Black Voices in Children’s Publishing
By Emma Rogers, Rosie Pinder and Aimee Haldron
As a part of this issue’s focus on Black voices in publishing, we wanted to highlight a few of our favourite Black authors who are working across the children’s book industry. From picture books to novels for young adults, there are loads of exciting authors championing Black voices within the children’s book world. Many tackle topics such as respecting personal boundaries, institutional racism and immigration in their books, making these reads key for children, as well as entertaining.
Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller
Wherever Aira goes, somebody wants to touch her hair and it isn’t long before she has had enough. Sharee Miller teaches children the importance of personal boundaries and asking for permission in this hilarious picture book.
I am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown
Karamo Brown, the star of the Netflix show Queer Eye, makes his writing debut with this picture book that explores the bond between a father and his son. While spending the day walking around the city, the two discuss all the ways that they are perfect for each other and all the plans they have to make. Written along with his son, Jason, this is the perfect book for both adults and children.
You Are a Champion by Carl Anka and Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford MBE is known for his skills on the football field. In this guide, he draws on his own experiences to teach young children that their only competition is themselves. Rashford’s debut novel won The British Book Awards 2022 in both the Book of the Year and Children’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year categories.
Coming to England by Floella Benjamin
Floella Benjamin’s memoir is a classic, but twenty-six years later, its message still rings true. In 1960, Floella and her siblings left Trinidad to join their parents in London. When she is rejected by all of her peers, she quickly realises that to succeed in life, she will have to work harder than anybody else.
The Dream Team: Jaz Santos vs. the World by Priscilla Mante
Published in 2021 and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Sports Book Awards 2022, this is Priscilla Mante’s debut and the first in The Dream Team series. It follows Jaz and her football team the Bramrock Stars as they try to be taken seriously and show that girls can play football. This is a really heartwarming read and particularly great after the success of the England Women’s National Football Team at the Euros this summer! The second title in the series – Charligh Green vs The Spotlight – was published earlier this year and there is a third book still to come.
Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman
Children’s Laureate from 2013–2015, Malorie Blackman published Noughts and Crosses, a dystopian novel where the roles of Black and white people in society are reversed, back in 2001. Following its success, she concluded the series with two more novels for the new generation – Crossfire in 2019 and Endgame in 2021. The series has also been adapted into a BBC drama starring Masali Baduza and Jack Rowan.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé explores institutional racism in schools in her debut novel. An anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students' secrets to light in this compelling thriller. Devon is a quiet musician, but he is thrown into the spotlight when some private pictures are exposed. Head girl Chiamaka's role comes under threat when everybody learns the price she paid for her power. This novel dominated Bookstagram and BookTok upon its publication and it's easy to see why.
The King is Dead by Benjamin Dean
Described as “Gossip Girl but make it royal,” this is a change of pace from Dean’s first book Me, My Dad and the End of The Rainbow. This suspenseful queer young adult thriller will have you hooked and flying through it to find out who would target King James. He has been in the spotlight all his life as the first Black heir to the throne, but when his dad dies unexpectedly, James is crowned king at just seventeen. When James’ boyfriend goes missing, threatening notes appear in the palace and gossip is leaked to the press, James realises that even the people in his innermost circle cannot be trusted.
Black voices in children’s publishing and across the board are still not always getting the recognition they deserve. We hope that these suggestions have drawn attention to a few brilliant books that you may not have come across. But, as always, this is just a small selection. We’d love to hear your recommendations for children’s books by Black authors that we should be reading.