Hello, friends! It’s the end of February, and so it’s time for another Top 5 list. As you know, February is Black History Month, and The Baby Bookworm dedicated our Friday reviews to books that celebrate the lives and achievements of historical black Americans. For our Top 5, however, we thought that we would instead recognize some of our favorite books that feature fictional protagonists of color.
As we mentioned in our Top 5 last month, people of color are woefully underrepresented in children’s literature. For instance, only 7.6% of children’s books released in 2015 featured characters who were black (by contrast, 73.3% of books featured white characters, and 12.5% featured non-human characters like animals or vehicles). And while children’s books about African-American history are immensely important, having kidlit that feature ordinary, everyday PoC characters that young children can relate to is just as vital. So for our Top 5 this month, and in no particular order, we would like to highlight some wonderful children’s books that feature black/PoC protagonists:
1. The Princess And The Pony (Kate Beaton)
An awesome, and uproariously funny, girl power story to start this list off right! Princess Pinecone and her desire to be a great warrior are thwarted when, instead of the fierce battle steed she wishes for, she is given a roly-poly pony with a cuddly heart of gold. Adorable cartoonish illustrations set the stage perfectly, but the story will surprise you with an unexpected twist that gives it miles of heart. Additionally, Pinecone’s ferocity as a warrior is never questioned or doubted due to her gender, and her society is depicted as being one of many colors, shapes, and sizes – ponies included.
2. More-igami (Dori Kleber)
Part-origami instruction manual, part-story about learning a new skill and the hard work and dedication it can take to do so. Joey loves everything that fold: accordions, old maps, even fold-away beds! So when a classmate’s mother shows him the art of origami, he wants to learn how to make beautiful folded paper art as best as he can, practicing day and night – and occasionally, to the inconvenience of his family! This is a wonderfully-illustrated (by G. Brian Karas) and thoroughly fun story about having the tenacity to follow a passion, and even features instructions for readers to attempt an origami craft of their own.
3. Twenty Yawns (Jane Smiley)
A very different sort of bedtime book that appeals to readers old and young. Lucy is the only one in her house left awake in the silvery hour of twilight and, finding her atmosphere a bit spooky, gathers her stuffed animal friends to snuggle into bed with, finding her own courage along the way. Written by Smiley, and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, with a nostalgic air and gentle magic, it’s a sweet tale about finding confidence in being kind to others. Bonus: the titular twenty yawns are sprinkled throughout the book so readers can enjoy finding and counting them.
4. How To Find Gold (Viviane Schwarz)
A story of exploration, daring to dream, and friendship. Anna and her crocodile friend set their minds to do something dangerous and difficult: they are going to find gold. They know they need to be good secret-keepers, so they practice their secret-keeping faces. They know they need a map with an X, so they draw one. And though, once they set sail, there’s a scary storm on the horizon, they sail in without fear, because they know that nothing is every too scary or dangerous or difficult with a good friend at your side. With cute then breathtaking (then cute again) illustrations and a charmingly childlike text and plot, this one is perfect for the dreamers.
5. Explorers Of The Wild (Cale Atkinson)
An exhilarating and gorgeous story about friendship and exploration (again!). Every good explorer need guts, ingenuity, curiosity, and skill. With these qualities, one can explore the wild without fear. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can even find a friend to share your explorations with you. And while you may one day have to part, you will both always have the memories of conquering the wild together. Atkinson’s fantastic illustrations are full of both grandeur and quiet moments, with a wonderful sense of the indestructible feeling of adventuring in nature as a child as well as the bittersweet reality that while sometimes friendships must end, they are always precious.
There we are! A Top 5 filled with some of our favorite PoC protagonists! Also, we want to include two honorable mentions: Ada Twist, Scientist, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, and Grace For President, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, two of our favorite girl-power books that also have stellar PoC protagonists. The only reason we didn’t include them in this list is because we’d featured them before. What do you think? Did we leave any of your favorites out? Let is know in the comments, or message us from out Contact page. Thanks so much for reading!