In 2019, we hope to see an increase of stories told by diverse authors that offer their perspectives and speak to their experiences. From our current collection, here are four children’s books written and illustrated by African American and multiracial authors. These stories tell the tale of a mother’s love, recognize the persistence, bravery, and excellence of African American heroes, show the journey of finding your identity and your color in the world, and inspire readers with the story of a brave and talented African American women who blazed trails for others.
My Mommy Medicine
Written by Edwidge Danticat
Illustrated by Shannon Wright
When our narrator, a young African American girl, wakes up feeling sick, gloomy, or sad, her mother gives her a good dose of “mommy medicine” to make her feel better. This medicine is always different from day to day. Sometimes, it’s a kiss on the cheek and a tight hug, or it’s her favorite squash soup, or a big, delicious mug of hot chocolate. Through fun games, a little magic and imagination, and lots of quality time with mom, our narrator starts to feel better. Mommy medicine can make her feel great even on the worst days!
Edwidge Danticat, the mother of two daughters, tells a beautiful tale of how love and comfort can heal. She speaks from her own experience taking care of her daughters, nieces, and nephews. While the story is about a mother and daughter, Edwidge feels that mommy medicine can come from anyone trying to make someone they love feel better.
Written by Kwame Alexander
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019
In Kwame Alexander’s powerful poem turned children’s book, readers hear the stories of many African Americans who have done unbelievable things. They have overcome hurdles and stood strong in the face of unspeakable tragedy, coming out undefeated. Featuring athletes like Jesse Owens, Serena Williams, and Muhammad Ali, musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk, the activists of the civil rights movements, and many more, Alexander shines a light on many heroes that are too often left out of our history books. Recognizing the bravery of the slaves who fought for freedom and those who continue to fight for black lives today, Alexander writes a moving tribute to African Americans who remain undefeated.
Kwame Alexander is a New York Times best-selling author that often tells the stories of African Americans. He has won both a Newberry Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Award for his own story narratives. Alexander began writing the poem that inspired The Undefeated as a tribute to his daughters and as a response to the election of President Obama—he wanted to show the world how African American heroes paved the way to that historic moment.
Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color
Written by Monique Fields
Illustrated by Yesenia Moises
Imprint Publishing, 2019
Simone, a multiracial child, wants to know what her color is. When she asks her mama if she is black or white, she says that color is just a word. But Simone wants her own word. When she asks her daddy, he says she’s a little bit of both. But Simone wants a color to call her own. In the world around her, Simone cannot find a color that matches her and reflects who she is inside and out. When thinking about colors, Simone notices that her mama reminds her of golden honey, and her daddy reminds her of white smoke. This makes her honeysmoke, a color all her own! Simone now sees her color in the world around her every day and is proud of her own skin.
Monique Fields, author, journalist, and mother of two daughters, is dedicated to helping multiracial children feel seen in the world of children’s literature. She is the founder of honeysmoke.com, a site with resources for parents raising multiracial children. She hopes that all children will see the beauty in their own color as Simone did!
Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
Written by Michelle Meadows
Illustrated by Ebony Glenn
Henry Holt, 2019
This is the story of Janet Collins, an African American dancer full of grace, who dreamed of becoming a ballerina during segregation in the 1930s and 1940s. Collins worked hard and persisted, taking private lessons when dance classes would not accept her, and refusing to lighten her skin to blend in with other ballerinas, giving up her chance to dance with a ballet company. Janet never gave up on her dream. Her talent, grace, and bravery finally paid off when Janet got the chance to shine on stage as a Prima Ballerina in 1951.
Michelle Meadows, a childhood ballerina who fell in love with dance again in adulthood, crafts a lyrical tribute to Janet’s journey. Beautifully written and illustrated, Meadows and Glenn’s work sets out to inspire the next generation of persistent prima ballerinas and brave trailblazers.
Today’s guest poster is Abby Sauer, a senior in studying Corporate Communications at Dominican University. Abby utilized the BCLC collections and resources for her Capstone project on diversity in picture books. Keep an eye out for the rest of her series of Butler’s Pantry posts on the topic. Thanks, Abby!