Everyday African American Picture Books

A while back I helped a patron looking for modern, everyday sort of picture books about African American characters- fun, lighthearted books with kids that looked like her daughter. This simple question highlighted to me how tricky it can be to find books like this, both because of the relative lack of diversity in children's books, as well as because it can be difficult to specifically search our catalog for books set in the present day.

This led me on a quest to find these books in our collection and had me poring over booklists, blogs, and publisher pages, talking to coworkers and patrons, and (of course) doing lots of reading. One site I've relied on is The Brown Bookshelf, a blog that's "designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers." It's run by some of the most notable black authors and illustrators in children's literature today and is definitely worth checking out!

All of this research eventually boiled down to three big book lists. How big? They contain over 250 picture books between them! I wanted to provide as large a pool as possible for parents and kids to choose from, and to feature the full range of stories out there. The majority are contemporary stories published within the last 15 or so years, though there are some timeless older books, tall tales, and princess stories. Overall I've just tried to stick with books that are generally lighthearted and modern in feel.

Before the book lists I've highlighted 8 stories (it was so hard to choose!), roughly arranged in reading level order.

Featured Stories

Jazz Baby

Jazz Baby is a lively tale that follows a baby and his family as they find different ways to make music together. The text and dynamic illustrations (done by the award-winning illustrator Gregory R. Christie, who also did the artwork for the wonderful historical story The Book Itch) work together to give this book such a joyful feel.

So Much

So Much is a sweet, simple story of a baby who's greeted by each family member in turn as they come by for a get-together. Author Trish Cooke also has two other fantastic stories in the KCLS collection, Full, Full, Full of Love and Look Back.

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion is set in Africa judging by the wildlife, but it's just too cute to leave out. Watching clever Little Red outwit the grumpy lion is so much fun!

Don't Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table

Don't Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table is a funny, lyrical story about the long-winded blessings of Auntie Mabel as dinner cools and the family fidgets. A lot of the charm is in the brilliant illustrations by the prolific illustrator and author Vanessa Brantley-Newton!

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood

This lyrical and lively story matches moods to colors, and is written by The Brown Bookshelf member Tameka Fryer Brown and illustrated by popular Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award-winner Shane W. Evans.

I Love My Hair!

I Love My Hair! follows a little girl who sits with her mother each night to comb the tangles out of her hair. When it hurts, her mother goes over how lucky she is to have her hair because of all the different things she can do with it. This sweet story is written by notable writer Natasha Tarpley and prolific artist Earl B. Lewis.

Jabari Jumps

Jabari Jumps is a lovely story about a boy overcoming his apprehension about diving which uses expressive artwork and warm text to take it far beyond a simple informational book. I particularly love how Jabari's father gently encourages Jabari to jump in his own time and helps him see the challenge in a different light.

Sunday Shopping

Sunday Shopping is a wonderful story about a girl and her grandma who use pretend money to "shop" through the Sunday ads, and it focuses on the importance of imagination and togetherness. Another story illustrated by a multi award-winning artist (Shadra Strickland)!


Everyday African American Picture Books This list features 100 African American picture books with lighthearted themes and modern settings. They are generally geared towards kids K-2nd grade.

Everyday African American Picture Books, Part 2! This list features another 100 books. You'll find some slightly older titles, as well as a handful of nonfiction books.

Very Young African American Picture Books These books are geared towards a bit younger of an audience than the first two lists.