This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor. Taylor, one of the first African-American children’s-book authors to gain widespread acclaim, later won the Newbery Medal for the book. Her work was pivotal in empowering black children to see themselves in young adult literature—inspiring a modern generation of black writers to believe that our stories could have a place in the world of children’s literature.
“I am a writer because Ms. Taylor wrote this book and I saw myself inside the pages of it,” says writer Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the National Book Award for her novel Brown Girl Dreaming.
Although children’s literature is still dominated by white authors and white narratives, much progress has been made in the 50 years since Taylor’s first book was published. Check out the rest of her stories featuring Cassie Logan and her family to enter into some of the most powerful writing for black young-adult readers. Then continue enjoying Taylor’s legacy with this list of 11 books by black authors that have been already been published in the first half of 2016—just in time to build the perfect summer reading list for any young readers you may know.
Hope Wabuke is a Southern California-based writer and a contributing editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
1. Booked, by Kwame Alexander
This latest addition from the Newbery Medal-winning author of The Crossover is a novel-in-verse set in the world of soccer. This time our hero is 12-year-old Nick, who navigates the world of family, sports, school, friendship and first love with the help of a teammate and a friendly librarian. But most of all, it is the power of words—rhyming and rap music—that helps Nick come into his own and triumph through the pain of his parents’ divorce. A powerful read bursting with energetic, lyrical prose.
2. Peas and Carrots, by Tanita S. Davis
This heartwarming story from the Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author is the story of two girls named Dess and Hope. Dess is the daughter of an absent, abusive father and addict mother. Hope is the treasured daughter of a well-to-do black family. But when Dess’ mother is arrested again and Hope’s parents decide to take in Dess as their foster child, the two girls are brought together to realize that they have more in common then they think.
11. To Catch a Cheat, by Varian Johnson
This highly entertaining sequel to The Great Greene Heist finds Jackson Greene and his friends framed for a crime they didn’t commit. And the real criminals are trying to blackmail Jackson as well. Never one to back down, Jackson devises a plan to clear his name and bring the perpetrators to justice.
3. Shiny, Broken Pieces, by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
The second book in this already popular Tiny Pretty Things series continues the high-stakes drama of Gigi, Bette and June’s foray into the world of ballet. As each dancer strives to be the best, she must deal with friendship, ambition and intrigue—and determine just how much she is willing to sacrifice to be the best and win the single spot available at the American Ballet Co.
4. Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, by Gwendolyn Hooks
This endearing picture book brings to life the true story of Vivien Thomas, who overcame racism and poverty to fulfill his lifelong dream of studying medicine—eventually developing the first open-heart-surgery procedure for use on children. An important story, simply and beautifully told.
5. Yellow Brick War, by Danielle Paige
Emmy-nominated screenwriter Danielle Paige gives us her third installment in her New York Times best-selling Dorothy Must Die series. Here, Amy Gumm has been swept to from Kansas to Oz by a tornado and tasked with one important job: She must kill Dorothy before Dorothy destroys Oz.
6. Keep Me in Mind, by Jaime Reed
When Ellia Dawson wakes up in the hospital after a terrifying accident, she has no memory of Liam McPhearson, her boyfriend of the past two years. Instead, she feels much more comfortable with another patient in the hospital who is also recovering from trauma. As Liam tries to win Ellia back, she pulls further away. Will Ellia regain her memory and reunite with Liam? In this touching novel for high school readers, Jaime Reed explores questions of memory, selfhood and connections between people.
7. Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick
When two very different girls, both named Naomi, discover that their parents have decided to date each other, they are pushed into getting to know each other by their parents. Although at first resistant, the two Naomis must find a way to navigate their new relationship and their new family. A compassionate, necessary tale about the real-life act of building a blended family.
8. As Brave as You, by Jason Reynolds
On a visit to their grandparents in Virginia, Brooklyn, N.Y., brothers Genie and Ernie decide to determine who is braver than the other. But nothing ever turns out exactly as planned. And as they discover that each of them has a different definition of bravery, the brothers must decide for themselves exactly what it means to be brave.
9. One More Dino on the Floor, by Kelly Starling Lyons
In this delightful picture book for the youngest readers, dinosaurs stomp, race and roar across the dance floor, teaching lessons in math, counting and reading. This dino dance party is a fun, educational read.
10. The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown, by Crystal Allen
Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is ecstatic to enter the Spirit Week Competition with her best friend, Naomi Jackson. But when Mya is paired with the school bully instead, everything goes awry. Soon Naomi isn’t even speaking to Mya anymore. Can Mya get her best friend back and win the school festival? Here is a spunky heroine that elementary-age students will love.