It’s hard to overstate the need for diversity in children’s literature. Thankfully, there are more great children’s books available that not only have diverse characters but diverse protagonists. That is, non-white characters are not only included as token minority friends of the main character but increasingly are being cast as main characters themselves. To celebrate, here are some wonderful new books for kids that celebrate black girl magic by having African-American girls as lead characters.
Disclosure: The author received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are the author’s. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, Multicultural Kid Blogs receives a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Black Girl Magic: New Books for Kids
Black girl magic is front and center in these wonderful new books with young black heroines. While the characters and stories are quite different from one another, I am loving the trend of so many super smart, science-loving girls!
Rocket Says Look Up! is about a young girl whose enthusiasm for science is so contagious that it electrifies an entire neighborhood. Rocket is always encouraging everyone to look up at the stars, where one day she’ll follow in the footsteps of her hero Mae Jeminson to become an astronaut. When Rocket finds out there will be a meteor shower, she makes sure everyone in her neighborhood knows about it, even her big brother Jamal, who never looks up from his phone. But when the big moment comes and everyone has gathered in the park to watch, there are no meteors to be seen. Help from a surprising source teaches Rocket patience and the value of never being afraid to keep looking up.
I love fractured fairy tales, and Reading Beauty flips every aspect of Sleeping Beauty delightfully on its head. Its heroine Lex, a black space princess, loves to read, but her parents take away her books because of their fear that a paper cut could trigger a curse. Lex figures out a clever way to keep on reading without hurting herself and then sets off on a mission to get the curse reversed. Reading Beauty is an empowering book about taking charge of your own fate and, of course, of the power of books to help you solve any problem.
On the surface, a story about a young girl in rural Jamaica learning to carry water on her head didn’t seem like it would grab my kids’ attention. Yet Anna Carries Water has proven to be a bedtime favorite, especially for my little girl. Perhaps it is because every young child can relate to Anna, who just wants to do what all the big kids are doing – in this case, carrying a can of water from the river to her house not in her hands but on her head, without spilling a drop. The circumstances in which she finally realizes her dream are both sweet and funny. Based on the author’s own childhood in Jamaica, Anna Carries Water is a delightful book about a young girl’s determination and her loving family’s encouragement.
I Like the Me I See! is inspired by the title track from the album I Like the Me I See! by Culture Queen. This anthem of self-love is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations of Culture Queen engaging in everyday activities with young fans. The text helps children celebrate every aspect of themselves, from their skin and hair to their knees and feet. The beauty and usefulness of each part of the body are demonstrated. For example, knees can bend to do yoga, and noses can smell flowers. A beautiful gift book that teaches kids to say, “I am who I’m supposed to be!”
I have a super fan of the early chapter book series Zoey and Sassafras. (You can read my review of an earlier book). What’s not to love about a girl who (along with her cat Sassafras) uses science to help magical creatures? The young whiz and her faithful cat return in Grumplets and Pests, using their magical contacts and the power of science to discover why everyone in the forest is suddenly so irritable, despite the long sunny summer days. Are grumplets, the mysterious creatures everyone blames, actually real or just a fairy tale? Can Zoey crack the case before they all end up arguing? And what does this all have to do with the pests that keep eating her kale plants? This highly readable book showcases how useful (and fun!) science can be and even includes the steps so that you can replicate some of Zoey’s experiments at home.
Sanity & Tallulah are best friends who just happen to live in outer space. To keep life on the small space station from getting too boring, red-haired Tallulah buries herself in comics, while Sanity tinkers in the lab. But when Sanity’s latest experiment – an oversized three-headed kitten – escapes from the lab and starts causing damage to the station’s wiring, the best friends must do whatever it takes to find her to avoid danger to their space community – and to keep from getting grounded! Yet their sleuthing undercovers an even bigger problem to be solved, one that threatens the very existence of the space station. Can they solve it without landing themselves in even more hot water?
Author Molly Brooks was inspired to create this middle-grade graphic novel by a friend who suggested the theme “science-fiction teen girl detectives.” I love imagining what life would be like for kids on a space station and that, in the end, the senior engineer on board trusts budding scientist Sanity to play a critical role in fixing the problem.
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