7 New Books For Kids Featuring Black Characters
Famed Young Adult author Walter Dean Myers tackled the issue of so few black main characters in children’s book in an editorial for The New York Times.
“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity,” Myers writes. “What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?”
Here are some new books featuring black characters which help give children a sense of self.
Up on My Tippy Toes – Dr. Linda Sturrup’s new book “Up on My Tippy Toes” not only encourages young people to take up careers in ballet (like Misty Copeland), it more broadly stresses the importance of exposing our young children to the fine arts. Though arts education is being scaled back in many school systems, it is known to lead to better academic performance and attendance, self-esteem, behavior—and success!
Sturrup’s second book, beautifully illustrated by Reginald William Butler, follows a young black girl, Natalie Jean, as she attends her first dance class—and fails. Will she gain the strength to return?
“The fine arts teach children structure and discipline that cross over to the classroom and can help lead to a lifetime of success in any endeavor,” said Sturrup, whose book series follows the exploits of main character Natalie Jean, a six-year-old, based on her own niece. “Often our children are not exposed to the fine arts, however, and miss out on a key opportunity to try something new and rewarding.” Buy it here.
Princess Cupcake Jones and the Queen’s Closet – Cupcake Jones is a modern day princess, who like many girls, loves her tutu and playing with her toys. Each book tells its own unique story, while at the same time, teaching children valuable lessons that parents will appreciate, all in a gentle, rhyming cadence that children will enjoy. The first book, Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu, teaches the importance of tiding up, the second, Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go To School, teaches the importance of going to school, and the newest book teaches the importance of creating memories and not rushing through life.
Ylleya Fields has three daughters and a son. While looking for books to read to her eldest daughter (when she was 2), Ylleya was struck by the limited number of titles featuring African American characters. Blending both of her daughter’s images and personalities together, the Cupcake Jones series was created, with more additions to add to the series.
In Princess Cupcake Jones and the Queen’s Closet, Cupcake Jones loves exploring her mom’s closet and trying on shoes. In the closet she finds herself in a transforming make-believe world of fun. When Cupcake discovers a special box that she hasn’t seen before, curiosity propels her to explore what lies within the mystery box. And once she looks inside, she finds herself in a shoe-filled situation that is more than she could have imagined. Children will delight in Cupcake’s discovery and will enjoy searching for the special word (“love”) hidden in each illustration.Buy it here.
The Freckled Speckled Rainbow Dog Salon – Every day after school Marvin and Malcolm Murphy work at their family’s dog salon. The Fancy Schmancy Perfect Pet Salon promises a perfect pooch every time. When a very curious and mischievous Malcolm discovers that he can make the soap change colors by adding a little plop of paint, the whole salon becomes freckled and speckled. What will do they do with all of the freckled french bulldogs, speckled schnauzers, pink pugs, purple poodles and yellow yorkies? Buy it here.
June Peters, You Will Change The World One Day – June Peters, You Will Change the World One Day aims to encourage young children by teaching them the value of giving back to others. Through this book, children will learn that at any age they can make a difference in the world around them. June, is a natural-born giver always putting the needs of others before her own. This book is thought-provoking and exciting, parents and children will both enjoy reading it. Buy it here.
Happy! – Nominated for an Academy Award in 2014, “Happy” hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, and has topped the charts in more than seventy-five countries worldwide. Now Pharrell Williams brings his beloved song to the youngest of readers in photographs of children across cultures celebrating what it means to be happy. All the exuberance of the song pulses from these vibrant photographs of excited, happy kids. This is a picture book full of memorable, precious childhood moments that will move readers in the same way they were moved by the song.
“Happy” has had the world dancing ever since it first hit the airwaves, and now the irresistibly cheerful tune will come to life on the page with Pharrell Williams’s very first picture book! A keepsake and true classic in the making. Buy it here.
Mixed Me – A little boy with wildly curly hair navigates the social terrain of being a biracial child. Actor and dad Taye Diggs’s short, choppy, rhyming verses convey the busyness of a kid who likes “to go FAST!” All through his day he encounters people staring and asking questions. “See, my dad’s a deep brown and my mom’s rich cream and honey. Then people see me, and they look at us funny.” Diggs very adeptly conveys the feelings a mixed child experiences and also brings a message of acceptance without being didactic. Shane W. Evans’s mixed-media watercolor and pencil illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this well-written, fun story of acceptance, friendship, and love. Buy it here. And buy Diggs’s previous book, Chocolate Me!
Who Was Michael Jackson? – Born in Gary, Indiana, on August 29, 1958, Michael Jackson was definitely not a regular kid. A superstar with The Jackson 5 before he was eight years old, he became the King of Pop as a solo artist. Michael was a creative–yet deeply troubled–genius who always remained devoted to his art right up until his death is 2009 before a much anticipated tour. He had a pitch-perfect voice and footwork that his idol Fred Astaire admired. Who will ever forget the Moonwalk? Kids today who only know Jackson through video performances are nevertheless fascinated by him. Megan Stine provides a sensitive, fair-minded depiction of this unique music legend. Buy it here.