When I found out that my wife and I were expecting our first child, I remember being so pumped to start her book collection. I can vividly recall going directly to a big box book store ready to pile my arms full of children's books. As I was looking around I was stunned to realize that there were so few books that were representative myself or my daughter. I came home empty handed and confused about what just took place. My confusion turned to anger as I talked to my wife about how there were no books with black dads. There were definitely no books on hand that spoke to mixed race families. She's been around kids much more than me, so she was not surprised by my discovery. When planning Little Nomad I knew this lack of inclusion needed to be a major point to address.
With this list that I've put together, I want to encourage care givers to be more thoughtful with their book selections for their kiddos. It's important to include books with black and brown children as the main characters into your collection. Everyone of us has a story.
So with that, here are some titles that I think would be a great addition to any child's book collection.
1. Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan
My new favorite children's book taking the top spot from Where The wild Things Are. I fell in love with Blackbird when I was asked to read this book to a group of kids at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art for Black History Month. Long ago, Blackbird was voted the most beautiful bird in the forest. The other birds, who were colored red, yellow, blue, and green, were so envious that they begged Blackbird to paint their feathers with a touch of black so they could be beautiful too. Although Black-bird warns them that true beauty comes from within, the other birds persist and soon each is given a ring of black around their neck or a dot of black on their wings - markings that detail birds to this very day.
2. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
I get to do my daughters hair in the mornings, and I was clueless when I started. To say that Hair Love hits home would be an understatement. It's up to Daddy to give his daughter an extra-special hair style in this story of self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters. Zuri knows her hair is beautiful, but it has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Mum always does Zuri's hair just the way she likes it - so when Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he'll do anything to make her - and her hair - happy.
3. Firebird by Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl–an every girl–whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.
4. Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
This is a heartfelt and vibrant picture book about the childhood and life of Puerto Rican-Haitian American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Written for young children, it celebrates Basquiat’s art and traces the early steps of his artistic formation, as he makes his way toward the pinnacle of fame. From boyhood, he begins developing his own “messy” style of art-making, one that evokes powerful personal emotions, while addressing the sound and fury of social and cultural politics.
As a DJ this had to be on my list. This culture has allowed me to travel, meet great people and support myself and my family. All thanks to Kool Herc. On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks—the musical interludes between verses—longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill's book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.
Everyone loves the warm sunshine—except the lonely raincloud. No one wants to be his friend! But one day, he stumbles across a grumpy little florist . . . could she be looking for a friend too? In this charming tale, a solitary raincloud finds a way to make a sad little girl happy again, by using the very thing that most people dislike about him—rain!
7. Of Thee I sing by Barack Obama
Barack Obama delivers a tender, beautiful letter to his daughters in this powerful picture book that makes the perfect Black History Month read-aloud.
In this poignant message to his daughters, Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.
8. Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill
When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era.
I love to watch people read Julian is a Mermaid for the first time. I'm not sure if there is a sweeter book out there. While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress.
10. Crown - An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
How good can a haircut make a person feel? “Magnificent. Flawless. Like royalty.” In a powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture, Barnes addresses readers directly—and it’s safe to say his audience is primarily boys of color—using hyperbole to boost their confidence and help them recognize their own value.
11. He's Got the Whole World In His hands by Kadir Nelson
Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it—vast and beautiful.
12. Jump! by Floyd Cooper