after getting a haircut and seeing their new look and renewed pride in who they are staring back at them in the mirror. This book is hard to describe in a review because the artwork by Gordon C. James brings the affirming texts to life. It’s impossible not to be moved by the way this book absolutely celebrates Black boys. It’s a must-have!
Brown Boy Joy by Dr. Thomashia Booker is a simple look at happy Black boys and the things that bring joy to them. Filled with positive messages about self-love and pride in who you are and how you look this book is fantastic!
Max and The Tag Along Moon by Floyd Cooper is a gentle moving story about a little boy and separation from those we love. This story is so calm and a joy to read as it very simply tackles the issue of having to say goodbye to those we love. Granpa tells Max to look for the moon when he misses him and although he means for just that night adults will get the intended subtext that it will also help Max when Granpa is no longer with him permanently. Children love this book, and I love that it highlights a strong and loving multi-generational relationship.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall is a sweet little book about thinking you are ready to do something and realizing that the challenge is your own anxiety. In this book, a little boy grapples with this as tries to jump off the high diving board at the pool. It’s OK to be afraid, and it’s OK to keep trying. A supportive father is there to encourage him to try again and help build that resilience that gets him back up that ladder and jumps! The illustrations are amazing, and there is something magical about the high diving board that kids universally see as a huge scary challenge and are immediately invested in Jabari’s struggle. Great book!
Be Boy Buzz by Bell Hooks is a favorite on my class bookshelf. It’s bright, very fun to read aloud that reminds me of the rhymes of Dr. Seuss as they rhythmically bounce along as you turn page after page. It celebrates Black boys and their beauty as with dynamic words and illustrations.
Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora is a lovely little book that is all about the toddler perspective. I like that the child isn’t really clearly a boy so girls can see themselves in this child too, but I am adding this title here because it’s such a great book with a joyful and playful family that every toddler and young preschool class needs to grab it. It comes in a board book, so it’s perfect for your a toddler reading nook!
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic. Some classics are the type of books that lose their relevance and leave readers wondering what the hype is about. This book is timeless. A little boy goes exploring in the snow and discovers his world in a new way. The illustrations are magical and the way that they convey the emotions this little boy experiences throughout the day are nothing short of perfect.
Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love is a world I want to live in where women and children and even chihuahuas can be mermaids if they want to. In this book, a little boy who LOVES mermaids is on the metro with his Abuela and sees women dressed as mermaids, and his imagination runs wild. When he gets home, he transforms himself and when his Abuela interrupts she thinks he may be in trouble, heck we all think he may be in trouble, but the end is far from it. While this book doesn’t overtly address the LGBTQ community the experience of showing a loved one who you are and worrying that they may reject that speaks to the topic as does the fact that Julian is going against gender stereotypes as he dresses like a mermaid. This book is easily one of the best books I have read this year, and I read a lot of picture books! GO buy it now!
Every Little Thing by Bob Marley and Cadella Marley is a fantastic little book. It is packed with illustrations that show a carefree little boy not worrying about things and enjoying his day. The text will be familiar to anyone who knows that Bob Marley tune and yes, it is hard, if not impossible to read it without singing some reggae ( in my case very off tune). I also appreciate that it’s available in board book because it’s perfect for toddlers as well. This is a simple, joyful book!
Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn is a lovely story that celebrates little Leo as he splashes in the bath and in swim class too. I love McQuinn’s writing because it has the perfect amount of text for toddlers and or preschoolers at circle time. I use her books often in my 2-3-year-olds class as they are long enough to dive deep into a topic; in this case swim class, but simple enough that they don’t become too long for little ones just learning to be a part of group story time.
Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn is another simple but perfectly crafted little story about Leo and his adventure at baby storytime at the library. By adventure, I’m talking about singing songs and playing with scarves but I simply love how McQuinn’s books are about simple activities that toddlers and preschoolers participate in. It really helps children see themselves as the characters when they too do these activities in their communities.
He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands by Kadir Nelson is stunning. If you are familiar with the author/illustrator you already know that his illustrations are among the very best you’ll find on any bookshelf, I find I lose myself in them they are so magnificent. As the title suggests ( did you sing it?) the book’s texts are the lyrics to the familiar spiritual song. As a teacher at a Christian preschool, I am always looking for books that can provide some connection to a faith tradition while also engaging the children and this book does that. Also, I can’t read it without singing so that makes storytime that much more fun.
This is by no means an extensive list – feel free to leave comments and share more titles that celebrate Black boys.
I want to highlight a book that looks very promising, but I haven’t read it so I can’t offer a proper review. I have ordered it and will update this post when I can. Dear Black Boy by Martellus Bennett is described by the publisher as “a letter of encouragement to all of the black boys around the world who feel like sports are all they have. It is a reminder that they are more than athletes, more than a jersey number, more than a great crossover or a forty-yard dash, that the biggest game that they’ll ever play is the game of life, and there are people rooting for them off of the courts and fields, not as athletes, but as future leaders of the world. ” I am very excited for this book because there is a great demand for books that celebrate black boys for all the reasons they are wonderful. As I said, when my book arrives I’ll share a full review here. Order your copy here.
This is a beautiful book that fits perfectly into this category!
Your list was featured by my local library in southern Maryland. Thank you so much for making it!!
I humbly wanted to point out that “Julian is a Mermaid” features a latino boy with an Abuela. Still an amazing addition to any list that features BIPOC children <3
Allison McDonald says
You are right he has an Abuela, but Julian is also Black. There are lots of Black Latinx or Afro-Latinx children, Julian is one of them.
Dr. Kimberlie Harris says
Excellent list! I had no clue bell hooks had a book celebrating boys. Have you heard of I Love a Good Book? https://www.phrasedllc.com/i-love-a-good-book
Kameel Vohra says
Really love this list.
Please do one that features a broader set of minorities!
Though there’s lot of attention on better representation for Black children – it’d be lovely to see more representation for Hispanic, Asian and other minorities.
Allison McDonald says
There are so many more lists to do for certain here are a few of my other lists that would fit in this category.
Ciara Hill says
You’ve curated a BEAUTIFUL list of books for black boys! I would love to also recommend my book “Shiloh and Dande the Lion”. It’s all about “embracing diversity, accepting others, and courageously being yourself!”
Lisa Blount says
Thank you for this extensive list. I was please that my library had several of the titles but was glad to have recommendations for others. The principal just asked me to put together a book list for purchase so I can buy some of these amazing books.