20 Must-Read Books with Black Main Characters

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Have you ever found yourself looking for Black representation in books with black main characters? You might love this list and have fun going through it with your family.

It may not be Black History Month, but we don’t need that excuse to celebrate representation year-round. 

I love finding Black representation in books, more specifically children’s books. I want them to see themselves in not only characters of stories but characters that lead the story, and characters that without them, there would be no story to tell.

Here are 20 must-read books with Black main characters that my family and I love to read:

1. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o is not just an Academy Award winner, she is also an incredible author! In her debut picture book, Nygong’o tackles colorism and self-esteem. It is a tribute to loving the skin you’re in, no matter the shade.

2. Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

This beautiful picture book is not only a reminder to love the hair you have, but it also is a celebration of fathers and daughters! Academy Award winner Jordan Peele asserts we need more of such stories, and I agree wholeheartedly.

3. Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Vashti Harrison is a trailblazer in children’s literature about the Black experience. She illustrated this book (and the two books above), together with authoring this significant rundown on prominent Black men in history, such as James Baldwin and Oscar Devereaux Micheaux.

by Vashti Harrison

4. Magic Betsey by Malorie Blackman

A tale of courage, determination, and magic! People may not be impressed with Betsey’s magic tricks, but that does not stop her. Teach your children that their dreams are valid and possible through this colorful book.

5. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

It’s a modern classic and one of my children’s favorite stories! Last Stop on Market Street is about CJ and the many questions he has for his grandmother while on a bus ride. It tackles themes of privilege and family through inclusive text and vibrant images.

6. Look Up! By Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola

I love books that not only showcase Black girls but Black girls who love science. Look Up! is just that. You’ll finish this book with a nagging desire to explore nature a bit more every day.

Look Up! By Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola

7. The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley

Sometimes you may need help as a parent when talking to your children about some not-so-pleasant topics, and books can be an effective tool here. The Silence Seeker is a warm and moving tale that could gently open discussions in your home around the refugee crisis.

8. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Did you really think she was only going to cover men? Vashti Harrison once again adds some knowledge and color into our homes through her comprehensive rundown of prominent Black women in history!

9. Blackberry Blue by Jamila Gavin

Sometimes one story is just not enough! Blackberry Blue offers you six enchanting tales about magicians, princesses, talking animals, and more. Readers of all ages can find something to relate to by this Black female-led narrative.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History - books with black characters
Blackberry Blue by Jamila Gavin

10. The Young Magicians and The Thieves’ Almanac by Nick Mohammed

This is a lengthier novel, but my older children love speeding through as many pages as possible before school! It’s filled with adventure and a diverse set of characters reflecting the world we live in.

11. Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

There’s a reason this book has won as many awards as it has! Beyond the Bright Sea is vivid and heart-wrenching. It’s candid in its telling of an orphan’s reality and their dynamics with family.

12. How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

This is another prime example of using literature to introduce complex topics to your children. How High the Moon explores a Black girl’s journey to reconnect with her mother and learn about her father while navigating the tumultuous times of the Jim Crow South.

Beyond the Bright Sea - books with black characters
How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

13. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

We can’t have enough of these kinds of books in the world, in my opinion! Girls, especially girls of color, should be encouraged to pursue careers that historically were not available to them. Why not the presidency?

14. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol 1: BFF

We are HUGE Marvel fans in my home, so having a story about a Black preteen super genius with inhuman genes and an unlikely pair up with a savage, red-scaled tyrant teleported from the past? Well, it was just our cup of tea!

15. Afar by Leila Del Duca

Who doesn’t love a good coming-of-age fantasy? This beautiful and insightful story revolves around two main Black characters who teach us a thing or two about family and courage.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur - books with black characters
Afar by Leila Del Duca

16. When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We all know the saying. But how do you teach such a message to your children in a practical way? This book is your answer. It is a charming tale that speaks to perseverance, hard work, and patience.

17. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

This book is a special reminder that brown comes in many shades, an important message for Black and Brown children everywhere. Celebrate your skin.

18. Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin

I cried when I read this one to my children. This inspiring tale follows Tameika, a Black girl who loves to sing and act and wishes to play the lead princess role in her school’s production of Snow White. Others, however, think she isn’t quite right for the part and express this in not so pleasant ways. If you think she lets this stop her, you’re tragically mistaken!

The Colors of Us - books with black characters
Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin

19. The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow

It’s the well-known tale of The Nutcracker with the soulful twist of Jazz! This beautiful book has illustrations that will leave you in awe and a vital recap of our history in the U

20. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole Into the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Jam-packed with action, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole Into the Sky will bring some energy into your home in those precious moments between its pages! Jayda loves this one in particular!

We need more representation of Black people in the media, and books are no different! Having people who look like us on screens and in pages reinforces our value to society and encourages children to pursue their dreams because they see that it is possible.

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