The Best Black Children's Authors to Hear Right Now
If you think kids’ books by Black authors are only for families of color, think again. Consider these Black children’s authors who offer listens to captivate kids of all ages, interests, and ethnic variations.
May 10, 2021
Some of the most iconic and revered children's books of all time were written by Black authors. Unfortunately, these incredibly talented writers, as well as up-and-coming ones, are often pigenholed into a few weeks out of the year and overlooked the rest. Here, we've complied a list of Black children's authors that you should have on your radar and celebrate year-round. Whether you're looking for a magical tale of urban fantasy or inspiration from stories of perserverance, these authors have something to offer anyone and everyone.
Kekla Magoon has written widely across age groups and genres, and collected many awards. Her first children's book, The Rock and the River, is about the Civil Rights Movement and won a 2011 Audie Award. Magoon is also the author of Shadows of Sherwood, a Robin Hood retelling set in a dystopian future, starring 13-year-old Robyn as the famous outlaw. Her latest children's book, The Season of Styx Malone, follows two brothers who befriend an older boy and quickly find themselves in over their heads with madcap adventures.
Jason Reynolds was already well established as a great YA author when he wrote his first children's book, As Brave as You, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book about two brothers who visit their grandfather for the summer and become determined to prove how brave they really are. He quickly followed it up with the Track series—Ghost, Sunny, Patina, and Lu—about four kids on the same track team, and their friendship, dreams, and challenges. Guy Lockard narrates most of Reynolds's books and does a spectacular job of bringing his characters to life.
Jacqueline Woodson is a National Book Award winner for her beautiful, self-narrated memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming, but she's been writing picture books and children's books for decades. Some of her most notable books throughout the years are Each Kindness, a short and poignant story about bullying; the Newbery Honor Book Feathers; and the lyrical listen, The Day You Begin. Her latest is Harbor Me, a middle-grade novel about a group of New York City middle schoolers who find refuge and hope in their unlikely friendship. It's narrated by a stellar full cast that includes the author.
Sharon M. Draper's extensive backlist includes YA and children's books about social justice, history, and identity. She's the author of Out of My Mind, a New York Times best seller about a girl with cerebral palsy determined to prove she's smarter than anyone realizes. Draper also wrote the historical novel Stella by Starlight, in which a girl investigates the reappearance of the Ku Klux Klan in her segregated North Carolina town. Her latest title is Blended, a timely contemporary novel about Isabella, an 11-year-old biracial girl navigating the complexities of her blended family.
Christopher Paul Curtis is well known for his deft use of humor to tell stories about some of the darkest subjects. He's best known for Bud, Not Buddy, about a motherless boy’s road trip to find his father, and The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963, a novel about a family trip that coincides with the Birmingham church bombing (this is not a drill: it's narrated by LeVar Burton!). Curtis's latest novel, The Journey of Little Charlie, is a National Book Award finalist. It's about a 12-year-old boy who cuts a deal with a plantation owner after his father dies, only to find that he's in way over his head.
Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer is the story of three sisters who travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend the summer with the mother they barely know. Its sequels, P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama, follow the sisters' further adventures. She's also the author of the National Book Award finalist Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, about a kid who goes on a journey through New York City to find the blues musicians who played with his beloved late grandfather.
Jewell Parker Rhodes's novels are often rooted in history or important current events. Sugar is the story of a young girl crossing cultural divides on a plantation after the Emancipation Proclamation. Ninth Ward follows a 12-year-old New Orleans orphan, Lanesha, during the devastating storm of Hurricane Katrina. Towers Falling is an important novel about three kids grappling to understand the impact of the September 11th terrorist attacks on their community. Rhodes's latest release is Ghost Boys about the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of Emmett Till.
Varian Johnson won the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for his newest release, The Parker Inheritance, a mystery about a small town and a decades-old injustice investigated by two kids, Candice and Brandon, who are determined to uncover the truth. Johnson has written books for the Spirit Animals series, as well as his acclaimed thrillers for kids.
Zetta Elliott has written everything from picture books to young adult books, contemporary stories to urban fantasy. In her YA novel A Wish After Midnight, Genna wants nothing more than to get out of her Brooklyn neighborhood—only to find herself traveling back through time to Civil War-era Brooklyn. Elliott's latest, Dragons in a Bag, is about a kid who discovers his babysitter is a witch and needs him to deliver a bagful of baby dragons to a magical world!
Kwame Alexander is the Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover, a novel-in-verse about two brothers, basketball, and living up to a father's expectations. He also wrote its prequel, Rebound, and Booked, a novel about soccer, bullies, and first crushes. An advocate for literacy, Alexander narrates his latest book, How to Read a Book, a poetic meditation on the power of reading—and listening.