The best kids books to celebrate Black summertime joy

Alliah L. Agostini Author Of The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States
By Alliah L. Agostini

Who am I?

I write to spread joy and truth. As a proud Black mother living in a country with school districts that see Black stories as threats worth banning, amplifying these stories is crucial to the fight to help humanize us and retain the privilege of celebration and joy. When I wrote The Juneteenth Story, it was rooted in a conscious effort to balance my own joyous summertime memories of celebrating the holiday with the hard truths that established and evolved this holiday. This list includes a small sample of books about some of the many ways Black folks celebrate - enjoy.

I wrote...

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States

By Alliah L. Agostini,

Book cover of The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States

What is my book about?

On June 19, 1865—more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation— enslaved Texans finally learned they were free. That day became a day of remembrance and celebration that changed and grew from year to year. With colorful illustrations and a timeline, The Juneteenth Story is an introductory history of Juneteenth for kids that details the evolution of the holiday commemorating the date the enslaved people of Texas first learned of their freedom.

Learn about the events that led to emancipation and why it took so long for enslaved people in Texas to hear the news. Hear about the first Juneteenth celebrations, and how Juneteenth continued to grow, develop, and endure through the centuries to become an official holiday in the United States in 2021.

The books I picked & why

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Soul Food Sunday

By Winsome Bingham, C.G. Esperanza (illustrator),

Book cover of Soul Food Sunday

Why this book?

This is absolutely a new classic - an award-winning coming-of-age story about the Sunday a soul food cooking grandmother finally opens up her culinary secrets to the next generation. Winsome Bingham’s vivid language is perfectly matched with C.G. Esperanza’s electric illustrations. I also appreciate the tiny details like the uncle who watches the football game on an itty bitty TV. Brings me back (kids will never understand that pre-smartphone life!) And apparently, the mac n’ cheese recipe is on point, so don’t miss that.

Around Our Way on Neighbors' Day

By Tameka Fryer Brown, Charlotte Riley-Webb (illustrator),

Book cover of Around Our Way on Neighbors' Day

Why this book?

You can’t read this book and not smile! This fun, rhythmic read by the lyrical Tameka Fryer Brown celebrates the bonds of a diverse urban community on Neighbors’ Day, and reminds us of the big and small ways neighbors show up for each other. Charlotte Riley-Webb‘s paintings swirl with energy to give a new dimension to Brown’s words.   

Family Reunion

By Chad Richardson, Dad Richardson, Ashleigh Corrin (illustrator)

Book cover of Family Reunion

Why this book?

Written by a father and son duo, Family Reunion starts with a boy’s reluctance to join a family reunion and ends with him having a change of heart after bonding with a cross-generational group of relatives. Personally, the mini-scenarios throughout the book were so relatable, it made me wonder if the Richardsons were at one of my family reunions! Ashleigh Corrin’s bright cheerful illustrations seal the deal.

The Electric Slide and Kai

By Kelly J. Baptist, Darnell Johnson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Electric Slide and Kai

Why this book?

I don’t know if this book necessarily takes place in summer, but it’s centered around one of my favorite ‘African-American Joy Rituals’ - the Electric Slide! Kai agonizes over his failure to get a dance nickname from his very cool grandfather because of his two left feet. When his aunt gets married, he’s determined to conquer the Electric Slide at her reception.

Who doesn’t love a good, all-inclusive line dance? I still remember learning the Electric Slide when I was 6– to this day if I’m at a party and it’s playing, you’ll know where to find me (the dance floor!). Fun book.

Together We Ride

By Valerie Bolling, Kaylani Juanita (illustrator),

Book cover of Together We Ride

Why this book?

The book itself is so simple, pure, and universal - it’s about the joy of a little girl learning how to ride a bike with her father’s help. Valerie Bolling masterfully uses spare text to communicate such emotion and excitement around this independent pursuit, while Kaylani Juanita’s illustrations are a contemporary, visual delight. Besides, who wouldn’t be inspired to ride their bike with such a spectacular view of the Golden Gate bridge?

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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