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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

20 Picture Books That Celebrate African American Dreamers and Achievers

Picture books are a great way to introduce children to the world beyond their tiny spaces. With bright colors and inspiring words, they relate amazing stories and lives in an enticing, kid-pleasing way. Managing to convey a lifetime's worth of achievements in just a few pages is an accomplishment in and of itself. To capture a child's imagination and ignite dreams as well makes picture books simply extraordinary.

We've shared several Black History Month reading lists this year, for adults, for middle school and YA readers, and for fictional picture books that explore African American history and culture. We couldn't resist rounding out our reading recommendations with a few more excellent picture books. These biographies about African American dreamers and achievers are worthy reads all year long.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman
Kathleen Krull and David Díaz
This is the story of Wilma Rudolph, who suffered from polio as a child and went on to win gold in the Olympics.

Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman
Nikki Grimes, Barry Moser, and Earl B. Lewis
Born to a poor family in Texas, Bessie followed her dreams to become a pilot in a time when both African Americans and women were not allowed to fly airplanes.

Freedom River
Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier
Based on the life of John Parker, an ex-slave helping people on the Underground Railroad, this picture book retells one of his daring rescues.

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson
Pam Muñoz Ryan and Brian Selznick
This glorious picture book tells the life story of Marian Anderson, one of America's greatest singers, who fought to sing where everyone could hear and enjoy her music.

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream
Crystal Hubbard and Randy Duburke
Marcenia Lyle, better known as Toni Stone, was the first woman to play professional baseball.

Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier
Every child learns about Rosa Parks in school, but this picture book brings her fight against injustice to beautiful life.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson
Moses is a gorgeous biography of Harriet Tubman, who led at least 70 people north to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson
This is the remarkable story of Henry Brown, who mailed himself north to escape slavery.

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane
Carole Boston Weatherford and Sean Qualls
The childhood of John Coltrane, master of the saxophone, is vividly recreated.

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and R. Gregory Christie
Bass Reeves was an African-American hero of the Old West. He fled slavery as a young man and became a US Deputy Marshal with over 3,000 arrests to his name.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier
 Little is known about Dave, except that he lived and died a slave and he created remarkable pottery and poetry. This picture book imagines what his life was like.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie
Bill Traylor was a self-taught folk artist from Alabama. He didn't began drawing until he was in his 80s, and then he just couldn't stop!

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington
Jabari Asim and Bryan Collier
You'll be inspired by the life of Booker T. Washington, educator, orator, and author.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Jennifer Fisher Bryant and Melissa Sweet
Pippin was always drawn to art, but lost the use of his right arm while he was serving with the Harlem Hellfighters during World War II. He began painting again as way to strengthen his injured arm and received much recognition and praise.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop
Laban Carrick Hill and Theodore Taylor
Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc, invented the musical form of hip hop when he was just a teenager.

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence
Gretchen Woelfle and Alix Delinois
Mumbet challenged the legality of being held a slave in Massachusetts in the 1780s and won her freedom.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Chris Barton and Don Tate
John Roy Lynch was born into slavery and wasn't set free until after the Civil War. He went on to become an influential politician in Mississippi and then became one of the first African American US Representatives.

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and R. Gregory Christie
This picture book tells the story of Lewis Michaux, Sr., and his independent community bookstore in Harlem.

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans
Phil Bildner and John Parra
Cornelius Washington was a trash collector who was an inspiration to the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
Don Tate
George Moses Horton taught himself to read and write and became a great poet. He was the first African-American to be published in the South. He didn't become a free man until after the Civil War, when he was in his late 60s.

We hope you enjoy these inspiring picture book biographies. Until next time, happy reading!

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