Black Boy Fly: 53 Children’s Books Centering and Celebrating the Humanity of Black Boys
Black males continue to be underrepresented, misrepresented, or invisible in all forms of children’s media, including children’s books. Of the 3,400 children’s books published in 2017, only 2% featured books with Black characters written by Black authors. Even fewer featured Black boys or men. This list of children’s books with Black males as heroes and protagonists was created by The Conscious Kid, in partnership with LINE4LINE. The Conscious Kid is a critical literacy organization that promotes access to children’s books by and about underrepresented groups. LINE4LINE is a Baton Rouge-based barbershop program that strengthens literacy skills and attitudes around reading for young men of color by providing free haircuts to boys in exchange for reading books. All of the books featured are written by Black authors. They will be available to read at the LINE4LINE barbershop program during the month of December.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly. This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair — a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of Black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror. Ages 3–10.
Schomburg, The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house, he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world. Ages 9–12.
Malcolm X: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by AG Ford: Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice. Bolstered by the love and wisdom of his large, warm family, young Malcolm Little was a natural born leader. But when confronted with intolerance and a series of tragedies, Malcolm’s optimism and faith were threatened. He had to learn how to be strong and how to hold on to his individuality. He had to learn self-reliance. Together with acclaimed illustrator AG Ford, Ilyasah Shabazz gives us a unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X, with a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today — that we must all strive to live to our highest potential. Ages 6–10.
Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper: Max loves his grandpa. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa promises Max that the moon at Grandpa’s house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. On that swervy-curvy car ride back to his house, Max watches as the moon tags along. But when the sky darkens and the moon disappears behind clouds, he worries that it didn’t follow him home after all. Where did the moon go — and what about Grandpa’s promise? In Max and the Tag-Along Moon, Floyd Cooper’s lush paintings perfectly capture the wonder of the moon, the love between grandfather and grandson, and that feeling of magic every child experiences when the moon follows him home. Ages 3–7.
Take A Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett: James Van Der Zee was just a young boy when he saved enough money to buy his first camera. He took photos of his family, classmates, and anyone who would sit still for a portrait. By the fifth grade, James was the school photographer and unofficial town photographer. Eventually he outgrew his small town and moved to the exciting, fast-paced world of New York City. After being told by his boss that no one would want his or her photo taken by a Black man, — James opened his own portrait studio in Harlem. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance — politicians such as Marcus Garvey, performers including Florence Mills, Bill-Bojangles-Robinson, and Mamie Smith — and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too. Everyone wanted fancy portraits by James Van Der Zee. This is the story of a groundbreaking artist who chronicled an important era in Harlem and showed the beauty and pride of its people. Ages 7–11.
Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest. Along with esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier, Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music. Ages 4–8.
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph: His white teacher tells her all-Black class, “You’ll all wind up porters and waiters.” What did she know? Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first Black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was poor and looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government. In Washington DC, Gordon went looking for a subject, but what he found was segregation. He and others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way. Told through lyrical verse and atmospheric art, this is the story of how, with a single photograph, a self-taught artist got America to take notice. Ages 4–8.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe: Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean — and definitely not inside the lines — to be beautiful. Ages 6–12.
Grandad Mandela by Zazi, Ziwelene, and Zindzi Mandela, illustrated by Sean Qualls: Nelson Mandela’s two great-grandchildren ask their grandmother, Mandela’s youngest daughter, 15 questions about their grandad — the global icon of peace and forgiveness who spent 27 years in prison. They learn that he was a freedom fighter who put down his weapons for the sake of peace, and who then became the President of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, and realize that they can continue his legacy in the world today. Seen through a child’s perspective, and authored jointly by Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchildren and daughter, this amazing story is told as never before to celebrate what would have been Nelson’s Mandela 100th birthday. Ages 4–8.
Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Every morning, I play a game with my father. He goes knock knock on my door and I pretend to be asleep till he gets right next to the bed. And my papa, he tells me, “I love you.” But what happens when, one day, that “knock knock” doesn’t come? This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind, and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams. Ages 4–7.
Jake Makes A World: Jacob Lawrence, an Artist in Harlem by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitt, illustrated by Christoper Myers: Jake Makes a World follows the creative adventures of the young Jacob Lawrence as he finds inspiration in the vibrant colors and characters of his community in Harlem. From his mother’s apartment, where he is surrounded by brightly colored walls with intricate patterns; to the streets full of familiar and not-so-familiar faces, sounds, rhythms, and smells; to the art studio where he goes each day after school to transform his everyday world on an epic scale, Jake takes readers on an enchanting journey through the bustling sights and sounds of his neighborhood. Ages 4–8.
The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie: In the 1930s, Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore. And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father’s bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, to name a few. In his father’s bookstore people bought and read books, and they also learned from each other. People swapped and traded ideas and talked about how things could change. They came together here all because of his father’s book itch. Read the story of how Lewis Michaux Sr. and his bookstore fostered new ideas and helped people stand up for what they believed in. Ages 7–10.
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis: Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.
John wants to be a preacher when he grows up — a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice. Celebrating ingenuity and dreaming big, this inspirational story, featuring Jabari Asim’s stirring prose and E. B. Lewis’s stunning, light-filled impressionistic watercolor paintings, includes an author’s note about John Lewis, who grew up to be a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. John Lewis is now a Georgia congressman, who is still an activist today, recently holding a sit-in on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol to try to force a vote on gun violence. Ages 4–8.
Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sean Qualls: Young John Coltrane was all ears. And there was a lot to hear growing up in the South in the 1930s: preachers praying, music on the radio, the bustling of the household. These vivid noises shaped John’s own sound as a musician. Carole Boston Weatherford and Sean Qualls have composed an amazingly rich hymn to the childhood of jazz legend John Coltrane. Ages 4–8.
Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean Qualls: With a few simple words as smooth as a song, the poet Langston Hughes celebrates the love between a Black mother and her baby. The award-winning illustrator Sean Qualls’s painted and collaged artwork captures universally powerful maternal moments with tenderness and whimsy. In the end, readers will find a rare photo of baby Hughes and his mother, a biographical note, further reading, and the complete lullaby. Ages 0–4.
Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka: I be boy. All bliss boy. All fine beat. All beau boy. Beautiful. Famed author bell hooks brings us a tight, exuberant story that captures the essence and energy of what it means to be a boy. Chris Raschka’s soulful illustrations buzz with a force that is the perfect match for these powerful words. Ages 0–6.
Baby Blessings: A Prayer For the Day You Are Born by Deloris Jordan, illustrated by James E. Ransome: This touching story from bestselling author Doloris Jordan celebrates the blessings new parents wish for their babies all through their lives. With a strong emphasis on the bonds families share, the inspirational text is accompanied by exquisite art from renowned illustrator James E. Ransome. Ages 0–4.
In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney: A Black mother expresses the many hopes and dreams she has for her child in this powerful picture book masterpiece that’s perfect for gift-giving. When you are a newborn,
I hold your hand and study your face.
I cradle you as you drift to sleep.
But I know that I will not always
hold your hand;
not the older you get.
Then, I will hold you in my heart And hope that God holds you in his hands. Ages 4–8.
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson: What began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature. Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it — vast and beautiful. Ages 4–8.
Frederick Douglass, The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Floyd Cooper: Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” The story of one of America’s most revered figures is brought to life by the text of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers and the sweeping, lush illustrations of artist Floyd Cooper. Ages 4–8.
Furqan’s First Flat Top / El Primer Corte de Mesita de Furqan by Robert Liu-Trujillo: Furqan Moreno wakes up and decides that today he wants his hair cut for the first time. His dad has just the style: a flat top fade! He wants his new haircut to be cool but when they get to the barbershop, he’s a bit nervous about his decision. He begins to worry that his hair will look funny, imagining all the flat objects in his day to day life. Before he knows it, his haircut is done and he realizes that his dad was right — Furqan’s first flat top is the freshest! Ages 4–8.
Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Hey Black child,
Do you know who you are?
Who really are?
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be? This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates Black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals. Ages 3–10.
Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell: Inspired by his family experiences and his parents’ paintings, a young boy creates four poems. In four vibrant verses and spectacular oil paintings, a young boy revels in the everyday pleasures of growing up in a family of fine artists. A still life of shoes inspires Noah to measure his own little ones against the big ones of his father. The whirl of an abstract painting encourages him to spin with his older sister. The moon outside his window is the same one that glows on his mother’s canvas. But the subject that brings out the best in Noah — and inspires his daddy to call him a man — has her crib right there in his parents’ studio. With its bold colors and arresting perspectives, this book is a celebration of art and an exaltation of family. Ages 3–6.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney: This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. Andrea Davis Pinkney uses poetic, powerful prose to tell the story of these four young men, who followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of peaceful protest and dared to sit at the “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter. Brian Pinkney embraces a new artistic style, creating expressive paintings filled with emotion that mirror the hope, strength, and determination that fueled the dreams of not only these four young men, but also countless others. Ages 7–10.
Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Literary award winners Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier celebrate life, love, and family with this gorgeous new picture book. Lulling, poetic text and captivating illustrations welcome a new baby to the wonders of the world, from peanut butter to moonlight. Ages 0–3.
Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis: In this companion book to the bestselling I Love My Hair, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut. Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity. Ages 4–7.
I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier: I, Too, Am America blends the poetic wisdom of Langston Hughes with visionary illustrations from Bryan Collier in this inspirational picture book that carries the promise of equality.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem “I, Too,” creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences. Ages 4–8.
Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome: Louis Armstrong has been called the most important improviser in the history of jazz. Although his New Orleans neighborhood was poor in nearly everything else, it was rich in superb music. Young Louis took it all in, especially the cornet blowing of Joe “King” Oliver. But after a run in with the police, 11-year-old Louis was sent away to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys where he became a disciplined musician in the school’s revered marching band. By the time he returned to his neighborhood, the “King” himself became his mentor and invited Armstrong to play with him in Chicago. Here is a joyful tribute to the virtuoso musician and buoyant personality who introduced much of the world to jazz. Ages 6–9.
The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier: In this companion to the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award–winning Trombone Shorty, join a scrappy young musician named Shorty on a tour of his beloved New Orleans. After letting his band down by missing rehearsal, Shorty has some serious questions about what it means to be a leader. He hits the streets of New Orleans to find some answers and soak up inspiration. Along the way he’ll meet street musicians, a favorite restaurant owner, and the famous Mardi Gras Indians. Each has some NOLA-bred wisdom to share with Shorty about being an artist, a leader, and a friend. In The 5 O’Clock Band, Troy Andrews has crafted another unforgettable love letter to New Orleans, illustrated by the incomparable Bryan Collier. Ages 4–8.
Young Pelé: Soccer’s First Star by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome: How did a poor boy named Edson — who kicked rocks down roads and dribbled balls made from rags — go on to become the greatest soccer player of all time? Here is the story of the boy who with great determination, lightning speed, and amazing skill overcame tremendous odds to become the world champion soccer star, Pelé. Talented author/illustrator team Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome bring his inspirational story vibrantly to life. Ages 4–8.
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney: The story of one of America’s greatest composers, Duke Ellington, is lavishly told here in jazz-inspired prose. The young Duke, born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington D.C., in 1899, is introduced as a smooth talkin,’ slick-steppin,’ piano playin’ kid with his “fine as pie looks and flashy threads” — thus earning him the name “Duke,” by which he would be known his entire life. First hearing ragtime, the music that would inspire him to return to the piano — after briefly abandoning it for baseball — Duke produced his own made-up melodies: “one-and-two-umpy-dump.” As a young man, Duke founded a small band called the Washingtonians. Eager to experiment with livelier forms of music, the band soon split for New York City when they were invited to play at the famed Cotton Club in 1927. Ages 5–9.
The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Robert McGuire: Born into an African American sharecropping family in 1880s Kentucky, Jimmy Winkfield grew up loving horses. The large, powerful animals inspired little Jimmy to think big. Looking beyond his family’s farm, he longed for a life riding on action-packed racetracks around the world. Like his hero, the great Isaac Murphy, Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield would stop at nothing to make it as a jockey. Though his path to success was wrought with obstacles both on the track and off, Wink faced each challenge with passion and a steadfast spirit. Along the way he carved out a lasting legacy as one of history’s finest horsemen and the last African American ever to win the Kentucky Derby. The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby brings to life a vivacious hero from a little-known chapter of American sports history. Readers are transported trackside to witness the heart-pounding story of a vibrant young man chasing down his dream. Ages 6–9.
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison: Growing up in the 1830s in Saratoga Springs, New York, isn’t easy for George Crum. Picked on at school because of the color of his skin, George escapes into his favorite pastimes — hunting and fishing. Soon George learns to cook too, and as a young man he lands a job as chef at the fancy Moon’s Lake House. George loves his work, except for the fussy customers, who are always complaining! One hot day George’s patience boils over, and he cooks up a potato dish so unique it changes his life forever. Readers will delight in this spirited story of the invention of the potato chip — one of America’s favorite snack foods. George Crum and the Saratoga Chip is a testament to human ingenuity, and a tasty slice of culinary history. Ages 6–10.
When Daddy Prays by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Tim Ladwig: In this collection of poems, a child expresses love and affection for Daddy and reflects on the many times Daddy talks to God. Ages 5–8.
Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton: Bob Marley’s songs are known the world over for their powerful message of love, peace, and harmony. Now a whole new generation can discover one of his most joyous songs in this reassuring picture book adaptation written by his daughter Cedella and exuberantly illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. This upbeat story reminds children that the sun will always come out after the rain and mistakes are easily forgiven with a hug. Every family will relate to this universal story of one boy who won’t let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three very special little birds. Including all the lyrics of the original song plus new verses, this cheerful book will bring a smile to faces of all ages — because every little thing’s gonna be all right! Ages 0–6.
Pretty Brown Face by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney: Join the fun as a baby boy discovers the unique features that make his face so special in Pretty Brown Face. Ages 0–4.
Ray Charles by Sharon Bell Mathis, illustrated by George Ford: As a young boy he fell in love with music, and as a man, the world fell in love with his music. Ray Charles and his soulful, passionate rhythm and melodies have been embraced around the globe for decades. Now, readers can follow Charles from his boyhood, when he lost his sight completely and learned to read and write music in Braille, until the age of 40, when he had become a world-renowned jazz and blues musician. Ages 5–10.
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Booker dreamed
of making friends with words,
setting free the secrets
that lived in books. Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true. The young slave who once waited outside of the schoolhouse would one day become a legendary educator of freedmen. Award-winning artist Bryan Collier captures the hardship and the spirit of one of the most inspiring figures in American history, bringing to life Booker T. Washington’s journey to learn, to read, and to realize a dream. Ages 5–8.
12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated Bryan Collier: From the moment a fired-up teenager won 1960 Olympic gold to the day when a retired legend, hands shaking from Parkinson’s, returned to raise the Olympic torch, the boxer known as “The Greatest” waged many a fight. Some were in the ring, against opponents like Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier; others were against societal prejudice and a war he refused to support because of his Islamic faith. The rap-inspired verse weaves and bobs and jabs, while bold collage artwork matches every move, capturing the “Louisville loudmouth with the great gift of rhyme” who shed the name Cassius Clay to take on the world as Muhammad Ali. Ages 10 and up.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds: Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds. Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons — it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems — and running away from them — until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him? Ages 10 and up.
Sunny by Jason Reynolds: Sunny is just that — sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But Sunny’s life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him — ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad” — it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race. With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies — his only friends — behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard hits of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. As Sunny practices the discus, learning when to let go at just the right time, he’ll let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside, perhaps just in time. Ages 10 and up.
Lu by Jason Reynolds: Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds. Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that — not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings — no one’s gonna outshine him.
Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way — literally and not-so-literally — and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means. Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series. Ages 10 and up.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore: A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity. It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward. Building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape — and an unexpected bridge back to the world. David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge — of adolescence, of grief, of violence — and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors. Ages 10–14.
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon: Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene have the whole summer for adventures in the woods behind their house in Sutton, Indiana. Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town, but his dad likes the family to stay close to home. Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. He’s been lots of different places. Styx promises Caleb and Bobby Gene that together, they can pull off the Great Escalator Trade–exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. It becomes clear that Styx has secrets–secrets so big they could ruin everything–and Caleb fears their whole plan might fall apart. In this madcap, heartwarming, one-thing-leads-to-another adventure, friendships are forged, loyalties are tested . . . and miracles just might be possible. Ages 8–12.
March (Trilogy) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first Black president. March is the first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story (including his childhood), it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own graphic novel bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations. Ages 11–15.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds: Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man. But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself. As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk. It’s time for Miles to suit up. Ages 12–18.
Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld: The first memoir for young readers by sports legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. At one time, Lew Alcindor was just another kid from New York City with all the usual problems: He struggled with fitting in, with pleasing a strict father, and with overcoming shyness that made him feel socially awkward. But with a talent for basketball, and an unmatched team of supporters, Lew Alcindor was able to transform and to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. From a childhood made difficult by racism and prejudice to a record-smashing career on the basketball court as an adult, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s life was packed with “coaches” who taught him right from wrong and led him on the path to greatness. His parents, coaches Jack Donahue and John Wooden, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and many others played important roles in Abdul-Jabbar’s life and sparked him to become an activist for social change and advancement. The inspiration from those around him, and his drive to find his own path in life, are highlighted in this personal and awe-inspiring journey. Written especially for young readers, Becoming Kareem chronicles how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar become the icon and legend he is today, both on and off the court. Ages 10–13.
Booked by Kwame Alexander: In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match! Ages 10–12.
Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith: Black Panther. Ruler of Wakanda. Avenger. This is his destiny. But right now, he’s simply T’Challa-the young prince. Life is comfortable for twelve-year-old T’Challa in his home of Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African nation. When he’s not learning how to rule a kingdom from his father-the reigning Black Panther-or testing out the latest tech, he’s off breaking rules with his best friend, M’Baku. But as conflict brews near Wakanda, T’Challa’s father makes a startling announcement: he’s sending T’Challa and M’Baku to school in America. This is no prestigious private academy-they’ve been enrolled at South Side Middle School in the heart of Chicago. Despite being given a high-tech suit and a Vibranium ring to use only in case of an emergency, T’Challa realizes he might not be as equipped to handle life in America as he thought. Especially when it comes to navigating new friendships while hiding his true identity as the prince of a powerful nation, and avoiding Gemini Jones, a menacing classmate who is rumored to be involved in dark magic. When strange things begin happening around school, T’Challa sets out to uncover the source. But what he discovers in the process is far more sinister than he could ever have imagined. In order to protect his friends and stop an ancient evil, T’Challa must take on the mantle of a hero, setting him on the path to becoming the Black Panther. Ages 9–12.
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds: Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia — in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck, Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he hides it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans). How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house — as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into — a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out — he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all. Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder — is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do? Ages 10 and up.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia: From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love. Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen — he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live. Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him. Ages 8–12.
X, A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon: Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies — after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion — and that he can’t run forever. X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today. Ages 14 and up.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds — the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES. And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator. Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds. Ages 12 and up.
The Conscious Kid is an education, research, and critical literacy organization dedicated to cultivating equity, uplifting counter-narratives, and promoting positive identity development in youth. The Conscious Kid works with schools, organizations and families nationally and internationally to promote access to children’s books that center underrepresented groups. www.theconsciouskid.org
LINE4LINE strengthens literacy skills and attitudes around reading for young men of color in a creative way by providing free haircuts to boys in exchange for reading books. Within the African American Community barbershops have historically served as social hubs. By bringing reading into this culturally significant space, youth not only build self-esteem with a fresh new haircut but also strengthen reading skills in a familiar environment. Using relatable role model mentors, LINE4LINE builds community from within. Founded in 2014 by O’Neil Curtis, LINE4LINE takes place at his Baton Rouge barbershop the first Monday of each month from 4–7pm. During this time LINE4LINE has given 1500 haircuts; placed over 3000 books into homes; created an onsite 24/7 Free Little Library; built a Barbershop Library of multi-cultural books; started a program with the East Baton Rouge Parish Public schools; participated in community outreach events, and established a back-to-school giveaway, serving an additional 3000 youth and families. In 2016, LINE4LINE received its 501c3 status and kicked off the 449 Book Club giving new books to boys which are read and discussed at the following month’s program. In 2017 LINE4LINE began seeking funds through grants and private donations and entered a partnership with The Conscious Kid to further diversify its Barbershop Library. Looking to the future, LINE4LINE plans to create an on-site space for youth to gather during out of school time with a lending library, support services and programs that seek to develop life passions. https://www.facebook.com/Line4LineBR/