Join us in reading books from the culturally diverse list below. Through reading we can do the important work of listening to voices other than our own, understanding where our biases lie, and working to create a more loving and just world.
This list has been shared with us, and while the books link to Amazon, we encourage you to purchase them from your local bookstore.
Red = Highly Recommended for BRWS/Reviewed Blue = Recommended but not fully reviewed
Categories in alphabetical order. As list grows, categories can get more specific.
All books are picture books unless noted as board books or chapter books.
Children of Long Ago by Lessie Jones Little
What was it like long ago? What did children do? Were they like kids today? Lessie Jones Little answers these questions in this classic poetry book by tapping memories from her own rural childhood in the early 1900s. The result is a collection of warm, lyrical poems.
Bring me Some Apples and I’ll Make you a Pie by Robin Gowley (farming)
Long before the natural-food movement gained popularity, Edna Lewis championed purity of ingredients, regional cuisine, and farm-to-table eating. She was a chef when female chefs—let alone African American female chefs—were few and far between. With lyrical text and watercolor illustrations, Robbin Gourley traces the roots of Edna's appreciation for the bounties of nature through the seasons. Folk rhymes, and songs about food are sprinkled throughout the text, and five kid-friendly recipes and an author's note about Edna's life are included.
In a Nutshell by Joseph Anthony (farming)
Black family featured naturally. Gorgeous story. (AE)
Here, in luminous illustrations, is the life cycle of an oak--and how it supports life even after it is gone. An acorn drops from a great oak and grows. Animals nibble at it, a fire threatens it, but overcoming many challenges it eventually towers high in the forest, observing the changing human scene below. Eventually its energy passes into many other life forms--even the cherry pie enjoyed by the boy in the house below.
Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissak
Gorgeously illustrated; deep approach to change from childhood to adolescence, with an African-American man/spirit as the element of wind. (AE)
In this Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award winning tale, Mirandy is determined to capture the best partner for the junior cakewalk jubilee. And who is the best partner? The wind, of course!
Summer Sun Risin’ by W. Nikola-Lisa (farming)
From sunrise to sunset, an African American boy spends an activity-filled summer day helping his family on their farm. Feeding animals, mowing hay, picking vegetables, and eating freshly caught fish fill the hours. Set in Texas in the 1950s, Summer Sun Risin is Parenting Reading
Magic Award winner W. Nikola-Lisas tribute to childhood, farm life, and family togetherness. Don Tates sun-drenched paintings depict the family’s daily activities and trace the sun as it travels across the sky.
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the 'tar beach' of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with color and texture. Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one's world by flying over it. A practical and stunningly beautiful book.
Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell
Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed was the only black barber in the county. He had a kind heart and a warm smile. And he had a dream. Everyone has a favorite relative. For Sarah Jean, it was her Uncle Jed. Living in the segregated South of the 1920s, where most people were sharecroppers, Uncle Jed had to travel all over the county to cut his customers’ hair. He lived for the day when he could open his very own barbershop. But it was a long time, and many setbacks—from five-year-old Sarah Jean’s emergency operation to the bank failures of the Great Depression—before the joyful day when Uncle Jed opened his shiny new shop and twirled a now grown-up Sarah Jean around in the barber chair.
A young boy abandons his beloved electronics when an old-fashioned yellow-jointed tape
measure causes his imagination to run wild, in The Carpenter, a wordless expression of the simple joys found in exploration and creative play. Brazilian illustrator Bruna Barros uses basic yet bold contrasting colors, and lines that showcase the transformation of a carpenter’s shop into a veritable ocean of wonder, giving Harold and his purple crayon a run for his money.
In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby (farming)
Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grownups with their farms and the children with their school garden.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snow Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a
child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever. The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.
California the Magic Island by Doug Hansen
Queen Calafia, the main character of a sixteenth-century Spanish romance about an island overflowing with gold and populated by Amazon-like women, is incensed when she hears that we have adopted her name for our state. Being the good and reasonable queen that she is, she's willing to hear from twenty-six animals about why California is worthy of her name. But if she decides it isn't, she'll launch an army of goddesses riding griffins to wreak her vengeance! Each animal characterizes California in a key cultural object or historical event: for example, the swordfish describes the tomols of the Chumash people, while the gull tells Calafia about the Gold Rush. Large, intricate illustrations display a wealth of research into every subject, rendered with the highest level of artistic skill.
When I Was Little by Toyomi Igus
Noel learns what it was like to grow up in the country without television, telephones, or cars, when his grandfather tells him stories of his own youth many years ago
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter (farming)
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans This true
story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change.
The true story of how environmentalist Farmer Tantoh is transforming the landscape in his home country of Cameroon. When Tantoh Nforba was a child, his fellow students mocked him for his interest in gardening. Today he's an environmental hero, bringing clean water and bountiful gardens to the central African nation of Cameroon. Authors Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul share Farmer Tantoh's inspiring story.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe
Mufaro's two daughters react in different ways to the King's search for a wife - one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king disguises himself to learn the true nature of both the girls and chooses Nyasha, the kind and generous daughter, to be the queen.
Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson
The circle of life turns in unexpected ways. Earth Mother awakes with the dawn. As she walks the land, swims the seas, and climbs the mountains, nurturing all of creation, she comes across: Man, Frog, and Mosquito. They each give her thanks for nature's bounty, yet can't help but give her advice about making their lives better. Everybody's got an opinion, it seems, and Earth Mother is amused when it becomes clear that the circle of life is not without a healthy dose of cosmic humor.
Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams
Kondi is determined to make a galimoto—a toy vehicle made of wires. His brother laughs at the idea, but all day Kondi goes about gathering up the wire he needs. By nightfall, his wonderful galimoto is ready for the village children to play with in the light of the moon.
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
This illustrated book offers the true story of how a poor African girl was able to attend school after receiving a goat as a gift through a special international project and then sell its milk to get the money needed to buy her books.
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel
I emptied my secret money box, arranged the coins in piles and the piles in rows . . ." The market is full of wonderful things, but Saruni is saving his precious coins for a red and blue bicycle. How happy he will be when he can help his mother carry heavy loads to market on his very own bicycle--and how disappointed he is to discover that he hasn't saved nearly enough! Determination and generosity are at the heart of this satisfying tale, set in Tanzania and illustrated with glowing watercolors that capture the warmth of Saruni's family and the excitement of market day.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (chapter book)
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of
once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke (series)
Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother, her father, her baby twin brothers, and lots and lots of her family. Join her as she splashes in the sea, prepares for a party, sells oranges, and hopes to see sweet, sweet snow!
Imani’s moon by JaNayBrown-Wood
Imani is a young Maasi girl with a loving mother and a desire to do something great. When she decides she wants to touch the moon, she works hard to reach her goal, even in the face of teasing from the naysayers around her.
Crafty Chameleon (African Animal Tales) by Mwenye Hadithi
Tormented every morning by leopard and bullied by crocodile, the clever little chameleon decides to play a trick on them. He manages to get the better of his two oppressors without them even knowing how he did it! This is the story of why Crafty Chameleon changes colour and hides when he hears you coming.
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Folk Tale by Verna Aardema
In this Caldecott Medal winner, Mosquito tells a story that causes a jungle disaster. "Elegance has become the Dillons' hallmark Matching the art is Aardema's uniquely onomatopoeic text
. . . An impressive showpiece.
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema
A cumulative rhyme relating how Ki-pat brought rain to the drought-stricken Kapiti Plain. Verna Aardema has brought the original story closer to the English nursery rhyme by putting in a cumulative refrain and giving the tale the rhythm of “The House That Jack Built.