We know how much the world is hurting right now. The current environment can be a confusing time for many parents. We want to protect our children from chaos and violence. We also want to hold true to our sense of justice and humanity—of basic human rights.
At Literati, we are dedicated to using the power of books and the magic of story to inspire empathy and compassion. Stories help us to feel how others feel, to open our eyes to experiences besides our own. We’ll continue to use stories to bring compassion for black people into the hearts and minds of our children—and quite frankly, ourselves as well. We hope you’ll join us.
We know that the literary world (and the rest of the world) has a long way to go when it comes to representation and inclusion, but we want to highlight books that celebrate characters of color and diversity. These nine stories lay the groundwork for guiding these important conversations with your kids:
1. This Little Dreamer by Joan Holub
We may say you’re a dreamer, but you’re not the only one. Meet ten influential characters who paved the way for dreamers big and small to follow.
This Little Dreamer is an imaginative primer full of tiny facts, bold illustrations, and heroic humans. It’s cute, yes, but it’s also a very important reminder that impactful people can have small beginnings—and that our differences are what make humanity stronger. Dare to dream, and your little reader might just alter the course of history.
2. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
Should your child let prejudice determine his or her destiny? Never, ever, ever. Mae dreams of seeing the earth from space, but her teacher says she can’t become an astronaut. Her mother tells her, if you can dream it, you can accomplish anything. And now, Mae Carol Jemison is among our stars—because Mae is a real person, and in 1992, she became the first female, African-American engineer to travel to space.
We love a story that inspires kids to think and dream for themselves, but this one is especially beautiful in both illustration and theme. It’s a painful reminder of how hard women of color struggle to break barriers, 40 years ago and still today, but it’s also an inspiring encouragement to reach for the stars. Someday, you may actually grasp them.
3. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
There are many reasons you might feel different. Maybe it’s how your hair curls, the accent in your voice, the foods you eat, the home you come from. Take courage! The Day You Begin reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes. When we’re brave enough to reach out and share our stories, we can start to find common ground. (Pro tip: keep the tissues close when you’re reading this one. Just in case.)
“This is the day you begin to find the places inside your laughter and your lunches, your books, your travel and your stories, where every new friend has something a little like you—and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”
4. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Coretta Scott King
Their names were Dorothy Vaughan. Mary Jackson. Katherine Johnson. Christine Darden. They were really, really good at math. They were women. They were black. And they contributed to some of NASA’s greatest successes during the golden days of the Space Race.
Yes, it’s the same Hidden Figures as the New York Times bestselling novel and award-winning film you know and love—but this version is adapted into bite-sized language and dreamy illustrations that will inspire even very young readers to believe in themselves, no matter what.
5. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
What’s the difference between a want and a need? Jeremy wants a cool pair of shoes just like the ones that everyone else at school is wearing. But Jeremy’s grandmother explains that he needs a warm pair of boots, and they simply can’t afford two pairs.
When we find a gem of a book like this one, we read it often and remember it forever. Those Shoes could be anyone’s story; it’s heartachingly real and beautifully multicultural, and it teaches the importance of good character to readers of all ages. It’s also inspired some Literati readers to do great things. Truly, we couldn’t be more honored.
6. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
We love a good update to a beloved classic, and this African retelling of the Cinderella fairytale is no exception. Mufaro loves his two daughters equally, so when the king comes searching for a bride, he hopes that both his daughters have a chance at finding happiness. But what matters most? Physical beauty, or beauty of the heart?
This gorgeous story is a breath of fresh air from glass slippers and impossibly tiny feet. It’s time to teach your kids that beauty comes in many forms, and that kindness, generosity, honesty, and love are some of the most beautiful traits of all.
7. Salt In His Shoes by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan
He’s a champion in the world of basketball and a legend on and off the court—but Michael Jordan wasn’t born a hoop hero. Michael was an average kid, with hope and dreams and worries just like all the rest of us. What if I don’t grow tall enough to play professional basketball? What’s the secret to accomplishing your dreams?
His parents tell him a secret: shake salt in your shoes, and you’ll grow taller. But then they share the true secrets: patience, determination, and hard work are the actual keys to achieving your deepest desires.
Our heroes don’t start out as heroes, but with ironclad motivation and strong character, they become the names we know and revere. So, little reader: where will patience, determination, and hard work take you?
8. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
This true story of ingenuity and resilience was adapted for young readers from the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name (now also a Netflix movie). When a drought strikes our young hero WIliiam’s Malawian village, the resulting famine causes riots, rationing, and robberies that devastate his home.
William is only 13, but he believes he can make a difference. Thanks to some salvaged materials and the local library, he teaches himself how to harness the wind and bring electricity to his family and neighbors. It’s a raw, real story, and a must-read for young engineers-in-training, or anyone in need of inspiration in the face of adversity.
9. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
Her mama is the color of dawn, her father is the color of dusk, and her sister is the color of high noon. But Sulwe’s skin is dark. Darker than her family, her friends, or anyone she knows. She dreams of changing it, and her dreams whisk her away on a fantastical adventure through the stars.
Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o stunned the world with this stunningly-beautiful debut children’s book. It’s a gorgeous, fantastical lesson that teaches children, or anyone, to love the skin they’re in. From everyone here at Literati, it’s an absolute must-read.
In support of #BlackLivesMatter, Literati is donating to the Austin Justice Coalition, the Grassroots Leadership, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.