10 Children's Books With Black Girl Protagonists
Her reason for starting has swiftly become iconic: She was tired of reading about white boys and dogs. Eleven-year-old Marley Dias' #1000BlackGirlBooks drive was a success, and it publicized a big problem with children's literature. Namely, the fact that children — specifically, girls — of color are rarely the protagonists of books aimed at their age group.
According to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, the number of books by and about African Americans is increasing. When the CCBC first examined children's book representation in 1985, it discovered that, "of the approximately 2,500 trade books that were published in 1985, only 18 were created by African Americans." In 2015, that number has increased — to 100 out of 3,400 books — but still remains under 3 percent.
As with any aspect of commerce, one way to correct the problems of the publishing industry is to buy the books we need more of. Although I will never not encourage you to buy used books or read the fantastic, older children's books with black girl protagonists out there, it bears mentioning that purchasing new books is the best way to vote with your wallet, so to speak.
With that being the case, the majority of the books on this list are recent enough that they — probably — haven't been remaindered. I do want to address a few notable absences, however. Natalie McGriff's The Adventures of Moxie Girl has not been widely printed, and Anaya Lee Willabus' The Day Mohan Found His Confidence is about a little boy. Attempts to keep this list relatively recent have excluded many great titles, including Mary Hoffman's Grace books, the first of which, Amazing Grace, now has a 25th anniversary edition available on Kindle. Similarly excluded were Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and The True Meaning of Smekday.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. Please share your own #1000BlackGirlBooks recommendations on Twitter.
1. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson's poetic biography follows her girlhood experiences in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award, Newberry Medal, and NAACP Image Award.
2. No Ordinary Sound by Denise Lewis Patrick
American Girl's third African-American protagonist — following Addy and the now-discontinued Cécile — is Melody: a young girl growing up in Detroit during the 1960s. Melody has been chosen to sing a solo at her church, but when tragedy strikes in Birmingham, she's left at a loss.
3. Shade and Sorceress by Catherine Egan
The daughter of a powerful magic-user, protagonist Eliza has grown up without a shred of magical talent. Sorceress or not, when a group of evil witches kidnap her father, Eliza sets off with her friends to rescue him.
4. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
When their father sends Delphine, Fern, and Vonetta across the country to visit their estranged mother in California, the sisters don't know what to expect. Now a poet, Claire sends her daughters to a Black Panthers daycare, where the reader starts to understand her unconventional choices.
5. Niobe: She Is Life by Amandla Stenberg, Sebastian A. Jones, and Ashley A. Woods
Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg teamed up with comic book writer Sebastian A. Jones to tell the story of Niobe, an orphaned elf on the run who is destined to save her world.
6. Taking Flight by Michaela and Elaine DePrince
In Sierra Leone, war orphan Michaela DePrince was called a "devil's child" because of her vitiligo. After she was adopted by an American couple, Michaela pursued her dream of becoming a ballerina, but racial discrimination marred her early experiences. Still, Michaela pushed on to become one of dance's biggest stars. Taking Flight is her story.
7. Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake
When 10-year-old Octobia May moves into her Auntie's boarding house, she discovers new freedoms not afforded to her as a young black girl in the 1950s. After a vampire murder mystery comes into the picture, it's up to Octobia May to solve the case.
8. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods
Violet Diamond's father died before she was born, leaving her the only dark-skinned member of her mother's white family. The intrepid 11-year-old sets out to connect with her father's family and her African-American heritage in this poignant novel from Brenda Woods.
9. The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
All Princess Pinecone wants is a strong horse that she can ride to victory as a great warrior. Instead, she gets a cute, fat little pony who farts a lot. Disappointed and undeterred, Pinecone trains her new steed to compete in the next warrior tournament. But can the princess and the pony win?
10. A Big Dose of Lucky by Marthe Jocelyn
In 1964, 16-year-old Malou sets out to find her birth family. Her search brings her to Parry Sound, where she sees a lot of people who could be her long-lost family. When no one wants to help her find the answers she seeks, Malou must dig into the heart of Parry Sound's dark secret.