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8 Picture Books with Black Main Characters: Social-Emotional Learning, Self-Esteem




1. Allie All Along (Anger/Emotional Regulation)

“Allie’s crayon broke.

I blinked.

She was suddenly . . .

furious, fuming, frustrated . . .”

Have you ever felt mad enough to stomp, smash, and crash? Allie has! Meet one angry little girl and see how she calms down, bit by bit—with the help of her understanding big brother.

Poor Allie! She’s in a rage, throwing a tantrum, and having a fit! Her emotions have built and built and now they just burst. Is there a sweet little girl hiding somewhere under all the angry layers? And can her big brother find a way to make things all right again? In the tradition of When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry and Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, Allie All Along explores simple ways kids can center themselves in the face of overwhelming emotions.




2. Black All Around (Self-Esteem, Identity, Pride)


In this lively, poetic celebration of the colour black, a young girl experiences the wonder and joy of all the black objects she finds around her. The letters and words on the pages of a book, a limousine, a big workhorse, beetles, firefighter's boots, piano keys, and more all capture the young girl's attention in joyously illustrated spreads that combine seemingly unrelated objects in imaginative interactions.


3. Brave Molly (Anxiety)


What do you do when no one can see your monsters but you? At first, Molly runs from them. But they follow her down the sidewalk, getting in the way when she tries to make a new friend, popping up unexpectedly out of shadows, and multiplying. Until finally...Molly faces her fears. Author-illustrator Brooke Boynton-Hughes delivers a modern classic in this moving adventure that honors everyday acts of bravery and the power of friendship to banish the monsters that haunt us.



4. My Hair is a Garden (Self Esteem - Pride)


After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie cannot take anymore and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.



5. Thank You, Omu (Social-Emotional Learning - Learning to Share)


Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu's delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?


Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu's stew, with an extra serving of love. An author's note explains that "Omu" (pronounced AH-moo) means "queen" in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean "Grandma." This book was inspired by the strong female role models in Oge Mora's life.



6. Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut (Self Esteem - Pride)


The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly.


This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. A high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.




7. Last Stop on Market Street (Social Emotional Learning/Social Awareness)


Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn't he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty-and fun-in their routine and the world around them. This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena's vibrant text and Christian Robinson's radiant illustrations.


8. Radiant Child (Celebrating Difference)


This is a beautiful book about the artist's childhood. It brings awareness that we are all made differently, as are our brains - and you don't have to always "color inside the lines" to create something wonderful in this world.