What we’re reading: empowering children’s books with black characters

I’m always on the lookout for great children’s books, especially books featuring a diverse cast of characters. Claire is always looking for people and characters who look like her, and we think it’s so important for our kids to see themselves in the stories we read. We’ve always loved Snowy Day, For You Are a Kenyan Child, and Whoever You Are, and I’m on the lookout for even more books featuring black or mixed-race characters that Claire and Heidi can identify with. Here are a few in my shopping cart right now…


Rapunzel – In a new twist on a classic tale, Rapunzel lives in Africa and has long, flowing dread locks. I think the artwork in this one is gorgeous, and since Rapunzel is a story Claire already knows, it will be interesting for her to see it with a black woman in the lead!

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace – Grace loves to act, and decides she wants the lead role in her school’s production of Peter Pan. Her schoolmates tell her she can’t – Peter is a boy, and he isn’t black. But Grace shows she can do anything she puts her mind to…

brothers of the knight

Brothers of the Knight – Another modern twist on a classic tale, every night the 12 brothers dance all night, and their father the Reverend doesn’t understand why their shoes are tattered and torn every morning. The artwork looks amazing, and I’m a sucker for children’s books with great artwork… 🙂

I Like Myself

I Like Myself – This book is about a vibrant young black girl who likes everything about herself, including silly things like her bedhead and beaver breath. I can imagine Claire laughing out loud to this one!

Please Baby Please

Please, Baby, Please – Spike Lee and his wife wrote this book about the joys (and challenges) of parenthood. The baby girl’s face on the book’s cover has me sold! 🙂

One Family

One Family – This book shows that families come in different shapes and sizes, and that many families are multi-racial families. Claire is always looking to identify with people who are like her, so I love a book that shows families like ours!

The Hello Goodbye Window

The Hello, Goodbye Window – This book is about a mixed-race girl who finds a magical world through the window of her grandparent’s house. This is another great book depicting a family like our own!

Do you have any books featuring diverse characters? Which are your favorites?

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22 Responses to What we’re reading: empowering children’s books with black characters

  1. Brenda says:

    Bless you Tara!This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I could literally kiss you right now😊…I appreciate all the practical tips you’ve shared in the past,those have saved my life (and sanity) a few times too.Thank you from my little one and I.

  2. Shauna says:

    I have read this one about 8 zillion times in 11 short months:


    I also got him this really great doll at ikea:


    (I thought I’d mention it since I read your post on the paucity of black baby dolls)

  3. Ami says:

    Thank you for the compilation Tara. Will buy some and gift them to someone with young kids (since mine are almost all grown up 🙂

  4. Ciiku says:

    This look like really good books. I’ll look for them. Your posts are very educational. We love reading at home and have enjoyed some of the books by story moja they have a lot about home. God bless you.

    • Mama Mgeni says:

      Thanks Ciiku! Have you read For You Are a Kenyan Child? It’s our favorite children’s book about Kenya!

  5. Heather says:

    Thank you Tara, I added a few of these to my wish list. I haven’t read it but I think “Big Hair, Don’t Care” looks like a good one too.

  6. E. Claire says:

    We love the Snowy Day, but I think Whistles for Willie is bo-ring. Two other greats are Feast for 10 by Catherine Falwell and Ten, Nine Eight by Molly Bang. My guy liked Lola Plants a Garden, which is part of series. We are a full on Anglo mix family, but I think it’s important to show our son the beauty of all people. My mom did the same for us when we were younger, and I loved Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters!

  7. E. Claire says:

    also- I just found your blog through Cup of Jo, but were you on House Hunters International?

    • Mama Mgeni says:

      Yay, welcome! I’m so excited about the Cup of Jo piece… 🙂 It’s funny you mention House Hunters International – they’ve tried to cast me twice, but we haven’t gone for it… 🙂

  8. Emily K says:

    Thanks for the recs! We really like Don’t Spill the Milk (http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Spill-Milk-Stephen-Davies/dp/1467720283). Great illustrations.

  9. Cathel says:

    Just read your post on Cup of Jo and wanted to let you know about the Anna Hibiscus books (picture books and chapter books) by Atinuke. Anna has a Canadian mother and African father and lives in “Africa, amazing Africa” with all of her aunties, uncles and cousins. Highly recommended!

  10. Martha says:

    Hi Tara, you are an inspiration! I was content with the blonde dolls but after reading your posts..I’m hunting for black dolls.
    Where do you buy these books from? I know Rapunzel would be an instant hit

    • Mama Mgeni says:

      I hear Nakumatt Prestige has a big selection of black dolls! As for the books, these ones aren’t available locally. I got them from Amazon’s UK site and had them shipped to Kenya. Postage is higher, but worth it to have great books! 🙂 I wonder if many people request books like these from the book shop at YaYa, maybe he would make a special order?

  11. Wambûi says:

    Big fan of your blog here, though it does make me very homesick. Thanks for your list, there’s a couple we don’t have. Some suggestions my daughters (7 & 3) have enjoyed: Summer Jackson All Grown Up, Princess Cupcake Jones(3 in the series so far), Whose Toes Are Those, Lola(3 or 4 so far), Firebird(Misty Copeland-beautiful dancer!), Ballerina Dreams(about another beautiful dancer of colour) and Ballerina Girl(Kirsten Hall), Princess Truly(2 so far). There are some more on our wish list that we’ve not read yet; I can recommend them when we do.

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