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12 Picture Book Biographies to Look Forward to in January 2023

Updated: Jan 22

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links


Black History Month is right around the corner and these new picture book biographies, written by Black authors, are perfect for celebrating the accomplishments of Black people. (Complete with publisher's descriptions)

Diverse Children's Books

This autobiographical picture book by the multiple Grammy Award-winning singer Roberta Flack recounts her childhood in a home surrounded by music and love: it all started with a beat-up piano that her father found in a junkyard, repaired, and painted green.


Growing up in a Blue Ridge mountain town, little Roberta didn't have fancy clothes or expensive toys...but she did have music. And she dreamed of having her own piano.


When her daddy spies an old, beat-up upright piano in a junkyard, he knows he can make his daughter's dream come true. He brings it home, cleans and tunes it, and paints it a grassy green. And soon the little girl has an instrument to practice on, and a new dream to reach for--one that will make her become a legend in the music industry.


Here is a lyrical picture book--perfect for aspiring piano players and singers--that shares an intimate look at Roberta Flack's family and her special connection to music.


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Diverse Children's Books

Created in partnership with Ebony Jr., this captivating Little Golden Book biography celebrates Beyoncé's rise from a shy little girl to a world-famous superstar.


Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé performed in various singing and dancing competitions as a child. She rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. Beyoncé continues to inspire and demonstrate that dreams--no matter how big--can be achieved through hard work and determination. Michelle Obama has called her a role model for us all. Since 1945, Ebony magazine has shined a spotlight on the worlds of Black people in America and worldwide, telling their stories. Ebony Jr! was created in 1973 to give Black children a magazine that was all their own. The magazine included stories, comics, puzzles, and cartoons centering Black children. Its mission was to ignite a love of reading and a love of self in Black kids, and we're continuing that with our branded LGB program.


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Created in partnership with Ebony Jr., this Little Golden Book biography celebrates the life and legacy of singer, performer, and activist Harry Belafonte.


When Harry Belafonte was a little boy, he moved from Harlem, New York, to live with his grandmother in Jamaica. There, Harry fell in love with Calypso music. It was the seed that blossomed into a life dedicated to inspiring people through music. This moving biography chronicles his life and career--as an actor, a singer, and a civil rights activist who has always sought to make a difference while encouraging people to treat each other with respect and kindness. Since 1945, Ebony magazine has shined a spotlight on the worlds of Black people in America and worldwide, telling their stories. Ebony Jr! was created in 1973 to give Black children a magazine that was all their own. The magazine included stories, comics, puzzles, and cartoons centering Black children. Its mission was to ignite a love of reading and a love of self in Black kids, and we're continuing that with our branded LGB program.


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Diverse Children's Book

A celebration of twelve Black women who were pivotal to the civil rights movement and the fight for justice and equal rights in America.


You've heard the names Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, but what about the many other women who were crucial to the civil rights movement?


Told through twelve short biographies, this book celebrates just some of the many Black women--each of whom has been largely underrepresented until now--who were instrumental to the nation's fight for civil rights and the contributions they made in driving the Movement forward.


An empowering, eye-opening look at how one person can impact greater change, this book is both a conversation starter and much-needed history lesson for our modern world.


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Diverse Childrens Books

A picture book biography about the barber shop of woodcarver Elijah Pierce, recipient of the highest folk-art honor in the United States.


Creeeeak! goes the screen door to self-taught artist Elijah Pierce's barbershop art studio. A young boy walks in for an ordinary haircut and walks out having discovered a lifetime of art.


Mr. Pierce's wood carvings are in every corner of the small studio. There are animals, scenes from his life, and those detailing the socio-political world around him. It's this collection of work that will eventually win Elijah the National Heritage Fellowship in 1982 just two years before his death. But the young boy visiting the shop in the 1970s doesn't know that yet. All he knows is: You gotta meet Mr. Pierce!


Based on the true story of Elijah Pierce and his community barber shop in Columbus, Ohio, this picture book includes cleverly collaged museum-sourced photos of his art and informative backmatter about his life. With engaging text by Pierce to the Soul! playwright Chiquita Mullins-Lee and Christopher Award-winning author Carmella Van Vleet, it's illustrated with striking Japanese woodblock by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. A new addition to vital Black art history!


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Diverse Children's Book

Perfect for fans of Hidden Figures and Mae Among the Stars! To Boldly Go tells the true story of Nichelle Nichols and how she used her platform on Star Trek to inspire and recruit a new generation of diverse astronauts and many others in the space and STEM fields.

As Lieutenant Uhura on the iconic prime-time television show Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols played the first Black female astronaut anyone had ever seen on screen. A smart, strong, independent Black woman aboard the starship Enterprise was revolutionary in the 1960s when only white men had traveled to outer space in real life and most Black characters on TV were servants.

Nichelle not only inspired a generation to pursue their dreams, but also opened the door for the real-life pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, Dr. Mae Jemison, and more.

This empowering tribute to the trailblazing pop culture icon reminds us of the importance of perseverance and the power of representation in storytelling. You just might be inspired to boldly go where no one like you has ever gone before!


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Related reading: 22 Notable Picture Book Biographies of 2022


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Discover the inspiring story of Augustus Jackson, an African American entrepreneur who is known as the father of ice cream, in this beautifully illustrated picture-book biography.


Augustus Jackson was born in 1808 in Philadelphia. While most African Americans were enslaved at that time, in Pennsylvania, slavery was against the law. But while Augustus and his family were free, they were poor, and they depended on their garden and their chickens for food. Augustus enjoyed helping his mom prepare meals for their family. He dreamed of becoming a professional cook, and when his mom suggested he may be able to make meals for the president one day, Augustus didn't waste any time in making that dream a reality. In 1820, when he was only twelve years old, he set off for Washington, DC. He applied to work in the White House, where the head cook offered him a job as a kitchen helper. After five years of working hard, Augustus, or Gus, was promoted to cook. He went on to serve presidents James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson.


During his time at the White House, Augustus became an expert at making a popular egg-based dessert. He soon made an eggless version--known to us today as ice cream--and left the White House determined to make and sell the frozen treat to everyone, not just the wealthy. Gus headed back home to Philadelphia, and in 1830, he opened his very own ice cream parlor. He devised a way to keep the ice cream frozen so that it could be shipped and sold to other businesses. Gus also began adding rock salt to the ice that he used to make his ice cream, which made the mixture freeze more quickly. This allowed him to speed up his production process. He created more ice cream with new flavors, and soon he was shipping product via train to places like New York City, which was 100 miles away. Gus's dream had come true, and better yet, he had brought smiles to many faces.


Shining a light on a little-known visionary, this inspiring picture-book biography includes an afterword, a list of sources, and an easy-to-follow recipe so readers can make their own delicious ice cream!


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From NBA All-Star Chris Paul comes an inspirational and uplifting picture book about chasing your basketball dreams and the lessons he learned both on and off the court from his beloved grandfather Papa Chilly.


Growing up, young Chris Paul dreamed of playing professional basketball. But he knew it would take more than dedication and practice, so Chris looked to his grandfather Papa Chilly as a shining example of the values he could apply both in basketball and in life. Papa taught him about respect, faith, kindness, generosity, and the determination to succeed, just as Papa had succeeded as the first Black business owner of a service station in North Carolina. Serving as a beacon of inspiration for Chris, Papa Chilly and his lessons propelled Chris to become the star NBA player--and person--he is today.


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Diverse Children's Book

Meet Diane Nash, a civil rights leader who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, in this illuminating nonfiction picture book that "highlights major moments in Nash's life" (The Horn Book, starred review).


Diane grew up in the southside of Chicago in the 1940s. As a university student, she visited the Tennessee State Fair in 1959. Shocked to see a bathroom sign that read For Colored Women, Diane learned that segregation in the South went beyond schools--it was part of daily life. She decided to fight back, not with anger or violence, but with strong words of truth and action.


Finding a group of like-minded students, including student preacher John Lewis, Diane took command of the Nashville Movement. They sat at the lunch counters where only white people were allowed and got arrested, day after day. Leading thousands of marchers to the courthouse, Diane convinced the mayor to integrate lunch counters. Then, she took on the Freedom Rides to integrate bus travel, garnering support from Martin Luther King Jr. and then the president himself--John F. Kennedy.


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Diverse Children's Book

Powerful sound clips from twelve Black leaders amplified by bold illustrations and background facts illuminate pivotal moments of Black history in America.


With the touch of the button, hear impactful quotes spoken by inspiring Black Americans in primary source audio files. Aimed at children ages 7-12, a succinct profile of the speaker alongside an explanation of the significance of the quote and moment provides the context for each audio clip. A vibrant illustration of the speaker completes the picture.


Through the included quotes, kids gain an age-appropriate understanding of the strides made in the ongoing journey for equality, from the early days of sound recording to modern day.


Lift Every Voice and Change features the voices of:

  • Booker T. Washington

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

  • John Lewis

  • Stokely Carmichael

  • James Baldwin

  • Stacey Abrams

  • Toni Morrison

  • Katherine Johnson

  • Jay-Z

  • Gladys Mae West

  • Faith Ringgold

  • Ayo Tometi

The voices chosen to represent an equal number of men and women, historical and modern figures, across a variety of disciplines. Some are household names and others may very well be introduced to children for the first time! Inspire the next generation of leading voices by inviting them to listen to and learn from the Black leaders of yesterday and today.


Manufacturer's note: Please pull the white tab out of the back of the book before use. Sound buttons require a firm push in the exact location to work, which may be hard for young children. Sound clips range in length but are an average of 12 seconds long.


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Diverse Children's Book

An evocative picture book biography about the prolific life of Jackie Ormes, whose groundbreaking cartoons became some of the first empowering depictions of Black women in America!


Jackie Ormes made history. She was the first Black woman cartoonist to be nationally syndicated in the United States. She was also a journalist, fashionista, philanthropist, and activist, and she used her incredible talent and artistry to bring joy and hope to people everywhere. But in post-World War II America, Black people were still being denied their civil rights, and Jackie found herself in a dilemma: How could her art stay true to her signature "Jackie joy" while remaining honest about the inequalities Black people had been fighting?

Rising stars Traci N. Todd, author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Nina: A Story of Nina Simone, and Shannon Wright, co-creator of the bestselling graphic novel Twins, have crafted a gorgeous and heartfelt tribute to the indelible legacy of Jackie Ormes, whose life and work still influences illustrators and cartoonists today.


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Diverse Children's Book

(BOARD BOOK) An exciting ABC board book featuring Black women musicians whose artistry and activism globally changed the way we hear and interact with music, one song at a time.


Spotlighting 26 Black women in music, A is for Aretha is a celebration of the contributions they made not only within their industry but also of the social causes that often underpinned their music. Within these pages are women whose music encouraged joy and self-love, advocated for racial justice, buoyed civil rights protests, and trailblazed paths for Black creatives that are still felt to this day. This board book is a perfect gift for a baby shower or the youngest music fan.


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Looking for more great books? Be sure to check out our list of 50 Notable Children's Books Published in 2022 That Everyone Should Read. This list of fabulous children's books has something everyone will love.

 

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