A Selection of Books for Kids on Black Families

Pecan Pie Baby

Jacqueline Woodson (Author), Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

Gia lives with her single mom, who is very pregnant, and now everything in Gia’s world seems to revolve around the impending arrival of a new sibling. It’s all anyone can talk about. Furthermore, she sees the baby as a threat to her close relationship with her single-parent mother. Gia is building up a lot of resentment against the “ding-dang baby.” And when the whole family comes for Thanksgiving, Gia finally explodes, yelling out to everyone: “I’m so sick of that DING-DANG BABY!” Mama sends Gia to her room, and later comes to talk to her. Mama says, “You know what I’m going to miss the most when the baby comes, Gia?” And she tells Gia she will miss all their time together, just the two of them. They cuddle and hug, and then Gia suggests they go downstairs for pecan pie, because all three of them love it, even the ding-dang baby! This book is so touching and cute and funny, and has such wonderful illustrations, that you have to be grateful these two award-winning women collaborated on such a great project.

Note: Although the racially mixed nature of this [extended] family is not mentioned in the text, it is demonstrated by the illustrations.

Product Details
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (October 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399239871
ISBN-13: 978-0399239878


Just the Two of Us

Will Smith (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Will Smith, musician, actor, and father, celebrates a father’s love as he watches his son grow into a man, starting with the night he brought his son home from the hospital: “That night I don’t think one wink I slept/ As I slipped out of my bed, to your crib I crept/ Touched your head gently, I felt my heart melt/ ‘Cause I knew I loved you/ more than life itself.” Smith’s humor mixes with his affection so that the text doesn’t become too syrupy: “Sometimes I wonder what you’re gonna be/ A general, a doctor, maybe an MC./ I wanna kiss you all the time/ But I will test that butt when you cut out of line./ Why’d you do that?” This heartwarming portrait, illustrated by the amazing Kadir Nelson, is for all ages.

Product Details
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (February 1, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 043966943X
ISBN-13: 978-0439669436


Who Will I Be, Lord?

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Author), Sean Qualls (Illustrator)

A little girl wonders what she will be when she grows up. She thinks about all the members of her family, what she loves about them, and what each of them do. In the end, she guesses, like her mama says, it’s up to her what she will be.

Note: The little girl’s great grandma is white, although the rest of the family is African American.

Product Details
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 27, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375843426
ISBN-13: 978-0375843426


In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers

Javaka Steptoe (Author and Illustrator)

Colorful pastiche of poetry and art styles celebrate the African American father. The images are varied and interesting; many are collages. The illustrations were done by Javaka Steptoe, who is the son of the late children’s book illustrator John Steptoe. Most of the twelve poems, written by a variety of writers and one by the illustrator, reflect a father who is strong, fun and loving. A couple of the poems are sad, but in a subtle way.

Product Details
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (January 30, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1584300167
ISBN-13: 978-1584300168


I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother

Selina Alko (Author and Illustrator)

With a black father and a white mother, a young boy wonders what his new sibling will look like when it is born. All of his conjectures evoke food imagery – “Baby, what shade will you be? Pure coal black or coffee with lots and lots of cream? Ginger cookie brown or midnight licorice purple?” My favorite is the two-page spread that wonders: “Baby, will your hair look like mine? Noel’s string beans locked this way and that or Akira’s puffy head of broccoli flowerets? Maybe, like Aunty Angela, your mushroom bob will wave neatly in half-moon curls. Feathers might hang from a round coconut face. Or, like Grandma Helen, will sharp blades of grass stick straight up?” The illustrations are absolutely adorable and quite well executed – a very fun mix of gouache and mixed-media. Many of them show friends or family members in order to put images to the boy’s guesses. I could see myself paging through this book over and over again to revel in the diverse and imaginative illustrations.

Note: Black father and white mother

Product Details

Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (March 10, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375856277


Welcome, Precious

Nikki Grimes (Author) Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

Award winners Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier celebrate a new life and family love with this gorgeous picture book for very young children. The text is lyrical: “Welcome, Precious. Welcome to the warm circle of your daddy’s arms, the slippery kisses of your giddy grandmother, and the cool tickle of Mommy’s nose rubbing against your belly button.” For the most part, the pictures are adorable, depicting very cozy domestic scenes.

Product Details
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Orchard Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 043955702X
ISBN-13: 978-0439557023



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13 Responses to A Selection of Books for Kids on Black Families

  1. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    What a great group of books…I love the illustrations on the covers. This is what I miss now that my boys are grown up!! Picture books!

  2. Margot says:

    What a beautiful collection of books you’ve offered us. This highlights one of my favorite things about the Birthday Party website – the good suggestions for book choices by age levels.

  3. Sandy says:

    Wow! What an excellent selection! The Birthday Party Pledge people have to be thrilled with it. You can’t really go wrong with Jacqueline Woodson or Kadir Nelson, even if they just breathe on the book.

  4. Jenners says:

    I swear that I’ve heard Will Smith sing/rap that song!

    • Tee says:

      Yes , he wrote them both honoring the relationship between him and his first son. I find myself singing it everytime I read it to my children.

  5. These look like great reads Jill! I think would like that Will Smith one and I have read several books by Jacqueline Woodson.

  6. Belle Wong says:

    This is a great list, Jill. Dylan’s eight, but he still loves reading picture books, because he’s very visually oriented. I’m going to check our library for copies of these. I think he’d really like In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall – he’s very close to his dad.

  7. Love the pledge, love these books. Great list!

  8. Fantastic selection of books! I’m familiar with the first 3, but the second 3 are new-to-me. Love the illustrations of both Blackall and Nelson.

    PEANUT BUTTER BIG BROTHER looks delightful 🙂

  9. zibilee says:

    Kadir Nelson has such a gift for illustration, and that is the book that I am most excited to get a chance to look at out of the selection you posted here today. But really, all of them look wonderful, and I am glad that there seems to be a growing edge of diversity to the children’s book market. Great post today, Jill!

  10. Vasilly says:

    Thanks for the great post! The only one I read was Pecan Pie Baby but I was a little “meh” about it.

  11. BloggyLesa says:

    Hi, visiting from Kid Konnection. All these books are so cute. Especially Pecan Pie Baby and Peanut Butter Brother– I pounce on anything remotely related to food!

  12. Wow! That’s a great collection of books! I was only familiar with WHO WILL I BE LORD? But it looks like I need to check out the rest.

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