20 Black Children's Books for Christmas 2020

Christmas might feel a little different this year, but one aspect that's unlikely to change is our desire to buy or donate gifts. And one of the best gifts to post, or pop in a Christmas stocking, is a quality book!

If you're buying books for children you might want to consider more inclusive texts, particularly in light of the CLPE and Booktrust's latest research on ethnic representation in UK publishing.

I've only found a handful of Christmas-themed books featuring Black/brown characters or made by Black British creatives, which is disappointing! Let's hope this offering improves next year.

Of course, there are lovely books already on the market so I've compiled a list of 20 titles, old and new, for 3 years plus. From fun-filled paperbacks to keepsake hardbacks, thought-provoking bios to emotive poetry, there's plenty to keep the kids—and you—reading into the New Year. Note: books I have not reviewed previously are described here in a bit more detail.

Ages 3-7

Jo-Jo and Gran-Gran: Twelve and Half Days of Christmas by Laura Henry, illustrated by Amy Bradley (Laura Henry 2017)

Jo-Jo and Gran-Gran are feeling Christmassy so they decide to plan some activities for the days leading up to the big event. From writing letters to Father Christmas to making a delicious fruit cake, there's no end to the festive fun for this adorable duo.

This sweet story predates the smash-hit CBeebies animation JoJo and Gran Gran, which is why the characters look so different. What's the same, however, is their endearing grandparent-grandchild relationship: a beautiful display of unconditional love, patience, and spontaneous playful moments, expressed through delightful child-friendly dialogue.

Thoughtfully crafted with gentle rhythm and reassuring repetition, it's great for early readers. It's also packed with festive ideas sure to spark creative family projects over the holiday. A brown-skinned Santa also makes an appearance, which warmed my heart no end!

Grab a copy if you can for fans of the TV series. I have a feeling this original will be a special memento in years to come. Available in paperback from EY Matters. £9.99 RRP

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Never Show a T-Rex a Book by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Diane Ewen (Puffin 2020)

A little girl is teaching her toy dino to read when, suddenly, her imagination takes flight and things spiral out of control! Her unbridled dino, now a voracious reader, becomes cleverer day by day, resulting in a fantastical romp, crammed full of genius mischief!

This larger-than-average picture book, bursting with superlative high-colour illustrations, is a laugh-out-loud bundle of joy! It celebrates libraries and the power of reading. All the family will love it! Suitable for 3-5 years. Read my full review here. Available in paperback from Round Table Books. £6.99 RRP

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Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love (Walker Books 2020)

Afro-Hispanic Julian and his abuela attend a gorgeous wedding. Whilst there, he meets mischievous Marisol, who invites him to play. But when things get messy, Julian comes up with a sartorial plan, leading to a magical fairy-tale ending.

Sequel to the best-selling Julian Is a Mermaid, this stunning forward-thinking picture book, with sparse text, captures the warmth of a diverse and inclusive Brooklyn community. The spread showing newlywed brides kissing is particularly moving. More than just a book, it's an exquisitely illustrated work of art. A treasured keepsake to pore over forever! Read my full review hereAvailable in hardback from Round Table Books. £12.99 RRP

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I Am Brown by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Lantana Publishing 2020)

This beautiful uplifting picture book features a confident brown-skinned Asian girl with glorious pigtails and a face full of cheer.

With a striking blend of free verse and information, the content focuses on the experiences of brown-skinned Asian people, living around the world, from a child's perspective.

The book's empowering message about being confident in your skin is a crucial mantra for all children, regardless of their ethnicity. Read my full review hereAvailable in hardback from Lantana Publishing. £11.99 RRP

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Ages 5-7

Selah's Gift for Father Christmas by Jeanelle Brew, illustrated by Sarah Docker (Bryan House Publishing 2020)

When young Selah struggles to find the perfect gift for Santa while shopping on a wintry Christmas night, she's filled with disappointment.

Luckily, with the help of family, friends, and Missy the kitten, a new plan inspires her creativity but, as it's already Christmas Eve, will the gift be ready before Santa arrives?

Having only seen a paper proof of this picture book, I can't comment on the final production quality. That said, it's refreshing to see a Christmas story featuring a loving Ghanaian-British family. Although the plot is simple, the text is fairly lengthy (really little ones may get restless), and I can imagine that reading it on Christmas Eve with mugs of cocoa or snuggled under duvets would be delightful!

The comforting illustrations have a homely feel, elevated by a subtle Ghanaian-flag colour scheme of red, yellow, and green, providing a traditional Christmassy vibe while connecting the family's UK home with their Ghanaian roots. Santa is, quite rightly, Black in this instance too! Available in paperback from Bryan House Publishing. £11.99 RRP

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The Twelve Days of Christmas or Granny Is Overly Generous by Alex T Smith (Macmillan 2020)

In this stylish revamped rendition of the cumulative Christmas carol, globetrotting granny Ms Bon-Voyage, with a quirky sense of humour, mails 12 lavish gifts to granddaughter Eloise from all around the world.

As is customary in the traditional version, the surprises get more outlandish each day but the song's lyrics are fabulously subverted as if the original words are suddenly forgotten halfway through!

The stylish Edwardian-themed illustrations are rich and engaging, matching Grandma's generosity. The elaborate postage stamp details on each page serve as clever picture cues to aid prediction and feel reminiscent of the Ahlbergs' opulent Jolly Christmas Postman. Younger children will delight in counting the items in each illustration, the total numbers reinforced by written numerals.

Although Grandma and Eloise are brown-skinned, their specific ethnicity is not made explicit, but due to the era in which the book is set and the randomness of the international gifts, I feel it works.

Singing and reading the hilarious twisted lyrics will get everyone in the Christmas spirit. Available in hardback from Bear Hunt Books. £9.99 RRP

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Leah's Star by Margaret Bateson-Hill, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Alanna Max 2019)

It wouldn’t be a Christmas book list without a nativity story, and this gorgeous version with a difference is told from the perspective of young Leah, the innkeeper's daughter.

Mesmerised by the light of a beautiful bright star, Leah bumps into a couple in Bethlehem one night, only to discover the young woman, Mary, is about to give birth. Due to Leah's quick thinking and the help of her kind father and neighbour Susanna, Jesus is born in a nearby stable, in warmth and safety.

The rich descriptive text and stunning expressive watercolours in earthy tones deliver an unforgettably evocative piece of storytelling with an immediate sense of time and place. Importantly, the more authentic representation of skin tones of people in the Middle East makes a refreshing change from the enduring whitewashed portrayals.

The scenes in the bustling town contrast with intimate still moments in the stable, where events of that momentous night are seen through Leah's innocent eyes. We also learn about Leah's relationship with her own mother, which is so subtly drawn it brings you close to tears.

Boasting a fresh redesign by Black-British artist Ken Wilson-Max at inclusive publisher Alanna Max, I just had to include this text. It's an exquisite retelling of an ancient tale that now more than ever speaks to our humanity. It will truly warm your hearts this Christmas! (Suitable for 5-8 years.) Available in hardback from Bookshop £12.99 RRP

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Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola (Puffin 2020)

Adventurous Rocket visits her grandparents in the Caribbean, and once there she discovers the beach is terribly littered. Never one to be phased, she galvanises the locals and tourists to form an amazing Clean Up Crew!

This exuberant modern picture book has a wonderfully chatty tone and detailed characterful illustrations. The recycling theme will get children thinking responsibly about their discarded Christmas gift packaging!

A fabulous sequel to the award-winning Look Up! from co-creators Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola. Read my full review here. Available in paperback from Black Star Books. £6.99 RRP

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Coming to England by Floella Benjamin, illustrated by Diane Ewen (Macmillan 2020)

From its authentically detailed illustrations to the high-quality storytelling, this stunning picture book is a joy from cover to cover!

Adapted from her novel for older children, Floella Benjamin recounts, with a lightness of touch, the true story of her move to England from Trinidad in 1960, as a child of the Windrush generation.

It's a perfectly pitched honest and uplifting account of moving home and making friends that young readers will treasure. Read my full review here Available in hardback from Book Love. £12.99 RRP

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Little People, Big Dreams: Black Voice Gift Set* (Quarto 2020)

A gorgeous gift set always goes down well at Christmas, and this one is no exception.

This fabulous appealing bundle of three non-fiction books, in a lovely sturdy case, features inspirational true-life stories of significant Black historical and cultural icons: Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Curated from the best-selling Little People, Big Dreams series, the biographical accounts are well-pitched for young children—appropriate in tone, well-researched, and delivered in a simplistic but lively way while covering all the key events.

The three books link so well together, having the theme of African-American civil rights in common. Styled as straightforward children's stories, they enable younger readers to relate to the lives and experiences of famous adults in an accessible way.

The striking iconic book design is fresh and engaging. Not only is the content excellent, but they'll make bookshelves look great too! (Suitable for 5-9 years.) Available in hardback from Bookshop. £25.00 RRP

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Ages 7-9

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Scholastic 2020)

With stunning watercolor images and moving poetic text, this timely and urgent picture book is a gentle starting point for conversations with children about the current racial climate.

It also reminds children, particularly Black boys, that they are special in every way. Just like the wondrous elements of the universe, they are meant to exist—they matter—and are loved. Read my full review here. Available in hardback from Scholastic. £12.99 RRP

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Africa: Amazing Africa by Atinuke, illustrated by Mouni Feddag (Walker Books 2020)

If you're looking for a substantial non-fiction hardback as a generous-looking present, this vibrantly illustrated introduction to Africa will suit.

Containing interesting descriptions and facts, in an easy-to-read format, it's a glorious colour volume covering significant geographical, cultural, and historical features of 55 African countries. Encourage children to broaden their minds and learn more about this vast and diverse continent. Read my review here. Available in hardback from Black Star Books. £14.99 RRP

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Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins (Quarto 2018)

Although there has been a flurry of biographical anthologies celebrating Black historical figures in recent years, this one hits the spot for intermediate readers.

It's an uplifting well-written large paperback with the feel of a friendly picture book. Each page is adorned with an eye-catching full-page illustration and age-appropriate engaging text within easy-to-read stylised text boxes.

Capturing the life stories of 52 past-and-present Black leaders, pioneers, and cultural and sporting heroes, readers will learn about their aspirations, obstacles, and triumphs from childhood to adulthood, in various countries of the world. From Matthew Henson the first African-American explorer to reach the North Pole, to child musical prodigy Stevie Wonder, there are so many well-known and lesser-known figures to learn about in this glorious tribute to brilliant Black icons.

An enticing Hall of Fame index encourages children to choose a different hero to read about each day. Well-known figures like Martin Luther King Jr and Muhammad Ali feature, of course, but British icons, such as Malorie Blackman, Mo Farah, and Nicola Adams, are also included. A fantastic informative gift! Available from Black Star Books. £9.99 RRP

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Ages 9-11+

The Infinite by Patience Agbabi (Canongate Books, 2020)

Elle loves running, Nigerian pepper soup, white yams, and lists, and has a fascination for palindromes and Olympian Bob Beamon. She is also a 'leapling' as she was born on the 29th of February. Although leaplings are rare Elle possesses an even rarer gift: she can travel through time.

During a special school trip to Time Squad Centre in a vegan-centric, eco-friendly 2048, Elle soon realises all is not well as leaplings are going missing while meat keeps appearing on the menu.

When she and her friends, including car-mad Big Ben, join the dots to a mysterious 'Predictive' text message, Elle concludes that someone must travel to the future to try to save the planet, and that someone might be her.

On her 12th birthday, will autist Elle have the courage to leap into the unknown?

Fuelled by energetic complex and persistent first-person prose, this form-breaking, innovative, intelligent debut has received high critical acclaim. With a super-human, time-travelling, ethically-aware, caring, neurodiverse Nigerian female protagonist, it's a mind-boggling adventure like nothing you've ever read before. Well worth a look! (Suitable for 10 years plus.) Available from Bookshop. £6.99 RRP

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Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah (Scholastic 2020)

This heartwrenching historical fiction tells the story of 10-year-old Jamaican Leonard, a Windrush child, as he struggles to adjust to a new life in England.

Occasional strong language evokes an authentic sense of the harsh racial climate Black people endured in modern Britain. Suitable for confident readers, it will fill some gaps in knowledge of both British and Jamaican history and culture.

Based on Zephaniah's and his contemporaries' personal experience, it's an important work for every family bookshelf. (Suitable for 10 years plus.) Read my full review here. Available in paperback from Round Table Books. £6.99 RRP

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When Life Gives you Mangoes by Kereen Getten (Pushkin Press 2020)

Inspired by Black-British author Kereen Getten's childhood in 1980's Jamaica, this super mid-grade novel is a compelling coming-of-age story about Clara and her temperamental friend Gaynah. As the summer heats up, a mystery unfolds gradually, until the author delivers a jaw-dropping twist that you won't see coming!

A masterfully written story about teenage friendship and a tight-knitted community that will undoubtedly become a modern classic! Read my full review here. Available in paperback from Mirror Me Write. £7.99 RRP

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Zombierella by Joeseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas (Walker Books 2020)

When I think of Christmas books, I imagine the usual traditional folk tales but this zombified retelling of Cinderella is an unusually delightful concoction of gruesomeness and contemporary edginess, making for a refreshing festive treat.

With stunning glitzy-gothic illustrations and a beautifully embellished front cover, it's a deliciously vile 21st-century reimagining of a timeless classic that will have children squealing and howling in yucky delight! Read my full review here. Available in paperback from Bookshop. £7.99 RRP

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Beyoncé: Queen of the Spotlight by Ebony Joy Wilkins (Little Tiger 2020)

I'm not a Beyoncé superfan, but this fascinating biography was so engrossing, I couldn't put it down! Deftly written and well-researched it reveals lesser-known facts about the megastar's life while detailing her epic rise to stardom.

Read how she was a loner at school and had difficulties with academic subjects. Gain insight into her upbringing, precocious musical gift, creative influences, and girl-band highs and lows. An ideal stocking filler for music fans! Read my full review here. Available in paperback from Book Love. RRP £6.99

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Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies, foreword by Mireille Harper, illustrator Lauren Quinn (Dorling Kingsley 2020)

Did you know a Black man created the technology of the modern lightbulb, and a Black woman founded the Green Belt movement?

This refreshing dip-in-and-out compendium is entirely devoted to Black excellence either ignored, downplayed, or forgotten by the history books.

Revealing fascinating facts about powerful African civilisations, key Black figures, and important thematic events such as the rise of the US Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements, it's a 96-paged jam-packed celebratory journey through Black history, which will inspire and expand young minds.

Spanning prehistory and the origins of humans in sub-Saharan Africa, right through to 21st-century young campaigner Marley Dias, children will be captivated by over 30 stunning visual timelines through the ages, all uniquely brought to life by breathtaking archive photography, vibrant full-colour illustrations, and a fresh contemporary design!

Most of the biographical timelines feature African Americans, for example, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr, and Oprah Winfrey. Some Black Britons, such as Doreen Lawrence and Stormzy, are included along with less-well-known important figures. Children will learn about abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, inventor Lewis Howard Latimer, and Taytu Betul, the brave Ethiopian princess who successfully resisted colonial invasion during the Scramble for Africa.

Importantly, nearly a third of the book is dedicated to African history—its sophisticated ancient/early civilisations, key leaders, and significant changemakers past and present. Sandwiching these positive African stories around the timeline of the transatlantic slave trade ensures readers' lasting memory is one of Black power, wealth, determination, and supreme talent instead of pain and suffering.

A substantial educational hardback, it's a fantastic gift for home or school, to get children thinking and questioning historical perspectives. Available in hardback from Book Love. £12.99 RRP

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Age 12+

Black and British: A Short Essential History by David Olusoga (Macmillan 2020)

Adapted from the author's adult book Black and British: A Forgotten History, this teens' version fills holes in our knowledge of British history.

Award-winning historian and broadcaster Olusoga concisely charts Black people's existence in Britain from Roman times to the present day. He also reveals Britain's pivotal role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Olusoga's concise balanced account with supporting images, maps, and artwork makes Britain's history transparent and accessible for young adults. This is not the history we were taught in school—this crucial book redresses the balance.

I'd also recommend it as a quick reference book for teachers—primary and secondary—keen to enhance their knowledge. The publisher is currently donating 50p to The Black Curriculum for every copy sold. Available in paperback from Round Table Books. £6.99 RRP

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Support inclusive publishers

I'm extremely thrilled to be partnering with award-winning inclusive publisher Lantana Publishing for their 2020 Christmas campaign: 'All I want for Christmas is a character who looks like me.'

So if you're planning on buying some of their books, follow me on Instagram to access a 15% discount code (restrictions apply).

For every book sold, Lantana Publishing will donate a free copy to a child in need. Head over to Lantana's website or my Instagram page to learn more. Offer ends 20 December 2020!

Support inclusive independent book stores

All of the bookshops I've mentioned trade online, have a diverse selection, and are just lovely people to deal with, so do try to support them if you can. Here's a list:

Bear Hunt Books

Black Star Books 

Book Love

Letter Box Library

Mirror Me Write

Round Table Books 

Happy reading, and merry Christmas!

*Note: for the Little People Big Dreams gift set, the individual titles were published at different times as follows:

Maya Angelou by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Leire Salaberria (Frances Lincoln Children's Books 2016)

Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser, illustrated by Marta Antelo (Frances Lincoln Children's Books 2017)

Martin Luther King Jr by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Mai Ly Degnan (Frances Lincoln Children's Books 2020)

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