In 2020, educators and avid readers collectively recognized the urgency of reading anti-racist books and exercising self-education. It was apparent, perhaps more so than other years, why Black stories matter, especially in the classroom. While, in 2021 and beyond, recognizing Black pain and struggle remains an important focus, the curators of the First Book Marketplace for educators also work to strike a balance –highlighting books that celebrate Black joy, excellence, and progress.
Lori Prince, Director Merchandising at First Book shared, “We want to make sure that all readers see the full breadth of the Black experience, not just stories of trauma and oppression.”
We may celebrate Black History Month in February, but Black history is now – this minute, this year, this decade. Give readers of any age the tools they need to learn more with First Book’s 28 books for 28 days, a hand-picked selection of fantastic reads, designed especially for educators.
These titles tend to sell out quickly, but more are on their way, so check back often!
28 Books for 28 Days
PreK – 1st Grade
- Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
Featuring 18 trailblazing Black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.
- Mommy’s Khimar (First Book Special Edition) by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped up in her mother’s colorful headscarf, called a khimar, in this sweet and fanciful picture book.
- Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata
Ty can’t wait to ride his brand-new scooter at the park. Other kids zip and zoom by like race cars, but all Ty can do is wobble! Ty wants to give up, but a new friend helps Ty give it another try.
- Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
The team behind the Newbery Medal winner and Caldecott Honor book Last Stop on Market Street once again delivers a surprising and timely picture book that helps readers discover that you can’t really know someone just by looking at them.
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.
2nd – 3rd Grade
- The ABCs of Black History, by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer
This beautiful alphabet picture book presents key names, moments, and places in Black history with text lyrically written by poet Rio Cortez.
- A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful civil rights statement. A Ride to Remember reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time.
- Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Both tender and whimsical, Big Papa and the Time Machine follows a grandfather and grandson who travel through time—in and out of moments in Big Papa’s twentieth-century life—and discover the true meaning of being brave along the way.
- Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito, illustrated by Laura Freeman
This stunning picture book explores the life of Georgia Gilmore, a hidden figure of history who played a critical role in the civil rights movement and used her passion for baking to help the Montgomery Bus Boycott achieve its goal.
- Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer by Michaela DePrince and Elaine Deprince, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Introduce newly independent readers to the amazing life of one of America’s top ballerinas, Michaela DePrince, whose story of resilience and triumph will inspire them to reach for their dreams
- Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Award-winning author Renée Watson’s Ramona-esque new series stars an irrepressible girl and her lovable family, and is filled with spirit, kindness, and sunshine.
4th – 5th Grade
- The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer
Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, this exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March introduces a little-known but truly critical moment in civil rights history.
- Serena Says by Tanita S. Davis
Award-winning author Tanita S. Davis delivers a heartwarming and humorous middle grade tale about a young girl who finds her own voice through vlogging and learns to speak out.
- Class Act by Jerry Craft
Jerry Craft follows up the critically acclaimed and Newbery award-winning New Kid with this poignant and funny companion graphic novel about Jordan’s friend Drew, who has his own struggles at Riverdale Academy Day School.
- From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
This middle grade debut by Janae Marks follows Zoe Washington after she receives an unexpected letter on her twelfth birthday from the incarcerated father she’s never met. Her courageous journey to uncover the truth about his imprisonment is brimming with equal parts mystery and heart.
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
A classroom favorite for over 25 years, Curtis’ award-winning tale of an unforgettable family on a journey south reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything.
- Blended by Sharon M. Draper
Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Sharon M. Draper.
6th – 8th Grade
- Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston
Readers are raving about this exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy series filled with #blackgirlmagic, about a young girl who must earn a spot at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs in order to find her missing brother.
- Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
From award-winning and bestselling author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition.
- March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
Book One in the ground-breaking graphic novel series spans Congressman John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.
- Before the Ever After by Jaqueline Woodson
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s stirring novel-in-verse explores the cost of professional sports on Black bodies and how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed.
- Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan
From celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan comes a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer.
9th – 12th Grade
- Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden
In this searing historical novel, Tonya Bolden pens an intimate portrait of a young woman who risks everything for a future of her own making.
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas—and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
This award-winning, genre-defying novel by the New York Times bestselling author Akwaeke Emezi explores themes of identity and justice and asks: How do you share the truth when the world around you is in denial?
- Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff
Jason Reynolds’s Newbery Honor, Printz Honor, and Coretta Scott King Honor-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling novel Long Way Down is now a gripping, galvanizing graphic novel, with haunting artwork by Danica Novgorodoff.
- Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (Adapted for Young Adults) by Bryan Stevenson
In this very personal work—adapted from the original #1 bestseller—renowned lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom as the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Looking for More Suggestions?
First Book adds new books to the Marketplace weekly! Visit often to see what new books we’ve added to our selection of titles about Black history, books featuring African American characters and cultures, and books by African American authors and illustrators.
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Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring these titles to your classroom.