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New Picture Books for African American History Month

January 28, 2020

Every February the Nashville Public Library celebrates African American History Month through programming and promotion of our materials. 

We're fortunate that we receive wonderful picture books featuring African American characters or telling the stories of famous African Americans all year long. Here are some of our very favorite books for younger kids (in most cases 2nd grade and younger) published from 2018 to now. I'll start you out with three books and then give you a full list below in the widget of book covers. 

Brave Ballerina tells the true story of Janet Collins, a young African American woman born in 1917 who wanted to be a ballerina but was turned away from ballet schools and ballet companies due to the color of her skin. She studied Spanish dance, modern dance, and other styles until one day she was invited in 1951 to become the very first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Collins is credited with paving the way for other young girls who dreamed of dancing.

Oge Mora has only written three children's books - one of which was just published on January 7th, 2020 - but she's won numerous awards. Her first book Thank You, Omu was a Caldecott Medal Honor book; the winner of the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator award, and was featured a whole host of "Best of" lists. Her second book Saturday stars a African American mother and daughter who spend a Saturday together where absolutely everything goes wrong. The little girl reminds her mom that the best part of the day was the time they spent together. 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson an author who has won almost every award possible in the world of children's literature. The book begins with this line: "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you." Readers are introduced to Angelina, a young African American girl whose hair, skin, or clothes might not look like other students' and then Rigoberto from Venezuela who doesn't talk like the others and then an unnamed young girl whose lunch of kimchi and rice doesn't look like the others. Finally a lighter skinned boy is excluded from all the playground games because he can't keep up. But when we return to Angelina: "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin to share your stories." Then you can find "every new friend has something a little like you - and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all." What a powerful message that we all need to be reminded of! Being different doesn't make someone wrong. It's a reason to celebrate.

Here are more wonderful titles:


Don't forget to check out all of our fun programs celebrating African American History Month.


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Miss Terri has worked at three different branches of Nashville Public Library since 2002. She's currently the head of the Children's Department at the Green Hills Branch Library. When she isn’t working, she is usually hanging out with her dog Boo. Isn’t he cute?