Representation is vital in children’s literature and young adult books, as it allows readers to see themselves reflected in the stories they consume. In this article, we will introduce you to ten incredible KidLit and YA books that feature Black protagonists. These books not only entertain but also provide an opportunity for readers to explore diverse experiences, cultures, and perspectives. Let’s dive into the world of literature that celebrates racial diversity and offers empowering narratives for young readers.
- “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson: This poignant memoir-in-verse tells the story of the author’s childhood as an African-American girl growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Through evocative language, Woodson shares her experiences of finding her voice and identity while navigating the complexities of her family and society.
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas: This critically acclaimed novel follows the life of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old Black girl who witnesses her childhood best friend being shot by a police officer. Thomas tackles themes of racism, police brutality, activism, and finding one’s voice, making it a compelling and thought-provoking read.
- “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor: In this magical Nigerian-inspired fantasy, twelve-year-old Sunny discovers she has latent magical powers and joins a group of young wizards known as the “Leopard People.” Sunny’s journey intertwines Nigerian culture, friendship, and self-discovery, showcasing the power of embracing one’s heritage.
- “The Jumbies” by Tracey Baptiste: Inspired by Caribbean folklore, “The Jumbies” features Corinne La Mer, a brave and resourceful girl who must outsmart supernatural creatures to save her island. Baptiste weaves a thrilling tale that highlights the beauty of Caribbean culture while confronting fears and embracing one’s bravery.
- “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia: Set in the tumultuous era of the Civil Rights Movement, this award-winning novel follows three sisters from Brooklyn who travel to Oakland to spend the summer with their estranged mother. Through the eyes of eleven-year-old Delphine, readers witness a transformative summer full of self-discovery and the power of activism.
- “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi: In this West African-inspired fantasy, Zélie Adebola embarks on a dangerous quest to restore magic to her repressed and magic-less people. Adeyemi creates a vibrant world filled with rich mythology, warrior princesses, and themes of oppression, courage, and perseverance.
- “Gone Crazy in Alabama” by Rita Williams-Garcia: The final book in the “Gaither Sisters” trilogy, this story follows Delphine and her sisters as they spend a summer in rural Alabama with their grandmother and encounter their family’s complex history. Williams-Garcia explores themes of identity, family bonds, and the importance of understanding one’s roots.
- “The Stars Beneath Our Feet” by David Barclay Moore: Set in Harlem, this powerful novel introduces readers to twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul, who grapples with the aftermath of his brother’s death and the challenges of growing up in a neighborhood plagued by violence. Through Lolly’s love for Legos, readers witness resilience, creativity, and the healing power of art.
- “Piecing Me Together” by Renée Watson: Jade, a talented artist from a poor neighborhood, navigates the complex dynamics of friendship, race, and privilege as she participates in a mentorship program for “at-risk” youth. Watson explores the importance of finding one’s voice and the desire for a seat at the table in a world that often tries to define and confine individuals based on their backgrounds.
- “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander: Combining poetry and basketball, “The Crossover” introduces readers to twelve-year-old twin brothers Josh and Jordan Bell, who are both talented on the basketball court. Alexander’s novel highlights themes of family, brotherhood, and the universal struggles of adolescence while celebrating the art of slam poetry.
Representation matters, and these ten KidLit and YA books provide a wide range of stories featuring Black protagonists that capture the hearts and imaginations of young readers. These narratives celebrate diversity, empower individuals, and foster a sense of belonging. Whether it’s exploring magical realms, fighting for justice, or navigating personal growth, these books offer an array of unforgettable journeys worth embarking on for readers of all ages.