80+ Black Children’s Book Authors To Support Now & Always!
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano & Erin Feher
Photography by Ashley Sirah Nicole Chea, photographed by Morgan Pansing
Been on a book-buying spree? You’re not alone. This week in particular, many have joined in the effort to Blackout the bestseller lists by purchasing at least two books by Black writers between Saturday, June 13 through Saturday, June 20. To help streamline your shopping this week, this summer, and waaaay beyond, we’re spotlighting nearly 100 Black children’s book authors who are the brains and talent behind thousands of beautiful books that may or may not already be on your shelves. From big names who’ve been turning out beloved titles for decades, to rising stars, get ready to discover some old and new favorites right here. Once you’ve dug into the inspiring stories behind the stories, we encourage you to choose a title or two (or ten!) to scoop up now—and keep the support flowing for months and years to come!
Is an author you love missing from our list? Feel free to let us know in the comments below, as we’ll be updating this list regularly!
Abdul-Razak Zachariah: Growing up in West Haven in an apartment complex not far from the University of New Haven, part of a low-income, Muslim family, Abdul-Razak Zachariah says he rarely saw children’s books that reflected his world—ones starring Black and brown characters set in urban environments full of joy and community. So, he authored his own. The Night Is Yours is centered around a young Black girl, Amani (Arabic for “wishes”), who plays hide-and-seek by the light of the moon in her apartment building’s courtyard as adults look on from the windows. (Bio excerpted via Yale News). Shop Abdul-Razak Zachariah’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or you local bookstore.
Akwaeke Emezi: When one of the most celebrated young novelists writes a YA book, you know it’s a must for your teen’s bookshelf. Emezi’s debut autobiographical novel Freshwater scooped up countless awards, rave reviews, and even a television treatment. Their debut YA novel PET, which explored the themes of gender identity and justice, followed by winning awards and garnering critical praise. Shop Akwaeke Emezi’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or you local bookstore.
Andrea Davis Pinkney: This Brooklyn-based writer has been at it for decades. She and her husband, illustrator Brian Pinkney, have published more than seventy children’s books between them, and have taken home accolades including Caldecott Honors, Coretta Scott King Honors, NAACP Image Award nominations, and the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award, to name a few. Shop Andrea Davis Pinkney books via Bookshop, Amazon or you local bookstore.
Angela Johnson: An award-winning poet and children’s author with more than forty books to her credit, Angela began her writing career in 1989 with the publication of a picture book called Tell Me A Story, Mama, which won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. She has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. (Bio via Bookshop). Shop Angela Johnson books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Ashley Bryan: This 96-year-old author-illustrator is a living legend. He grew up the second of six children (who would later be joined by three cousins), living in a crowded Bronx apartment. His parents were descendants of West African slaves from Antigua, and he began drawing early. At 5 years old, Ashley’s kindergarten teacher and parents marveled at his work as an “author, illustrator, publisher, and distributor” of his very own ABC book. He went on to study various art forms in college and served in WWII, facing discrimination along the way, but never ceasing to create. He wrote about this journey in the 2019 book Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace, which won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award. After returning to the U.S. after the war and working as an art educator for decades, and Ashley’s children’s illustration work, for which he’s won numerous accolades, started to pick up in the 2000’s. Shop Ashley Bryan’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Ashley Franklin: Ashley Franklin loves writing stories featuring kids with big hearts and even bigger imaginations. It was while working at a daycare after grad school that she decided to give writing kids’ books a try. After having her own kids, she committed in earnest, publishing Not Quite Snow White last year. Ashley is an African-American Muslim writer, mother, and adjunct college professor. She currently resides in Arkansas with her husband and two sons. Shop Ashley Franklin’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Ashley Sirah Hinton: A dedicated mama of 3 and a consummate creative, Ashley’s kids’ book Beautiful Beautiful Me celebrates skin colors of all shades, and was launched in tandem with an educational movement around the concept. As a co-founder of MomsInColor, she is constantly creating safe, welcoming, and supportive spaces for fellow Black mamas, and strengthening her family’s community along the way. She lives in L.A. with her family. Shop Ashley Sirah Hinton’s books via Watermelon Egg Rolls or your local bookstore.
Ashley Simpo: Ashley Simpo is a writer, mother, and wellness advocate, writing about motherhood and civic issues through the lens of race, culture, and politics. She is the author of the forthcoming book A Kids Book About Divorce and lives in New York City, where she co-parents her son Orion and leads conversations with and about mothers and children. Shop Ashley Simpo’s book via A Kids Book About.
Atinuke: Atinuke is a Nigerian-born author who started her career doing traditional oral storytelling. Her books include Baby Goes to Market, B Is For Baby, Catch That Chicken, the Anna Hibiscus series and The No.1 Car Spotter, which she wrote for (and with) her own sons. She’s also a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Winner, a Notable Book for a Global Society honoree, a Cybils Award Winner, and an Africana Award Winner. She lives in Wales, in a house she built with her own hands on a rocky, boggy mountainside overlooking the sea. Shop Atinuke’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Ben Kenyon: Author of A Kids Book About Gratitude, Ben lives his message every day. He’s the Portland Trail Blazers Performance Coach, CEO and Founder of the Great Day Squad, and has spent 14 years of his career learning how to navigate and perform in high-stress environments and grow personally and professionally. One of his core values is being outrageously optimistic. He lives in Portland and tries to live generously and with gratitude every day. Shop Ben Kenyon’s book via A Kids Book About.
Bryan Collier: This award-winning author and illustrator had an interest in art at a young age. “At home and at school, I was encouraged to read. I remember the first books with pictures that I read by myself were The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson,” he recalls. “I liked the stories, but I really liked the pictures.” The Maryland native, who was the youngest of six children, started to paint the world around him as a teen and ended up attending the Pratt Institute on a scholarship. Bryan tried his hand at children’s books for seven years before he got his break with the publication of Uptown in 2004 (which went on to win many awards). His latest book is 2020’s All Because You Matter, described as a “heart-lifting love letter to black and brown children everywhere.” Shop Bryan Collier’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Christian Robinson: Sacramento-based artist Christian Robinson first made a splash on the children’s lit scene in 2015 with his vibrant illustrations for Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street. Since then he’s been named a 2016 Caldecott Honoree and received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and a Newbery Medal, amongst many other accolades. Recently the New York Times best-selling illustrator has added “author” to his resumé, thanks to his solo projects Another and the just-released You Matter. Shop Christian Robinson books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Christine Platt: Christine Platt is a literacy advocate and passionate activist for social justice and policy reform. Her debut novel, The Truth About Awiti, won the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal for Multicultural Fiction and is currently used in high schools, colleges, and universities to teach the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In 2018, ABDO Books published Christine’s first children’s series, Ana & Andrew, featuring siblings learning about African-American history and culture. Her series, Sheroes: Real Wonder Women, teaches young readers about extraordinary women throughout history, including Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, and Sacagawea. In April 2020, Rockridge Press released The Story of Harriet Tubman: A Biography Book for New Readers. Meanwhile, Christine’s first middle-grade work, Trailblazers: Martin Luther King Jr., will be published by Penguin Random House in December 2020. Shop Christine Platt’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Cedella Marley: Cedella Marley’s life has always been rooted in music and culture. As the oldest child of Bob Marley, she has dedicated herself to keeping her father’s message and memory alive, and one way she does so is creating children’s books based on some of her fathers most iconic songs (One Love, Get Up, Stand Up, and Every Little Thing). She is a musician as well, performing internationally with the three-time Grammy Award-winning Melody Makers, which consist of her brothers Ziggy and Steve and her sister Sharon. She lives in Miami, with her husband and three sons. Shop Cedella Marley’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Carole Boston Weatherford: The daughter of educators, award-winning poet Carole Boston Weatherford began writing in first grade. Today, she is a New York Times best-selling author and poet, as well as the winner of the 2019 Washington Post Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Caldecott Honor. Her books, including the Carter G. Woodson Award-winning title, The Sound That Jazz Makes, and Dear Mr. Rosenwald, covers such topics as jazz and photography, as well as the slavery, reconstruction, and Jim Crow eras. When she’s not traveling or visiting museums, Carole is mining the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles. Coming from a family of educators, she has a passion for rescuing events and figures from obscurity by documenting American history. Shop Carole Boston Weatherford’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Daria Peoples-Riley: This author and illustrator is the 2018 recipient of the Sonia Lynn Sadler Award for Illustration. The prize was given to her for her debut book, This Is It, the story of a brave young dancer. Her second book, I Got Next, is a basketball-themed book about hard work, dedication, and the love of the game. In between these two projects, the Vegas-based mother illustrated the kids’ book Gloria Takes a Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, and Changed the World (2019), by Jess Rinker. Shop Daria Peoples-Riley books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Daron K. Roberts: Daron K. Roberts is a recovering NFL Coach, practicing leadership professor, hopeful triathlete, and the author of A Kids Book About Empathy. Daron and his wife corral five children every Saturday during their weekly “Donut Council” outings. Shop Daron K. Roberts book via A Kids Book About.
Derrick Barnes: Derrick is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book Crown: An Ode To The Fresh Cut, which won a multitude of literary awards, making it one of the most decorated picture books in the history of children’s literature. His first two books were published in 2004; Stop Drop and Chill, and The Low Down Bad Day Blues, and he has published dozens since, from YA novels (The Making of Dr. Truelove) to chapter book series (Ruby and the Booker Boys) to nonfiction sports series (Who Got Game!?). Prior to becoming a published author, Derrick wrote best-selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and was the first African American male staff writer for the company. Derrick resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife and their four sons. Shop Derrick Barnes books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Faith Ringgold: Author, illustrator, and poet, Faith was born in Harlem in 1930. She received a degree in art education from the City College of New York and was an art teacher long before she became a professional artist. She is best known for her “painted story quilts,” some of which hang in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Tar Beach, Ringgold’s first book for children, won the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration and was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Ringgold is now a professor of art at the University of California at San Diego, and splits her time between California and New Jersey. (Bio via Bookshop) Shop Faith Ringgold’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Francie LaTour: Francie Latour is a writer and educator whose work explores issues of race, culture, and identity. She was born in the U.S. to Haitian parents and traveled to Haiti often as a young girl. She worked as a staff reporter for the Boston Globe for ten years, and her essays have been featured on NPR, the Today Show, The Root, and Essence. Her first picture book, Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings, was inspired by a chance encounter in 1992 with the late Luce Turnier—one of Haiti’s most celebrated female artists—who painted Francie’s portrait. Shop Francie LeTour’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Grace Byers: This actress and activist is known for her roles in Fox’s smash hit series Empire and Marvel’s The Gifted. As a multicultural, biracial CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), Grace was bullied throughout her childhood, which inspired her first picture book, the New York Times best-seller I Am Enough—an ode to the empowerment of young girls. Her follow-up book, I Believe I Can, celebrates both boys and girls as they strive for their highest potential. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Trai Byers. (Bio via Bookshop) Shop Grace Byer’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
H. Chuku Lee: The husband-and-wife duo of Lee (making his picture book debut) and award-winning illustrator Cummings (Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon!) set their retelling of Beauty and The Beast in an unnamed part of Africa, reimagining the story’s castle and surroundings in a distinctly African idiom. Beauty’s hair is braided in cornrows and decorated with shells and beads; the Beast, pictured with thick brown fur and a wild mane of hair, has rows of lines painted on his face and across his hairy nose. (Bio via Publishers Weekly). Shop H. Chuku Lee’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi, a household name by now, is one of America’s foremost historians and leading anti-racist voices. He is a #1 New York Times bestselling author (How To Be An Antiracist) and the Founding Director of The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC. And with the publication of Antiracist Baby, he is also now a best-selling kids’ book author! Kendi was born in 1982 to parents who came of age during the Black power movement in New York City, and were themselves student activists and Christians inspired by Black liberation theology. A professor of history and international relations, Kendi is a contributor at The Atlantic and dozens of other publications. He is also a faculty professor of history and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He lives in Boston with his wife and daughter. Shop Ibram X. Kendi’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Ibtihaj Muhammad: Ibtihaj Muhammad is best known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the U.S. in the Olympics, and the first female Muslim-American athlete to medal at the competition, winning bronze with Team USA’s Team Sabre. Her first book, Proud, was released in a second version just for young readers, and her newest title The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, is a beautiful board book for tots. Ibtihaj grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey, the daughter of a retired police officer and an elementary school special education teacher. She lives in New York City. Shop Ibtihaj Muhammad’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Ilyasah Shabazz: Daughter of Malcolm X, Ilyasah Shabazz is an activist, motivational speaker, and author of the critically acclaimed memoir Growing Up X, as well as the kids’ book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X. She produces the WAKE-UP Tour, her exclusive youth empowerment program, and participates on international humanitarian delegations. Ilyasah lives in New Rochelle, NY. (Bio excerpted via Bookshop). Shop Ilyasah Shabazz’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
JaNay Brown-Wood: JaNay Brown-Wood has always had a passion for writing. She grew up in Fresno, California, and studied psychology and child development, eventually earning a PhD in education. Her first picture book Imani’s Moon won countless awards, and she followed it up with Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story, and a poetry anthology titled Thanku: Poems of Gratitude. Currently, she teaches and conducts research at California State University, Sacramento and lives in Sacramento with her husband Catrayel (who is also her high school sweetheart) and their daughter Vivian. Shop JaNay Brown-Wood’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Jabari Asim: An accomplished poet, playwright, and writer, Jabari Asim has been described as one of the most influential African American literary critics of his generation. He is the author of six books for adults and nine books for children (Whose Toes Are Those, Whose Knees Are These, Fifty Cents And A Dream, and Preaching To The Chickens, A Child’s Introduction to African American History, and more). Jabari is an associate professor of writing at Emerson College and a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. He has written for the Washington Post and was the editor of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis. He lives in Boston, with his wife and five children. Shop Jabari Asim’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Jacqueline Woodson: She’s the much buzzed about author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children (chances are, you’ve read and loved The Day You Begin). In addition to awards for her other books, Jacqueline Woodson’s bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming scooped up countless awards, including a National Book Award, Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. In 2015, the Brooklyn-dwelling writer was named Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation, and the accolades keep piling up. And rightfully so! Shop Jacqueline Woodson’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow: A passionate educator, anti-racism activist, wife, and mother of two, Jamilah is a 2016 MuslimARC Muslim Anti-Racism-AMEL Fellow and the author of Mommy’s Khimar and Your Name is a Song. “I began writing children’s books because I needed to write them. I was tired of the lack of stories about children like the ones I had grown up with, the one I had been, and the children I was raising and teaching,” she says. Jamilah currently lives with her family in Philadelphia. Shop Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Janice N. Harrington: An award-winning poet and children’s book author, Janice’s children’s books include Catching a Storyfish, Busy-Busy Little Chick, Roberto Walks Home, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, and Going North. In her books for both kids and adults, her writing reflects her beginnings in rural Alabama, her life in the Midwest, and her interests in cultural history, the natural world, and the visual arts. She is the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Shop Janice N. Harrington’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Jason Reynolds: Jason writes novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. Born in Washington, DC and raised in neighboring Oxon Hill, Maryland, Jason found inspiration in rap to begin writing poetry at nine years old. He focused on poetry for approximately the next two decades, only reading a novel cover to cover for the first time at age 17. He published his own first novel, When I Was The Greatest, in 2014. He won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for this first work of prose and seven more novels followed in the next four years, including a Marvel Comics novel called Miles Morales: Spider-Man. Shop Jason Reynold’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Jerdine Nolen: Born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and raised in Chicago, along with five sisters and two brothers, Jerdine Nolen has loved words for as long as she can remember. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing and collecting words. My mother encouraged me to do that. She was eager to hear my new list of ‘favorite words.’ Cucumber was a word I preferred above the rest. Then, one day, I became smitten with the word chutney. ‘Chutney, chutney, chutney.’ I would chant that one over and over again. I even made up a little chutney dance to go along with the chant,” recalls Jerdine, who went on to author nearly 20 books. Shop Jerdine Nolen’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Jelani Memory: Jelani, a dad to a blended family of 2 brown and 4 White skids, initially wrote A Kids Book About Racism for his own family to facilitate their conversations about racism. Flash forward tens of thousands of books sold, Jelani’s publishing company, A Kids Book About, has put out nearly 20 beautifully designed books for kids and families that tackle all the tough topics, from anxiety to bullying to divorce to cancer. He lives in Portland, with his wife and six kids. Shop Jelani Memory’s books via A Kids Book About.
Joe Freeman: Author of The Adventures of BG series, Joe was a dedicated and determined teacher in Atlanta Public Schools for over a decade, and it left him wanting to do more for youth. He cofounded FNF Dynamics’, programs that are designed to challenge, inspire, and motivate children of various ages, and writing books became a part of that. Joe is fully engaged in his quest to getting his message out about the power of positive self-esteem and youth empowerment, at work and social settings. Shop Joe Freeman’s books via The Adventures of BG.
Junauda Petrus: Author of the YA novel The Stars and the Blackness Between Them (winner of a 2020 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award), Junauda Petrus is a writer, pleasure activist, filmmaker, and performance artist, born on Dakota land of Black-Caribbean descent. Her work centers around wildness, queerness, Black-diasporic-futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, shimmer, and liberation. She lives in Minneapolis with her wife and family. Shop Junauda Petrus’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Kadir Nelson: This author-illustrator and award-winning artist is based in Los Angeles. After graduating from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, he moved to the West Coast to work with Steven Spielberg on the visuals for Oscar-nominated film Amistad, as well as the animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. While Kadir sometimes wears both the author and illustrator hat (Baby Bear, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball), he’s also known for collaborating with famous authors including Will Smith, Spike and Tonya Lee, and Delores Jordan, mother of NBA great Michael Jordan. Shop Kadir Nelson’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Ken Wilson-Max: Since 1995, this Zimbabwe-born, U.K.-based artist and author has worked on over 60 books for children which have been published worldwide, and in nine different languages. In addition to his award-winning work in children’s books—for which he’s been named one of the Top 50 authors for books on diversity by The Guardian—he runs a newspaper for kids called Chicken, as well as a publishing company called AlannaMax. Shop Ken Wilson-Max’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Kevin Carroll: When it comes to books, “instigator of inspiration,” creative catalyst (who counts Disney, Nike, and the NBA as clients), and writer Kevin Carroll is best known for his Red Rubber Ball series for adults. However, his first children’s book, A Kids Book About Belonging, is a must-read for children who feel like they just don’t fit in. Check out Kevin’s read-aloud of his book here. Shop Kevin Carroll’s books via A Kids Book About, Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Kimberly Drew: A 29-year-old writer, curator, and activist who lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Kimberly has been writing for the world for years via her powerful social media platform (she was formerly the social media manager at The Met, and has executed IG takeovers for Prada, The White House, and Instagram). She just published the YA-themed This Is What I Know About Art, part of Pocket Change Collective’s series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. Her upcoming book, Black Futures, which she is co-editing with Jenna Wortham, is due in 2020. Shop Kimberly Drew’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Kwame Alexander: Poet, educator, and New York Times best-selling author of 32 books (including the multi-award winner The Crossover), Kwame Alexander’s latest book is The Undefeated, which also took home a stash of awards, including 2020 Caldecott Medal and a 2020 Newbery Honor. Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his Page To Stage Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. He also travels the world planting seeds of literary love and recently led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers. Shop Kwame Alexander’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Laymon Hicks: Got a perfectionist kid at home? Then you might want to crack open Laymon Hicks’ first-ever children’s book A Kids Book About Failure. In it, the motivational speaker, author, and leadership strategist breaks down in kid-sized bites why making mistakes isn’t such a bad thing after all. Shop Laymon Hicks’ books via A Kids Book About, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Lucille Clifton: The late Lucille Clifton (1936–2010) was an award-winning poet who has written many acclaimed books for children and adults, such as Voices, Mercy, Blessing the Boats, and The Palm of My Heart. She was the former Laureate of Maryland. She was discovered as a poet by Langston Hughes (via friend Ishmael Reed, who shared her poems), and Hughes published Clifton’s poetry in his highly influential anthology, The Poetry of the Negro. A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton’s work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. Shop Lucille Clifton’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookstore.
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie: Born in Queens, NY, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie has performed poetry and taught in the U.S., Namibia, The Netherlands, Belgium, and England. She has also authored several collections of poetry and is the mother of “three galaxies who look like daughters.” Her books include Layla’s Happiness, Strut, Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation, and Karma’s Footsteps. Shop Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Dr. Marietta Collins, PhD: Having worked for over two decades serving family and children in Atlanta, Dr. Marietta Collins co-authored the picture book, Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, which follows two families—one White, one Black—as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. Dr. Collins was a longtime faculty member at the Emory University School of Medicine and has been involved in community advocacy efforts focused on children’s behavioral health and social justice. Dr. Collins is now on the faculty at Morehouse University. Shop Dr. Marietta Collins’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Marti Dumas: New Orleans-based mother, teacher, and writer Marti Dumas has written nearly a dozen books that are especially great for school-aged kids. One of her goals: to never underestimate the intelligence of her pint-sized readers and prove that all kids have smarts. One of her most well-known characters is Jaden Toussaint, a young boy with a glorious afro who goes on plenty of thoroughly modern adventures. Case in point: The first book in the Jaden Toussaint series is subtitled The Quest for Screen Time. Shop Marti Dumas’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Matthew A. Cherry: An Academy Award winning filmmaker, Chicago native, and a former NFL wide receiver, Matthew is also the author of the beloved (and 6-time NYT best-seller) Hair Love, an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere. His latest project is an animated short film of the same name, about an African American father attempting to do his daughter’s hair for the first time, which won the Academy Award in 2020 for Best Animated Short Film. Shop Matthew A. Cherry’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Meena Harris: Lawyer and activist Meena Harris just published her first book and it happens to be one for the kiddos. Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea (2020) utilizes mini versions of real-life political forces Kamala Harris (Meena’s aunt) and Maya Harris (Meena’s mom) as main characters, showcasing how even little kids can make a big difference if they put their minds to it. Shop Meena Harris’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Mélina Mangal: A school library teacher and an author of biographies and short stories for young people,
Mélina loves writing about nature and its place in young people’s lives. “Stories from faraway times and places have always captured my imagination as well. I like to imagine what life was like as I walk along the river, or visit an historical site,” says the author, who’s latest book is The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just, a picture book biography about the life and accomplishments of this long overlooked scientific pioneer. Shop Mélina Mangal’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Nikki Grimes: This prolific writer has nearly 100 (!!!) titles to her name, from historical fiction, biographies, chapter books, poetry, and beyond. She’s won countless awards for her children’s titles, which include the #1 New York Times best-selling Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, illustrated by MOTHER favorite Bryan Collier. Shop Nikki Grimes’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Oge Mora: This artist and author grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from RISD with a degree in illustration. Her debut picture book, Thank You, Omu!, was a Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner, Ezra Jack Keats Book Award recipient, and a New York Times Notable Book and Editors’ Choice. She has since published Saturday, which she also penned, and The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard. Shop Oge Mora’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich: Author and mother Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, who resides in NYC, is the writer behind titles such as Two Naomis (an NAACP Image Awards nominee) and the follow-up Naomis Too—both which are geared towards tweens. Her other titles include the revamped Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Someday Is Now, which tells the inspirational story of the celebrated civil rights leader Clara Luper, who led one of the first lunch-counter sit-ins in America. Shop Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Parker & Jessica Curry: The debut book for mother-daughter duo Jessica and Parker Curry—Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment (2019)—ending up becoming a #1 best-seller, NAACP Image Awards nominee, and a runaway hit. The book is based on the real-life story of Jessica taking her young daughter Parker to the National Portrait Gallery. There, Parker was stopped in her tracks, as she stared up at a beautiful portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, painted by Amy Sherald. That moment was captured in a photo that went viral and hammered home the point that seeing yourself reflected back to you in a museum is crucial—especially for Black children. Shop The Curry’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Patrice Caldwell: Patrice Caldwell isn’t just a writer of books for young folks, she’s also served as a children’s book editor, literary agent, and is the founder of People Of Color In Publishing. Her most recent book is the YA title A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope, which was released in 2020. According to her website, she’s also got exciting projects in the pipeline for 2021 and 2022. Shop Patrice Caldwell’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Patricia C. McKissack & Frederick McKissack: Working as a team and separately, Frederick and Patricia C. McKissack have penned over 100 books about about the African-American experience. Their stories range from richly narrated historical fiction to sweet, simple tales depicting Black family life, many of which borrow scenes from the couples’ own histories. Shop Patricia C. McKissack’s books via Amazon or your local bookstore.
Quvenzhané Wallis: Academy Award-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis is multi-talented to say the least. In addition to acting in blockbuster films, she’s also a model, singer, dancer, and author! Her book series Shai and Emmie and picture book A Night Out with Mama prove that there’s very little this rising star can’t do. Shop Quvenzhané Wallis’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Randy DuBurke: Author-illustrator Randy DuBurke first made a splash with his incredible illustrations for numerous children’s books. Then, in 2003, he released his first book in which he also played author—The Moon Ring, which netted him a Coretta Scott King award. He currently lives in Switzerland with his family, where he focuses on writing and illustrating kid-lit and graphic novels. Shop Randy DuBurke’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Renée Watson: A Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, Renée Watson has penned books for little kids (Harlem’s Little Blackbird), teens (#1 best-seller Piecing Me Together), and—as of 2020—the middle-grade set (Ways To Make Sunshine). To bring her New York Times best-selling tales to life, she’s also collaborated with some of our favorite Black illustrators, including Christian Robinson and Shadra Strickland. You can shop Renée Watson’s book via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Rita Lorraine Hubbard: This former special education teacher debuted her first picture book, Hammering for Freedom, in 2018. Her latest book, The Oldest Student, came out in 2020 and features beautiful illustrations by up-and-coming illustrator/author Oge Mora. In addition to her work in kid-lit (which often has a historical lens), Rita Lorraine Hubbard writes educational titles and nonfiction. Shop Rita Lorraine Hubbard’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Roda Ahmed: Mae Among The Stars (2018) is the first children’s book from Somalia-born, Norway-raised writer Roda Ahmed. The journalist, who speaks five languages—Somali, Arabic, Norwegian, English, and French—has since written classic kid-lit tales Good Night, Wiggly Toes and ABC & Me (both in 2019) and Brave Bessie (2020). Shop Roda Ahmed’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Robert Liu Trujillo: This Oakland-based author and illustrator uses his bilingual books to tell important stories of diversity and acceptance. His recent foray into children’s books includes his debut solo project, Furqan’s First Flat Top (2016), which chronicles a haircut, followed by One of A Kind, Like Me (2016), the story of a young boy who wants to be a princess, and Sam! (2019), a tale about gender identity. The latter two were projects with authors Lauren Mayeno and Dani Gabriel (respectively). Shop Robert Liu Trujillo’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Samara Cole Doyon: While writer and Maine resident Samara Cole Doyon has just one children’s book under her belt (so far), it sure is a great one. The 2020 release Magnificent Homespun Brown is a stunning celebration of nature and the beauty of all things brown. Set to Samara’s poetry, the debut book celebrates family, diversity, and self-love and is illustrated by MOTHER favorite Kaylani Juanita. You can shop Samara Cole Doyon’s book via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Serena Minott: The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete series (ideal for ages 3-8) is inspired by the real-life adventures of writer Serena Minott and her daughter, Asha. At just 6 years old, Asha had already attended school on more than three different continents, and traveled to over 20 countries—from Ethiopia and Greece, to Singapore and Tanzania. The family’s jet-setting style became the jump-off point for the Aya & Pete books, which each explore a different locale through the eyes of its young characters. It’s Serena’s hope that in writing these global adventures, other children—especially girls and children of color—will feel empowered to explore new places and feel at home in the world. Shop Serena Minott’s books via Shop Ashima, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Shane W. Evans: Author and illustrator Shane W. Evans has over 30 books to his credit, including Olu’s Dream and We March, which he wrote himself, and collaborations with celebrity authors like Taye Diggs (Chocolate Me! & Mixed Me!) Holly Robinson Peete (My Brother Charlie), and Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq And The Magic Beanstalk). The Kansas City, Missouri dweller is also a musician, songwriter, and founder of local community space Dream Studio. If your kiddos watch Disney+, you might also recognize Shane’s bold illustrations from the program “Shanna Show” as well as the spin-off “Shane’s Kindergarten Countdown.” Shop Shane Evans’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Sharee Miller: St. Thomas-bred, Jersey City-based Sharee Miller is a graduate of Pratt Institute and the author and illustrator of Princess Hair and Don’t Touch My Hair (both published by Little Brown for Young Readers), amongst other kid-centric titles. Sharee is currently working on Michelle’s Garden, the story of Michelle Obama and the White House garden, to be published in Spring 2021. Shop Sharee Miller’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Tiffany Jewell: Tiffany Jewell isn’t just the best-selling author of YA book This Book Is Anti-Racist, she’s also what she dubs an “antiracist Montessori educator and consultant” (you can read more about her mission at anti-biasmontessori.com). She currently lives in Western Massachusetts with her family of young activists, and while This Book is Anti-Racist is her first-ever book, we are pretty sure it’s not her last. Shop Tiffany Jewell’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Vanessa Brantley-Newton: Born during the Civil Rights movement, Vanessa attended school in Newark, NJ, before heading to SVA and FIT in New York to study children’s illustration and fashion design (respectively). The New York Times best-selling illustrator—who has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, amongst other impressive feats—just authored her first book, Just Like Me, and filled the role of both illustrator and author! Shop Vanessa Brantley-Newton books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Vasthi Harrison: Illustrator, author, and filmmaker Vashti Harrison is well known for illustrating and authoring the #1 best-selling Little Leaders series, which celebrates Black men and women who’ve made history, as well as her kid-lit collabs with Lupita Nyong’o (Sulwe) and Matthew Cherry (Hair Love). Born of Caribbean heritage (something she’s explored in her films), Harrison now dwells in Brooklyn, but studied in California and Virginia (where she was raised). In a recent New York Times profile of her light-soaked studio, Vashti hinted at a YA book in the near future. “I would very much like to do a middle-grade book, to both write and illustrate it, so I’m trying to absorb all the exciting books, the popular ones,” she said. “I want to do a highly illustrated middle-grade fantasy novel about a child of color.” Can’t wait! Shop Vasthi Harrison’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: New Mexico-dwelling author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson has won awards for her work in kid-lit, starting when her first book, Always Gramma, came out in 1988. Since then, her titles have often revolved around famous (and less famous) African-American boundary-breakers, from MLK Jr. to U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves to Hall of Fame cowboy George Fletcher. Meanwhile, some of her fun fiction books include Don’t Call Me Grandma (inspired by her own grandmother) and Ready? Set. Raymond!. Shop Vaunda Micheaux Nelson books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Walter Dean Myers: Iconic author Walter Dean Myers (whose son is author-illustrator Christopher Myers) was born in 1937 and grew up in Harlem, where he found solace in books. After joining the army at 17, Walter was inspired to pick up writing again after reading the work of James Baldwin. “It gave me permission to write about my own experiences,” he says. “Somehow I always go back to the most turbulent periods of my own life. I write books for the troubled boy I once was, and for the boy who lives within me still. It’s what I do.” The critically acclaimed author now has numerous awards under his belt, as well as dozens upon dozens of books for children, adults, and young adults. Shop Walter Dean Myers’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Ylleya Fields: Author and mother of 6 (!) Ylleya Fields was inspired to write her first book, Princess Cupcake Jones, in 2013 when she couldn’t find characters in children’s books that looked like her daughter. Now five books deep, the Princess Cupcake Jones series takes young readers on adventures thanks to its spunky protagonist. Plus, there’s even a matching line of Princess Cupcake toys and accessories! Shop Ylleya Fields’ books via PrincessCupcakeJones.com, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Zetta Elliott: A Black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and children’s books, Zetta Elliott has had quite the career when it comes to putting pen to paper. As an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing, Zetta created her own imprint, Rosetta Press, where she has self-published numerous illustrated books that have gone on to win prestigious honors and awards. Titles she’s authored include dozens of picture books for younger kids (Bird, Melena’s Jubilee, Milo’s Museum), as well middle-grade books (Dragon’s In A Bag, The Dragon Thief), and tales for teens. Shop Zetta Elliott books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
CELEBRITY AUTHORS OF CHILDREN’S BOOKS:
Chris Paul: The NBA All-Star and former NBA Rookie of the Year (he currently plays for the New Orleans Hornets) teamed up with award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison for Long Shot, a kids’ book borrowed from his own story: “Everybody told Chris that he was too small to play basketball. But he ignored them all…because he had big dreams.” Shop Chris Paul’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Gabrielle Union: An actress, activist, and, most proudly, the mother of “shady baby,” Kaavia James, Gabrielle is also the author of Welcome to the Party, an upbeat celebration of bringing baby home that you’ll want to enjoy with your tiny guest of honor over and over again. (Bio via Bookshop) Shop Gabrielle Union’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Garcelle Beauvais: The Haitian-American actress, reality television personality, author, and former fashion model is behind a trio of kids’ books (I Am Mixed, I Am Living In Two Homes, and I Am Awesome) that tackle the issues of race, divorce, and adoption. Inspired by her own mixed-race twin boys, she said “I didn’t want them to be asked why is your mommy brown and daddy white and not have them understand it themselves…I wanted them to know that they’re the best parts of us put together. What I wanted most of all is for them to be proud of who they are and celebrate themselves.” Shop Garcelle Beauvais’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Kobe Bryant: In addition to being one of the most celebrated athletes of all time, the late Kobe Bryant was also created media for children via a podcast and book series, inspired by his four daughters. The Wizenard Series is a pair of YA-novels about five young basketball players, one enlightening coach, and the awesome transformative power of the game. Shop Kobe Bryant’s books via Bookshop and Amazon.
Lupita Nyong’o: The Kenyan actress and producer made a name for herself (and took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress) for the film 12 Years a Slave. She has since starred in Queen of Katwe, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Black Panther, and Us. In her debut picture book, Sulwe, Lupita and illustrator Vashti Harrison create a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty. It went on to become a New York Times best-seller. Shop Lupita Nyong’o’ s books via Bookshop & Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Octavia Spencer: A veteran character actress, Academy Award-winning Octavia Spencer is known for her strong, riveting roles. The native of Montgomery, Alabama—who currently lives in Los Angeles—is also the author of the YA series Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective. Shop Octavia Spencer’s books via Bookshop & Amazon, or your local bookstore.
Shaquille O’Neal: Shaq is a retired basketball legend, businessman, and a current analyst on the show Inside the NBA. In 2016, he released the first in his Little Shaq series, in which he collaborated with award-wining illustrator Theodore Taylor III. Shop Shaquille O’Neal’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookshop.
Spike Lee & Tonya Lee: From 2005 to 2011, the Academy Award–nominated filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife—producer Tonya Lewis Lee—teamed up on a collection of kids’ books: Giant Steps To Change The World; Please, Baby, Please; and Please, Puppy, Please. Shop Spike Lee & Tonya Lee’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookshop.
Taye Diggs: The actor Taye Diggs collaborated with his good friend, award-winning illustrator Shane W. Evans on trio of kids books (Chocolate Me, Mixed Me, and I Love You More Than...) inspired by his own experiences as a dad. And the duo has a picture book for bigger kids (My Friend!) coming out in 2021. Shop Taye Diggs’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookshop.
Tia and Tamera Mowry: The identical twin sisters and actresses who found fame on the 90s sitcom Sister, Sister, are still teaming up on creative projects. Their YA series Twintuition is about identical twins Cassie and Caitlyn Waters, who share a super-special—and sometimes supernatural—bond. Shop Tia and Tamera Mowery’s books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookshop.
Timbaland: The multi-platinum Grammy Award-winning producer and artist (his work with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah, Madonna, Missy Elliott, One Republic, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z is legendary) released his first book for children, Nighttime Symphony, last year. For this melodious bedtime story, the sounds of the city at night create a lively lullaby, illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Christopher Myers and Kaa Illustration! Shop Timbaland’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookshop.
Viola Davis: The critically revered actress (and the first Black actress to win a Tony, Oscar, and Emmy) brings Don Freeman’s beloved teddy bear Corduroy back to life with Corduroy Take a Bow. Fifty years after this lovable, inquisitive teddy bear was first introduced to readers, he’s now the star of the show thanks to a beautifully illustrated tale with a classic feel. Shop Viola Davis’ books via Bookshop, Amazon, or your local bookshop.
Whoopi Goldberg: The legendary actor and comedian is also the author of the Sugar Plum Ballerinas books and of Whoopi’s Big Book of Manners, illustrated by Olo. Whoopi Goldberg has appeared in scores of films, and is currently a host on ABC’s The View. Shop Whoopi Goldberg’s books via Bookshop, Amazon or your local bookshop.
Will Smith: Superstar Will Smith penned this touching ode to fatherhood back in 2005, based on the lyrics of his 1997 hit song. The book is out of print, so it’s something of a collector’s item! Shop Will Smith’s books via Amazon or your local bookshop.
Now that you’ve got your fill of author inspiration, check out these 30 incredible Black kid-lit illustrators who need a spot on your bookshelf, ASAP!
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