Seeing ourselves represented and celebrated in stories helps us find possibilities for our lives and world we may not have ever considered. It allows us to connect with a character and see parts of ourselves and our lives in them. This is just as important as reading stories featuring characters different from ourselves so we can relate to them and see others as heroes in their own stories too. Take a look at these picture books that celebrate Black joy!
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Little Sulwe’s skin is darker than all her family’s whose skin tones are all as warm as the sun. She thinks of her skin as dark like the night. Children at school would call her names while calling her sister beautiful. Sulwe thinks that maybe if she was the same color as her sister, she would have friends. One night a star flies into her window and takes her on a journey though the night sky to show Sulwe how beautiful the dark is and how bright she can shine.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Zuri’s hair helps her express herself. There are so many ways she can style her hair, but a special day calls for an even more special hair style. Zuri tries to do it herself, but her dad finds her and steps in. After many attempts they create a style just how Zuri wants. This story celebrates a love of self-expression and father-daughter bonds.
Parker Looks Up by Parker Curry & Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson
Parker loves to dance ballet, but one rainy day her mom changes plans. Instead of taking her to dance class, she takes Parker and Parker’s little sister to the museum where they meet. To her surprise, they also meet up with her friend, Gigi, and her mom. Together they look at extraordinary paintings of many different people and animals and the kids act out the portraits, but one portrait makes Parker freeze. The portrait is Amy Sherald’s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Suddenly, Parker is transported. Never before this moment had Parker seen a glimpse of herself and the endless possibilities for her life that she only just saw because she saw a bit of herself in that painting.
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuin, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
It’s Tuesday! That means Lola gets to go to the library with her mom. She looks forward to this routine. This story shows Lola going about her day feeling all the joy of visiting the magical place that is the library as well as all the special things her mom does for her throughout their day together. Tuesdays are all about Lola, her mom, and the library, and this sweet picture book shows these experiences from Lola’s perspective.
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
After spending the day at the pool, Julián and his abuela ride the subway home where he spots beautiful people dressed like mermaids. When Julián gets home, he scavenges the house for a beautiful mermaid costume so he can be just like them. When he is finished with his costume, the home is a mess, and he wonders what Abuela will say. When Abuela finds him, instead of scolding him, she has a special surprise for Julián that will help him celebrate the joy and serenity of being himself. This story’s watercolor illustrations evoke a kind of nostalgia, coziness, and comfort. The book also depicts a variety of people, body types, costumes, and styles that inspire creativity and expression.
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