BLOGS  >  FEBRUARY 4, 2021

Black Joy: Embracing Our Black Communities

Everyone loves a happy ending, and now is a great time to stock up on books that are full of them! This list of titles features stories focused on Black characters. From smart to empowering to pioneering to funny, the titles on this list capture the positive vibes of Black culture. Our hand-selected books will ignite a celebration of Black Joy in our school communities.

Shop the Full List 

Black Is a Rainbow Color
Written by Angela Joy
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Interest Level: Grade K-3

“Red is a rainbow color. Green sits next to blue. Yellow, orange, violet, indigo, they are rainbow colors too, but my color is black…and there's no BLACK in rainbows.” From the wheels on a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall's back, black surrounds our lives. It is a color to describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and survive.

I Am Every Good Thing 
Written by Derrick Barnes 
Illustrated by Gordon C. James
Interest Level: Grade K-3

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He's got big plans, and no doubt he'll see them through ¬– as he's creative, adventurous, smart, funny and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he's afraid because he's so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down, and really look and listen when somebody tells you – and shows you – who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

The True Definition of Neva Beane 
Written by Christine Kendall
Interest Level: Grade 3-6

Being twelve isn't easy, especially when you're Neva Beane. Neva feels beautiful wearing her new bra, but she's confused by how others respond to the changes taking place in and out of her body. Her best friend, Jamila, is getting all the attention. Her brother, Clayton, is becoming an activist. And Mom and Dad are gone working – again. Grandad and Nana aren't much help, either, with their old ways and backward views. Neva struggles to find her place in a world that, like the political landscape that's always shifting around her in her West Philadelphia neighborhood, is uncertain, at times scary, but most always, filled with unanswered questions. Neva is left with what comforts her most – words and their meanings, which she chronicles herself. While the pages of her beloved dictionary reveal truths about what's happening around her, Neva must discover the best way to define herself.

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History 
Written and Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Interest Level: Grade 3-6

This beautifully illustrated and engagingly written volume brings to life true stories of Black men in history. Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. The exceptional men featured include artist Aaron Douglas, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, musician Prince, photographer Gordon Parks, tennis champion Arthur Ashe and writer James Baldwin.

The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World 
Written by the staff of ESPN’s
Illustrated by Robert Ball
Interest Level: Grade 5-8

This collective biography presents forty-four of America’s greatest movers and shakers, from Frederick Douglass to Aretha Franklin to Barack Obama, is written by the staff of ESPN’s and is illustrated with dazzling portraits by Robert Ball. From visionaries to entrepreneurs, athletes to activists, the Fierce 44 are beacons of brilliance, perseverance and excellence. Each short biography is accompanied by a compelling portrait by Robert Ball, whose bright, graphic art pops off the page.

The Magic in Changing Your Stars 
Written by Leah Henderson
Interest Level: Grade 5-8

Journey to 1939 Harlem in this time-travel adventure with an inspiring message about believing in yourself. Eleven-year-old Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance, so he is certain that he'll land the role of the Scarecrow in his school’s production of The Wiz. Unfortunately, a talented classmate and a serious attack of nerves derail his audition: he just stands there, frozen. Deflated and defeated, Ailey confides in his Grampa that he’s ready to quit. But Grampa believes in Ailey, and, to encourage him, shares a childhood story of his very own. Featuring an all-African-American cast of characters, and infused with references to Black culture and history, this work of magical realism is sure to captivate and inspire readers.

Charming as a Verb 
Written by Ben Philippe
Interest Level: YA

Henri "Halti" Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University. There is only one person who seems immune to Henri's charms: his "intense" classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri's less-than-honest dog walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself. This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.

Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard 
Written by Echo Brown
Interest Level: YA

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor.

Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Find more book ideas on Titlewave!

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