October is National Book Month, and it always excites me because I am a book lover. I’ve loved reading ever since I learned how to, and that was thanks, in large part, to my mom who read to me and with me.
Of course I read the usual children’s books by authors like Judy Blume, Dr. Seuss, and Maurice Sendak, but one thing that was missing from a lot of the popular books were authors, and characters, who looked like me.
Diversity in the book world is improving every year, and there are more black authors writing about characters that look like our children. Here are a few I would recommend that you read with your kids this month:
A New Dress for Maya by Malorie Blackman
Malorie Blackman has been writing books for more than 20 years, and her book A New Dress for Maya still holds a powerful message to this day. Little Maya is a little flustered when her mom chooses to make her a dress instead of buying her one at the store for a party she’s going to. This is definitely a scenario many parents have found themselves in before.
Not only is the message strong, but the illustrations are beautiful. Illustrator Rhian Nest James uses watercolors to paint the picture of acceptance. I recommend this book for your early elementary readers, and it can open the door for a nice chat too.
The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass
Written by the editorial projects director at Essence magazine, The Zero Degree Zombie Zone is an adventurous book, with lots of messages packed into it. Bakari is the new kid, and is the target of bullying by Tariq and Keisha. But with his best friend, Wardell, and his new magic powers, Bakari proves that standing up for yourself can be scary, but can work too!
This book is entertaining for both children and adults alike. I love that there are African American protagonists, real life situations, and amazing illustrations done by Jerry Craft. The characters are in elementary school, but this would be a good read for your elementary and middle school aged children.
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Another school based novel, Varian Johnson brings Jackson Greene to life in this funny and crafty novel. Jackson has to use his scheming for good, in order to save his school from having a bully as Student Council president: Keith Sinclair.
This book includes a diverse cast of characters, suspense, and leaves room for sequels. A longer read at over 200 pages, the story moves quickly and draws you in immediately. This is a good book to pick up for your independent reader, but you would enjoy it too.
Not to be left out, your older children can get in on book month too. Sharon G. Flake offers short stories in the form of realistic fiction that tackles more mature topics. The book was awarded the Coretta Scott King Author Honor award, and has rave reviews from parents and kids alike.
The stories touch on real life situations that children experience “growing up black”. Racial issues, abandonment, and abuse are all touched on, so this would be best for your mature middle schooler or early high schooler.
BMWK: What are other children’s books you recommend by African American authors, or that feature African American protagonists?