Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.
I was looking at the many, many children's books my daughter and nieces and nephews were given this year and I got to thinking: why are so many "classic" books for African American children so depressing? You know the ones I'm talking about. Sounder. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich. All well written books, but the impression you get from them is that there's nothing to African American life and history but slavery, lynchings, and urban despair. Is that what we want our kids to think? Aren't there any books that show African American life as, well...fun?
Brown Baby Reads, a web community, book club and database for African American children's literature. Every month you'll find recommended titles for toddlers through teens, and you can search the database for special interests like historical fiction or sports themed fiction.
There has been increased attention to the lack of diversity in children's publishing these days, and the wonderful organization We Need Diverse Books was formed in response. A collaboration between teachers, publishers and librarians, WNB provides resource lists on books with African American, Latino, GLTBQ, Muslim and disabled characters, as well as awards, summer reading themes, and suggestions for multicultural gift books.
Another great resource is the Black Books Galore! series by Donna Rand and Toni Trent Parker. The Evanston Public Library owns all 3 editions, published between 1998 and 2001. It's a pity it hasn't been updated since, but you'll still find hundreds of great titles.
Finally, I invite you to try my personal list: Non Depressing African American Children's Books. (also on GoodReads.) I found a lot of them in Rand and Parker's collection, and they were all books that my daughter and I actually enjoyed. Most are contemporary kid's fiction, but there are a couple of terrific historicals, like Bud not Buddy, and Ellington Was Not a Street that convey the richness of African American cultural history without dwelling on the horrors.
Let me know if you have suggestions!