Essential books for all ages by Black creators

Now more than ever, it's important to celebrate and uplift Black voices. Artist Anjola Coker created this gorgeous free downloadable poster featuring some of our most essential books for all ages by Black authors and illustrators. It's a wonderful addition to any classroom, library, or home, and we encourage you to share it with fellow readers.

Scroll down for more information on the books pictured, educator guides, sample chapters, and more.

Picture Books

Heart and Soul
by Kadir Nelson

Told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African-American female narrator, this inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation.

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly
illus. by Laura Freeman

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as "colored computers," and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

I Am Enough
by Grace Byers
illus. by Keturah A. Bobo

This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo.

I Got Next
by Daria Peoples-Riley

A young basketball player practices for an upcoming game while his shadow encourages him to leave everything on the court in this energetic picture book from the creator of This Is It. I Got Next celebrates the joy of basketball, encourages hard work and determination, and is perfect for fans of Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes.

I Promise
by LeBron James
illus. by Nina Mata

I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today. Featuring James’s upbeat, rhyming text and vibrant illustrations perfectly crafted for a diverse audience by New York Times bestselling artist Nina Mata, this book has the power to inspire all children and families to be their best.

Mae Among the Stars
by Roda Ahmed
illus. by Stasia Burrington

The perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts, Mae Among the Stars is a beautiful story inspired by Mae Jemison, the first African-American Woman to travel in space.

Not Quite Snow White
by Ashley Franklin
illus. by Ebony Glenn

Not Quite Snow White is a delightful and inspiring picture book that highlights the importance of self-confidence while taking an earnest look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. Tameika encourages us all to let our magic shine.

We Troubled the Waters
by Ntzozske Shange
illus. by Rod Brown

Award-winning poet Ntozake Shange and illustrator Rod Brown give voice to all those who fought for their unalienable rights in a triumphant book about the power of the human spirit.

Middle Grade

Chasing Space: Young Readers' Edition
by Leland Melvin

Meet Leland Melvin—football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser. In this inspiring memoir, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog Whisperer, Top Chef, and Child Genius.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington
by Janae Marks

From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating mystery full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition. A perfect book for fans of Front Desk and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook!

A Good Kind of Trouble
by Lisa Moore Ramée

From debut author Lisa Moore Ramée comes this funny and big-hearted debut middle grade novel about friendship, family, and standing up for what’s right, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and the novels of Renée Watson and Jason Reynolds.

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Mya in the Middle
by Crystal Allen

The third book in the hilarious middle-grade series about Mya, the cowgirl-loving fourth grader—perfect for fans of Ramona the Pest and Clementine.

Mya Tibbs believes her family shouldn’t read the Bluebonnet Tribune because it is mostly bad news and puts people in a bad mood! So she has the brilliant idea to start her own newsletter, to show her family that all good news is better. But after a big sleepover party, when one of her articles goes too far due to Mya stretching the truth, Mya has to deal with the unexpected consequences of her new venture—and ultimately finds out what makes her town such a good place to live in.

New Kid
by Jerry Craft

Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft.

One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia

In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.

Strong Voices: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing
introductions by Tonya Bolden
forward by Cokie Roberts
illus. by Eric Velasquez

Strong Voices: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing is a collection of significant speeches, made both by those who held the reins of power and those who didn’t, at significant times in American history. Read the original words that have shaped our cultural fabric. Introductions by acclaimed writer Tonya Bolden provide historical context and critical insights to the meaning and impact of every speech. Illustrations by award-winning artist Eric Velasquez illuminate what it was really like at each moment in history.

by Pat Cummings

In a debut novel that's perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Erin Entrada Kelly, award-winning author/illustrator and educator Pat Cummings tells a poignant story about grief, love, and the untold stories that echo across time.

The Usual Suspects
by Maurice Broaddus

Fans of Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers will love this smart, funny, and honest contemporary middle grade novel about a kid who tries to set the record straight when he and his friends are suspected of a crime they didn’t commit.

Young Adult

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America
edited by Ibi Zoboi

Edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, and featuring some of the most acclaimed bestselling Black authors writing for teens today—Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America.

Felix Ever After
by Kacen Callender

From Stonewall, Horn Book-Boston Globe, and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
by Ben Philippe

A hilarious contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi, and John Green.

by Tiffany D. Jackson

Award-winning author Tiffany D. Jackson delivers another riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that exposes horrific secrets hiding behind the limelight and embraces the power of a young woman’s voice.

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas’s #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning debut inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, about a teen girl who is the only witness to her friend’s fatal shooting by a police officer.

by Walter Dean Myers

This New York Times bestselling and award-winning novel from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.

Punching the Air
by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.