Give Us Free!!

Posted: September 1, 2008 in Our Expression

Some of you long time readers of this site may remember me complaining about how it seems the majority of children books for Black children have something to do with either slavery or living 3 flights of stairs away from the Evans family.

Every Wednesday I take our children to the library where I give them their daily worksheets and the opportunity to pick out new books to read for the next week. While I’m glad to see my kids pick out Black-themed books from time to time, I’m getting real tired of the same narrative over and over again. Dear Lawd, can someone finally buy Hattie some shoes? Or if I see one more book about Jackie Robinson (I love his story, but my goodness, haven’t we reached other milestones since breaking the color barrier in baseball?)…grrrrr.

I just did a search in Amazon for children’s books. While it was good to see some authors are breaking the slave and struggle barrier, IMO there are still way too many books in this sub-genre.

If you know of some good children books geared towards Black children that go beyond the slave and struggle narrative, please let me know and I will be more than happy to highlight them here.

  1. avery says:

    how old are your kids?

  2. Duane says:

    9 and 7.

  3. avery says:

    depending on how much struggle you’re looking to avoid, there’s The Watsons Go To Birmingham. While it’s set in the Civil Rights era, it’s not about the Civil Rights movement per se. There’s a major parallel event, but it has a lot of humor, which many of the we-shall-overcome-type books don’t.

    Kadir Nelson has a beautifully illustrated book about the Negro Leagues. I didn’t really read it, but I can’t front, I’ll buy just about anything he illustrates.

    i definitely feel you on the lack of available options, though. there’s no Black Ramona Quimby or Peter Hatcher or Encyclopedia Brown – somebody who’s contemporary and just a kid, just livin and gettin into kid stuff without all these heavy themes over their heads.

  4. Tamara says:

    My eleven year old really liked these books when she was younger. I obtained them through Scholastic (the book seller you often find in elementary schools). I must say I was surprised by the variety of books they offered that featured black boys and girls.

    The first four books are not chapter books, but have beautiful pictures and stories that talk about families or have familiar storylines.

    Leola and the Honeybears: An African American Retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Melodye Benson Rosales

    Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard

    Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

    How Many Stars in The Sky? by Lenny Hort

    This last book is actually part of a series of books that I am still trying to find. Last time I checked had one or two books that are in the series. It is a chapter book at about the 2nd or 3rd grade level.

    Willimena Rules!: Rule Book #1 How to Lose Your Class Pet by Valerie Wilson Wesley

    If your kids have read any of these, please let me know what they thought. We also visit the library regularly and would like info on books that feature black boys and girls who live “everyday” lives.

  5. avery says:

    i’m trippin. Yolanda’s Genius. They a little poor, but it’s an entertaining read, and might allow you the chance to brainwash your kids with some good old school music.

  6. Duane says:

    I think tomorrow I’ll try to highlight some books that go beyond the slave/struggle narrative.

    Man, I would love to find a good spy story for kids that featured a double O …Jamaal. I son would eat it up.

    Thanx, dude

  7. Give it a rest says:


    Your children are only 7 and 9. At this age it is more important to foster a love for reading than to determine what type of books they are reading. ITS ALL LEARNING at this time of their lives.

    You should let them pick out whatever they find interesting. If they like comics so be it, they will read them and learn from them.

    I am currently reading “The Hobbit” with my 8 year old son. IT has absolutely nothing to do with being black, it is just an excellent and exciting story that my son is enjoying. After the Hobbit I have promised to do a Harry Potter book with him.
    (we both read it together and he also reads on his own and than come to me for help.)

    My goal is to see him raid my personal library within the next serveral years because he is looking for entertainment and see books as such.

  8. Give it a rest says:


    While the charcters are not black, “The adventures of the Black-Hand gang” is a excellent book for children (IF you can find one)

    These are illustrated novels about a group of kid detectives that require the reader to solve puzzles and mysteries hidden in the illustrations.

  9. Give it a rest says:

    Also check out some of the Nigerian and other modern African lit. JUst like with their movies that book will be a pleasent surprise.

  10. Duane says:

    Thanks man!

    I’m a little bit busy today, but I do plan on highlighting some of these books later today.

    Oh, btw

    Your children are only 7 and 9. At this age it is more important to foster a love for reading than to determine what type of books they are reading.

    You are right. But I have serious doubts that they are going to get that love by only hearing about slavery and getting a seat on the back of the bus every time they pick up a book authored by us.

    I didn’t think about getting “The Hobbit” for my son. That’s a great series. I may have to check that one out this week.

  11. Give it a rest says:

    The Hobbit is turing into a tradition for my family. My father brought my brother and I the illustrated novel based on the animated movie. He tried reading us “his” book with minor success but when he brought home the illustrated novel me and the bro became hooked. We read it every night together for about two weeks. We were about the same age as your children and the pictures did help. Hey kids do need some help build mental images of the setting involved.

    I also had a rebirth in the world of entertaining reading after I finished college and picked up “The Hunt for Read October” from my fathers bookself. I love books and read at least one novel and a non-fiction work each month. Oh, books have killed movies for me, they just are not engrossing enough anymore.

    When your kids get a little older, maybe their teens or a little before introduce them the world of Easy Rollins/ Walter Mosley. You are in Cali (LA if I am correct) so your boys will be able to seriously relate to the settings. His books are also an excellent narative history of blacks in southern California from the 1940s right on through the 1960s and the Watts riots.

  12. Give it a rest says:

    OK, you probably want to wait until the teenage years for the Walter Mosley books. But if they manage to discovery them on their own, be supportive and read them together.

  13. avery says:

    well, for more teenage teen material, you can’t go wrong with Walter Dean Myers. He’s got a whole pile of suitable material. My favorite by him is Monster, about a young man who’s charged with murder and writes his story as a screenplay. It’s a powerful book.

    Also good, is Myers’ Street Love. (Make sure you get the Walter Dean Myers joint, and not the other one!!) Actually, Street Love is very good, although I wasn’t too crazy about the end.

    Even though they’re targeted towards the young adult market, I actually enjoy reading Walter Dean Myers books for my entertainment. They’re definitely worth a look.

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