Tag Archives: “children’s books”

March Madness

You don’t have to be college-aged to be interested in college basketball!

Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map by Sue Macy
Agnes Morley led her team to victory in the first-ever intercollegiate women’s basketball game– back when women played basketball in bloomers.

Basketball: From Tip-off to Slam Dunk–The Essential Guide by Clive Gifford

Basketball: Girls Rocking It by Barry Mableton and Elizabeth Gettelman

Basketballogy: Supercool Facts You Never Knew by Kevin Sylvester

Game Changer: John Mclendon and the Secret Game by John Coy
In 1944, in segregated North Carolina, Coach John McLendon of the North Carolina College of Negroes invited the Duke University Medical School basketball team for a secret and illegal game.

Great Teams in College Basketball History by Luke DeCock

Greatest Comebacks in Sports by Dustin Long

The Illinois Fighting Illini by Mark Stewart

The Mighty Macs
A sports movie about a women’s basketball team at a small Catholic college in the 1970s, and the coach who brought them all the way to a national championship.

NCAA Basketball Championship by Annalise Bekkering

Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line by Andrew Maraniss
A biography of the student athlete who courageously integrated the Southeastern Conference.

Picture Book Biographies to Introduce Women’s History

Day by Day with Elena Delle Donne by Tammy Gagne

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective by Marissa Moss

Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford

Libba : The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing by Dean Robbins

Misty Copeland by Laurie Calkhoven

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl by Deborah Hopkinson

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville

When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon by Natasha Wing

Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace by Tanya Lee Stone

Explore Women’s History

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights: From the Vote to the Equal Rights Amendment by Deborah Kops

Cleopatra: Queen of Egypt by Xina M. Uhl

First Ladies written by Amy Pastan association with the Smithsonian 

Forward: My Story by Abby Wambach \

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race by by Rebecca Rissman

Rising Above: Inspiring Women in Sports by Gregory Zuckerman with Elijah and Gabriel Zuckerman

Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote by Susan Zimet & Todd Hasak-Lowy

Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor

Who is Sonia Sotomayor? by Megan Stine
This title is also available as an ebook from OverDrive.

Women in Science by Jen Green

The Women’s Rights Movement: Then and Now by Rebecca Langston-George




Black Joy


I was intrigued by an ad I saw this fall for the book Crown, for which the author and illustrator earned several honors at this month’s Youth Media Awards. At the top of the ad were the words of a writer for Kirkus Reviews: “This book oozes black cool and timely, much-needed black joy.”

I thought “black joy” was a great choice of words. While it’s important for students to learn and understand history, reading about history can be a painful experience. Children who are learning to read need to be motivated to read, and one of the best ways to do that is to let children read books they enjoy.

At a library conference I met Alan Irby, a man who really gets this. He started  Barbershop Books to “Help black boys ages 4-8 to identify as readers” by putting books in barbershops. The books he had on display were are all ones kids love to read: The Adventures of Captain Underpants, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? and other fun things.

The author Carole Boston Weatherford wrote about how even though the number and variety of books with African American characters increased from when she was little to when she had kids, she still had trouble finding books that matched her son’s interests:

“But with the exception of Ringgold’s Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky (1992), my children went five years — an eternity for a kid — without seeing another fantasy picture book with African American characters. In five years, a child can graduate from read-alouds to read-alones. A child’s interests can change. A child can even lose interest in books.”

So here, partly inspired by Scott Woods’ list of 28 MORE Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball (2018), are some of the most appealing new books in the library. Some will touch on serious topics, but not in a way that overwhelms the reading experience.

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
I’ve talked to a couple of people in the past year or so who hadn’t realized that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an author; he’s covered topics like African American history and the world of Sherlock Holmes as well as fiction and nonfiction about basketball.

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency by Pete Souza (also available as an ebook on OverDrive)
The Chief Official White House Photographer shares his photographs of President Obama in a book especially for children.

Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Grandma’s purse is full of things like family photos and sparkly earrings (and the art depicting her house is full of great textures)

Jake the Fake Keeps it Real by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, art by Keith Knight
I’m familiar with Keith Knight’s comics for adults; to the best of my knowledge this is his first time illustrating a book (Wimpy Kid-style) just for kids.

King & Kayla series, written by Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Nancy Meyers
A book from this series of beginning chapter books just earned a Geisel Honor as a distinguished title for beginning readers.

Lola Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Stories about Lola and her baby brother Leo are available in both Spanish and English!

A Night Out with Mama by Quvenzhané Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
The young actress tells the story of attending a red carpet awards ceremony (and when you’re nine, who else would you bring as a date but your mom?) in a picture book full of sparkly dresses.

Shadows of Caesar’s Creek by Sharon M. Draper
Sharon Draper’s series Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs was one of the few chapter book series featuring African American boys. The series is now being reissued with new cover illustrations and a new name, Clubhouse Mysteries. This one has a haunted forest!

Springtime Blossoms by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Michelle Henninger
Not many beginning reader books feature African American kids, either, but Bradford Street Buddies is a newer series that is an exception.

Where’s Rodney? by Carmen Bogan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Rodney’s class takes a field trip that makes a big impression on him.

series by Asia Citro, art by Marion Lindsay
I’ve seen a kid go from I-don’t-like-reading to reading-while-walking in under 5 minutes because of this book! The rest of the beginning chapter fantasy series just arrived at the library.

Here are some places to look for more fiction and nonfiction featuring African Americans:

Amistad Press is an imprint of HarperCollins and published Chasing Space (there is a Young Readers’ edition as well as an edition for adults).

Jump at the Sun is a Disney imprint. It just published a board book edition of Homemade Love by bell hooks.

The NAACP Image Awards include a category for literature. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History won in the children’s category and Clayton Byrd Goes Underground won in the youth/teens category. The nominees for the awards are also listed online.

Black Boys Matter


“First day of school” picture books are a pretty basic staple of children’s publishing. If a book about a new character does well, a common second act is So-and-so Goes to School (or Celebrates a Holiday or Has a New Baby Brother/Sister). Looking at first day of school books is kind of like taking a sample of children’s publishing as a whole.

I’m not sure when I first realized that I couldn’t find any “first day of school” picture books that featured contemporary African American boys. It may have been after years of pulling books for the annual display, or a hazy gift idea, or only after attending a conference where one of the panels addressed the need for diverse books. When I realized that there was a gap in the collection I started keeping an eye out, but I only found historical fiction to buy.

This past fall, I tried to help a mom find books for her son. Her face fell when she saw one of the books on her list–which featured an African American girl–was historical fiction. I found a book from 1990 featuring a contemporary African American girl to offer her (because the one from 2005 was already checked out) and at least one book about starting school in a diverse classroom. I figured it was time to ask for expert help.

I tried contacting Edith Campbell, who had been on a panel at a national conference I attended. She teaches grad students about the history of children’s literature; she is African American and I learned from her Tweets that she has a son. If the books existed, she would know.

She reached out to her network on Facebook and came up with the following list:

Shawn Goes to School by Petronella Breinburg, about going to nursery school (1974)

Jamal’s Busy Day by Wade Hudson (1991)
(This book shares an illustrator and publisher with Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson. Both show a typical day at school, although I’m not sure either is strictly about the first day.)

David’s Drawings by Cathryn Falwell (2001)
We own this one! Technically, it’s about the first day after transferring to a new school, rather than starting school for the first time.

Little Cliff’s First Day of School by Clifton L. Taulbert (2001)
We used to own this. It’s set during the 1950s, but it’s about the ordinary stuff (new clothes, not wanting to go, the prospect of new friends) rather than anything as scary as Ruby Bridges’ experience.

The First Day of School by Margaret McNamara (2005)
We own this one! It’s a beginning reader, so when I searched the picture book section I totally missed it.

Kindergarten with Charlie by T.J. Jeremie (2015)
This one was independently published. I couldn’t find it in WorldCat (Zetta Elliot has written about the difficulty of getting published and the stigma attached to self-published books).

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex (2016)
The school building literally is the main character here, attended by a diverse group of children depicted by Christian Robinson, an award-winning African American illustrator.

The King of Kindergarten written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, coming soon.

This makes fewer than 10 books in more than 40 years. It’s part of the bigger picture of children’s publishing, which you can also get a snapshot of in this infographic:


The Cooperative Children’s Book Center keeps statistics on diversity in children’s books. This was the newest infographic I could find, but you can find statistics through 2016 on their website. You can see how the numbers compare to the US population at the census website. If twice as many books were about African Americans, that would be close to the percentage of people in the country who are African American.

Even these numbers don’t tell the whole story, because it is easier to find books about African American girls than African American boys. What really brought this home to me was the blog article 2013 Middle Grade Black Boys: Seriously, People? by Elizabeth Bird. She found 5 chapter books published about African American boys that year. Readers commenting on the article added a tiny handful more. She returned to the subject last year and found 12– and a wider variety– but still fewer books about boys than girls.

Why does this matter? I’m going to defer to two authors who have the experience of having been African American boys. Walter Dean Myers wrote about the feeling of  “something missing” in the books he read as a teen. Later, when he read the work of James Baldwin as an adult, he felt recognized and valued. He wanted to give young readers the same feeling from reading his own work, as well as “a sense of who they are and what they can be.”

Towards the end of the essay that’s linked to above, he wrote about some ideas that his son, Christopher Myers, has also expressed. As important as books by and about African Americans are for African American readers, these books are also for all of the other people who are going to live and interact with African Americans. They can widen everybody’s imagination– especially if they’re not always about the same old topics.

A book about starting school is a book that helps a child imagine where he (or she) is going and who he (or she) is becoming in the most basic and practical sort of way. It’s an acknowledgement of a rite of passage and a pretty universal experience. I’m looking forward to being able to buy The King of Kindergarten. I wish I could depend on more books like it being published soon, but I suspect I might have to plan for the copies I buy to last as long as those books from the 1990s.

Vote for your favorite Monarch Award Book

Monarch Award logo

Vote for your favorite Monarch Award Book
Thursday, February 15 – March 1

If you’ve read or listened to at least 5 of the nominees, you can cast your ballot at the Children’s Services Desk and receive a Monarch book mark.
If your school is voting for the Monarch Award, you can still vote to pick the library winner!

ALA Youth Media Awards

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Take a look at the award-winning books for kids and teens announced this morning! In addition to individual books that were honored, Eloise Greenfield and Jacqueline Woodson received awards for their many books for children (and Angela Johnson was honored for her writing for teens). Debbie Reese, who will deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, has also shared the winners of the 2018 American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award on her blog.

ALA Youth Media Awards – News and Press Center