Book Recs: 20 Picture Books by Black Authors

The uproar in response to police brutality against Black people has strengthened the Black Lives Matter movement and has forced everyone to (again) recognize and admit how ingrained systematic racism is in our society and the many areas that lack diversity.

An area where this discussion is also happening is book publishing, which is known for its lack of diversity among authors, the types of books published, and even among the professionals who work in this sector — editors, designers, publicists, agents, etc. Recently, the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe popped up on Twitter to discuss the disparity between how much authors of color are paid in contrast to White authors, who more often receive large advances for their books. In this New York Times article, renown author Jesmyn Ward talks about fighting for a higher advance despite winning several awards for her books.

We all need to work harder to stop and prevent racism in our society. To help, many people have turned to books to learn more, which has caused books about racism and Black experiences to now flood the best-seller lists. To encourage more people to read and engage with content by Black creators, media outlets, social media, bloggers, and booktubers are all recommending books by and about Black people and Black experiences.

While I am grateful to see these recommendation lists, they often solely contain adult books. I want to contribute a list of recommendations, but instead of adult books, I’ve decided to feature children’s picture books. Racism affects all facets of society. To combat it, we must also encourage more diverse children’s literature, including picture books.

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“Spindle’s End” by Robin McKinley

Cover of "Spindle's End"
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

I faintly remember the first time I read Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley. I was enraptured by her prose. I was first drawn to her when I picked up The Hero and the Crown at my local library (that was years ago at the beginning of high school). Though I faintly remember reading it as well, I do remember that I loved the story and thought highly of its protagonist, Aerin. As the years wore on, I branched out to other authors and read other stories and forgot about McKinley but every now and then, the memory of how I felt when I first read her books would visit and nudge me to revisit them.

I felt that way earlier this year and finally gave in to that nudge. I visited Barnes and Noble and bought Spindle’s End. I kept recalling the moment when the Queen saw Rosie and knew she is her child despite the enchantments that surrounded Rosie to disguise her. I could almost feel the love that pulled the Queen’s eyes to Rosie. I wanted to experience that again.

This time when I read Spindle’s End, I was able to appreciate how detailed the story is. At first, this was a nuance. The abundance of details makes the tale flow at a leisurely pace, quite like the characters and setting of the story. Since novels these days are usually fast-paced—or they start off with a bang to grab the reader’s attention then slow to crawl—I was impatient when I began reading. Surprisingly, I was not this impatient with stories when I was a kid.

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