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African American Month Picture Books

February is National African American History Month, and this is the first in a series of suggestions for children's reading materials. First up are picture books featuring African American characters. Several titles are distinguished by being honored with or winning the Coretta Scott King Award, which is given annually to African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. 

Knock knock: my dad's dream for me by Daniel Beaty ; illustrated by Bryan Collier
Winner of the 2014 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, this picture book details how a boy deals with his father's absence.

I'm not moving by written by Wiley Blevins ; illustrated by Mattia Cerato
Keesha's family is moving from the suburbs to the city, and she is worried and not happy about this turn of events.

My three best friends and me, Zulay
by Cari Best ; pictures by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Zulay is a blind first-grader who, while learning how to navigate using a cane, is determined to run in the upcoming field day race.

The New Small Person by Child, Lauren
Elmore Green starts life as an only child, as many children do, but then a new small person comes along who seems to get all the attention.

Light in the darkness by Lesa Cline-Ransome ; illustrations by James E. Ransome
Rosa and her mother sneak away from their slave quarters in the darkness to attend a forbidden school.

Freedom's school by Lesa Cline-Ransome ; illustrations by James E. Ransome
By the same author as Light in the Darkness, former slaves finally get their freedom to attend a standard school after the Emancipation Proclamation, but not everyone is as excited as Rosa and her family about the school's opening.

Unspoken: a story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
A Southern farm girl discovers and determines to help a runaway slave in this wordless picture book.

Firebird by Misty Copeland ; illustrated by Christopher MyersIn this 2015 winner of Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, an experienced dancer provides encouragement to an aspiring ballet student, reassuring her that practice and dedication will bring success.

Last stop on Market Street by words by Matt de la Peña ; pictures by Christian RobinsonA young boy's grandmother shows him the beauty in everyday things as he questions why they have to ride the bus instead of in their own car.

The hula-hoopin' queen by Thelma Lynne Godin ; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-NewtonKameeka and her rival Jamara almost ruin Miz Adeline's birthday party in their pursuit of a winner in their hula hooping competition.

Jackie and me: a very special friendship by written by Tania Grossinger ; illustrated by Charles George Esperanza
The author makes friends with famed baseball player Jackie Robinson as a thirteen year old, and strikes up a friendship that lasts twenty years.

All different now: Juneteenth, the first day of freedom by Angela Johnson ; illustrated by E.B. Lewis
In 1865, members of a family start their day as slaves, working in a Texas cotton field, and end it celebrating their freedom on what came to be known as Juneteenth.

Squeak! rumble! whomp! whomp! whomp!: a sonic adventure by Wynton Marsalis ; illustrated by Paul Rogers
World-renowned jazz musician and composer Wynton Marsalis and acclaimed illustrator Paul Rogers takes readers (and listeners) on a rollicking, clanging, clapping tour through the many sounds that fill a neighborhood.

Lola plants a garden by Anna McQuinn ; illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
The fourth book in a series of titles featuring the toddler Lola as she explores and learns about the world.

New shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer ; illustrated by Eric Velasquez
A little known slice of history is portrayed when Ella Mae and her cousin Charlotte start their own shoe store where African Americans are allowed to try on the shoes before purchasing.

Irene's wish by Jerdine Nolen ; illustrated by A.G. Ford
Irene's wish that her father would spend more time with her and her brothers has unexpected consequences.

Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff ; illustrated by William Low
Inspired by the true history of New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Little John is proud of his mother's work as a stonecutter, but struggles to understand the importance of spending so much time on one stone that no one will know Momma

Brick by brick by Charles R. Smith ; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
An often forgotten moment of history is brought to life, paying tribute to the slave laborers who helped build the White House.