The best children’s picture books by Black women from North Carolina

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina where I was loved, nurtured, and mentored by several brilliant, creative, and powerful Black women. One of those women was Dr. Maya Angelou, who was close with my Grandmother, Queen Mother Frances Pierce, and was my mom's God-Mother. She and the other authors on this list are all women who I respect professionally and love dearly. I am a picture book author, a Grammy-nominated children's musician, and a father of two. I have read these stories to my children and am so proud to live in the great state of North Carolina with so many talented, genuine, and inspirational Black women.


I wrote...

Daddy & Me, Side by Side

By Pierce Freelon, Nadia Fisher (illustrator),

Book cover of Daddy & Me, Side by Side

What is my book about?

Each day is a grand family adventure with the fathers and sons in this lyrical picture book filled with lush illustrations. A young son and his father trek through trees and listen to birdsong, dig for worms and go fishing, and enjoy the breeze sitting side by side, just like Pop Pop and Daddy did, years ago. A heartfelt and hopeful tale that touches on grieving the loss of a loved one as a father and son recreate old memories and make new ones in a day-long hiking adventure.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon

Pierce Freelon Why did I love this book?

Kelly Starling Lyons is a brilliant author of several books for children and young adults.

A personal favorite is her book about my father, Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon. This tells my Dad's story, from struggling to read letters and numbers as a child, to becoming a world renowned architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

By Kelly Starling Lyons, Laura Freeman (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dream Builder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You've seen the building. Now meet the man whose life went into it.

Philip Freelon's grandfather was an acclaimed painter of the Harlem Renaissance. His father was a successful businessman who attended the 1963 March on Washington. When Phil decided to attend architecture school, he created his own focus on African American and Islamic designers. He later chose not to build casinos or prisons, instead concentrating on schools, libraries, and museums--buildings that connect people with heritage and fill hearts with joy. And in 2009, Phil's team won a commission that let him use his personal history in service to the…


Book cover of Build a House

Pierce Freelon Why did I love this book?

Fellow musician Rhiannon Giddens is the author of Build a House, a tender story about a banjo-playing little girl and her musical and resilient family.

As the descendent of formerly enslaved Afro-Carolinian banjo and fiddle-playing musicians, Giddens gives readers a unique glimpse into the history of North Carolina and lots of inspiration for the future! Did I mention she's also a Grammy winner and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient?

By Rhiannon Giddens, Monica Mikai (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Build a House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens celebrates Black history and culture in her unflinching, uplifting, and gorgeously illustrated picture book debut.

I learned your words and wrote my song. I put my story down.

As an acclaimed musician, singer, songwriter, and cofounder of the traditional African American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens has long used her art to mine America’s musical past and manifest its future, passionately recovering lost voices and reconstructing a nation’s musical heritage. Written as a song to commemorate the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth—which was originally performed with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma—and paired here with…


Book cover of My N.C. from A-Z

Pierce Freelon Why did I love this book?

Michelle Lanier’s My N.C. from A to Z is illustrated by another awesome North Carolina native, Dare Coulter.

This wonderful book celebrates the great state of North Carolina, highlighting our African American heritage, unveiling historical landmarks, and introducing kids to social justice icons. Spotlights include the Great Dismal Swamp, Ella Baker, Black Wall Street, and Pauli Murray.

By Michelle Lanier, Dare Coulter (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My N.C. from A-Z as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 1, 2, 3, and 4.

What is this book about?

Children and parents will love learning their very first ideas about North Carolina in My N.C. from A–Z. This colorful, sturdy board book celebrates pride of place, creates connections to North Carolina's rich African American heritage, and teaches children about human equality and social justice. A perfect first baby or toddler book!


Book cover of The Noisy Classroom

Pierce Freelon Why did I love this book?

I fell in love with Alison's work when I first saw her Instagram profile: "@bunny_fart". Not only did I laugh out loud at the name on her profile, I was also blown away by her wonderfully creative illustrations and animation.

I love her award-winning collabo with author Angela Shante: The Noisy Classroom which follows a young girl who is nervous on her first day of school and her fun-loving, sing-songy teacher. It’s a charming glimpse into a relatable subject: that awkward feeling you get adjusting to an unfamiliar environment. Perfect for any family struggling to embrace a new change. 

By Angela Shante, Alison Hawkins (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Noisy Classroom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Silver Medalist, 2020 Wishing Shelf Book Awards: Books for 6-8 Year Olds
Winner, 2020 American Fiction Awards for Best Cover Design: Children's Books
Finalist, 2020 American Fiction Awards for Children's Fiction

The first day of school is coming... and I'm going to be in the noisy class. Any class but the noisy class will do!

A young girl is about to enter the third grade, but this year she's put into Ms. Johnson's noisy class. Everything about the noisy class is odd. While all the other classes are quiet, Ms. Johnson sings and the kids chatter all day. The door…


Book cover of Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Pierce Freelon Why did I love this book?

The late Dr. Maya Angelou, or "Auntie Maya" as we called her in our household, is one of the most brilliant and iconic authors in American history.

One of her lesser-known publications is her 1993 picture book, Life Doesn't Frighten Me, illustrated by the legendary artist Jean Michel Basquiat. This book is a work of art for all ages! Dr. Angelou's bold and beautiful poetry paired with Basquiat's genius is a love letter to the human spirit.

By Maya Angelou, Jean-Michel Basquiat (illustrator), Sara Jane Boyers (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life Doesn't Frighten Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shadows on the wallNoises down the hallLife doesn't frighten me at all Maya Angelou's brave, defiant poem celebrates the courage within each of us, young and old. From the scary thought of panthers in the park to the unsettling scene of a new classroom, fearsome images are summoned and dispelled by the power of faith in ourselves.Angelou's strong words are matched by the daring vision of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose childlike style reveals the powerful emotions and fanciful imaginings of childhood. Together, Angelou's words and Basquiat's paintings create a place where every child, indeed every person, may experience his or…


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an insightful, exciting and moving tale about how former enemies became friends in the face of Russian aggression — and how close the Berlin Airlift came to failing under the assault of “General Winter.”

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


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