16 Great Picture Books by Black Authors

Upon the request of several readers of Selected Reads, I went ahead and curated this list featuring some of the best picture books by black authors. From inspiring stories of self-love and acceptance to tales that celebrate the bond between parents and children, these stories will both educate and entertain your little ones.

Through vibrant illustrations and heartwarming prose, these books offer a unique form of representation for Black people in literature. Perfect for family storytime or as gifts for special occasions such as Father’s Day or baby showers, these 15 picture books by black authors are sure to become treasured favorites.

1. The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

Picture Books by Black Authors

The Day You Begin is an inspiring picture book by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López. It encourages children to step out of their comfort zone and take on the challenge of discovering new places, people, and cultures.

The story follows a narrator as they explore their differences and find solace in sharing their stories with others. Woodson’s poetic narrative is complemented by López’s vibrant and detailed illustrations, which create a visual journey that young readers can easily connect to.

2. Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, by Amanda Gorman 

Picture Books by Black Authors

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, by Amanda Gorman is a powerful and inspiring picture book that encourages readers of all ages to make positive changes in their lives, their communities, and the world.

Through lyrical text and vibrant illustrations by #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long, the story follows a young girl as she leads a cast of characters on an uplifting musical journey.

As they explore different environments and learn to sing in harmony, they discover that even the smallest changes can create meaningful impacts and bring about positive transformation.

Along the way, readers are invited to join in the chorus, and realize that together we can build a brighter future.

3. Not Quite Snow White, by Ashley Franklin

Not Quite Snow White is a picture book by debut author Ashley Franklin that celebrates the unique, magical, and imperfect children of the world.

The story follows Tameika, a girl who loves to perform, auditioning for the lead role in her school’s Snow White play. Despite her talent, other kids think she’s “not quite” right for the role.

Through Tameika’s journey, we learn the importance of self-confidence and remind ourselves to let our own magic shine.

4. Don’t Touch My Hair!, by Sharee Miller

Don't Touch My Hair!

Don’t Touch My Hair!, by Sharee Miller, is a delightful children’s book that tells the story of Aria and her adventures with those who try to touch her hair.

The story follows Aria as she experiences various situations in which strangers, animals, and even aliens attempt to touch her “fluffy curls”. Although these encounters are ultimately unsuccessful, Aria learns to protect her hair and value its beauty.

Throughout the story, Aria is supported by her family and friends who help her stand up for herself and understand the importance of respecting others’ boundaries. She also discovers that it’s okay to take some time away from people who don’t respect her wishes.

At the end of the story, Aria’s friends and family celebrate and enjoy her hair with her. This emphasizes the importance of loving yourself and your natural beauty. Don’t Touch My Hair! is an inspiring book that celebrates black hair and encourages children to respect their own bodies and those of others.

5. Stacey’s Extraordinary Words, by Stacey Abrams 

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words

Stacey Abrams is a young girl who loves words and finds comfort in them. When her teacher chooses her to compete in the local spelling bee, Stacey is hesitant, as she is scared of making mistakes or not being able to speak up in front of bullies.

However, she discovers that perseverance is the most important word of all; whether she wins or loses in the bee, it is her words that will have the most power.

With an optimistic outlook and newfound courage, Stacey embarks on a journey to discover the strength of her own voice. Along the way, she finds out that her words can open up new possibilities and create a better future for herself and everyone around her.

By finding the courage to face her fears and use her words, Stacey Abrams proves that anyone can make a difference in the world.

6. The Year We Learned to Fly, by Jacqueline Woodson

The Year We Learned to Fly

The Year We Learned to Fly, by Jacqueline Woodson, is a story about the power of imagination and resilience.

It follows a brother and sister who take their grandmother’s advice to use their “beautiful and brilliant minds” to rise above their boredom on a dreary day. When quarrels arise, they are able to leave their anger behind and take off on the wings of their imaginations.

Through this story, Woodson illuminates how our ancestors used resilience to overcome oppression and injustice, while Lopez’s art celebrates the extraordinary ability to lift ourselves up and imagine a better world. This is a powerful reminder that we can use our imaginations to fly above even the toughest of times.

7. What Is Given from the Heart, by Patricia C. McKissack 

What Is Given from the Heart

What Is Given from the Heart is a story that highlights the power of compassion and generosity. The story follows James Otis and his mother, who are struggling financially.

When their church’s Reverend Dennis announces that the Temples have lost everything in a fire, James decides to give something from his heart for their “love box”.

He soon discovers that even the smallest gesture can have a lasting impact. Through this story, readers are reminded of the importance of giving from the heart and how it often reaches much farther than any material gift ever could.

McKissack’s illustrations by Harrison also further bring out the powerful emotion behind this message. Ultimately, What Is Given from the Heart is a story that emphasizes the power of kindness and generosity and will leave readers feeling inspired.

8. Black Is a Rainbow Color, by Angela Joy 

Black Is a Rainbow Color

Black Is a Rainbow Color, by Angela Joy, is an inspiring celebration of the color black and its effect on history and the world.

Illustrated by Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Award winner Ekua Holmes, this debut novel uses captivating poetic language to evoke deeper emotions about the people who have shaped our lives.

Through the story and illustrations, readers gain a new appreciation for the importance of black as a color that embraces strength, resilience and hope.

9. Be You!, by Peter H. Reynolds

 Be You!

Be You!, by Peter H. Reynolds, is a heartwarming reminder of the unique and special qualities that every child has. Through inspirational storytelling, Reynolds encourages readers to be patient, persistent and true to themselves, emphasizing the concept that there is only one You.

With its beautifully illustrated artwork and thoughtful messages, Be You!, is sure to be an uplifting page turner for all ages.

10. Astro Girl, by Ken Wilson-Max 

Astro Girl

Astro Girl, by Ken Wilson-Max, follows the story of Astrid, a young girl with a passion for space exploration. She loves learning about the stars and dreams of being an astronaut when she grows up. With her father’s help, Astrid is able to act out the various challenges an astronaut might face during a space mission.

From learning how to eat food from a tube, to conducting science experiments with cookie sheets, Astrid is ready and eager to become an astronaut.

When Mama finally returns home from her own mission, Astrid proudly greets her wearing a special space T-shirt. The story offers an inspiring conclusion as readers are left wondering what amazing journey Mama has been on and what the future holds for Astrid.

12. Full, Full, Full of Love, by Trish Cooke 

Full, Full, Full of Love

Full, Full, Full of Love is a story about an exuberant extended family gathering for Sunday dinner at Grannie’s. Through the eyes of little Jay Jay, we get to experience the joy of many hugs, kisses and happy faces.

The bond between him and his grannie is highlighted in this tale full of love and affection. It is the perfect story to show us the meaning of family and its importance in our lives.

13. Daddy Speaks Love, by Leah Henderson 

Daddy Speaks Love

Daddy Speaks Love, by Leah Henderson, is an exploration of the powerful bond between children and their fathers. The book speaks to this connection, emphasizing the universal love that a father provides while also showing how he teaches important lessons such as honesty, justice and equality.

Daddy Speaks Love is filled with stories of fun adventures and conversations that make a lasting impact on young readers, as well as offering tender moments of comfort and reassurance. Perfect for Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays or baby showers, Daddy Speaks Love is sure to be cherished by any lucky recipient.

With its heartfelt words and beautiful illustrations, this book captures the special bond between fathers and children perfectly.

14. Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry 

 Hair Love

Hair Love is a touching children’s book by Matthew A. Cherry, which celebrates the bond between fathers and daughters. The story follows Zuri, whose hair has a mind of its own and does not follow the typical patterns of hair around her.

With her dad’s help, she learns to love it for its uniqueness. This book speaks to the importance of self-love and encourages children to embrace their differences. Hair Love is a much-needed reminder for our community, showing that all hair is beautiful regardless of texture or style.

The book also serves as an empowering source of representation for Black hair in a society that historically has not accepted it. All in all, Hair Love is an inspiring story that provides children with a greater appreciation for themselves and their hair. 

15. Me & Mama, by Cozbi A. Cabrera  

Me & Mama

Me & Mama, by Cozbi A. Cabrera, is a lyrical prose and tender touch book that paints a picture of the bond between a mother and daughter. On a rainy day the two spend time together, smelling the cinnamon in the house and watching the wind paint the window with beads of water.

This special moment is celebrated as a reminder of the strength and beauty of their relationship. This story serves as a wonderful reminder for readers of all ages that even on days when it feels like nothing can go right, love will always be found in the embrace of family.

The illustrations by Laura Freeman also bring this special moment to life with vibrant colors and heartwarming detail.

16. Sing to the Moon, by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl  

Sing to the Moon

Sing to the Moon, by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, tells the story of a young Ugandan boy who has big dreams of reaching the stars and riding a supernova to Mars.

Despite this seemingly impossible feat, he discovers that adventures and magic can be found much closer to home. He learns this lesson at his grandfather’s house, where he is surrounded by family, friends and animals.

Through this story, children will learn to appreciate the small wonders of life that can often be found right in their own backyard. With beautiful illustrations, a relatable protagonist, and an inspiring message of hope, Sing to the Moon is definitely a delightful read.