All ages: 19 empowering books with black characters

It’s important that children have access to diverse books, and young readers will love these tales of daring heroes, brave kids and great friendships. Featuring black characters at the forefront, these stories have positive role models that both inspire and empower.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within. Sulwe's skin is the colour of midnight. She's darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school. All she wants is to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister.Then a magical journey through the night sky opens her eyes.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, Vashti Harrison (Illustrator)

Based on the Oscar-winning short film, this is the story of Zuri, her dad, and her hair. Zuri's hair is beautiful, but it can have a mind of its own. For a special occasion, Zuri and her daddy need to work together to style her hair, and show that natural is brilliant! A wonderful book that celebrates the love of fathers and daughters, as well as putting black hair front and centre.

Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison

All throughout history, Black men have stood up and fought for justice and what they believe in. This book tells the stories of 40 Black men, from campaigners, athletes, fashion journalists and musicians who realised their dreams and made the world a better place. Read about the amazing lives of Prince, Paul Stephenson and Kofi Annan with your own future little leader and learn about these great men together.

We’re Going to Find the Monster by Malorie Blackman, Dapo Adeola (Illustrator)

Join two intrepid adventurers as their imaginations transform their house into a wild wonderland - and their big brother becomes a mighty monster. A joy to read-aloud with its cumulative refrain, and full of funny, relatable characters, this is a contemporary celebration of creativity, fantasy and family.

Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon, Dapo Adeola (Illustrator)

Rocket is back and this time she sets off on a mission to save a Caribbean island from plastic pollution! When Rocket goes for a holiday to visit her grandparents, she's shocked by the pollution that is spoiling their island home and putting the local sea life at risk. Can she think of a way to save the day?

Magic Betsey by Malorie Blackman, Jamie Smith (illustrator)

This book is one of five short story collections featuring Betsey Biggalow. Betsey puts on a magic show but everyone is less than impressed with her tricks. No matter – in these four sweet and funny short stories, Betsey learns the importance of believing in yourself, that practise makes perfect, and that some magic is real . . .

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

Elmore Green is perfectly happy as an only child, thank you very much. He has his own room and no one will eat his orange jelly beans because his parents do not eat jelly beans. But then the new small person comes along. And everything changes! Suddenly Elmore Green thinks he might not be everyone’s favourite after all…

Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, Dapo Adeola

Meet hilarious, science-mad chatterbox, Rocket - she's going to be the greatest astronaut, star-catcher, space-traveller that has ever lived! Bursting with energy and passion about science and space, this heart-warming, inspirational picture book will have readers turning off their screens and switching on to the outside world.

The Silence Seeker by Ben Morley, Carl Pearce (Illustrator)

The new family next door are asylum seekers, hoping for peace and calm in this noisy, busy city. But to Joe, they are ‘silence seekers’, and when he sees his young neighbour looking sad on the steps, he makes a vow. Joe wants to help his neighbour find a place for himself in this city Joe calls home – now his neighbours’ home too. This moving tale provides the perfect way to open up gentle and thoughtful discussion around the refugee crisis.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Meet the little leaders. They're brave. They're bold. They changed the world. 

Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models and everyday women who did extraordinary things. Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in the world's history, this book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations.

Debut author/illustrator Vashti Harrison pairs captivating text with stunning illustrations as she tells the stories of both iconic and lesser-known female figures of black history - from nurse Mary Seacole, to politician Diane Abbott, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and singer Shirley Bassey.

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth (Hilo Book 1) by Judd Winick

D.J. and Gina may be totally normal kids, but their new friend Hilo isn’t! With no idea where he came from, what he’s doing on Earth or why he needs to wear more than just his underwear to school, the trio has a mystery to solve. Can they discover the secrets of Hilo’s past, and more importantly, how will Hilo survive a day at school? Don’t miss this laugh-out-loud story of unlikely friendships – and the occasional mutant robot ant…

Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin, Richard Collingridge (Illustrator)

This collection of original, beautifully written stories will lead you into a captivating world. You’ll encounter talking animals and wicked witches, magicians and enchanted forests as you watch Blackberry Blue rise from the bramble patch, follow Emeka the pathfinder on his mission to save a lost king and join Princess Desire as she gallops across the Milky Way on her jet-black horse… Perfect for readers of all ages, these magical tales will thrill and enchant again and again.

Fly Me Home by Polly Ho-Yen

As she struggles to adjust to life in a new country, Leelu dreams of flying back home to her father and the life she left behind. London is grey and cold, there’s concrete everywhere; she doesn’t want to be here. Leelu feels so lonely – but she’s not alone. Soon she discovers someone is leaving gifts for her, wondrous gifts that bring her curious magical powers. Will they help her find her way home? Filled with magic, family and friendship, this is an unforgettable and moving tale of one family’s battle to belong.

The Young Magicians and The Thieves’ Almanac by Nick Mohammed (Author)

On a London street, four unlikely friends stand before the astonishingly ordinary-looking blue door of the Magic Circle . . .Alex doesn't say much, and once jumped when handed a satsuma, but, wow, is he amazing with a deck of cards. Zack is undoubtedly one of the best pickpockets in the country (but always puts things back). Sophie once convinced her Brown Owl that all the other Brownies were jellyfish thanks to her nifty hypnosis skills - and then never returned. Jonny - who is quite possibly the tallest boy in the universe - mixes science and magic with spectacular consequences (mostly explosions). Join these young magicians as they step inside the world-famous conjuring club in an adventure that may or may not involve the search for a secret book, a set of impossible crimes and . . . oh, yes - a flock of very confused pigeons.


The Lost Hero: The Graphic Novel (Heroes of Olympus Book 1) by Rick Riordan

In this beautifully illustrated graphic novel, Jason, Piper and Leo have crash-landed at Camp Half-Blood, where rumours of a terrible curse – and a missing hero – abound. It seems they are the chosen ones who must embark on a terrifying new quest, to be completed by the winter solstice... in just four days’ time. Can the trio succeed in their dangerous quest – and what must they sacrifice in order to survive? This unputdownable graphic novel is packed with adventure, legends and monsters and is a must-have for every Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus fan.

Pig-Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman

When you’re 13, you just want a normal life. To be like all the other teenagers, doing normal things. But most teenagers don’t need heart transplants. You’re the unlucky one. You think there’s no chance to live an ordinary life… but what if you’re wrong? What if there’s a doctor who says there might be a chance for you – though it’s risky. It’s experimental and controversial – and it’s never been done before… A powerful, thought-provoking story from the brilliant, award-winning Malorie Blackman, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

What does it mean to be a family? In this beautifully written and heart-wrenching story, 12-year-old Crow explores questions of her own identity and where she truly belongs. Abandoned when she was hours old, Crow was found on a boat and raised on a tiny island by Osh, her rescuer, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbour. One night, after the appearance of a mysterious fire across the water, Crow begins to question her own history, triggering an unstoppable – and dangerous – chain of events.

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

Bullied for her light skin tone and missing her absent mother, life isn’t always sunny for 12-year-old Ella, growing up in segregated Alcolu in 1944. So, she’s ecstatic when her mother – pursuing her jazz singer dreams in Boston – invites her for Christmas. But whilst there, Ella discovers the secrets of her mother and the father she never knew – and her most unexpected family history. And upon her return to the South a month later, life changes even more with the news that her classmate has been arrested for the murder of two local white girls. Nothing will ever be the same…

The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt

Officially endorsed by Amnesty International, this unforgettable debut novel is both a love story and a thriller. 13-year-old Pip has been hired as a farmhand by Mr Zachery – but Pip is black, the farmer and his wife are white, and in 1960’s America, racism is rife. Meanwhile, Irishman Jack Morrow has arrived in the Deep South dreaming of a new life as a university professor. He carries with him a secret; certain skills in hypnotism and mind control. Now, as dangerous racial tensions threaten to overshadow everything, Pip and Jack’s lives become entwined and Jack's hypnotic skills are needed as never before…

You Must Be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Layla believes she was right to stand up for herself against a bully, but it's landed her a suspension - not the way she (or her parents) would have wished to begin her time at her fancy new school! This is just a setback though, and she's determined to prove that she does deserve her scholarship by making new friends and setting her sights on inventing something that could win the big robotics competition. But where to begin? You Must Be Layla introduces Sudanese-born author, broadcaster, social advocate and mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied as an exciting new voice in children's writing.

How To Be Extraordinary by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Annabel Tempest

This picture book is bursting with illustrations and the true life-stories of people from around the world and throughout history, including: Aeham Ahmad, David Attenborough, Mo Farah, Keiko Fukuda, Stephen Hawking, Frida Kahlo, Abdul Kalam, Judith Kerr, Wangari Maathai, Nelson Mandela, David Nott, Michelle Obama, Krystyna Skarbek, Alan Turing, Sau Lan Wu

Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World by Burhana Islam (Author) Nabi H. Ali (Illustrator) Reya Ahmed (Illustrator) Saffa Khan (Illustrator) Aaliya Jaleel (Illustrator) Deema Alawa (Illustrator) Aghnia Mardiyah (Illustrator)

Do you think you know who first thought of the theory of evolution? Have you ever wondered who created the oldest university in the world? Is Joan of Arc is the only rebel girl who led an army that you've heard of? If so, then you need this stunningly illustrated treasure trove of iconic and hidden amazing Muslim heroes!  There are so many amazing Muslim men and women who have changed our world, from pirate queens to athletes, to warriors and mathematicians. Who will your next hero be?

How to Change the World by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Annabel Tempest

Could you and your friends change the world? This book will inspire you with 15 true stories of groups of amazing humans who've changed the world. Discover the astonishing things humans can achieve: from the campaign for women's votes, to the efforts to heal the ozone layer. Or travel back to the start of democracy in Ancient Greece, and into space to see the incredible teamwork on the international space station. Above all, uncover just some of the MANY ways we can work together to change our world - all brought to life with astonishing story-telling and illustration.