No Side Kicks Here  
A fun selection of books with black leading characters

Curated list prepared by Ms. Janine Guida-Poutre, Library Media Specialist for Seth Boyden and Dr. Ahadi Bugg-Levine.

Overcoming Obstacles/Against All Odds

Curated list prepared by Ms. Lora Tazewell, South Orange Middle School (SOMS) School Librarian.


Years: 0-3

Board Books
Twinkle Twinkle

Twinkle, Twinkle, Time for Bed(Scholastic) Sung to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, this book shows a little girl putting her stuffed zebra to bed. Amazon Link 

baby goes to marketBaby Goes to Market (Author: Atinuke. Illustrator: Angela Brooksbank) This book takes place in an African marketplace. The sweet story of a baby receiving gifts from market sellers without mama seeing. Book reinforces counting one to five. Amazon Link

Make a Wish, Midas!Make a Wish, Midas! (Author: Joan Holub. Illustrator: Leslie Patricelli) Midas paints everything his favorite color yellow until he regrets it! Amazon Link

I Know a LotI Know a Lot! (Author: Stephen Krensky. Illustrator: Sara Gillingham) The little girl talks about some of the things that she knows. Amazon Link 



Whose Knees Are TheseWhose Knees Are These? (Author: Jabari Asim. Illustrator: LeUyen Pham) A celebration of a beautiful baby boy’s cute little knees. EyeSeeMe Link



Years: 3-7

IPromiseI Promise. (Author: Lebron James. Illustrator: Nina Mata) The promises we make to ourselves and our community today help us develop into the people we become in the future. EyeSeeMe Link 

More Than a PrincessMore Than a Princess. (Author: Delanda Coleman & Terrence Coleman. Illustrator: Beatrice Mello) A little girl and her fairy godmother explore many things she can do in the sciences, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Amazon Link 

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the LibraryDo Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library. (Author: Julie Gassman. Illustrator: Andy Elkerton) Want to bring your pet dragon to the library? Better think twice! EyeSeeMe Link


MONSTER TROUBLEMonster Trouble. (Author: Lane Fredrickson. Illustrator: Michael Roberton) A little girl figures out how to keep monsters from coming into her room and disturbing her sleep. EyeSeeMe Link 


parkerlooksup_480x480Parker Looks Up. (Author: Parker Curry & Jessica Curry. Illustrator: Brittany Jackson.) A visit to Washington, DC’s National Portrait Gallery forever alters Parker Curry’s young life when she views a special portrait. EyeSeeMe Link

Ruby Finds a WorryRuby Finds a Worry. (Author: Tom Percival.) What do we do when we have a worry that just keeps growing? EyeSeeMe Link 



The Snowy DayThe Snowy Day. (Author: Ezra Jack Keats)  Any of Keats’ books with Peter are just like a cozy hug!  In this classic, Peter goes exploring the fresh snow and its delights.  Also:  Whistle for Willie.  Our friend must master the new skill so he can call his lost dog.   Peter’s Chair.  Peter must come to terms that he’s too big for his favorite chair and pass it on to the new baby.  Pet Show!  Archie wants to enter his cat in the neighborhood pet show — but the cat has vanished! EyeSeeMe Link

BunheadsBunheads. (Author: Misty Copeland. Illustrator: Setor Fiadzigbey) A little girl discovers her love of ballet. The perfect book for the ballet dancer in your life. If you like this book, also take a look at Firebird by prima ballerina Misty Copeland about having the self-confidence and faith to achieve one’s dreams. EyeSeeMe Link 

I am Every Good ThingI am Every Good Thing. (Author: Derrick Barnes. Illustrator: Gordon C. James)  A child confidently exclaims all the ways that he is good in this positive and empowering book. EyeSeeMe Link  


Snow Globe WishesSnow Globe Wishes. (Author: Erin Dealey. Illustrator: Claire Shorrock) A family celebrates the quiet moments and loving joys of a snow day! EyeSeeMe Link 

Libby Loves ScienceLibby Loves Science. (Author: Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes. Illustrator: Joelle Murray) Libby and her friends compete to have the best booth at the school fair and  This book provides a range of experiments for children to follow. EyeSeeMe Link

Not NormanNot Norman: A Goldfish Story. (Author: Kelly Bennet. Illustrator: Noah Z. Jones) A little boy thinks that he doesn’t want a goldfish, but could he be wrong? Like this one, see also the fun sequel: Norman - One Amazing Goldfish about having faith in our friends and developing the courage to confront our fears such as stage fright. EyeSeeMe Link

Your Name is a Song

Your Name is a Song. (Author: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. Illustrator: Luisa Uribe) A little girl shares her frustration with people mispronouncing her name to her mother who then teachers her the musicality and beauty of names from many cultures. EyeSeeMe Link

Thank you omuThank you, Omu! (Author: Oge Mora) When Omu makes a delicious red stew, she attracts hungry guests from all over the neighborhood and sees that sharing can lead to the most beautiful surprises. EyeSeeMe Link

The Day You BeginThe Day You Begin. (Author: Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrator: Rafael Lopez) A girl realizes that she’s not alone in feeling different, she finds commonality with others and celebrates. EyeSeeMe Link 

Amazing GraceAmazing Grace. (Author: Mary Hoffman. Illustrator: Caroline Binch) Grace loves reading books and playing all of the exciting roles. When she has a chance to play a role in the school play, Peter Plan, she knows just which character she wants to be.  If you like this book, please read others in the series. See especially Princess Grace and Boundless Grace.  Princess Grace shows that there’s more than just one way to be a princess (or prince) and explores different cultures to find her perfect princess. Boundless Grace focuses on how to deal with family dynamics after a divorce and shows  Grace traveling to Africa to meet her father’s family there. EyeSeeMe Link

The Very Last CastleThe Very Last Castle. (Author: Travis Jonker. Illustrator: Mark Pett) A brave little girl ignores scary rumors about the last castle to knock on the door, see what’s inside, and make a new friend. Amazon Link 

Mary had a Little GlamMary had a Little Glam. (Author: Tammi Sauer. Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton) Fun spin on Mary Had a Little Lamb. Fashionista Mary learns that while dress up is fun, there’s a time and a place for wearing our boas and crowns and for casting them aside. EyeSeeMe Link

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus TreeOne Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree. (Author: Daniel Bernstrom. Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel) After being swallowed by a snake, a little boy figures out how to get free by tricking the snake. EyeSeeMe Link 

Azaleah LaneAzaleah Lane series. (Author: Nikki Shannon Smith. Illustrator: Gloria Felix) This series follows the adventures of Azaleah Lane with her family. EyeSeeMe Link 


Raising DragonsRaising Dragons. (Author: Jerdine Nolan. Illustrator: Elise Primavera) When a dragon hatches on the family farm, a child learns how to raise a dragon and find a best friend. EyeSeeMe Link 


Izzy GizmoIzzy Gizmo. (Author: Pip Jones. Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie) A little girl finds a bird with a broken wing and struggles to build an invention to help the bird fly. Will she give up or will she persevere? Amazon Link 

Going UpGoing Up! (Author: Sherry J. Lee. Illustrator: Charlene Chua) A little girl and her dad are going to a party on the 10th floor of their building and they meet many neighbors on the ride up in the elevator. EyeSeeMe Link 


Help Wanted, Must Love BooksHelp Wanted, Must Love Books. (Author: Janet Sumner Johnson. Illustrator: Courtney Dawson) When Shailey’s dad gets a new job, his work interrupts her bedtime stories so she searches to find another story reader. EyeSeeMe Link

I Will Be FierceI Will Be Fierce. (Author: Bea Birdsong. Illustrator: Nidhi Chanani) A book that shows why it's important to have courage, confidence, and kindness in order to feel strong and empowered. Amazon Link 

You MatterYou Matter. (Author: Christian Robinson) When dealing with the good, the bad, or the scary, you matter. Amazon Link 



Lola series. Anna McQuinnLola series. (Author: Anna McQuinn. Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw) In board book and hardcover format, this series follows the adventures of a little girl and her brother. EyeSeeMe Link 


Cece Loves ScienceCece Loves Science. (Author: Kimberly Derting & Shelli R. Johannes. Illustrator: Vashti Harrison) A curious child makes a great discovery after conducting numerous experiments to complete her science project. EyeSeeMe Link

Green PantsGreen Pants. (Author: Kenneth Kraegel) Wearing green pants makes Jamison feel strong and like he can do anything. When he is asked to be at a wedding and to wear a tuxedo, he has to decide if he is brave enough to wear other pants. EyeSeeMe Link

IslandbornIslandborn. (Author: Junot Diaz. Illustrator: Illustrator: Leo Espinosa) A child tries to remember the island where she was born for a school assignment and asks her family, friends, and neighbors to help her. EyeSeeMeLink

Years: 7-9

Sassy seriesSassy series. (Author: Sharon Draper) In each story, Sassy engages in a new adventure. EyeSeeMe Link  





Black Panther seriesBlack Panther series. (Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates) Illustrator: Brian Stelfreeze. In a new era, T’Challa confronts upheaval in Wakanda. EyeSeeMe Link 





Bud, Not BuddyBud, Not Buddy. (Author: Christopher Paul Curtis)  The story of ten-year-old Bud, an orphan during the Great Depression. After running away from his foster home, Bud sets out to search for the man he thinks is his long lost father.  Also by CPC: The Mighty Miss Malone, The Madman of Piney Woods, Mr. Chickee series. EyeSeeMe Link 

 Zoey and sassafrasZoey & Sassafras series. (Author: Asia Citro. Illustrator: Marion Lindsay) Each story in the Zoey and Sassafras series features a new magical animal with a problem that must be solved using science. EyeSeeMe Link




ShuriShuri. Black Panther series. (Author: Nnedi Okorafor & Vita Ayala. Illustrator: Paul Davidson) Shuri investigates to find a missing T’Challa. EyeSeeMe Link 





Dear DragonDear Dragon. (Author: Josh Funk. Illustrator: Rodolfo Montalvo) When a dragon and a human become penpals, hilarity ensues. EyeSeeMe Link




Rice and RocksRice and Rocks. (Author: Sandra Richards. Illustrator: Megan Kayleigh Sullivan) A little boy worries that his friends will not like his family's rice and rocks for dinner until his Auntie shows him that many cultures eat their version of rice and beans. Amazon Link

Grace for PresidentGrace for President.  (Author: Kelly DiPucchio. Illustrator: LeUyen Pham)  A student learns how a president is elected when she decides to run for class president herself. If you like this book, see also the sequel: Grace Goes to Washington. Grace uses lessons she learned from a trip to Washington to help her school council come to an important decision. EyeSeeMe Link

How to Code a SandcastleHow to Code a Sandcastle.
(Author: Josh Funk. Illustrator: Sara Palacios) Using fundamental computer coding concepts, a child works to build the perfect sandcastle. EyeSeeMe Link 


Lulu and the Dog from the SeaLulu and the Dog from the Sea. (Author: Hilary McKay. Illustrator: Priscilla Lamont) A little girl finds a stray dog on the beach and thinks that he needs a friend.  The Lulu series has a different story with the same main character in each book. EyeSeeMe Link 



Willimena RulesWillimena Rules! series. (Author: Valerie Wilson Wesley. Maryn Roos) A little seven-year-old girl gets into different adventures in each book. Realistic fiction for school. Amazon Link






Ruby and the Booker BoysRuby and the Booker Boys. (Author: Derrick Barnes. Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley Newton) Sassy Ruby, who is just as tough as her three older brothers, gets into a series of adventures. EyeSeeMe Link 




Running OverloadRunning Overload. (Author: Jake Maddox. Illustrator: Tina Francisco) The story of an eighth-grade girl who is determined to excel at track, but soon finds that her life will suffer without balance. Amazon Link




Sugar Plum BallerinasSugar Plum Ballerinas series. (Author: Whoopi Goldberg & Deborah Underwood. Illustrator: Maryn Roos) This is a series that involves the same main characters at a ballet school.  The girls must come to terms and solve daily problems together. EyeSeeMe Link 

Sasha Savvy Loves to CodeSasha Savvy Loves to Code.  (Author: Sasha Ariel Alston) The main character, Sasha Savvy, is a super-smart 10-year old, who lives in Washington, DC. Her mom wants her to go to a coding camp and she does not!  Amazon Link





Dancing in the WingsDancing in the Wings. (Author: Debbie Allen. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson) A girl wants to be a ballerina more than anything else and wants to show a recruiter how well she can dance. EyeSeeMe Link



How the Leopard Got His ClawsHow the Leopard Got His Claws. (Author: Chinua Achebe. Illustrator: Mary GrandPré) An allegorical fable about power and governance for older readers. Amazon Link



SpidermanSpider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Author: Steve Behling) This book is based on the film of the same name. EyeSeeMe Link 







Black Panther The Young PrinceBlack Panther: The Young Prince. (Author: Ronald L. Smith) Twelve-year-old T’Challa struggles with challenges that put him on the path to becoming the Black Panther. EyeSeeMe Link 






Root MagicRoot Magic. (Author: Eden Royce) This book is set in South Carolina in 1963 and combines the history of the Gullah community and increasing school integration with magical adventures. EyeSeeMe Link


Overcoming Obstacles/Against All Odds

Grades 6 – 8

Look_Both_WaysLook Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. (Author: Jason Reynolds) Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds consists of ten chapters, each focused on a student or group of students who attend Latimer Middle School. The students are learning about themselves, each other, and their world. EyeSeeMe Link

blendedBlended. (Author: Sharon M. Draper) Piano-prodigy Isabella, eleven, whose black father and white mother struggle to share custody, never feels whole, especially as racial tensions affect her school, her parents both become engaged, and she and her stepbrother are stopped by police. EyeSeeMe Link

A Good Kind of TroubleA Good Kind of Trouble. (Author: Lisa Moore Ramee) Strictly following the rules to pursue her junior-high ambitions, 12-year-old Shayla is forced to choose between her education and her identity when her sister joins the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of a powerful protest. EyeSeeMe Link

My Life as an Ice Cream SandwichMy Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich. (Author: Ibi Aanu Zoboi) 12-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured her love for all things outer space and science fiction. Amazon Link  

New KidNew Kid. (Author: Jerry Craft) Though Jordan wants nothing more than to go to art school where he can perfect his cartoon drawings, his parents have other ideas. Instead, Jordan’s sent to an upscale prep school where he’s one of only a few kids of color.  EyeSeeMe Link


Grades 8 -12 

concrete roseConcrete Rose. (Author: Angie Thomas) Concrete Rose, set 17 years before the events of The Hate U Give, Maverick Carter deals for the King Lords in order to help his overworked mother while his father is in prison, but everything changes when Mav finds out he's going to be a father. EyeSeeMe Link

Who Put This Song OnWho Put This Song On?. (Author: Morgan Parker) Trapped in sunny, stifling, small-town suburbia, seventeen-year-old Morgan knows why she's in therapy. She can't count the number of times she's been the only non-white person at the sleepover, been teased for her "weird" outfits, and been told she's not "really" black.  EyeSeeMe Link

Early DeparturesEarly Departures. (Author: Justin A. Reynolds) Justin A. Reynolds, the author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again. Amazon Link