Picture Book Highlights | Black History Month

By Monica C. RSS Tue, February 15, 2022

This February as we celebrate Black History Month, we want to recommend some pictures books published in 2021 that were written and/or illustrated by Black creators.

In the following list, you’ll find books about history, love of self and love of family, joy and resilience, bedtime stories, biographies, and so much more.


Soul Food Sunday written by Winsome Bingham; illustrated by Charles G. Esperanza

ebook available from Overdrive

Granny teaches her young grandson how to cook the family meal, in this celebration of food, traditions, and gathering together at the table. Includes recipe for baked macaroni and cheese.

Dream Street written by Tricia Elam Walker; illustrated by Ekua Holmes

ebook available from Overdrive

Welcome to Dream Street—the best street in the world!  Jump rope with Azaria—can you Double Dutch one leg at a time?  Dream big with Ede and Tari, who wish to create a picture book together one day. Say hello with Mr. Sidney, a retired mail carrier who greets everyone with the words, "Don’t wait to have a great day. Create one!" On Dream Street, love between generations rules, everyone is special, and the warmth of the neighborhood shines.

Milo Imagines the World written by Matt de la Peña; illustrated by Christian Robinson

ebook available from Overdrive

While Milo and his sister travel to a detention center to visit their incarcerated mother, he observes strangers on the subway and draws what he imagines their lives to be.

Baby, Sleepy, Baby written by Atinuke; illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

It’s bedtime for a drowsy little one, and the whole family takes turns to cuddle and sing this sleepy baby to bed. One by one the baby’s sister, grandmother, father, and mother call on the winds, the clouds, the stars, and the moon to sail and rock and delight their little one until dreams take over. 

Everybody in the Red Brick Building written by Anne Wynter; illustrated by Oge Mora

A chain reaction of noises wakes several children (and a cat) living in an apartment building. But it’s late into the night, so despite the disturbances, one by one, the building’s inhabitants return to their beds—this time, with a new set of sounds to lull them to sleep.

The Me I Choose to Be written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley; illustrated by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt

What will you choose to be? A free spirit? A weaver of words? A star dancing across the night sky? A limitless galaxy? The possibilities are endless in this uplifting ode to the power of potential. 

Time for Bed, Old House written by Janet Costa Bates; illustrated by A.G. Ford

ebook available from Overdrive

At Isaac's first sleepover, he gets to help Grandpop with a very special routine—putting the house to bed—in a story that's just right for children visiting a new place, or for adopting a new bedtime ritual at home.

Change Sings written by Amanda Gorman; illustrated by Loren Long

ebook and audiobook available from Overdrive

As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes—big or small—in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly—in themselves.

Looking for a Jumbie written by Tracey Baptiste; illustrated by Amber Ren

Mama says "jumbies" exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself. Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends.

Keep Your Head Up written by Aliya King Neil; illustrated by Charly Palmer

ebook available from Overdrive

This book teaches little ones that it's okay to have a bad day, through brightly illustrated, gently affirmative pictures about keeping our heads up and letting things pass. When a child wakes up late one day, it's only the first in a series of things to go terribly awry. But the people around them show them that what's important is being kind to yourself and getting through rough days. Because, after all, tomorrow is a fresh start.

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone written by Traci Todd; illustrated by Christian Robinson

ebook and audiobook available from Overdrive

A biography of Nina Simone, an acclaimed singer whose music gave voice to the struggle for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement.

Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza

ebook available from Overdrive

The city is alive with vibrant art in every corner of the parks, the shops, and the trains. Most people are too busy to see it—or worse, choose to ignore it! When three children stop to marvel at the art around their community, they realize it's up to them to show everyone else how truly special it is when art and reality dance together so seamlessly.

When My Cousins Come to Town written by Angela Shanté; illustrated by Keisha Morris

ebook available from Overdrive

Every summer a young girl looks forward to her cousins coming to town. All the cousins have nicknames for themselves, and this summer the young girl is determined to earn her own nickname as well.

The Old Boat written by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Phumphry

ebook available from Overdrive

Off a small island, an old boat sets sail and a young boy finds home. Together, boy and boat ride the shifting tides, catching wants and wishes until fate calls for a sea change.

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley Newton

ebook available from Overdrive

Vanessa is nervous she will not fit in on her first day of school, but she hopes a special outfit will show her new classmates she is someone they should know.

Zuri Ray Tries Ballet written by Tami Charles; illustrated by Sharon Sordo

ebook available from Overdrive

Zuri Ray loves trying extraordinary new things but when Jessie—her best friend from diapers—chooses ballet, Zuri Ray finds it too challenging until the teacher encourages her to be herself.

Shhh! The Baby’s Asleep written by JaNay Brown-Wood; illustrated by Elissambura

ebook available from Overdrive

Baby is finally asleep and Mama is trying to shush the rest of the family. When they are all finally quiet, baby wakes up and it is up to big brother Dante to find the right book to read so everyone can get some rest.

Alaina and the Great Play written by Eloise Greenfield; illustrated by Colin Bootman

ebook available from Overdrive

Kindergartner Alaina is excited about thanking the audience at the end of the second-grade play, but she is overwhelmed by the performance and has to share her enthusiasm, center stage.

Ruby’s Reunion Dinner written by Angela Dalton; illustrated Jestenia Southerland

ebook available from Overdrive

Inspired by the rich tradition of African American reunions, this multigenerational story follows the experiences of young Ruby, who helps loved ones prepare the foods they are bringing to dinner while trying to think of a signature dish of her own.

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope written by Jodie Patterson; illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

ebook available from Overdrive

Just before his fifth birthday, Penelope lets his mother know he is a boy and, with her support and his ninja powers, faces the rest of his family and his classmates.

Dreams for a Daughter written by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Brian Pinkney

ebook available from Overdrive

A black mother describes her dreams for her newborn daughter and her hopes for a future in which her little one will grow to cross borders and bridge boundaries, be her best self, and find love.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden written by Mélina Mangal; illustrated by Ken Dailey

Nine-year-old Jayden loves the outdoors, but his mother is nervous about him playing in their neighborhood. With the help of his neighbor Mr. Curtis, can Jayden help Mama see that nature and beauty are all around?

Off to See the Sea written by Nikki Grimes; illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

ebook available from Overdrive

Bath time is full of magic. The faucet flows like a waterfall, the bathroom floor is a distant shore, and toy boats sail against the waves. An imagination-fueled adventure on the high seas is just what it takes to get little one clean.

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch written by Heidi Tyline Kim; illustrated by Ekua Holmes

ebook available from Overdrive

A biography of MaVynee Betsch, a Black opera singer-turned-environmentalist who worked to preserve American Beach, Florida as a historical landmark.

We Shall Overcome by Bryan Collier

ebook available from Overdrive

Beloved gospel anthem and civil rights protest song, "We Shall Overcome" is brought to life by esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier. Following in the footsteps of one young girl, Collier traverses between historic civil rights monuments and contemporary political protests happening today. Beautifully interwoven with song lyrics that embody a message of strength and overcoming adversity.

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words written by Stacey Abrams; illustrated by Kitt Thomas

ebook available from Overdrive

When she is chosen to compete in the local spelling bee, Stacey learns that—win or lose—her words are powerful, and sometimes perseverance is the most important word of all.

Sing, Aretha, Sing!: Aretha Franklin, Respect and the Civil Rights Movement written by Hanif Abdurraqib; illustrated by Ashley Evans

A young Aretha Franklin captivates her community with the song "Respect" during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, in this striking picture book biography that will embolden today’s young readers to sing their own truth.


Be sure to check our catalog and Overdrive Kids eReading Room, for these titles and many more being added!

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