Award Winning New Picture Books Perfect for Black History Month


On January 24, 2022, the American Library Association announced the 2022 Youth Media Awards! You can see all the winners here. I was happy to see Firekeeper's Daughter won the William C. Morris Award and the Printz Award. Ace of Spades was a finalist for the Printz Award. I really enjoyed both of these young adult books and Ace of Spades is another book great for Black History Month. I went through the list of awards and began requesting books from the library. I found five picture books from the list that are perfect for Black History Month and thought I would share them with you. One will be reshared as I did review it in 2021. We will start with Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper. It is recommended for ages 8 to 12 or grades 3 to 6.

From the Publisher:

  • Winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards for Author and Illustrator
  • A Caldecott Honor Book
  • A Sibert Honor Book
  • Longlisted for the National Book Award
  • A Kirkus Prize Finalist
  • A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
  • "A must-have"―Booklist (starred review)
Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation's history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa's Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community.

News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This picture book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future.

Download the free educator guide here:

From Me:

It has been 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. I learned about it when I reviewed a historical fiction young adult novel. I love that this book is for younger kids to learn about this awful piece of history. I love how it focuses on the amazing parts of Greenwood. It describes the businesses and success of the Blacks of Greenwood. It talks about how it got the name "Black Wall Street." It even shares about how the most successful Black surgeon lived and worked there and how he was killed during the massacre. The words and story tell the truth and share the story at a level younger kids can understand. It mentions the destruction and murders but not in a scary way that would give younger kids nightmares. This is a perfect book to introduce young children to this point in history!

Next we will look at Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd and illustrated by Christian Robinson. It is recommended for ages 3 to 6 or preschool through grade 3. 

From the Publisher:

This illuminating and defining picture book biography illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Christian Robinson, tells the story of little Eunice who grew up to become the acclaimed singer Nina Simone and her bold, defiant, and exultant legacy.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small town North Carolina, Nina Simone was a musical child. She sang before she talked and learned to play piano at a very young age. With the support of her family and community, she received music lessons that introduced her to classical composers like Bach who remained with her and influenced her music throughout her life. She loved the way his music began softly and then tumbled to thunder, like her mother's preaching, and in much the same way as her career. During her first performances under the name of Nina Simone her voice was rich and sweet but as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, Nina's voice soon became a thunderous roar as she raised her voice in powerful protest in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination.

From Me:

Now I will admit I had not heard of Nina Simone. I googled her and googled her music. I guess I had heard her music but didn't know who song it. I know I certainly have heard "Feeling Good" before. This book shares her story from when she was born on. She has a very amazing story about her musical talent. The book focuses on the racism she experienced as well as what was happening around her. She was performing during the Civil Rights Movement. At the end of the book is a more detailed biography of Nina. This book is perfect for learning about Black history!

Next is The People Remember by Ibi Zoboi and illustrated by Loveis Wise. It is recommended for ages 3 to 8 or preschool through grade 3. 

From the Publisher:

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Ibi Zoboi comes her debut picture book—a tour de force that uses the principles of Kwanzaa to talk about the history of African Americans. This lyrical, powerful tribute is sumptuously illustrated by New Yorker artist and rising star Loveis Wise. A beautiful gift for readers of all ages and for fans of Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book!

The People Remember tells the journey of African descendants in America by connecting their history to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It begins in Africa, where people were taken from their homes and families. They spoke different languages and had different customs.

Yet they were bound and chained together and forced onto ships sailing into an unknown future. Ultimately, all these people had to learn one common language and create a culture that combined their memories of home with new traditions that enabled them to thrive in this new land.

Sumptuously illustrated, this is an important book to read as a family—a story young readers can visit over and over again to deepen their understanding of African American history in relation to their own lives and current social justice movements. By turns powerful and revealing, this is a lyrical narrative that tells the story of survival, as well as the many moments of joy, celebration, and innovation of Black people in America.

From Me:

This book shares Black history in verse. It starts with the people being taken/sold in Africa and brought to the United States. It goes through the history to current time and does so with the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (Ujima), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), purpose (Nia), creativity (Kuumba), and faith (Imani). I love how it mentions specific people from history like Harriet TubmanMadam CJ Walker, and Michael Jackson, as well as different events and experiences. There are social events liking jumping the broom to specific dances like the Charleston and so much more in this book. It truly looks at Black history in the United States from the beginning until present with the Black Lives Matter Movement. At the end it also gives information about Kwanzaa. The principles of Kwanzaa helps examine all aspects of life. This is a great book to share with kids in a class to learn Black history or learn about Kwanzaa.

Next we will look at Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham and illustrated by C.G. Esperanza. Note: This book was one of the books reviewed by others for Multicultural Children's Book Day. It is recommended for ages 3 to 8 and preschool through grade 3.

From the Publisher:

Granny teaches her grandson to cook the family meal in this loving celebration of food, traditions, and gathering together at the table

​A 2022 Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator Honor Book

On Sundays, everyone gathers at Granny’s for Soul Food.
But today, I don’t go to the backyard or the great room.
I follow Granny instead.
“You’re a big boy now,” Granny says. “Time for you to learn.”

At Granny’s, Sunday isn’t Sunday without a big family gathering over a lovingly prepared meal. Old enough now, our narrator is finally invited to help cook the dishes for the first time: He joins Granny in grating the cheese, cleaning the greens, and priming the meat for Roscoe Ray’s grill. But just when Granny says they’re finished, her grandson makes his own contribution, sweetening this Sunday gathering—and the many more to come.
Evocatively written and vividly illustrated, this mouthwatering story is a warm celebration of tradition and coming together at a table filled with love and delicious food.

From Me: 

This book shares a different type of Sunday dinner. It is a different cultural view than I have experienced. In this book the story is all about a soul food day. The entire family gathers and the cooking begins. There is barbeque and there are greens and mac and cheese. The story is told by a young boy, and he is old enough to learn how to help prepare the meal with his grandmother. She shows him how to do some of the preparation and lets him do it. Jobs like grating the cheese and washing the greens. While Granny takes a nap the boy decides to make one more thing for the dinner, sweet tea. It is a sweet story of family and culture. At the end of the book is a recipe for macaroni and cheese. Sunday dinners seem to happen in many cultures, and each has their own twist on it. 

Our next book is one I reviewed in 2021. It is We Wait for the Sun by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe and illustrated by Raissa Figueroa. It is recommended for ages 4 to 8 and its grade level is 1 to 2. See my previous review for the from me section. 

From the Publisher:

A beautiful and uplifting non-fiction picture book from Katie McCabe and trailblazing civil rights lawyer and activist Dovey Johnson Roundtree, We Wait for the Sun.

In the hour before dawn, Dovey Mae and Grandma Rachel step into the cool, damp night on a secret mission: to find the sweetest, ripest blackberries that grow deep in the woods.

But the nighttime holds a thousand sounds―and a thousand shadows―and Dovey Mae is frightened of the dark. But with the fierce and fearless Grandma Rachel at her side, the woods turn magical, and berry picking becomes an enchanting adventure that ends with the beauty and power of the sunrise.

A cherished memory from Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s childhood, this magical experience speaks to the joy that pulsed through her life, even under the shadow of Jim Crow. With Grandma Rachel’s lessons as her guiding light, Dovey Mae would go on to become a trailblazer of the civil rights movement―fighting for justice and equality in the military, the courtroom, and the church. With warm, vibrant illustrations from Raissa Figueroa, We Wait for the Sun is a resonant, beautiful story told through one exquisite page turn after another.

  • A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of 2021
  • Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids List of 2021
  • Corretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book of 2022
Another book to check out, but I haven't yet, is Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party's Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon. It is recommended for ages 12 to 17 or grades 7 to 9. Since I haven't read it yet there will not be a section from me.

From the Publisher:

  • A National Book Award Finalist
  • A Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book
  • A Michael L. Printz Honor Book
  • A Walter Dean Myers Honor Book

With passion and precision, Kekla Magoon relays an essential account of the Black Panthers—as militant revolutionaries and as human rights advocates working to defend and protect their community.

In this comprehensive, inspiring, and all-too-relevant history of the Black Panther Party, Kekla Magoon introduces readers to the Panthers’ community activism, grounded in the concept of self-defense, which taught Black Americans how to protect and support themselves in a country that treated them like second-class citizens. For too long the Panthers’ story has been a footnote to the civil rights movement rather than what it was: a revolutionary socialist movement that drew thousands of members—mostly women—and became the target of one of the most sustained repression efforts ever made by the U.S. government against its own citizens.

Revolution in Our Time puts the Panthers in the proper context of Black American history, from the first arrival of enslaved people to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Kekla Magoon’s eye-opening work invites a new generation of readers grappling with injustices in the United States to learn from the Panthers’ history and courage, inspiring them to take their own place in the ongoing fight for justice.