Children’s Chapter Books (That Aren’t Historical Fiction) Featuring Black Main Characters

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If you’re like me, you love to read about the world around you — and find good books that represent this beautiful, diverse world.

Representation matters. This is why it’s important for all of us, no matter our ethnicity or cultural background, to read books with black main characters; books that aren’t historical fiction.

If you’re specifically looking for books with black main characters…that aren’t in the historical fiction genre, this book list will help.

You’ll find amazing realistic, sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery books with compelling plots and exceptional writing…all with African-American main characters.

I’ll indicate which books are written by black authors with the #ownvoices tag.

*Printable list coming soon.*

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Picture Book Biographies for Black History Month

#Ownvoices Realistic Chapter Books

Picture Books

Find picture books with BiPOC main characters here.

Children’s Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters

Easy Chapter Books

Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Mia Mayhem Is a Superhero!
by Kara West, illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
FANTASY
When Mia gets accepted into the Superhero training program, she learns that she is SUPER. She even learns that her parents are, also. After school at her new superhero training, she has a disastrous first day and learns that it takes work to become a superhero. Black and white illustrations, bigger print, and an exciting story make this a winning series for growing readers.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth
by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers
MYSTERY
King is Kayla’s beloved dog. Only he’s not just her best friend but in this story, he also helps her find her missing lost tooth.
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The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane
by Nikki Shannon Smith, illustrated by Mari Lobo
#OWNVOICES / REALISTIC
8-year-old Azaleah helps her little sister find her favorite stuffed animal even though she needs to work on her diorama for the upcoming zoo field trip. It’s a sweet story about mysteries, family dynamics, and life.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time  by Marti Dumas
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
What kid doesn’t want more screen time? Jaden has a plan for convincing his parents that he needs more screen time — and he’s going to use his big brain and his fellow kindergarteners to help.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Zoey and Sassafras Dragons and Marshmallows #1 by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
SCIENCE / FANTASY
This is an entertaining and well-written story with the coolest mix of science and magic, a diverse main character, and fantastic illustrations that will get kids reading and learning. Zoey, like her mom, can see magical creatures and is tasked to care for any injured creatures that might need help. In this story, she uses her science skills (including research and the scientific method) to figure out how to care for a sick baby dragon.
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good books for 8 year olds
Jada Jones Rock Star
by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
REALISTIC / STEM / #OWNVOICES
Jada’s starts the school year hoping to find new friends, hopefully, ones that love rocks like she does. She misses her best friend but feels excited when her class studies geology. Unfortunately, one bossy girl in Jada’s group project makes fun of Jada’s interest in rocks. This is a well-written STEM story that shows the challenges of getting along with others and staying true to yourself. Plus, you’ll like that the main character (of color) is a big science nerd!
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Sadiq and the Desert Star
by Siman Nuurali, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
STEM / #OWNVOICES
Not only is this a great STEM story about a young boy who finds the stars to be fascinating, but it’s also a story with cultural diversity because Sadiq’s Muslim family is originally from Somalia. The story is also about how after a field trip to the planetarium, Sadiq and his friends start a space club and work together to raise money for a DIY telescope. Growing readers will enjoy the friendship, teamwork, STEM topics, and diversity found in this first book of the Sadiq series from Capstone Publishing’s Picture Window Books.
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Some Pigtails
by Jonathan Eig, illustrated by Alicia Teba Godoy
REALISTIC
Lola uses a literary character role model to advocate and persist when she feels something is unfair. Lola wants pigtails and her mom is too busy so she asks her grampa — who makes red, white, and blue handlebar-like pigtails. She loves them! In fact, she decides to keep trying unusual hairstyles with grampa. But, that all stops when her school principal bans any unusual hairstyles. Lola thinks of how in Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte the spider uses words to try to change the situation. So first, she talks to the principal. That doesn’t work so next, she organizes the students to start distraction days. Those don’t work either. Finally, she tries a petition which leads to a compromise.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol The Haunted House Next Door
by Andres Miedoso, illustrated by Victor Rivas
GHOST STORY
Large print and illustrations paired with a ghost adventure are sure to entice readers into this beginning chapter book. Andres moves to a new house next to a kid named Desmond who specializes in catching ghosts — which Andres happens to have in his house!! Something you need to know about Andres, he’s scared of everything!! Luckily, Desmond isn’t. Once they trap the ghost, Desmond and Andres discover that the ghost is lonely and just wants a place to live forever. So what will they decide to do?
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Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair
by Alice Kulpers, illustrated by Diana Toledano
MAGICAL REALISM
Book-loving Polly Diamond has a magic journal. Whatever she writes in it comes true — which she learned the hard way in the first book, can have a way of backfiring. Now Polly’s planning for her school fair. Only maybe she didn’t quite remember what can happen when she writes everything in her magic book. Because this school fair is about to be a magic-carpet-ride, dragon- and fairy-filled event to remember! What’s even worse is that Polly can’t find her book to write everything back to normal.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke
REALISTIC / AFRICAN CULTURE / #OWNVOICES
Reading this book transports one into the lively, family-filled world of amazing Anna who lives in Africa. Written in a series of vignettes, we read how Anna keeps getting into trouble for her twin little brother’s mischief, about her beloved grandfather’s passing, and how Anna helps everyone remember her grandfather. It’s a lovely book filled with charm, personality, and a strong sense of place.
Amazon

 

Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
The Great Shelby Holmes
by Elizabeth Eulberg
MYSTERY
I love this Sherlock-inspired book because it’s very well written and tells a great story. John Watson and his mom move to Harlem. There he meets a unique girl named Shelby Holmes who reluctantly allows him to tag along with her as she solves her latest crime — the mystery of who took a posh, show-dog from a classmate’s secure house.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Shai and Emmie Star in Dancy Pants!
by Quvenzhane Wallis with Nancy Ohlin, illustrated by Sharee Miller
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Shai and her two friends are preparing for a dance contest. She’s pushing her friends hard to be perfect instead of having fun.  Will she learn what’s important and what isn’t? Relatable with an appealing plot and characters.
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Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters
by Ailsa Wild, illustrated by Ben Wood
REALISTIC
Squishy discovers a boy hiding from the police in the basement of her apartment building. She wants to keep it a secret from her step-sisters but one thing leads to another, and the twins find out. Together, the three help feed the boy until they discover who he really is. Squishy begins to think of her sisters as bonuses, not step-sisters, which makes her feel a lot better about living with them. I really enjoyed this big-hearted mystery.
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STAT: Standing Tall and Talented: Home Court by Amar’e Stoudemir, illustrated by Tim Jessell SPORTS
MEMOIR / #OWNVOICES
Based on the real story of Amar’e Stoudemire, this is the story of when he was 11, a skateboarder, a basketball player, and a worker with his dad’s landscape company. When other kids start trash-talking his friends, he uses his intelligence and basketball skills to find a solution.
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Chapter Books

Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Sanity & Tallulah
by Molly Brooks
SCI-FI / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Sanity and Tallulah are two good friends who live on a space station. Sanity is a brilliant inventor — but her newest (illegal) creation, a three-headed kitten named Princess Destroyer of Worlds has escaped and is living up to her name — destroyer. The friends look for their missing kitten but instead discover a big problem that will destroy the space station only it’s not caused by the kitten. While the station is evacuated, the friends work hard to stop the duct weasels and the engine from overheating. I love the space station setting, the super-smart problem-solving main characters, and the non-stop action.
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Amari and the Night Brothers
by B.B. Alston
FANTASY / #OWNVOICES
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this book. Amari is an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose beloved older brother has vanished. But, she gets a virtual message from him revealing that she’s a magician like him and at his bequest, gets to attend a secret school. There, she discovers she’s actually a dark magic magician (which is outlawed) but she’s determined to prove she isn’t evil, stay in the school, and find her brother.
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Miles Morales 
by Jason Reynolds
#OWNVOICES / SUPERHERO STORY
Miles’s spidey sense is whacking out when he’s at school, especially in his history class. Add to that, he’s worried he will turn out like his criminal uncle. So, Miles, who is Puerto-Rican and African American, stops being Spider Man. Until he discovers a chilling plot of men named Chamberlain who work under the control of The Warden.  Now, he must use all his skills to save the world from a racist threat. You’ll love the diversity, the two-parent family, and the complexity of Mile’s character– this is a GREAT book.
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From the Desk of Zoe Washington
by Janae Marks
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
On her 12th birthday, Zoe, a girl who loves to bake, discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him about the murder he’s in jail for — did he really do it? Marcus writes to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it which sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore; a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.
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The Royal Guide to Monster Slaying
by Kelley Armstrong
FANTASY
Rowan wants to be a Monster Hunter instead of the future queen. When tragedy strikes her brother, she gets her chance to switch roles and become the Royal Monster Slayer with her aunt with her brother as king. Unfortunately, she must face and kill a gryphon soon or her scheming uncle will get the throne instead. The story is an exciting adventure filled with surprises, mythical creatures, and new friendships. It’s not a cliff-hanger but it does leave the door open for another book. (I can’t wait!)
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery
by James Ponti
Captivating from the first page, 12- year old Florian Bates uses his brilliant, observing brain to implement T.O.A.S.T. (the Theory of All Small Things) to notice things that others have missed. Including the FBI when there’s an art heist at the museum his mother works at. The FBI hires him to help unravel a mysterious art heist which he does with the help of his best friend, Margaret. Fast-paced and interesting.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
New Kid by Jerry Craft
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL / #OWNVOICES
Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he now must deal with the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school along with racism and balancing academics with artwork. This story feels truthful, relatable, and important.
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Genesis Begins Again
by Alicia D. Williams
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Don’t miss this important story about self-worth, beauty, and colorism. Genesis hates that her skin is so dark; she knows her grandma and father hate that about her, too. In her self-loathing, she believes that if only she were lighter-skinned, she’d be pretty and have all the things that go along with being pretty. In this coming-of-age story, Genesis finds her voice both literally and metaphorically. It will start the conversation about who defines beauty and how we can do better individually and as a society.
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For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
Just like the author’s own experience as an adoptee (#ownvoices), it’s hard for Makeda being a black adopted girl in a white family that she loves but doesn’t feel like she fits– or is even seen. But there are even more challenges for Makeda these days, starting with being the little sister to a newly distant teenager, moving to a new town away from her BFF, having parents who constantly fight, and watching her mom’s mental health deteriorate and blaming herself. After her mom’s mania takes them on a trip to Colorado which abruptly nose dives into severe depression and a suicide attempt, Makeda reaches out for help. An insightful, honest story.
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Booked
by Kwame Alexander
REALISTIC /#OWNVOICES
Alexander skillfully writes about the teenage human condition — he just gets it! 12-year old Nick struggles with his parents’ separation, a school bully, and the awkwardness of a first crush. The only thing that feels right is soccer. That is until he gets injured and can’t play. Written in free verse, this is a lyrical, fast-paced story that feels honest and relatable.
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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
REALISTIC /#OWNVOICES
Because this is written in verse, this is a fast read but packs a big punch. Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin when his twin, Jordan, gets a girlfriend; about getting in trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball; and about watching his father as his heart fails. This is a coming-of-age, gripping story about a boy who is just trying to figure out life like most boys at age 12.
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What Lane?
by Torrey Maldonado
Short and fast-paced, this is the story of a boy who learns to think for himself instead of being influenced by friends and how Stephen notices he’s living in a world that treats him differently than his white friends. Stephen concludes that he gets to decide what lane he’s in– not the world nor his peers.
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good books for 11 year oldsChildren's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Ghost
by Jason Reynolds
REALISTIC /#OWNVOICES
Ghost accidentally gets on a track team and it’s life-changing. His coach becomes a mentor and father figure who pushes Ghost to take responsibility for his mistakes (stealing sneakers) and to start dealing with the ghosts of his past. Well-written and hopeful about growing up and growing into yourself.
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Patina by Jason Reynolds
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Patina’s anger sometimes gets the best of her but running helps. She’s mad about her dad dying, her mom’s legs being amputated, and her new school. When her track coach makes Patty work with her teammates in a relay, she’s forced to rely on them. And that changes things. Patina is a beautiful coming-of-age story that will tug at your emotions.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Blended
by Sharon Draper
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Isabella spends one week with her dad and his girlfriend, the next week with her mom and her boyfriend. She hates it. She really hates exchange day when she switches. She feels like nowhere is home, she’s always visiting. And her parents, one who is white and one who is black, don’t get along. Tensions between the families get worse when both parents decide to remarry — on the same date. Add to this hurtful race issues like when she and her stepbrother are pulled over because he’s black and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sharon Draper writes a story that captures Isabella’s feelings of division as she searches for who she is in her own story.
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Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
This book is brilliantly written for so many reasons. One, because it addresses the very real issue of police violence against black children but it does not vilify or stereotype. The author shows us the complexity of issues and the humanity of a police officer from the perspective of his daughter. After Jerome is shot by her father, he becomes a ghost. Sarah is the only one who can see and talk to him. Except for the other ghost boys who he’ll find out were also killed in racially motivated violence. It’s a well-written, fast-paced read but one that is going to stay with you as you ponder the important topics it addresses.
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Twintuition Double Vision
by Tia and Tamera Mowry
Not realistic completely but magical realism, this story focuses on identical twins living in a new town who experience flashes of precognition when touching some people. Unfortunately, the sisters aren’t getting along these days and it is very challenging to go to a new school. Then, when their policewoman mother faces a serious problem, the twins come together and use their magical abilities to save their mom from scandal. Twintuition is a quick, enjoyable read.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Jada Sly, Artist & Spy
by Sherri Winston
MYSTERY / #OWNVOICES
I really liked this well-plotted mystery and think your readers will, too– the writing is great and the story is engaging. Jada has recently moved from France back to New York City after her Mama’s plane crashed 6 months before. But Jada still thinks her mom’s alive which makes her father think that Jada is not accepting reality. What her father doesn’t know is there’s been a man following Jada and she has actually seen her mom. She thinks. What is going on?
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Two Naomis
by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
What is it like when your parents are divorced — and one finds a new partner? In this coming-of-age story written from two different points of view, Naomi’s mom is dating a man named Tom who has a daughter also named Naomi. Both girls’ parents push them to become friends. Of course, both girls feel resistant — especially when Naomi’s mom asks her to go by her first and middle name —  Naomi Marie — to differentiate the two. It’s a tricky time in these kids’ lives, something the authors made relatable and enjoyable to read. The wisdom the parents give to their kids and their unwavering love of their children is inspiring. This is a story that rings true with a pitch-perfect ending.
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8th Grade Superzero 
by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Reggie McKnight is an unpopular yet thoughtful middle-school student who tries to do the right thing by helping out at a homeless shelter and running for school president.
Amazon

 


To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson
ADVENTURE / MYSTERY / #OWNVOICES
Someone is trying to frame Jackson for a prank he didn’t even commit — and they’re doing a great job of it! It will take months to prove the video is falsified and by then Jackson will have missed the robot contest due to his punishment. Jackson and his friends are determined to prove their innocence but it won’t be easy. This is a great adventure filled with twists and turns.
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Clean Getaway
by Nic Stone
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Sometimes growing up means seeing the difficult truth about someone you love…Scoob takes a spontaneous road trip with his beloved G’ma in her new camper, escaping his dad’s spring break punishment. As they visit places from his G’ma’s past, their trip turns out differently than he expects. What begins as only a fun adventure turns into a revelation of current and historical racial prejudices (Scoob is black and his grandmother is white). What’s more, things become strange and confusing as Scoob notices more weird behaviors from G’ma. Was she trying to steal jewelry in the store? And why are there stacks of cash hidden in the camper? Perfect pacing, an intriguing plot, and memorable characters.
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Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Clayton feels happiest with his grandfather, playing the blues. Unfortunately, his mom hates everything about the blues because it represents her father’s abandonment of the family. When Clayton’s beloved grandfather dies and his mom takes his harmonica, he ditches school to find his grandfather’s old band. Instead of musicians, he encounters a gang of boys and gets picked up by the police. This is a superbly crafted 2017 chapter book about grief, family, and forgiveness.
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Katerina Ballerina
by Tiler Peck and Kyle Harris, illustrated by Sumiti Collina
BALLET
An earnest young girl loves ballet but since her dad can’t afford lessons, she watches YouTube videos and practices in her room. After a disastrous talent shows Katerina’s dad her bravery, Katrina’s dad stretches the budget for lessons. It’s not a great start though– she shows up in red swimming suit and homemade tutu! But she makes a friend who helps her learn ballet terms and adjust to formal classes. As Katrina becomes more serious in her dancing, a competition reminds Katrina that she needs to balance both working hard and enjoying dancing.
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Black Brother Black Brother
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
PREJUDICE / COMING OF AGE / FENCING / #OWNVOICES
Twins with very different skin colors, one whiter and one darker, are treated differently, most noticeable at their school. Donte is unfairly accused of something and when he tries to defend himself, the police are called and he’s suspended from school. Not to mention, a popular guy at his school calls Donte “black brother” because he’s darker than his twin, Trey. Donte starts fencing to get revenge but as he trains, he finds that he’s smart, good at fencing, and courageous. If you think the world still isn’t racist and colorist, read this compelling story and you’ll see that we still have a long way to go.
Amazon  Bookshop

 


Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
by Jason Reynolds
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Ten short stories tell about the lives of different kids after their middle school day ends. With complex backstories and incredible depth of character development, Reynold’s fiction feels truthful… so much so that I’m so very glad that I’m not in middle school anymore. What kinds of topics are these kids dealing with? Bullying, fear of dogs, parents who have cancer, stealing, comedian goals, OCD, skateboarding, and friendships. Some stories are funny, some are serious, and all ring true.
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The Startup Squad
by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear
ENTREPRENEUR
Resa’s class gets put into groups for a lemonade stand competition and Resa gets paired with her best friend, Didi, and a new girl named Amelia. Unfortunately, Resa demands to be in charge of everything and their communication problems affect how their team is doing in the competition. Even though their team doesn’t win, the girls, especially Resa, learn the importance of teamwork and listening to all ideas. It’s a great book for showing kids about entrepreneurship and communication.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters
Harbor Me
by Jacqueline Woodson
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES
Harbor Me tackles some very big issues including race, immigration, bullying, learning differences, friendship, and forgiveness. The story is about six children with learning differences. They bond during a “special kids-only” time on Friday afternoons where they share their stories, many of which Haley records on a tape recorder. Even as she learns about the other kids who are, Haley is reluctant to share that her own dad is in jail for the car accident killing her mother. When she does eventually share, it’s beautiful to see the other kids support her. This well-written story deserves to be discussed as it has a wealth of ideas to ponder.
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Eddie Red Undercover Mystery in Mayan Mexico
by Marcia Wells
MYSTERY
Eddie, his best friend Jonah, and his parents are on vacation in Mexico. When Eddie’s dad becomes the primary suspect in the theft of a stolen Mayan mask so Eddie and Jonah decide to solve the mystery themselves. Only they don’t speak Spanish all that well, and there’s more to this mystery than just a stolen mask. You’ll love the Spanish words throughout, the well-paced action, and the characters.
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Children's Chapter Books Featuring Black Main Characters

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  • WELCOME

    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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