Children’s Books by African Americans

A Special Rethinking Schools Pull-out Section

By Roberta Long and Fran D. Perkins

An exciting new dimension has been injected into American children’s literature in the past decade. Teachers, children, and parents are demanding quality multicultural books that provide self-affirmation for children of color and also make all children more sensitive to cultural diversity. The greatest demand has come from teachers who have changed to literature-based programs and want children to see themselves and their histories reflected in the books.

This bibliography was prepared because we received so many requests from teachers in our area, the Southeast, for good books that included or were about African Americans. In order to assure that books we recommended authentically reflect the culture and its diversity, we limited our bibliography to books written by African Americans.

Board books for the very young

Greenfield, E. (1991). Black Butterfly. (illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist) New York.

I make music. “I make good music when I tap my toe,” sings a little girl. She has other ways of making music, too; but whatever music she makes, it’s going to be good!

My doll, Keisha. Keisha learns to do many things before her mommy says, “Sweet dreams, sugar-pie.”

Daddy and I. A toddler and his daddy enjoy many experiences together around their home — especially sharing a big Hug!

Big friend, little friend. A little boy describes his special relationship with a big friend and a little friend.

Books for the Young

Caines, J. (1988). I need a lunch box. Singapore: Harper & Row. A little boy longs to have a lunch box as he sees his sister with one to start school. It doesn’t matter that he’s not old enough to start school yet.

Crews, D. (1986). Revised. Ten black dots. New York: Greenwillow Books. Enjoy counting from one to ten with black dots.

(1984). School bus. New York: Greenwillow Books. Experience the journey of school buses as they take children to school and back home again.

(1983). Parade. New York: Greenwillow Books. Illustrations and brief text present all the interesting events of a colorful parade.

(1980). Trucks. New York: Greenwillow Books. Imagine the interesting journey of a truck from loading to unloading in vivid pictures.

(1978). Freight train. New York: Greenwillow Books. This Caldecott Honor book traces the journey of a colorful train as it passes through the city.

Cummings, P. (1991). Clean your room, Harvey Moon. New York: Bradbury. As Harvey settles down to watch Saturday morning TV shows, his mother assigns him the task of cleaning his messy room. (Very predictable)

(1985). Jimmy Lee did it. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Artie keeps telling his sister that all the mishaps occurring around the house are caused by his imaginary friend Jimmy Lee. (Very predictable)

Feelings, M. (1971). Moja means one: Swahili counting book. New York: Dial Books. Young children can count from one to ten in Swahili while learning about Africa. (Caldecott Honor Book)

(1974). Jambo means hello: Swahili alphabet book. New York: Dial Books. Each letter of the alphabet tells something about East African life.

Haskins, J. (1989). Count your way through Africa. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda. Swahili words for the numbers one through ten are used to learn about the continent of Africa.

Hudson, C. (1987). Afro-bets, abc book. Orange, New Jersey: Just Us Books. The alphabet is presented in interesting ways through six African American children.

(1987). Afro-bets, 123 book. Orange, New Jersey: Just Us Books. Langston, Nandi, Glo, Stef, Tura and Robo act out numbers from 1 to 10.

Johnson, A. (1989). Tell me a story, mama. New York: Orchard. A young girl enjoys listening to her mother’s childhood memories through favorite stories.

(1990). Do like Kyla. New York: Orchard. A little girl imitates her sister throughout the day. At night she finds that her sister imitates her.

(1990). When I am old with you. New York: Orchard. A little boy enjoys spending special times with his granddaddy as he imagines them growing old together.

Steptoe, J. (1988). Baby says. New York: Lothrop. A toddler enjoys playing with his older brother as he experiments with “first” words.

Picture Books for All Ages

Caines, J. (1982). Just us women. New York: Harper & Row. A little girl enjoys planning a trip with her aunt for just the two of them.

(1980). Window wishing. New York: Harper & Row. A sister and brother spend a fun vacation with their special grandmother.

Clifton, L. (1973). The boy who didn’t believe in spring. New York: Dutton. King Shabazz and his friend, Tony, go on a search for spring.

(1973). Don’t you remember? New York: Dutton. Tate seems to remember everything except one special day — her birthday!

Chocolate, D. Kwanzaa. Chicago: Children’s Press. (Illustrated by Rosales) This beautifully illustrated book discusses the African American celebration (December 26 – January 1) of cultural and African heritage.

Cummings, P. (1986). C.L.O.U.D.S. New York: Lothrop. Chuka is given an interesting assignment to paint the skies of New York City. This proves to be a challenging task because of tall buildings, dirty air, and people who are too busy to look up.

Dee, R. (1988). Two ways to count to ten; a Liberian folktale. New York: Holt. King Leopard invites all animals to participate in a spear-throwing contest to win his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Feelings, T. (1991). Tommy traveler in the world of black history. New York: Black Butterfly. Tommy, a young African American boy, is unable to find books in the public library on black history. Tommy decides to visit Dr. Gray, an African American doctor, who has a private library on black history. (Nonfiction)

Fields, J. (1988). The green lion of Zion Street. New York: McElderry. This story, about a stone lion on Zion Street, is written in free verse form.

Flournoy, V. (1985). The patchwork quilt. New York: Dial Books. Tanya helps her grandmother make a beautiful quilt that tells the family’s story.

(1978). The best time of day. Random House. William decides what time of day he likes best after reflecting on his busy day.

(1980). The twins strike back. New York: Dial Books. Ivy and May plan revenge in an interesting way as they are constantly kidded about being twins.

Greenfield, E. (1977). Africa dream. New York: Crowell. In a dream, a black child imagines the people and culture of Africa.

Howard, E.F. (1991). Aunt Flossie’s hats. (and crab cakes later). New York: Clarion.

Great – great Aunt Flossie has boxes and boxes of hats. Each hat has a special story. Sarah and Susie enjoy listening to her stories. . . and eating crab cakes later.

(1989). Chita’s Christmas tree. New York: Bradbury. Downtown Baltimore, in 1908, is the scene for Chita and her family’s special Christmas celebration.

Howard, E.F. (1988). The train to Lulu’s. Illustrated by Robert Casilla. New York: Bradbury. Beppy and Babs travel by train from Baltimore to Boston to spend the summer with Great Aunt Lulu.

Johnson, D. (1991). What kind of baby sitter is this? New York: Macmillan. Kevin’s in for a big surprise when he learns that Aunt Lovey, the new baby sitter, watches baseball games instead of soap operas.

(1990). What will mommy do when I’m at school? New York: Macmillan. As the title indicates, the narrator of this story is not worried about starting school. Oh no? She’s worried that her mom won’t have anyone to watch cartoons with or to hear read picture books.

Jordan, J. (1981). Kimako’s story. New York: Houghton. A seven-year old girl, Kimako, is a dog sitter on her vacation.

Little, L. & Greenfield, E. (1978). I can do it by myself. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, Co. A little boy wants to buy his mother’s birthday present all by himself. He encounters an interesting challenge in trying to do so.

McKissack, P. (1989). Nettie Jo’s friends. New York: Knopf. Nettie Jo desperately needs a needle to stitch a new dress for her doll, Annie Mae, so that both may attend her cousin’s wedding.

(1988). Mirandy and Brother Wind. New York: Knopf. Mirandy attempts to capture the wind in order to win first prize in the Junior Cakewalk. Who will she choose for her partner?

(1986). Flossie and the fox. New York: Dial Books. Fox can out smart Mr. McCutchin’s old hunting dogs, but not Flossie Finley.

Musgrove, M. (1976). Ashanti to Zulu: African traditions. New York: Dial Books. The African tradition is beautifully depicted in the lives of 26 African cultures. (Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon).

Myers, W. (1984). Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird. New York: Delacorte Press. Mr. Monkey walks around thinking he’s “big stuff” and gets caught by Gotcha Bird. He must think fast to avoid being eaten.

Price, L. (reteller) (1990). Aida. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Price retells Verdi’s opera of an Ethopian princess who is captured and forced into slavery by the Egyptians. She falls in love with an Egyptian leader of the army and is forced to choose between her love for him and her country.

Ringgold, F. (1991). Tar Beach. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Young Cassie Lightfoot dreams of flying above her Harlem roof top and seeing her family and friends. This story is based on a family quilt that holds special memories.

Steptoe, J. (1983). Jeffrey Bear cleans up his act. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Jeffrey Bear is bored with his school. He falls asleep and dreams that he is the teacher. He then develops a new appreciation for school.

(1980). Daddy is a monster. . . sometimes. New York: Harper & Row. Bweela and Javaka discuss the kind of behavior that makes their daddy change into a “monster.”

(1971). Train ride. New York: Harper & Row. Charles and his friends take a trip on the train to Times Square. After having such a great time, they wonder how they’ll get home with no money.

Walker, M. (1980). Ty’s one-man band. New York: Four Winds. Ty meets Andro who makes beautiful music with some very interesting objects.

Yarbrough, C. (1979). Cornrows. New York: Coward. The history of the cornrows hairstyle is explained in this book.

Journeys Inward


Barrett, J. (1989). Willie’s not the hugging kind. New York: Harper & Row. Willie stops hugging his family members because his friend thinks it’s silly. He soon realizes how much he misses it.

Brooks, G. (1971). Aloneness. Michigan: Broadside Press. A young child explores his feelings of aloneness and loneliness.

Caines, J. (1973). Abby. New York: Harper & Row. Kevin doesn’t seem to have time to read his little sister’s favorite book to her. After realizing that he hurt her feelings, he makes an interesting change.

(1977). Daddy. New York: Harper & Row. Even though Wendy’s parents are divorced, she loves and misses her daddy.

(1986). Chilly stomach. New York: Harper & Row. Sandy doesn’t enjoy her visits from Uncle Jim because he hugs and kisses her in ways that she doesn’t like.

Church, V. (1971). Colors around me. Illinois: Afro-Am Publishing Co. This book is designed to help young African Americans develop a positive self-image, regardless of their actual skin color.

Clifton, L. (1970). Some of the days of Everett Anderson. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Six-year old Everett Anderson, who lives in Apartment 14A, has a different experience on each day of the week — joy, fear, loneliness, wonder and love.

(1974). Everett Anderson’s year. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Seven-year old Everett experiences new feelings every month.

(1978). Everett Anderson’s nine month long. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Everett Anderson deals with his feelings as he and his family anticipate the new baby.

(1977). Everett Anderson’s 1-2-3. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. As Everett Anderson’s mother considers remarriage, he ponders the numbers one, two and three. They could mean loneliness, overcrowdedness, or sometimes, just right.

(1980). My friend Jacob. New York: Dutton. A young boy has a special relationship with a retarded friend. He learns many things from his special friend.

(1983). Everett Anderson’s goodbye. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Everett Anderson must deal with the loss of his father. Each stage of grief is experienced through poetry.

(1975). My brother fine with me. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Johnetta is happy to help her five-year old brother run away from home. Later, she’s not so happy.

Greenfield, E. (1975). Me and Neesie. New York: Crowell. Janell gives up her imaginary playmate, Neesie, when she begins school.

(1980). Grandma’s joy. New York: Philomel. Rhondy has always been her grandmother’s joy. Because her grandmother is so despondent, Rhondy wonders if she’s still her grandmother’s joy.

(1976). First pink light. New York: Scholastic. Young Tyree wants to stay up to see his father who is out of town until the next day. He imagines seeing the first pink light of day when his dad walks through the door.

(1974). She come bringing me that little baby girl. New York: Lippincott. Kevin must deal with his jealousy for his new baby sister.

(1988). Grandpa’s face. New York: Philomel. Tamika sees her grandfather make a mean face as he practices for a play. She needs to be assured that he’ll never lose his love for her and make that face.

Mathis, S.B. (1975). The hundred penny box. New York: Viking. Michael has a special relationship with his great-great-aunt who lives with them. She has a box of one hundred pennies and shares a memory for each one with Michael.

Mendez, P. (1989). The black snowman. New York: Scholastic. A black snowman uses the magical powers of a Kente (scarf) to help a young boy discover the beauty of his black heritage.

Steptoe, J. (1969). Stevie. New York: Harper & Row. Robert initially feels that Stevie, a little boy who stays with them during the day, is a bother. Later he decides that maybe he’s not so bad.

Thomas, I (1976). Eliza’s daddy. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Eliza’s father has remarried. She often wonders what his new daughter is like. She finally works up the nerve to ask to visit her daddy’s home.

Walter, M.P. (1983). My mama needs me. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Jason helps his mother care for a new baby sister.

(1990). Two and too much. New York: Bradbury. A little boy finds out that taking care of his two-year old sister is not an easy job.


Bryan, A. (1989). Turtle knows your name. Hartford: Atheneum. A little boy, who finally learns to say his long name, desires to know his grandmother’s name. Granny won’t tell; but turtle knows.

(1986). Lion and the ostrich chicks. New York: Atheneum. Bryan captures the essence of storytelling in this collection of four African folktales.

(1985). The cat’s purr. New York: Macmillan. Rat and Cat were good friends until Cat got a drum that played beautiful music. Rat devises a plan to get Cat’s drum.

(1980). Beat the story — drum, pum-pum. New York: Atheneum. This is a collection of five humorous Nigerian folktales.

(1977). The dancing granny. Hartford: Atheneum. Granny Anika dances whenever Spider Ananse tells her a story. Spider’s goal is to steal her vegetables.

(1971). The ox of the wonderful horns and other African folktales. New York: Atheneum. A collection of five African folktales is included for reading aloud or telling.

Feelings, M. (1990). Zamani goes to market. New Jersey: Africa World Press. Zamani is excited about his first experience of going to the market with his father and brother.

Hamilton, V. (1990). The dark way. Orlando: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Dedicated “To the Timeless Traveler: the unquenchable spirit of us all,” this collection of twenty-five tales from around the world is frightfully fun.

(1988). In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World. Orlando: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Illustrated by Barry Moser, this is a fascinating collection of twenty five creation myths from around the world.

(1985). The people could fly, American Black folktales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Hamilton retells Afro American folktales in her own voice as she echoes “The voices of slaves and fugitives.” Included are animal tales, tales of fantasy, the supernatural, and slave tales of freedom. (Illustrated by the Dillons.)

Lester, J. (1988). More tales of Uncle Remus. New York: Dial Books. A collection of Uncle Remus tales has been told in the “here and now.”

(1987). Tales of Uncle Remus: the adventure of Brer Rabbit. New York: Dial Books. An updated version of Uncle Remus tales centers around Brer Rabbit and other animals.

(1990). Further tales of Uncle Remus. New York: Dial Books. A retelling of more of the Uncle Remus tales has been included in this volume.

(1972). The Knee-High Man and other tales. New York: Dial Books. Lester captures the essence of storytelling in seven short tales.

(1989). How many spots does a leopard have? And other tales. New York: Scholastic. This illustrated collection includes ten African and two Jewish folktales.

Steptoe, J. (1987). Mufaro’s beautiful daughters: An African tale. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Mufaro has two beautiful daughters – one is kind and one is selfish. Which one will the king choose for his wife?

(1984). The story of Jumping Mouse. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Jumping Mouse takes a journey into a far-off land where no mouse goes hungry.

Walter, M. (1985). Brother to the wind. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. A young African boy gets his fondest wish.


Brooks, G. (1956). Bronzeville boys and girls. New York: Harper & Row. Poems about the everyday feelings are told through the eyes of young children.

Cullen, C. (1986). The lost zoo. New York: Follett Publishing. This is an unusual collection of poems about some rare animals who failed to make it onto the Ark.

Feelings, T. & Grimes, N. (1978). Something on my mind. New York: Dial Books. The thoughts and feelings of Black children are captured in the beauty of words and pictures.

Fufuka, K. (1975). My daddy is a cool dude: and other poems. New York: Dial Press. Life in an urban Black community is uniquely captured by Fufuka through the eyes of a child.

Giovanni, N. (1980). Vacation time: Poems for children. New York: William Morrow & Co. This is a collection of poems on a variety of topics for young children.

(1973). Ego-tripping and other poems for young children. New York: Lawrence Hill Books. A broad collection of poems for young children is included in this book by Giovanni.

(1971). Spin a soft black song. New York: Hill and Wang. A delightful collection of poems about the black experience is very popular with young children.

Greenfield, E. and Feelings, T. (1981). Daydreamers. New York: Dial Books. Black children’s feelings are captured in poetry.

Greenfield, E. (1978). Honey, I love and other love poems. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. A special collection of sixteen poems, told through the eyes of a young black child, can be easily put to music or a beat.

(1988). Under the Sunday tree. Harper & Row. This unusual collection of poems and illustrations creates a picture of life in the Bahamas.

(1988). Nathaniel talking. New York: Black Butterfly Children’s Books. Nathaniel, a nine-year old boy, rhymes about his world.

Greenfield, Eloise and Jan Spivey Gilchrist (1990). Night on neighborhood street. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. The poetry of Greenfield and the pictures by Gilchrist are a wonderful celebration of an evening in a black neighborhood.

Hughes, L. (1969). Don’t you turn your back. Knopf. This collection includes a selection of poems for all ages.

Little, L.J. (1988). Children of long ago. New York: Philomel Books. This warm-hearted collection of poems is beautifully illustrated to capture the author’s memories of childhood in the early 1900’s.

Stories in Song

Bryan, A. (1974). Walk together, children: Black American spirituals. New York: Atheneum.

(1982). I’m going to sing: Black American spirituals. Vol. 2 New York: Atheneum.

(1991). All night, all day: A child’s first book of African American spirituals. New York: Atheneum.

Jenkins, Ella. I’m going to sing. Recording. Jenkins’ album is a collection of childhood favorites.

Johnson, J.W. and J. Rosamond Johnson. (1970). Lift every voice and sing: Words and music. Hawthorne Books. This wonderfully inspiring song is illustrated with black and white drawings by Monzelle Thompson.

Mattox, C. (Adapter) (1989). Shake it to the one that you love the best; Play, songs and lullabies from black musical traditions. Nashville, Tennessee: Warren-Mattox. This collection of African American plays, songs and lullabies is beautifully illustrated by Joysmith and Honeywood.

Chapter Books

Boyd, C. (1987). Charlie Pippin. New York: Macmillan. The Vietnam war killed Charlie’s father’s dreams. Why won’t he talk about it?

Spunky Charlie, along with her activities as an entrepreneur, joins the war and peace committee at school to find out what the war was all about.

(1985). Breadsticks and blessing places. New York: Macmillan. “A thirty,” Toni moaned. “I’ll never get into King Academy with these scores.” The pressure was on. The entrance exams for King Academy were only six months away and Toni just couldn’t seem to get word problems or fractions. She also had trouble convincing her two best friends that all three were friends. She makes progress in math, but life is disrupted when one of her two best friends is killed.

(1984). Circle of gold. New York: Scholastic. Mattie wants desperately to buy a gold pin for her mother. Her father has died. The pin might help to make things all right again.

Campbell, B. (1982). A girl called Bob and a horse called Yoki. New York: Dial. “Sweet mama and Mother are sitting at the kitchen table looking like they’ve been waiting for me. This is not good.” “You get your business taken care of?” Sweetmama says. “What. . . What business?” I ask, surprised. She can’t mean about Yoki. She doesn’t know about Yoki. Surely Sweetmama and Mother don’t know what she did to save her friend Yoki, the horse that pulled the milk wagon, from being sold to the glue factory.

Childress, A. (1975). Then the rattlesnake sounds. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. A play about one summer in Harriett Tubman’s life when she worked as a hotel laundress in order to raise money for the abolitionist cause.

Clifton, L. (1974). The times they used to be. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Mama tells about when she was a girl in 1948, the “times they used to be.”

Greenfield, E. (1978). Talk about family. New York: Scholastic. Genny is happy that her brother, Larry, is coming home from the army. Perhaps she can count on him to keep the family together.

Grimes, N. (1977). Growin’. New York: Dial. Pump is sure her world has ended when her father dies. Who would believe in her poetry? She meets Jim Jim and a most unlikely friendship begins and together they do lots of growin’.

Hamilton, V. (1990). Cousins. New York: Macmillan. Cammy, full of love and concern for Gram Tut who’s in the Care home, is unprepared for the death of a young relative about and towards who she had not been so kind. A stirring story of love and family relationships.

Note: Ms. Hamilton is a prolific writer and has won numerous major awards for her work in a variety of genre. Many of her other fictional books are appropriate for this bibliography, but we’ve included only her latest fictional work. See Children’s books in print or other sources for a complete bibliography.

Hansen, J. (1986). Which way freedom? New York: Walker and Company. “You born a man, not a slave,” Bubba told Obi. “You got to learn which way freedom be. It here first. . . In you own mind.” The sensitive story of a young runaway slave who witnesses the Civil War as a Confederate captive and then as a Union Soldier.

(1980). The Gift Giver. New York: Clarion Books. The setting is a poor area in the Bronx; the characters are those friends who live on 163rd Street. The theme is of love and hope, the gift is the friendship and understanding that remains when Amir has to leave 163rd Street.

Hughes, L. (editor). (1967). The best short stories by black writers. Toronto: Little, Brown & Co. This anthology of short stories includes a variety of black writers from 1899 to 1967.

(1971). Sidewalk story. New York: Viking. Lilly Etta is upset because her best friend’s family is being evicted. Instead of sitting by idly, she devises a plan to help.

Myers, W.D. (1990). Mouse rap. New York: Harper and Row. What a summer it was in Harlem for fourteen-year-old Mouse and his friends! They fall in and out of love, look for hidden treasure from a ’30’s bank heist and Mouse isn’t at all sure his father should be allowed back in the family.

Moondance Kid. New York: Delacourte. An 11 year-old girl, Mop, hopes that she will be able to excel in baseball so that someone will adopt her before the orphanage closes.

Note: Mr. Myers has written a number of other books appropriate for this bibliography. For information about Myers and an analysis of Myer’s contribution to young adult literature, see Presenting Walter Dean Myers by Rudine Sims Bishop, a 1991 release from Twayne Publishers.

Tate, E. (1990). Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr! New York: Franklin Watts. This is a sequel to Ms. Tate’s The secret of Gumbo Grove. Mary Elouise didn’t want to be Black and certainly didn’t want to be narrator for the Black History segment in the Presidents’ Month school play.

Taylor, M. (1990). Road to Memphis. New York: Dial. A black youth in rural Mississippi has a major confrontation with a young white man. He seeks the aid of two of the Logan children in order to avoid unjust prosecution.

(1990). Mississippi bridge. New York: Dial. One rainy day, Jeremy Simms witnesses an injustice to Black passengers as they are forced off the bus to make room for white passengers. The tragedy that he witnesses after the bus departs is too much for him to comprehend.

(1987). The friendship. New York: Dial. Cassie and her brothers are warned never to go to the Wallace’s store. They disobey their parents and witness an injustice they’ll never forget.

(1987). The gold cadillac. New York: Dial. Lois and Wilma are proud of their family’s new car until they go on a visit down South where they encounter terrible acts of racism.

(1981). Let the circle be unbroken. New York: Dial. The Logan children skip school to support their friend T.J. during his trial. His attorney’s attempts to reveal the truth about the crime are futile.

(1976). Roll of thunder, hear my cry. New York: Dial. This Newberry award winner continues the struggles of the Logan family during the depression in the rural south. Papa must devise a plan to save young T.J.’s life.

(1975). Song of the trees. New York Dial. With Cassie’s father away working, Big Ma is being forced into giving up trees from their land. Will Papa get home in time to protect their property?

Note: Winner of many awards, Ms. Taylor is now at work on her eighth book to complete the saga of the Logan family. Her books provide a powerful history of a southern black family.

Thomas, J.C. (1986). The golden pasture. New York: Scholastic. James Baldwin writes, “If you had only two books you could read in your life, one of them should be The Golden Pasture.” Twelve year old Carl Lee becomes a man the summer Thunderfoot, a wild horse, helps him to better understand his difficult father.

Walter, M. (1990). Mariah keeps cool. New York: Bradbury. Mariah’s half-sister, Denise, has arrived, but the family hasn’t completely adjusted. A focus for Mariah is the Fabulous Five and their swim team.

(1989). Have a happy. . . New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. If people would just say, “Have a Happy. . .,” then Chris could add anything he wanted: happy birthday, happy Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, happy New Year. . . During the process of reading this warm and engaging story, one can learn much about Kwanzaa, the seven day celebration of African American heritage.

(1988). Mariah loves rock. New York: Bradbury. Mariah’s summer prior to her first year in middle school is an emotional one. She must deal with her obsession over a rock star, as well as feelings toward friends and a half-sister who plans to live with them.

(1986). Justin and the best biscuits in the world. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Living in a houseful of women wasn’t ten year old Justin’s idea of the best arrangement, especially when they expected him to do “women’s work.” Some unexpected changes come over Justin when he spends the summer on his beloved grandfather’s ranch.

(1985). Trouble’s child. New York: Lothrop & Lee. Martha was born in a storm and, according to the island people, seems destined to bring trouble to her midwife grandmother, Titay. Not wanting to accept the patterns of superstition and ritual on their island, Martha longs to go to New Orleans and go to high school.

Wilson, Johnniece Marshall (1988). Oh, Brother. New York: Scholastic. It takes Alex a long time and a lot of action to learn to stand up for himself against his older brother, Andrew. They may not be the best of friends, but they do learn they can’t get along without each other.

(1990). Robin on his own. New York: Scholastic. Robin has a rough time coming to terms with the death of his mother and all the changes that take place in his life. He wonders if it’s worth sticking around.

Woodson, Jacqueline (1990). Last summer with Maizon. New York: Delacorte. Margaret’s father dies and her very best friend ever, gifted Maizon, has been offered a scholarship to an almost all white boarding school. They can’t go back to last summer when they were eleven and life was perfect, but can Margaret and Maizon keep their promise to be best friends forever?

Yarbrough, Camille (1989). The Shimmershine Queens. New York: G.P.

Putnam’s Sons. “And when I’m doin my best, a feelin come over me. Ooh, I feel right warm and bright all over myself. I call it the shimmershine feelin.” That’s what Cousin Seatta called that special feeling that Angie got when she was dreaming. Two fifth grade girls encourage their classmates to dream and do their best so their dreams will come true.


Greenfield, E., & Revis, (1981). Alesia. New York: Philomel. Nine-year-old Alesia and her friend Percy were racing on their bikes. Alesia didn’t see the car that hit her. With love and support from her family, Alesia learns to deal with her disability.

(1977). Mary McLeod Bethune. New York: Crowell. This true story is about a woman who made numerous contributions to the education of African American people.

(1973). Rosa Parks. New York: Crowell. Rosa Parks’ experience on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, sparked the civil rights movement when she refused to move to the back of the bus.

Hamilton, Virginia (1972). W.E.B. DuBois. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. This biography of Dr. BuBois, one of the most important leaders in the fight for civil rights for blacks everywhere, is also a history of the black experience in the United States.

Mathis, S. (1973). Ray Charles. New York: Crowell. The story of a well-known singer, who was blind since childhood, is described by Mathis.

McKissack, P. (1984). Paul Laurence Dunbar, a Poet to Remember. Chicago: Children’s Press. “Paul Laurence. That’s a mighty high soundin’ name,” whispered the Howard Street neighbors, “’specially for just a lil’ ol’ biddy baby just one step away from slavery.” And so begins McKissack’s biography of the great turn-of-the-century black poet and novelist.

(1989). Jesse Jackson; A biography. New York: Scholastic. This is an exciting story about a brave leader who helped change the course of American history.

McKissack, P., & McKissack, F. (1987). Frederick Douglas. Children’s Press. This biography describes the life and works of a famous, self-educated leader who was a spokesman in the anti-slavery movement.

Parks, Rosa and Jim Haskins. (1992). Rosa Parks, Mother to a movement. New York: Dial Books. At the 1991 conference of the American Library Association in Atlanta, Dial gave the conference participants an advance reading copy of this great lady’s autobiography. Rosa Parks, with Jim Haskins, tells the story of her life.

Turner, G. (1989). Take a walk in their shoes. New York: Dutton. This collection includes biographical sketches and skits about fourteen notable African Americans.

Walker, A. (1974). Langston Hughes, American poet. New York: Crowell. Langston Hughes began writing poetry as a young child. Many of his poems became reflections of the social and economic conditions of Africian American people.


Haskins, James. (1987). Black Music in America. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. Illustrated with photographs, this is a history of black music in America from the earliest slave songs to modern jazz and beyond.

McKissack, P. and Frederick. (1987). The Civil Rights Movement in America from 1865 to the Present. Chicago: Children’s Press. A very readable history of the Civil Rights Movement from the beginning of Reconstruction to the present. Time lines and photographs enhance the text.

(1989). A long hard journey, the story of the Pullman porter. New York: Walker & Company. A remarkable story of courage which chronicles the struggle of the Pullman porters for recognition and fair treatment.

Fran Perkins and Roberta Long are part of the faculty in the School of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.