Sunday, February 10, 2008

Black Childrens' Books for all children, Part 1

So for AfroSpear's Black History Month Blog Carnival I've decided to list all the
children's/ young adult books that have black characters in them from my recent and not so far flung childhood, as well as any others that have come on my radar as beautiful, or special, or radiant, or great. You know the ones that give you chills or make you cry like that's me in that book, that's me.. even if the character is a male and you're a girl, or they're from Minnesota and you're from Tallahassee, or they can fly and it seems like you cannot. All those lasting ones. Their magic never ends.

1. The Planet of Junior Brown, The People Could Fly ( obv), Justice and Her Brothers ( The Trilogy, House of Dies Drear, Cousins, Second Cousins.
Pretty much all the books by Virginia Hamilton. They are panoramic and mythic in scope.

2. Yolanda's Genius by Carol Fenner
This was pretty much my favorite book around fifth grade/ 11 or 10 years old, so its still one of my favorite books of all time.

3. The Black Snowman, Phil Mendez and Carole Byard
Pretty Self Explanatory, Haunting and beautiful, To be black and beautiful.. man you are learning about so many things when you are a child.. like what black means.. and stuff like snow and if you have a place in a place that is beautiful

From Publishers Weekly
Jacob Miller is an inner-city boy who hates being black and poor. He reluctantly assists his little brother Peewee in making a black snowman from the filthy snow in the back alley. The figure comes alive after they unknowingly drape him in a fragment of the magical kente , a cloth worn by African storytellers for hundreds of years. The snowman challenges Jacob's outlook on life by telling him all the wonderful things that are black, and mysteriously conjuring forth brave heroes from African tribal tradition. When Peewee is trapped inside a burning building, the snowman shows Jacob a way to save his brother while exhorting the boy to believe in himself. Using mystical elements and the power of the past, Mendez, in his first book, weaves a stirring tale of Jacob's transformation from a bitter victim of his situation into a proud fighter for his life. Byard's haunting color drawings bring to life not only the snowman; they successfully portray the many contrasts between Jacob's dour moods, Peewee's optimism, the dingy apartment and the eerie parade of stately African tribesmen. The valuable lesson inherent in The Black Snowman is not just for black children but for all who struggle for identity within their own worlds. Ages 7-10.

4. Daddy is a Monster.. Sometimes John Steptoe
Man oh Man! I remember this book. It was so scary, yet good. I remember reading it with my sisters or rather being read it. Cause for real.. daddy can be a monster sometimes.

5. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters John Steptoe
This book is a little creepy sometimes, but still kind of good. hah

6. Follow the Drinking Gourd, Jeanette Winter
Oh goodness. This book right here is creepy too, but in a good way.. kind of get on your path.. get on the path.. and the illustrations are off the chain. Talks about running away to freedom and following the north star, following the drinking gourd

7. The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm / A Girl Named Disaster Nancy Farmer
Both great books by Nancy Farmer.. I mean truly great adventure type narratives.. really pulls you in and both are set in Africa

8. Ashanti to Zulu, Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Diane Dillon
Wonderful wonderful rich rich book of illustrations.. you can just pour over these pictures

8 seems like a good number. I might do another one of these for good measure.


  1. peace,
    i just wanted to pop in to say that i love the project you guys are working on. i grew up with the book 'the people could fly' and as i child wished i could fly and i wondered what it meant in within the african diasporic experience that we create and pass on so many narrative that henge on a eclectic mix of sci-fi and folktales that if transformed into tangible action would have beautiful articulations. when my family moved when i was 12 many of my books and prized things were lost in storage and such so your site brings back good memories and plenty of hope. good luck in your travels and i definitely look forward to see what happens next. i think it is radically courageous of you guys to work on this project. too many of us learn to love what we do instead of doing what we love. again, i wish you guys the best of luck.


  2. i had so many of these books when i was younger! gosh and there are more.

    major high five for The Ear the Eye, and the Arm and A Girl Named Disaster. i was just thinking of a girl named disaster as i went to sleep last night! and i was trying to remember this other book. it was like the ear the eye and the arm in that it took place in africa in the future. it was called like moonflash, moonfire, something like that. it was incredible. i'd love to find it. i mean it had such beautiful feelings in it, the loss of a world, the loss of the world's innocence, something something.