50 KidLit & YA Books with Black Protagonists

Expand your book selections.

The number of books featuring Black characters has grown exponentially over the past decade. The cultural shift now being called for is needed on a policy, school district, and classroom level. Use this resource list of books with Black protagonists to expand school libraries and home collections beyond the status quo by including more works written specifically for—and by—people of color.

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Picture Books with Black Protagonists:

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

A child is shown her hair’s natural beauty is meant to be treasured as much as the gorgeous plants blooming throughout her neighbor’s yard.

The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey

A young girl resurrects the vehicle their family used in her childhood to help maintain the farm she starts.

 Freedom Bird by Jerdine Nolen

A mysterious bird shows two children enslaved on a planation a way to gain their liberty.

 Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

The beauty and fullness of black as a color, in addition to the lineage of the people whose skin color it is predominately used to describe, are depicted in this radiant picture book.

What If… by Samantha Berger

Gorgeous illustrations showcase the richness a vivid imagination can add to a child’s life.

 Grace For President by Kelly Dipucchio

A school’s mock election takes on a different spin when one female candidate learns the United Stated has never had a female president.

 Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

Zuir loves her curls and she’ll need her father’s help to look even more extraordinary for a celebratory occasion.

 I Am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt

This lively series about a girl who loves sparkling things—plus adventure—is sure to delight young readers.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut  by Derrick Barnes

Getting a trim puts extra pep in young boys’ steps in this affirming tribute to the positive attributes seemingly bestowed upon Black youth at the barbershop.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Girls do STEM too! Evident in this story about clever Ada, whose best friends like science and engineering just as much as she does.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

An anti-bullying mantra and confidence builder for all ages—reinforced through poetic text and beautiful illustrations.

Ana & Andrew: A Day At The Museum by Christine Platt

A sister-brother duo learn something new on every outing in this early reader series.

Middle Grade Books with Black Protagonists:

8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich


Being “uncool” isn’t going to stop Reggie from running for school president. And he gets some much-needed encouragement via volunteer work at a local homeless shelter.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Six tweens form a support group at their middle school to help process their familial issues. Topics include parental incarceration, deportation, and racism.

Pony on the Twelfth Floor by Polly Faber

Kizzy’s desire to own a horse gets the best of her in this humorous tale about trying to own—and hide—a pony in an apartment building.

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Two siblings come to terms with the different ways the boys are treated due to having one having a lighter skin tone than the other.

Meg, Beth, Jo, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

A graphic novel breathes new life into a classic in this diverse adaptation of Louise May Alcott’s Little Women.

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

A tween’s eventful road trip with his grandmother proves to also be eye-opening in terms of United States history and racism.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Relocating to live with their mother doesn’t exactly unfold as imagined in this book set in the 1960s.

 The Only Black Girls in Town  by Brandy Colbert

 

Becoming friends with the new, now second, Black girl to live in her neighborhood kicks off an unexpected series of events in one tween’s life.

Blended by Sharon M. Draper

A bi-racial tween must split time equally living with her divorced parents (who are both now dating other people and have vastly different income levels).

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Twin brothers begin to discover different passions in middle school—one music; the other, basketball—a shift which gradually begins to pull them apart.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

A graphic novel about what it is like to be the new kid when your middle school is predominantly white and you’re Black.

The Trouble With Half a Moon  by Danette Vigilante

A teen begins to take on a protective role in a younger neighbor’s life when the housing project where they live becomes more dangerous.

The Parker Inheritance  by Varian Johnson

Using an old letter to solve a local mystery exposes a lineage of systemic racism in a Southern Carolina town.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet  by David Barclay Moore

Working with LEGO bricks provides Lolly with a creative and healing form of expression after his older brother is a victim of gang violence.

So Done by Paula Chase

Growing up may mean moving on from one another as childhood besties and neighbors Tai and Mila start to feel the strains of adolescence on their friendship.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds

Lyrical tone and contemporary graphics are the continuous thread weaving together ten short stories about what happens between the time school gets out and kids arrive home.

Young Adult (YA) Books with Black Protagonists:

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Timani

Two teens fall in and out of love in this lyrical romance-centered YA narrative that initially begins on a basketball court.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Black girl magic has on a mythical twist in this YA drama, about two friends whose voices have unworldly powers.

A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell

Notable contemporary authors spin 16 short stories that each feature a young Black female as the protagonist in a fantasy, sci-fi, or magical realism narrative.

The Sun Is Also a Star  by Nicola Yoon

A Jamaican teen meets and starts to develop romantic feelings for a boy the day before her family is scheduled to be deported from the United States.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Two sisters separated by time and distance learn about their father’s existence after his unexpected death.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan

Two best friends use their literary talents to spark a female-forward movement at their high school.

The Voice in My Head by Dana L. Davis

Twin sisters must come to terms with life, death, and other significant familial issues on a road trip to Arizona.

A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison

Two star-crossed teenagers are forced to cohabitate one summer while one of them struggles to leave their dangerous gang connections in the past.

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

 

Ex-besties must relearn how to co-exist in high school as new friendships and priorities emerge for them both.

Slay by Brittney Morris

A teen girl must fight to save the digital gaming site she created after real-life hate crime puts what she values most in jeopardy.

The Sound of Stars  by Alechia Dow

 

Janelle “Ellie” Baker is a teen rebel stuck in an alien-controlled quadrant of New York City in this sci-fi adventure about living, and falling in love, on an Earth that humans no longer control.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Beauty is the most valued characteristic throughout an alternate realm in this fast-paced, fantasy read—and its sequel “The Everlasting Rose.”

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

A Haitian teen’s immigration journey becomes increasingly complex as she settles into daily life living with her three cousins and attending high school in Detroit, MI.

You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson

The only thing standing between Liz and enough financial aid to attend the college of her dreams is … becoming prom queen.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Simone feels compelled to hide her HIV-positive status at a new high school, especially the guy she is currently crushing on. When an anonymous bully threatens to out her secret, the only person capable of protecting Simone may be herself.

How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters

Remy has a variety of labels he’s known by to others: Friendly, Self-assured, Gay… But behind closed doors, he still has quite a bit to figure out about his identity.

The Stars and The Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus 

A budding romance is put in jeopardy by external threats two teen girls can’t control—illness, parental disapproval, and criminal prosecution.

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

A teen barista must seek out six fellow magicians to help save her family in the first book of this fantasy series.

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Jack relives the day he meets his girlfriend over and over again in an attempt to prevent her dying from sickle cell anemia.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

A teen struggles with self-confidence as he finds himself the victim of bullies who learn he is transgender.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

One teen struggles to process how to grieve when his sibling’s death (at the hands of a police officer) has gone viral online.

Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden

A rare piece of historical fiction that provides a glimpse at what life was like for wealthy African-Americans at the start of the 20th century.

Are we missing any of your favorite books with Black protagonists? Share in the comments below. 

Plus, 15 books about racial justice for kids.

Posted by Rachel Werner

Rachel Werner is the Content Marketing Specialist for Taliesin Preservation; guest faculty at The Loft Literary Center & Hugo House; a We Need Diverse Books program volunteer; and a book reviewer for Shelf Awareness. Her work has previously appeared in Fabulous Wisconsin, BLK+GRN, BRAVA, Madison Magazine, Entrepreneurial Chef and Hobby Farms Magazine. Connect with her on Instagram @therealscript.

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