Black Children's Books for Christmas 2021

I can't believe another year is nearly over, and what an incredible year it's been! I received a shedload of mostly wonderful books, thanks to the publicists and publishers now actively supporting Black book bloggers (you know who you are). I also created a competition, the Jericho Prize for emerging Black-British children's writers, which has taken up a lot of my time. I am so proud of what we've achieved with this new prize. We've found some talented Black-British writers and our winners will be announced via an online ceremony on 27 January 2022. I'm sure many of you will support the Jericho Prize by attending. Stay posted for updates.

Anyway, back to this festive round-up. Last year, I dreamt my 2021 blog would be brimming with books by Black-British creatives. I've only managed to equal last year's 12 — the numbers are not worse but they could be better. That said, the beautiful books listed below are handpicked by me and are good quality in terms of Black cultural/ethnic representation. And, although only one has a festive theme (I tried and failed to find other titles in time), they cater for a range of ages and tastes and are sure to make brilliant gifts this year. Here are my top picks for Christmas 2021.

Ages 0–4

Bright Brown Baby
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Scholastic 2021)

This large, lyrical hardback is perfect for cosy read-alouds with our tiniest readers. With five empowering rhymes plus bright and colourful illustrations, it's a celebration of Black and brown babies full of love, joy and hope. Interspersed with aspirational quotes from Black icons, such as Langston Hughes and Michelle Obama, it has a definite US tone but its message is universal: Black babies are beautiful. An ideal gift to treasure for new or expectant parents/carers. Available in hardback from Afrori Books. RRP £12.99.

Where's Lenny? by Ken Wilson-Max (Alanna Max 2020)

Join Lenny and his dad as they play a joyous game of Hide-and-Seek around the house in this fun, well-crafted picture book from renowned children's author-illustrator Ken Wilson-Max. It was republished last year in hardback with rounded corners which is great for little exploring hands and mouths. Brightly illustrated with intentionally repetitive text, this quality book should be a staple in every home with Under 5s. You'll be reading it again and again to your toddlers this Christmas! Available in hardback from Afrori Books. RRP £9.99.

Ages 3–5

Luna Loves Dance by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Fiona Lumbers (Anderson Press 2021)

This wonderfully uplifting picture book, bursting with colour, is a vibrant celebration of a young, mixed-heritage girl's love of dance and self-expression, and her determination when life throws up little challenges. Sumptuously illustrated with a surprise fold-out page revealing gorgeously detailed Caribbean carnival scene, this beautiful book would make a stunning gift this Christmas. Available in hardback from Afrori Books. RRP £12.99.

Lulu's Sleepover
by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw (Alanna Max 2021)

For young children enjoying the first sleepovers with friends or family over Christmas this beautiful, comforting and naturally inclusive story is an ideal guide to gently ease any worries about this significant milestone. Expertly crafted with care by an experienced creative duo, it's perfect for preschoolers and, without doubt, one of my favourite picture books of the year! Available in hardback from Hive. RRP £11.99.

Lulu Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Alanna Max 2018)

Lulu loves cats. She reads about them, dreams about them and one day asks Mummy if she can adopt one. Although this gorgeously illustrated picture book was published a while ago, I'm including it this year for children receiving pets as Christmas gifts. The carefully crafted text and illustrations support young children with developing a sense of empathy and responsibility while also offering a deeper message around consent and boundaries. An essential, well-considered book for all early readers. Available in paperback from Bear Hunt Books. RRP £7.99.

We're Going to Find the Monster by Malorie Blackman and Dapo Adeola (Puffin 2021)

Celebrating the everyday life of a contemporary Black family and the awesomeness of children's imaginations, this layered, funny and highly relatable story has been deservedly revived and revamped by an epic creative team. If you're looking for a naturally inclusive, quality substitute for Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt then this is most definitely it! It will be a firm favourite with youngsters this Christmas. Available in paperback from Afrori Books. RRP £6.99. Read my full review.

Ages 5–7

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C James (Egmont/Farshore 2021)

Co-created by an award-winning, author-illustrator duo in the US, this stunning, evocative picture book is a powerful, poetic ode to Black boyhood through its lyrical outpouring of love and admiration from cover to cover. Although it's more for older children in language and tone, it's fine for adults to read aloud with 5+ too. Every child, especially Black boys, needs to read this truly masterful work of art. Available in paperback from Afrori Books. RRP £6.99. Read my full review

Hey You! by Dapo Adeola, illustrated by Diane Ewen, Onyinye Iwu, Jade Orlando, Bex Glendining, Derick Brooks, Joelle Avelino, Dunni Mustapha, Kingsley Nebechi, Chanté Timothy, Nicole Miles, Camilla Sucre, Jobe Anderson, Alyissa Johnson, Charlot Kristensen, Sharee Miller, Reggie Brown, Selom Sunu, Gladys Jose and Dapo Adeola (Puffin 2021)

This bold and inclusive picture book is a multi-artist collaboration between debut author Dapo Adeola and 18 Black illustrators from around the globe. Adeola offers pearls of wisdom to inspire and empower Black children everywhere. The perfect gift for expectant or new parents/carers to share with their children in different ways as they grow up, this captivating and conceptually groundbreaking work is a soothing antidote to the racial climate of our times. Available in paperback from Afrori Books. RRP £7.99. Read my full review

Ages 69

The Old Truck
 by Jarret Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey (WW Norton 2020)

This beautifully made debut, with its gorgeous, muted, pastel colour palette, is the work of the African-American Pumphrey brothers and another of my fave books from last year. The story features a Black farming family whose trusty truck is their lifeline while they work the land each season. The simple text allows the nuanced and retro illustrations to shine, each page spread lovingly created using traditional and digital methods including, incredibly, the use of 250 handmade printing stamps to create objects in each stunning scene. A story of family, legacy, hard work and transformation, it's a modern masterpiece and a perfect, treasured keepsake for child and adult picture-book enthusiasts alike. Suitable for 4+. Available in hardback from Amazon. RRP £9.99.  

The Old Boat
by Jarret Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey
(WW Norton 2021)

Sequel to The Old Truck, I could not leave this one out as it's every bit as fine as its prequel. It still celebrates family relationships, life cycles and a human connection with nature but, this time, within the setting of a delicate island ecosystem. A young islander fishes regularly with his beloved grandad until one day everything changes and something is lost at sea. Can the old boat return the boy, renewed and reconnected to his island home? And will he be able to reclaim what was lost? The text is even more pared back in this beautiful book so the phenomenal illustrations take centre stage. It's a quietly told, moving, thought-provoking story with a powerful environmental message that will generate moments of reflection for the whole family once the festivities are over. Available in hardback from Afrori Books. RRP £9.99.

Aziza's Secret Fairy and the Ice Cat Mystery
by Lola Morayo, illustrated by Cory Reid (Macmillan 2021)

Every bit as magical as its prequel, this wintery, fairy adventure is the next title in an imaginative, new series for early fluent readers that's equally enjoyable for adults to read aloud. Endearing lead Aziza revisits the unusually freezing fairyland of Shimmerton to investigate the disappearance of a rather temperamental Ice Cat with a little help from friends Peri and Tiko and some rather intriguing newcomers. Full of fun, fairies and folklore, this lovely, quick-read is the perfect seasonal stocking filler. Its frosty scenes and light-hearted message will get everyone in a festive mood. Available in paperback from Book Love. RRP £6.99. Read my QnA about the series with the writers. 

Ages 8–12

Best Bites CookBook by Omari McQueen (Scholastic 2021)

This vegan cookbook from the UK's youngest award-winning chef, Omari McQueen, is full of easy-to-follow, delicious and healthy recipes accompanied by mouth-watering, contemporary photography. It's lovely how Omari's whole family is included in the book too, in true TV-chef fashion. The dishes and drinks are a sort of Jamaican-English fusion that includes callaloo mix-up, patties and rice and peas, not forgetting Omari's intriguing special lasagne. Recommended by PETA as one of the Best New Vegan Cookbooks of 2021, this is a fantastic gift for budding junior chefs! Available in hardback from Book and Kulture. RRP £12.99

Black and British: An Illustrated History by David Olusoga, illustrated by Jake Alexander and Melleny Taylor (Macmillan 2021)

Just out last month this large, stunningly designed hardback is the child-friendly version of historian and TV broadcaster David Olusoga's award-winning history books for teens and adults. Tracking the downplayed prescence and influence of Black people in Britain from Roman times to the present day, its highly illustrated, easy-to-read pages include maps and wonderful archive photography. It's the ideal gift for children who are keen on history and a fantastic educational resource for primary teachers. Available in hardback from Book Love. RRP £16.99. 

The Story of Afro Hair by KN Chimbiri, illustrated by Joelle Avelino (Scholastic 2021)

An excellent size for a stocking filler this beautiful, pocket-sized book, the latest non-fiction title from KN Chimbiri, is jam-packed with well-researched information. Charting significant events and trends throughout the history of Afro hair from Ancient Egypt to the present day, the information is presented in an accessible format for children and adults who want to delve a bit deeper into this topic. With an eye-catching, contemporary design, vivid illustrations and rarely-seen archive photography, it's a must-have this Christmas! Available in hardback from Afrori Books. RRP £9.99.

Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A Reynolds, illustrated by Pablo Leon (Scholastic 2021)

Part of the Marvel and Scholastic Original Graphic Novels Programme celebrating Black and brown superheroes, this well-pitched offering from US author Justin A Reynolds is a thrilling, fun read from start to finish. Afro-Latino Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man, swings into action when a sudden earthquake hits his mum's homeland of Puerto Rico, and it's soon apparent that the island's shock waves may have sinister origins. The perfect way into graphic novels for middle-grade readers, this superhero adventure will be a hit with the kids, especially for fans of the blockbuster movie, Into the Spider-Verse. Available in paperback from Afrori Books. RRP £7.99. Read my full review here. 

Ages 10+

Amber Undercover by Em Norry (OUP 2021)

Another fabulously fun stocking filler, this pacy, drama-filled pre-teen novel propels readers through an intriguing plot involving clandestine activities, shady characters, gadgets, disguises and delicious deception. It's a super-sleuthing adventure that's both relatable and fanciful, peaking with enough edge-of-your-seat danger to make you gasp in delight. With a super-smart, super-savvy heroine and plenty of intrigue, it's sure to delight and entertain readers over the holidays. Available in paperback from Afrori Books. RRP £7.99. Read my full review here. 

Teen and YA 

Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye, illustrated by Ngadi Smart (Faber 2021)

The fact that you can listen to tracks from a YouTube playlist while reading this captivating history book with stylish black-and-white illustrations, is a conceptual stroke of genius that makes it the perfect gift for music enthusiasts, young or old. From calypso to pop, reggae to grime, this groundbreaking musical journey through post-war Black-British history is a sensory feast for your eyes and ears that will deeply touch your soul. Available in hardback from Book Love. RRP £12.99. Read my full review

Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up by Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A Carter, illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo (Bloomsbury 2021)

From the founders of the Black Girls' Book Club, this empowering, practical guide is aimed at Black girls growing up in the UK. Crammed with insightful and relevant info that covers everything from Afro hair to sex ed, and family dynamics to finances, it unpacks in a frank but thoughtful way those burning questions and taboos, helping teens and young adults navigate life more successfully. A refreshing, inspirational and informative book that feels like a big sister, it's what we forty-somethings wished we'd got for Christmas when we were young! Foreword by Spice Girl, Mel B. Available in paperback from Book Love. RRP £12.99.

Marcus Rashford: You Are A Champion
, written with Carl Anka (Macmillan 2021)

This positive, motivational debut from Marcus Rashford, written with journalist Carl Anka, is a great, self-help guide for kids that's aimed at building confidence and perseverance and developing strategies for recovering from setbacks. Full of practical exercises contributed by psychologist Katie Warriner and honest, relatable advice imparted by Rashford, children will really engage with and absorb the messaging, and will definitely feel encouraged to try out the suggested techniques. Available in paperback from Book Love. RRP £9.99.

I hope you've enjoyed my round-up of Black children's books. Buy them, read them and enjoy them. Happy holidays!


  1. An amazing list, Candid! Going to share with a few people.

    1. That's great Nyasha. Thank you! Yes please share far and wide. Let's get people reading and enjoying this beautiful books.


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