All children love seeing faces like theirs within the pages of their picture books, but it can be hard to find books starring kids of color.
As part of Black History Month, I’m sharing my favorite stories of everyday life starring black Mighty Girls for toddlers, preschoolers, and younger elementary school readers. Whether they’re fixing robots or outsmarting foxes, going to the library or dancing on stage, these Mighty Girl characters exude confidence and happiness — and with the support of devoted friends and family, there’s nothing they can’t do!
Who would have thought that a nineteenth century poem would make such a beautiful board book for modern babies? When Mama falls asleep on the couch, it’s Dad’s turn for special time with his baby as they swing, lift, and dance their way around the house. Colorful illustrations complement the playful text and make this book the perfect prelude to a baby dance of your own.
Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this colorful book about a little girl and bird explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. It’s a great way to show girls role models in STEM from the very beginning!
This little girl is big enough to be ready to say goodbye to her beloved pacifier! She remembers being a baby, when the only thing she could do was cry — but now that she can speak, she can ask for what she needs, whether that’s a snack, a nap, or a nice comforting hug. This simple and engaging book presents a little girl who’s full of confidence that she can manage this important transition from baby to big kid!
Every toddler loves to play peekaboo, and they’ll have such fun following the active and adorable protagonist of this story as she peekaboos her way through her morning. The game starts with mommy, then daddy, her puppy, and even Grandma and Grandpa get in on the action! The big text and colorful pictures invite children to chime in as they become familiar with the book. This is one of those books kids will want to read again and again.
This sweet and funny story captures the joys, challenges, frustrations, and laughter that come with raising a toddler! The action starts at three in the morning with the plea “Go back to bed, baby, please, baby, please.” The refrain continues throughout this silly take on a “day in the life” story, making it loads of fun to read aloud and a joy for children to listen to. And to see the tables turned on the toddlers, check out the sequel Please, Puppy, Please, in which a new pet shows the little girl just what it’s like when someone won’t listen to you!
For this little girl, bedtime is for special time with Daddy! In this charming bedtime book, as a father cradles his little girl, she is whisked away on an imaginative adventure swinging above lush floral gardens under the golden moonlight — that ends, naturally, in content slumber. The text, inspired by “Rock-a-bye baby”, is engaging and loving, and coupled with the whimsical and peaceful illustrations, this is a fantastic bedtime or anytime story.
This little girl is proud to show all the people around her how independent she can be! Whether she’s pouring juice at breakfast or riding a bike, her attempts may not always be perfect, but she knows that, with practice, there’s nothing she can’t learn to do. The bold artwork depicts the adults on one page and the little girl on the other, making this book fun as a read-aloud or for kids to look at independently.
Toddlers can sometimes feel like everyone knows more than them, but if they think about it, they know an awful lot! Heavy and light, day and night, light and dark… they’re all important facts that govern the way our world works. In fact, “If you ask me things / I know a lot!” This lighthearted rhyming story that celebrates the small wins of early childhood is sure to become a fast favorite.
When Carmin gets gum on her shoe while playing on the playground, she decides it’s time that someone did something about the mess — and that “someone” may as well be her! But Carmin’s not old enough to clean the whole park by herself, so what can she do? It turns out that even the littlest kids can find ways to encourage people to take care of their community — and their environment. This cheerful picture book with a positive message is a fun read and a great way to prompt discussions about how kids can help.
Tuesday is a special day for Lola: it’s the day she and her mother go to the library! From the moment she packs her backpack with books and her very own library card, the day is full of fun: storytime, singing, choosing new books, and a stop on the way home for an extra treat. Fans of Lola will also enjoy the sequels: Lola Loves Stories and Lola Reads to Leo follow Lola as she becomes an independent reader, while Lola Plants a Garden shows Lola putting her reading to good use as she learns more about a new hobby. And in a brand-new 2017 release, Lola Gets A Cat, Lola puts her research skills to good use to prove that she’s ready for the responsibility of owning a pet.
Lola has really, really big hair — bigger than any of the other kids at school! And while people sometimes stare at her hair, and it can even cause unexpected problems she’s still proud to tell everyone who will listen that she loves every curl of her big hair. Kids will giggle at some of the surprising challenges Lola’s big hair causes — like making her lose a game of hide and seek! — and cheer “big hair, don’t care!” along with her, while parents will love the positive and affirming tone.
Isabel’s best friend Simon has to move away, and for a while, she retreats into isolation: she has a parrot who likes to sit on her head and a bunch of boxes in her room that sort everything, and that’s enough… isn’t it? But when her parrot starts to worry about the box of wolves, Isabel doesn’t know what to do. Maybe Chester, a boy who has a way with umbrellas and sticky tape, can help her find a solution. This engaging story about resiliency and managing change is a pleasure to read and is sure to spark discussion.
A spunky young girl recruits her friends and neighbors to help make their community better in this book inspired by the Bob Marley classic One Love. As they work, play, and sing together, they soon create a very special place they can all enjoy: a green and beautiful One Love Park. Kids will love this upbeat picture book’s message that anyone can start big change. Fans of the book should also check out the One Love Doll for ages 2 to 6, which is modeled after the main character.
Grandma Lena takes good care of her veggie garden, but one year, even she outdoes herself and grows a massive turnip! But when the time comes to pull it, Grandma Lena can’t make it budge. Even with help from Grandpa, Uncle Izzy, and even the family dog, that turnip doesn’t move an inch… until Baby Pearl adds one last bit of oomph to the family’s pull. This retelling of a Russian folk tale seems perfectly at home in a modern setting, and makes a great starting point for talking about seeds, farming, and where our food comes from.
This delightful picture book tells the story of a biracial little girl and her relationship with her grandparents, who provide a magical place for her to stay when Mom and Dad are busy. Raschka’s evocative illustrations, which won the Caldecott Medal, provide a tribute to the joys of childhood and the special relationship between grandchild and grandparents. Fans of this book will also want to check out Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie (ages 3 to 7), in which Nanny and Poppy help their granddaughter learn to manage emotions and show that, no matter what mood she’s in, they will always love her.
This Coretta Scott King Award winner explores the relationship between an aunt and niece as they set out on a road trip to North Carolina. In this special trip in Aunt Martha’s brand-new car, there will be “no boys and no men — just us women.” And with just the two of them, they’re free to do whatever they please! The poetic text celebrates the joy of independence and travel, especially with a fun traveling companion. It’s the perfect book to encourage you to look for adventure, whether on a road trip or otherwise.
A walk to the park is full of rhythm for this little girl and her mother! All the ambient sounds come together in a beat that they can’t resist, and soon their joyful dance to the sounds of ice cream sellers, street performers, and even butterflies attracts all the other children to join in. With each double page spread showing a way to capture the rhythm — with hands, knees, feet, and more — this book make a great read-aloud.
This beautiful book tells the story of a little girl and her dad as they plan a birthday surprise for her mom: a garden of beautiful flowers. Readers go along for the ride as the girl and her dad travel through an urban landscape to buy a window box, then return home to plant the flowers, light the candles on the cake, and be ready to surprise her mother as she opens the door! A wonderful celebration of family, this story is perfectly complimented by the warm and lush illustrations.
Kenaya is a little girl with a big imagination. Every night, she and her mother sit down for the dreaded ritual of combing Kenaya’s thick hair. But as Kenaya’s mother tells her all the wonderful and different ways she can wear her hair, Kenaya imagines those styles in fantastic ways, from thread on a spinning wheel to rows of plants in a garden to her favorite style, two ponytails that become wings that let her soar high above the world. This tribute to the beauty of naturally textured hair is sure to delight.
In the middle of Marcy’s neighborhood there’s an ugly, littered vacant lot. But one year, rather than planting flowers in coffee cans, Marcy and her fellow gardener Miss Rosa decide to plant a garden in the lot instead. They have to work hard to find the right way to get city approval for their garden — all while Old Man Hammer grumbles that they’re getting their hopes up for nothing — but their enthusiasm is infectious, and soon the whole community is chipping in to create a beautiful garden space. This celebration of community gardens will be a hit with any green-thumbed child!
This exuberant little girl knows that there’s nothing better than being yourself. Children will giggle at the depictions of bedhead and beaver breath — or more imaginative flaws, like horns coming out of her nose! Beneath the laughter, though, Karen Beaumont succeeds in showing readers that every person is special and deserves to celebrate who they are.
Lena is painting a picture of herself and tells her mother that she needs brown for her skin — but her mother isn’t going to let her get off that easily! She insists that there are many shades of brown, and to prove it, she takes Lena for a walk through the neighborhood, where she sees skin colors that look like honey, peanut butter, pizza crust, ginger, peaches, chocolate, and more. By the end of her walk, Lena has learned to see “brown” in a whole new way. This positive look at skin color will get kids finding and celebrating the unique color of their own skin tones.
This little girl discovers that shapes are everywhere! As she walks through the city, she sees big rectangle skyscrapers and circular bubbles, diamond kites and more. Cheerful verse encourages young readers to spot the shapes in each illustration — there are plenty more to find than just the one in the text. A sweet ending where the little girl finds “the SHAPE /she loves best. /The SHAPE that is home — / her warm CIRCLE nest” provides a sense of comfort and calm at the end of a busy day.
Gia liked things the way they were, but now her mother is pregnant and all anyone talks about is the baby: her friends ask if she hopes for a boy or a girl, her relatives fuss over Mama, and even her teacher reads a story about being a big sister. Eventually, Gia explodes, yelling that she’s tired of hearing about the “DING-DANG BABY!” Fortunately, patient, understanding Mama is there to reassure her that, while many things will change, Gia will always have her mother. This lovely story about an unsure soon-to-be big sister is sure to resonate with many Mighty Girls.
It’s 1960, and there’s only one think Alta can think about at the parade tomorrow: Wilma Rudolph, the three-time Olympic gold medalist, will be there! Once, she was the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee; now Alta is, and she can’t wait to meet her hero. But then a new girl with shiny, fancy shoes challenges Alta to a race. What will happen if Alta isn’t the quickest any more? This story about perseverance, teamwork, and following your dream also pays tribute to the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympiad.
This charming book manages to perfectly mix the real and the fantastical in this story of a capable farm girl who finds herself raising a dragon! Hank the dragon is a good helper on the farm, but draws a little too much attention. But when she takes him to a new home on Dragon Island, she learns it won’t be long before her talents are needed again! The vibrant illustrations perfectly accompany the text, with its matter-of-fact voice, and will have every young reader wanting her very own dragon to raise!
Winifred Schnitzel isn’t scared of the monsters in her bedroom, but she sure is frustrated — she needs her sleep! Every night they’re there, making a ruckus, despite the cleverest traps that Winifred can think up. Perhaps Winifred will have to get a bit more creative to deal with her monster problem (Hint: monsters hate kisses!) This funny bedtime story will have kids giggling — and contemplating how they might deal with their own exasperating fears.
Sophia has only One True Desire for her birthday: a pet giraffe. But she has Four Big Problems in the way: Mom (a judge), Dad (a businessman), Uncle Conrad (a politician), and Grand-mama (a strict disciplinarian). She gives each member of her family an individualized presentation but none of them are swayed — not until she adds the most important word of all: “Please!” (And follows it up with “Thank you!”) This clever book featuring a loving multiracial family blends kindergarten with the board of directors to hilarious result; parents and educators will particularly enjoy the depiction of an African-American female judge.
After spring vacation, Kenya is supposed to write a report about how they spent their time off — but Kenya hasn’t done anything worth writing about! Then she visits a museum with an exhibit on recycling, and with her mind primed, she takes a walk through her neighborhood with her daddy and realizes that her old, broken toys and other “garbage” can actually make beautiful art. Now Kenya doesn’t just have something to write: she’s also determined to teach her class how to recycle, reuse, and make art. It’s a celebration of creativity and green thinking that’s sure to get readers making their own recycled art.
Zulay and her first-grade friends all study the same things, even though Zulay is blind. But while she’s still self-conscious about her new white cane, when Zulay’s teacher asks what activities they want to do for field day, Zulay answers right away: she wants to run a race! Fortunately, with the help of a supportive teacher and caring friends, there’s no reason Zulay can’t race too. This delightful book simultaneously celebrates everything that people with disabilities can do, while also reminding kids that everyone faces their own challenges.
This girl has a wonderful dress, that she always wears on her favorite day of the week. And when it’s finally too short, she moans and complains — until her mother urges her to “make molehills out of mountains” by thinking of something she could do to address the problem. After a flash of inspiration, with the help of her crafty mama, the dress becomes a shirt, a tank top, a scarf, and so on — until finally, with the last few scraps, she makes something that will preserve the memory of her favorite dress forever. This celebration of ingenuity and resilience is sure to resonate with anyone who’s dreaded the loss of a favorite thing.
When Grace hears that America has never had a female president, she decides that she will be the first — and the school mock election provides the perfect opportunity for her to get some political practice. But she runs into some difficulty when her popular opponent’s claim that he’s “the best man for the job” captures the votes of the boys, who hold the most electoral votes. Undeterred, Grace decides to focus on what she’ll do with the position in an effort to prove that elections are about the best person for the job. This fun book teaches the election process — and the importance of every vote — as well as the message that girls can be leaders.
Flossie has never seen a fox when her mother sends her to take eggs to Miz Viola, whose chickens have been harassed by an egg-eating fox. So when she bumps into a clever, red-furred creature in the woods, she refuses to believe he’s a fox like he claims. Offended, the fox tries to point out his very fox-like attributes, only to have Flossie shake her head at every turn… until suddenly he realizes the clever girl has led him straight to the noses of the McCutchins’ hounds! This sly tale is a fun read aloud that celebrates a spirited girl who can outfox the fox.
Sassy loves ballet more than anything, but she worries that her large feet, her long legs, or her big mouth will keep her from reaching her dream. When a famous director visits Sassy’s class, looking for talent for a dance festival, she tries to get his attention by wearing a vibrant leotard and leaping as high as she can. Despite the sneers of her classmates, Sassy learns that, sometimes, it’s good to stand out. Inspired by Allen’s own experiences as a young dancer, this story is also a great way to open a discussion about empathy and bullying.
Despite Big Mama’s exasperated requests to leave the chickens alone, this little girl is determined to become the best chicken-chaser in the county. Soon, she can catch every chicken on the farm… except Miss Hen, the fastest, cleverest chicken around. The summer turns into a battle of wills between the girl and the chicken until she discovers Miss Hen’s secret hiding place — and the nest of chicks hidden there — and makes the more mature decision not to trouble Miss Hen while she’s with her babies. Full of delightful language that rolls off the tongue, this humorous read aloud will get kids laughing!
Callie and Charlie are twins, but while they have a lot in common, they also have some big differences — including Charlie’s autism. Because of that, Callie knows that some things are very hard for Charlie: sometimes he can’t speak; other times he doesn’t know what to do to keep himself safe. But there are also many things that Charlie does very well, including loving his sister — even if he does have a different way of showing it. This warm story, based on the mother and daughter authors’ experiences, fills a much-needed role in helping neurotypical kids understand their autistic peers.
Grace loves acting out stories, so when she hears that her school will be putting on the play Peter Pan, she is hoping to be cast as Peter. The other kids, though, say that’s impossible — Peter’s a boy, and he’s not black, so how could Grace play him? Grace’s Ma and Grandma, though, think she can do anything she puts her mind to and they might just be right! Fans of Grace will also enjoy checking out Princess Grace, where Grace’s questions prompt her class to find out all about the multicultural and multitalented princesses of the world.
After her teacher put the word “beautiful” on the chalkboard, this little girl wishes there were something beautiful in her neighborhood: all she sees is ugly and scary, from graffiti on the walls to broken glass on the ground. But when she asks her neighbors what they know that’s beautiful, each of them has an immediate answer for her, ranging from a perfectly cooked fish sandwich to a round, juicy apple to a smooth stone. Beauty, she realizes, lies in our own eyes and actions — which means that we all have the power to find it. This engaging book provides an important message about happiness and empowerment.
Jayla has been bullied by her classmate Sam in the past, so when Sam starts to target her friend Luisa, Jayla reluctantly finds herself drawn in. She knows it’s wrong, but if she refuses, Sam could target them both. Fortunately, with the help of caring adults and friends, Jayla finds the courage to stand up to Sam. This unique trilogy depicts bullying from three different perspectives — bully, bullied, and bystander — to provide a nuanced discussion of the issue. Check out the other two volumes, Weird! and Tough!, to complete this powerful series.
After Libby tells a lie, her mother gives her a lesson in the importance of telling the truth. But when Libby decides to be completely honest all the time, people don’t seem happy with that either — even if it is true that her friend has a hole in her sock, her classmate forgot his lunch money, and the next-door neighbor’s yard that looks like a jungle. It’s not until Libby gets a taste of a truth about herself that she begins to understand that the truth can either help or hurt. This excellent lesson on one of childhood’s most difficult concepts — truth, lies, and being kind — is lighthearted, witty, and fun.
Young Ada is full of curiosity, so when her house fills with a toe-curling smell, she’s determined to track down the cause. She embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble! Fortunately, Ada and her supportive family realize that it’s always worth asking “why”, even if only leads to more questions. This new release by the author of Rosie Revere, Engineer reinforces the importance of perseverance captured in that book, as well as celebrating a love of science and a burning desire to learn.
Jazmin has been eagerly waiting for the day of the neighborhood parade, ready to twirl her baton and take the lead… but when the day finally comes, it’s grey, rainy, and thunderous. “Mud Puddler…Cloud Crasher…Parade Wrecker,” she complains, but the rain keeps coming. Finally, frustration leads her outside to shake her fists and stomp her feet — where she discovers that the rain can be plenty of fun too! Soon all her friends are cheering on Jazmin the Rain Stomper, whose stomping and splashing manages to outlast the rain. This encouraging story about making the best of a situation may inspire a few rain stomping parades!
When Precious is left home along, her Mama gives her an important warning: “Don’t let nothing or nobody into this house.” After all, the person or thing at the door might be the Boo Hag, a terrifying trickster! But when the Boo Hag really does come calling, can Precious outwit this clever foe? And if she does, is the Boo Hag defeated… or just gone for now? This just-scary-enough story is perfect for a spirited read-aloud.
JoJo loves Tae Kwon Do, but when Master Kim declares she’s ready to take her yellow belt test, suddenly her stomach is tied in knots. Some of the skills, particularly the flying side kick and the board break, are very intimidating, especially when JoJo is still afraid of the tree outside her bedroom window. Her friends and family have lots of advice, but in the end, it’s JoJo who finds the key to turning her fears into success. With dynamic illustrations and a story every young reader can identify with, this story is sure to be a favorite.
Thunder Rose was born on the night of a ferocious storm, and it’s clear early on that she’s just as fierce! Even as a child, she can lift a cow over her head when she wants a drink, and she soon shows a gift for metalwork, making gear to restrain cattle, capture bandits, and even squeeze the rain out of the clouds. And when two tornadoes threaten, her song of thunder is enough to calm them. This wonderful tall tale with exuberant illustrations will have kids dreaming of their own Wild West adventures!
Kameeka and Jamara are going to go head to head today to see who’s really the Hula-Hooping Queen of 139th Street… until Kameeka’s mother reminds her that today is their neighbor Miz Adeline’s birthday and sets Kameeka to work on chores for the party. Kameeka’s distraction results in a ruined cake, so she shamefully confesses to Miz Adeline… only to discover that Miz Adeline knows “the hula-hoopin’ itch” rather well herself! Before long, the whole neighborhood is hooping together, and Kameeka finds the perfect birthday dessert to celebrate Miz Adeline: a hoop-shaped doughnut. This cheerful story of love and forgiveness is sure to inspire her to pick up her own hula hoop.
In this first book by ballerina superstar Misty Copeland, a young girl who dreams of dancing finds her confidence shaky, especially when she compares herself to her idol: how can a beginner like her ever hope to aspire to such lofty heights? Then, to her surprise, her idol answers back, telling her that “I was a dancer just like you, / a dreaming shooting star of a girl / with work and worlds ahead.” But someday, she reminds the girl, it will be her who stands up on a stage and inspires another little girl. An inspiring story featuring an all-too-rare character — a black prima ballerina — this poetic book will encourage girls to keep their sights set on their dreams.
A little girl who loves to tinker and fix things finds a robot in the woods — and is shocked when the push of a button activates him for the first time! Soon, the pair are the best of friends, but the little robot is also curious about its own kind. Unfortunately, the large, sinister robots at the factory that made the little robot are looking for him too and they don’t care who they hurt along the way to get him back. Now, the two new friends will have to fight for the little robot’s freedom! This fun and charming graphic novel, which stars an inventive and intelligent Mighty Girl, will be a hit with any young reader who’s imagined having their own robot friend.