• Helping Kids Rise

#BlackBoyJoy: Books Highlighting The Everyday Joys of Being a Black Boy


Children's books featuring African American boys often focus on the struggles they face at the hands of an often unjust society. While it's important for children to understand the history of America and the work that is still left to be done, that isn't the entire existence of their childhoods.

There is also joy. Everyday, loving, and fulfilling, JOY.

Helping Kids Rise has created this list of books centered around the everyday lives of black boys. These books highlight the joys and diversity of black boys and remind them to embrace the happiness that surrounds them.

Note: For more information on each book, click the book's picture.

The Library Book by Tom Chapin

Illustrated by Michael Mark

What’s the best way to cure a gloomy day? A trip to the library! Based on the hit song by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark, here is an affectionate, exuberant, uproarious celebration of books, reading, and—SHHH!—libraries! The rain is pouring, Dad is snoring, and the same old stuff is on TV—boring. What is there to do today? Go to the library, of course! Who will we meet there? Let's find out!

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect coins. Some people collect art. And Jerome.... Jerome collected words . . .

In this extraordinary new tale from Peter H. Reynolds, Jerome discovers the magic of the words all around him -- short and sweet words, two-syllable treats, and multi-syllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect, transform, and empower. From the creator of The Dot and Happy Dreamer comes a celebration of finding your own words -- and the impact you can have when you share them with the world.

Baby Blessings A Prayer for the Day You Are Born by Deloris Jordan

Illustrated by James E. Ransome

This touching story from bestselling author Doloris Jordan celebrates the blessings new parents wish for their babies all through their lives. With a strong emphasis on the bonds families share, the inspirational text is accompanied by exquisite art from renowned illustrator James E. Ransome. From infancy to adulthood, there is always a place for Baby Blessings.

Max and the Tag Along Moon by Floyd Cooper

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Max loves his grandpa. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa promises Max that the moon at Grandpa’s house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. On that swervy-curvy car ride back to his house, Max watches as the moon tags along. But when the sky darkens and the moon disappears behind clouds, he worries that it didn’t follow him home after all. Where did the moon go—and what about Grandpa’s promise?

Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

by E.B. Lewis

In this companion book to the bestselling I Love My Hair, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut.

Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity..

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

Working up the courage to take a big, important leap is hard, but Jabari is almost absolutely ready to make a giant splash.

Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board.

In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

Kevin and His Dad by Irene Smalls

Illustrated by Michael Hays

A simple, graceful text and illustrations infused with warmth and love make this story of a day a boy and his dad spend together a special reading experience. Young boys and their fathers will relish this book that celebrates the ordinary things dads and kids can do together

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

Lauren Child tells the familiar tale of a less-than-welcome sibling with subtlety, insight, affection, and humor. Elmore Green starts life as an only child, as many children do. He has a room to himself, where he can line up his precious things and nobody will move them one inch. But one day everything changes. When the new small person comes along, it seems that everybody might like it a bit more than they like Elmore Green. And when the small person knocks over Elmore’s things and even licks his jelly-bean collection, Elmore’s parents say that he can’t be angry because the small person is only small. Elmore wants the small person to go back to wherever it came from. Then, one night, everything changes. . . .

In her signature visual style, Lauren Child gets to the heart of a child’s evolving emotions about becoming a big brother or sister.

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Hey black child,

Do you know who you are?

Who really are?

Do you know you can be

What you want to be

If you try to be

What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell.

He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Welcome Precious​ by Nikki Grimes

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

"Welcome, Precious. Welcome to the warm circle of your daddy's arms, the slippery kisses of your giddy grandmother, and the cool tickle of Mommy's nose rubbing against your belly button." Lulling, poetic text and captivating illustrations welcome a new baby to the wonders of the world, from peanut butter to moonlight. A perfect gift for expecting parents, big brothers- and sisters-to-be, or anyone who wishes to remember life's first magical moments

I'm a Big Brother Now​ by Katura J. Hudson

Illustrations by Sylvia L. Walker

Being a big brother is a big job. It takes a lot of work and patience, but it s a lot of fun, too. This charming picture book explores the anticipation, excitement, and pride of a young boy who takes on this important new role as he helps to welcome a new baby into the family.

Crown: An Ode to the​ Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by Gordon C. James

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty.

That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.

Where's Rodney by Carmen Bogan

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Rodney is that kid who just can’t sit still. He's inside, but he wants to be outside. Outside is where Rodney always wants to be. Between school and home, there is a park. He knows all about that park. It’s that triangle-shaped place with the yellow grass and two benches where grown-ups sit around all day. Besides, his momma said to stay away from that park.

When Rodney finally gets a chance to go to a real park, with plenty of room to run and climb and shout, and to just be himself, he will never be the same.

STAT​: Standing Tall and Talented #1: Home Court by Amar'e Stoudemire

Illustrated by Tim Jessell

Eleven-year-old Amar'e Stoudemire has a lot going on. He loves to go skateboarding in the park. He takes his school work very seriously. He helps out with his dad's landscaping company. And he likes to play basketball with his best friends-but just for fun.

When a group of older kids start disrespecting his boys on their neighborhood basketball court, there is only one solution. Amar'e must step in and use his athletic ability and intelligence to save the day. This experience leads Amar'e to realize that basketball is his true passion.

Based on the life of All-Star NBA sensation Amar'e Stoudemire, who overcame many obstacles to become one of the most popular figures in sports today.

Amar'e is just as versatile in his off the court life as he is on. He is devoted to several charities. He promotes literacy and education. He is a media darling. And he has an amazing story to tell in this heartfelt, accessible middle-grade series.

Ellray Jakes: Recess King by Home Court by Sally Warner

Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Eight-year-old EllRay is down to one-and-a-half best friends, and his little sister points out the obvious: he needs more!

So EllRay decides to audition other boys for the part, the way his sister is auditioning for the lead role in her day care’s spring play. Now, EllRay has to come up with fun things to do at recess, because when he’s the Recess King, everyone will want to be his friend!

Green Pants: by Kenneth Kraegel

Jameson only ever wears green pants. When he wears green pants, he can do anything. But if he wants to be in his cousin’s wedding, he’s going to have to wear a tuxedo, and that means black pants. It’s an impossible decision: Jameson would love nothing more than to be in his cousin's wedding, but how can he not wear green pants? Will Jameson turn down this big honor, or will he find a way to make everyone happy, including himself? I

n this pitch-perfect ode to individualism, acclaimed author-illustrator Kenneth Kraegel creates a character readers of all ages can root for — whatever color pants they wear!

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