The best life-affirming books for Black children

Charlotte Watson Sherman Author Of Brown Sugar Babe
By Charlotte Watson Sherman

Who am I?

Several months before the Covid-19 pandemic upended the world as we knew it, my life was turned upside-down by reports of suicide rates and attempted suicides doubling for Black children. In fact, during late Fall 2019, Congress established an Emergency Task Force on Youth Suicide and Mental Health. I’d already been reading accounts of Black children ending their lives on social media, and as a writer, decided to leave a legacy of books that helped armor Black children with love as they navigated spaces that would not always welcome their brilliance and beauty. I wanted to help encourage them to embrace life’s joys and to love themselves, always.

I wrote...

Brown Sugar Babe

By Charlotte Watson Sherman, Akem (illustrator),

Book cover of Brown Sugar Babe

What is my book about?

When a little girl has doubts about the color of her skin, her mother shows her all the wonderful, beautiful things brown can be. Brown Sugar Babe is a love letter to the beauty of brown skin and a message of love, acceptance, and pride.

The books I picked & why

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The Undefeated

By Kwame Alexander, Kadir Nelson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Undefeated

Why this book?

Kwame Alexander is a creative force of nature, an award-winning author of poetry and children’s fiction, such as Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, Becoming Muhammad Ali, co-authored with James Patterson, and The Crossover, soon to be a Disney+ television series. In The Undefeated, Alexander displays masterful lyrical language skills, and by telling us what we are not, shows us what we are: resilient, strong, and brave. Read this book to Black children and bask in the love.

I Am Enough

By Grace Byers, Keturah A. Bobo (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am Enough

Why this book?

Grace Byers is a multiracial actress/activist, born to deaf parents, who suffered bullying as a result. I Am Enough uses lyrical language to reinforce notions of self-love, acceptance of others who may be different, and kindness. This book illustrates how everything that makes us uniquely human – singing, growing, fighting, loving, falling, then rising again – establishes how we all have a place on earth, and belong.


By Lupita Nyong'o, Vashti Harrison (illustrator),

Book cover of Sulwe

Why this book?

Lupita Nyong’O is a stunning Academy Award-winning actress who has faced discrimination because of the beautiful darkness of her skin, “the color of midnight.” In Sulwe, the title character is bullied at a young age and given nicknames that lead her to self-isolate, though she longs for friendship and to belong. She attempts to change the color of her skin via various dubious methods, before a magical journey with a namesake star, causes her to accept, “some light can only be seen in the dark,” and the world needs her to remain just as beautiful and perfect, as she already is.

So Much!

By Trish Cooke, Helen Oxenbury (illustrator),

Book cover of So Much!

Why this book?

Trish Cooke uses cumulative storytelling to show just how much a baby is loved when extended family members – Auntie and Uncle and Nannie and Gran-Gran and cousins – come to visit. This story is such fun to read, and was enjoyed many, many times with the young ones in my life. Young and old can bask in this baby’s utter adoration and vicariously experience so much love.

I Am Every Good Thing

By Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am Every Good Thing

Why this book?

Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James are the award-winning team behind Crown: Ode to a Fresh Cut. Barnes is also the author of The King of Kindergarten and The Queen of Kindergarten. I Am Every Good Thing is a powerful counterpunch to the negative societal messaging Black boys receive throughout their lives. This book celebrates the chi of Black boys; affirms the beauty, spirit, and vulnerability of Black boyhood, and helps create children proud of everything they are: human.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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