PageTurners: Children's Books Guaranteed to Make Everyone Smile

PageTurners: Children's Books Guaranteed to Make Everyone Smile

Take Back the Block, I Affirm Me, The Year I Flew Away
Take Back the Block, I Affirm Me, The Year I Flew Away
Image: Penguin Random House, Running Kids Press, HMH Books
It's Lit!It's Lit!Where all things literary live at The Root

Children’s books have moved from being about bunnies and flowers (though I dig those) to tackling hard-hitting topics such as race, gentrification and gender. Giving children the opportunity to learn and make their own decisions about those hard-hitting topics through books and reading is powerful...especially during Black History Month.

I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids by Nyasha Williams illustrates the importance of affirmations and loving yourself. Chrystal D. Giles’ Take Back the Block discusses gentrification and the effect it has on communities. And Taye Diggs and Shane Evans are back with another lyrical tale, My Friend! which focuses on how to stay true to yourself while still holding your friends accountable.

Children’s books can make anyone smile—whether you’re the one reading, being read to, or just listening, they are bound to spark joy. Over the last few years, authors and illustrators have been prioritizing making long-standing impressions about change on children through their work and these nine books are no exception.

Advertisement

2 / 11

Ambitious Girl – Meena Harris

Ambitious Girl – Meena Harris

Ambitious Girl – Meena Harris
Ambitious Girl – Meena Harris
Image: Little, Brown and Company

Meena Harris, New York Times bestselling author of Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, CEO of Phenomenal, activist and niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, has penned her second book, Ambitious Girl. The ambitious girl doesn’t let people tell her “no.” The ambitious girl doesn’t let others decide who she is and what she will be. When a young girl hears strong and empowering women called “over-assertive” and “aggressive,” she goes on an adventure through the past, present and future to see how women and girls before her redefined the narrative.


January 19, 2021 – Little, Brown and Company

Advertisement

3 / 11

I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids – Nyasha Williams

I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids – Nyasha Williams

I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids – Nyasha Williams
I Affirm Me: The ABCs of Inspiration for Black Kids – Nyasha Williams
Image: Running Press Kids

A is for “Afro,” L is for “Leader” and R is for “Rally.” Nyasha Williams and illustrator Sófya Glushkó created a book dedicated to all Black children as a way to remind them of their worth, how much they are loved and how much their presence on Earth is needed. The book features large colorful spreads for each letter and positive “I” statement affirmations that every child deserves to have in their lives. Each illustration depicts different children from all backgrounds in all shapes and sizes with the goal of guiding children in nurturing and embracing their authentic selves.

Available for pre-order now. Release Date: May 4, 2021, Running Press Kids

Advertisement

4 / 11

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle – J. Dillard

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle – J. Dillard

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle – J. Dillard
J.D. and the Great Barber Battle – J. Dillard
Image: Penguin Random House

Mama knows best–except for when it comes to cutting hair. J.D. is stuck with the worst haircut in the history of haircuts as he goes into the third grade, and after becoming tired of the bullies at his school, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Realizing he is a wizard with the clippers, J.D. opens a not-so-underground barbershop in his bedroom that gains traction—and fast. But there is a slight problem: Henry Jr., the owner of the only official local barbershop, realizes he’s losing clients to J.D. So how will the people of Meridian, Mississippi decide who’s best? With a great barbershop battle.


Available for pre-order now. Release Date: February 23, 2021, Penguin Random House

Advertisement

5 / 11

My Friend! – Taye Diggs and Shane Evans

My Friend! – Taye Diggs and Shane Evans

My Friend! – Taye Diggs and Shane Evans
My Friend! – Taye Diggs and Shane Evans
Image: Macmillan

My Friend! is the newest book from Taye Diggs and Shane Evans, the dynamic duo and lifelong friends who brought readers Mixed Me and Chocolate Me. The children’s book told in rhythmic verses and rhymes follows the adventures of two best friends who do everything together. Through vibrant illustrations, My Friend! depicts the true struggles and triumphs of interacting with friends and having hard conversations about respect–even at a young age.  


January 5, 2021, Macmillan

Advertisement

6 / 11

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race – Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, Isabel Roxas (Illustrator)

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race – Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, Isabel Roxas (Illustrator)

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race – Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, Isabel Roxas (Illustrator)
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race – Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, Isabel Roxas (Illustrator)
Image: Penguin Random House

It is never too early to start teaching children about race which is why Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli wrote Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race, a vibrantly illustrated board-book for ages two through five about race, racism and loving the skin that you’re in. Introducing concepts such as race and gender to children as young as two invites them to begin developing their own questions and thoughts about those concepts, allowing them to start having these conversations early.

Available for pre-order now. Release Date: March 16, 2021, Penguin Random House

Advertisement

7 / 11

Take Back the Block – Chrystal D. Giles

Take Back the Block – Chrystal D. Giles

Take Back the Block – Chrystal D. Giles
Take Back the Block – Chrystal D. Giles
Image: Penguin Random House

With all of the protests going on in Wes’s neighborhood, it’s difficult for him to stay focused on what’s important: his clothes, his crew and being the coolest kid in the sixth grade. The last thing he wants to be thinking about is protesting, which is exactly what his parents are making him do.

But Wes’s whole life starts to change when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, Wes’s childhood neighborhood. Everyone is fighting, even some of Wes’s friends, and the thought of his friends leaving—or maybe having to leave himself—makes Wes take on solving this puzzle, before it’s too late.

Take Back the Block explores community, gentrification and justice through the eyes of a sixth-grader who asks what it means to belong and have a place in a movement.

January 26, 2021, Penguin Random House

Advertisement

8 / 11

The Chronicles of Nice Guy Maso — Monyetta Shaw

The Chronicles of Nice Guy Maso — Monyetta Shaw

The Chronicles of Nice Guy Maso — Monyetta Shaw
The Chronicles of Nice Guy Maso — Monyetta Shaw
Image: Evan Grace Group

Mason is a kind, caring, creative and generous student who always sees and hopes for the best in people. When Felipe, a new student, enrolls in his school, Mason, of course, is excited to have a new friend but is discouraged and put off when his friends and other students openly mock him. Saddened by the treatment that he sees people giving Felipe, Mason knows what he has to do—even if it means putting himself at odds with the rest of the kids.

The Chronicles of Nice Guy Maso explores creativity and kindness in young children and helps them understand the courage they need to stand up for themselves and others.


January 12, 2021, Evan Grace Group

Advertisement

9 / 11

Simon B. Rhymin’ – Dwayne Reed

Simon B. Rhymin’ – Dwayne Reed

Simon B. Rhymin’ – Dwayne Reed
Simon B. Rhymin’ – Dwayne Reed
Image: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Eleven-year-old Simon Barnes dreams of becoming a rapper known to all as “Notorious D.O.G.” But for now, he’s a fifth-grader from Chicago who enjoys laying low at home and at school, too afraid to use his voice–even though he is constantly spitting rhymes in his head. When Simon is assigned an oral presentation by his new teacher about something that affects them in their community, it forces him, with the help of an unexpected ally and his neighborhood crew, to face his fears and find his voice.


Available for pre-order now. Release Date: March 2, 2021, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Advertisement

10 / 11

The Year I Flew Away – Marie Arnold

The Year I Flew Away – Marie Arnold

The Year I Flew Away – Marie Arnold
The Year I Flew Away – Marie Arnold
Image: HMH Books

It’s 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is bursting with excitement over moving to America from Haiti. Her parents aren’t able to come with her as she travels to Brooklyn, New York to live with relatives she’s never met. Even though she promises her parents that she will behave, life proves to be difficult, so when a witch offers her a chance to be perfectly “American,” she takes it without a second thought.

All too soon, she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and with the help of her two friends (one of whom is a talking rat) she takes on her curse with an epic battle in hopes of getting back to who she once was.


February 2, 2021, HMH Books

Advertisement

11 / 11

DISCUSSION