15 Must-Have Children’s Books

It isn’t always easy finding diverse representation in children’s books. Here are 15 of our favorite picks for the little boy or girl in your life!

It isn’t always easy finding diverse representation in children’s books. Here are 15 of our favorite picks for the little boy or girl in your life!

1. Snowy Day by Ezra Keats

From the publisher: Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever. The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

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2. The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass

From the School Library Journal: Bakari and his easy-going best friend, Wardell, must save the world from the evil ice king, Zenon, who has lost his ring and is looking for revenge. It seems that popular but cocky Tariq and Keisha may have the ring. How will the two boys solve the problem of returning the ring and standing up to the pushy pair all in one day? Refreshingly, this tale stars an African American cast. This colorful, well-illustrated story contains friendship, magic, zombies, and plenty of adventure. Readers will surely clamor for further installments from this talented duo.

3. Ellray Jakes is Not a Chicken by Sally Warner

From the publisher: EllRay Jakes is tired of being bullied by fellow classmate Jared Matthews. But when EllRay tries to defend himself, he winds up in trouble. Then his dad offers him a deal: If he stays out of trouble for one week, they’ll go to Disneyland! EllRay says he can do it. But saying it and doing it are two very different things.

4. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

From the publisher: In this companion book to the bestselling I Love My Hair, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut. Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity.

5. Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

From the publisher: Takes a loving look at knees from the vantage point of a mother’s lap.

6. Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

From the publisher: Academy-Award nominated filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife, producer Tonya Lewis Lee, preset a behind-the-scenes look at the chills, spills, and unequivocal thrills of bringing up baby!

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7. Big Hair, Don’t Care by Crystal Swain-Bates

From the publisher: Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school. Despite her hair blocking the view of anyone that dares sit behind her and causing her to lose at hide and seek, she sings the praises of her big hair throughout this rhyming picture book. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated book is perfect for any girl or boy who has ever felt a bit self-conscious about their hair and may need a reminder from time to time that it’s okay to look different from the other kids at their school.

8. Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora

From the publisher: A toddler plays a game of peekaboo, and you’re invited to play too. First there’s Mommy to find, with Daddy not far behind. Then Puppy comes peeking around the corner, and a favorite toy train brings the toddler to Grandma and Grandpa. Isadora’s brilliant, joyful pastel illustrations capture the familiar and cozy people, toys and animals that will delight babies.

9. Daddy Calls Me Man by Richard Jackson

From the publisher: Inspired by his family experiences and his parents’ paintings, a young boy creates four poems.

10. I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

From the publisher: This whimsical, evocative story about a girl named Keyana encourages African-American children to feel good about their special hair and be proud of their heritage. A BlackBoard Children’s Book of the Year. Full-color illustrations.

11. Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett

From the publisher: Norman the goldfish isn’t what this little boy had in mind. He wanted a different kind of pet — one that could run and catch, or chase string and climb trees, a soft furry pet to sleep on his bed at night. Definitely not Norman. But when he tries to trade Norman for a “good pet,” things don’t go as he planned. Could it be that Norman is a better pet than he thought? With wry humor and lighthearted affection, author Kelly Bennett and illustrator Noah Z. Jones tell an unexpected — and positively fishy — tale about finding the good in something you didn’t know
you wanted.

12. If I Ran For President by Catherine Stier

From the publisher: If you ran for president, you would have to do a lot of hard work. You would study the nation’s problems, tell the American people about your platform, select a running mate, and debate your opponents on live television.

13. You Can Do It! by Tony Dungy

From the publisher: Tony Dungy’s little brother, Linden, is a third grader who is having a bad day at school. Linden is the youngest of the Dungy family and the least motivated because he hasn’t found “it.” In a family where everyone seems to have found their special talent, all Linden knows is that he wants to make people happy.

With encouragement from his parents, a helping hand from his older brother Tony, and inspiration from God, Linden learns that if he dreams big and has faith, he can do anything!

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14. Little Shaq by Shaquille O’Neal

From the publisher: The start of a brand new series by Shaquille O’Neal and illustrated by 2014 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent award winner Theodore Taylor III, Little Shaq is sure to be a hit with young readers.

When Little Shaq and his cousin Barry accidentally break their favorite video game, they need to find a way to replace it. That’s when Little Shaq’s science project inspires a solution: a gardening business. They can water their neighbors’ gardens to raise money for a new game! Little Shaq and Barry make a great team both on and off the basketball court, but will their business be as successful as they hoped?

Showing kids that anything is possible with the support of friends and family, Little Shaq will inspire them to love reading, play fair, and have fun!

15. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

From the publisher: Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy’s persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen’s own experiences as a young dancer.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

 

20 Quotes to Inspire Young Men

Let these 20 quotes from inspiring leaders, thinkers and innovators push you forward in your journey to greatness.

Check out these great quotes to inspire you or the young men in your life!

1.”One and God make a majority.” – Frederick Douglass, Renowned American Abolitionist

2. “The privileges of being an American belong to those brave enough to fight for them.” – Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Leader of the Tuskegee Airmen Flight Squadron and First Black Air Force General

3. “Men who are in earnest are not afraid of consequences.” – Marcus Garvey, Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist

4. “The first need of a free people is to define their own terms.” – Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Revolutionary

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5. “Kwanzaa was conceived, created and introduced to the African community as an audacious act of self-determination.” – Maulana Karenga, Black Nationalist and Creator of Kwanzaa

6. “I’m in business to make money. You can do well and do good. But at first, you have to focus on the blocking and tackling of running a good business.” – Robert Johnson, Co-founder of BET

7. “Keep going no matter what.” – Reginald F. Lewis, Philanthropist, Attorney, Businessman

8. “Money had never been the main thing for me.  It’s the legacy that was important.” – Berry Gordy, Founder of Motown Records

9. “I am a man, I count nothing human foreign to me.” – Publius Terentius Afer (Terence), Greatest Roman Comic Dramatist

10. “We will either find a way or make one.” – Hannibal Barca, Greatest Carthaginian General

11. “The best way to boycott is to build your own.” – Chuck D, Rap Pioneer

12. “Never abandon your vision.  Keep reaching to further your dreams.” – Benjamin Banneker, Inventor, Author, Architect

13. “Our children may learn about heroes of the past.  Our task is to make ourselves architects of the future.” – Jomo Kenyatta (Kamau Ngengi), Pan-Africanist and First President of an Independent Kenya

14. “Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.” – Alex Haley, Historian

15. “I resolve it is better to die than be a white man’s slave.” – Sengbe Pieh (Joseph Cinque), Leader of Amistad Slave Revolt

16. “Hate is a wasteful emotion, most of the people you hate don’t know you hate them and the rest don’t care.” – Medgar Evers, Civil Rights Activist

17. “I think that the good and the great are only separated by the willingness to sacrifice.” – Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Most Prolific Scorer in NBA History

18. “Find a need and fill it. Successful businesses are founded on the needs of the people. Once in business, keep good books. Also, hire the best people you can find.” – Arthur G. Gaston, Businessman/Civil Rights Activist

19. “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” – Booker T. Washington, Educator, Businessman, Founder of the Tuskegee Institute

20. “To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe, World Renowned Tennis Player

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About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is also a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Minute Mentor: Attorney and Author Faye McCray

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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Name: Faye

Age Range: 35

Occupation: Attorney/Writer

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in English, Juris Doctor Degree (Law Degree)

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income: 

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Describe your job:

By day, I am a government attorney working in public service.  I am also a traditionally published and self-published author.  I teach writing courses. I also blog and write articles online.  In addition, I manage this lovely website.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of school?

In order to be an attorney, I had to graduate high school, get my college degree (4 years), and go to law school (3 years).  I had to take the SAT to get into college, the LSAT to get into law school, and after I graduated law school, I had to take a state bar to practice law in the state I live in.

Writing is different. I have been writing since I was six years old! Technically, you don’t need a particular degree to be a writer.  My major in college was in English so that was extremely helpful because I was able to practice my writing, have it graded, and receive feedback from my peers.  That made me a better writer.  Some people go on to get their Master’s degree in Fine Arts which enables them to specialize in a particular kind of writing like screenwriting or playwriting.  It also gives them the option to teach!

Take it one step at a time.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you look at the big picture and not all the small steps it takes to get there.  It is not insurmountable.  I would also say surround your children with people who are goal-oriented.  Laziness is contagious! I make it a habit to never be the smartest person in the room. If I am, I work to get out as soon as possible. I want people around me who will elevate me and not drag me down.

What kind of student were you?

I was an A & B student for most of my education. I struggled more in math and science because I am more creative by nature.  Law school was more challenging for me but I don’t think anyone finds law school easy!

Did you have a mentor? How did you meet?

I have had a number of mentors throughout my career.  My legal mentors were mostly professors and employers.  My most impactful mentor relationships happened organically with people I genuinely liked.  I didn’t have to try too hard.  As I have grown in my career, many of those relationships have turned into friendships.

In writing, some of my mentors were professors. Others were people I met along the way at writing groups and meet-ups.  Being a writer can be isolating! If you are an introvert (like me), you have to constantly push yourself to go out and meet other writers.  I live in the DMV, so I have taken workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda which have been wonderful for meeting other writers and honing the craft!

How did you get your current job?

I applied for my day (legal) job through a notice that went out through my law school’s alumni network.

As a writer, I work on my own schedule.

Is your job family-friendly?

My day job is very family-friendly. I am an attorney with the government, so usually I am able to get off work by 5pm.  I also work from home a great deal which is awesome.

Writing is different. It’s easy to get caught up when you’re writing. I have a husband and 3 kids, so I have to constantly check myself to make sure I am giving them enough quality time.  Often, I write after everyone goes to bed.  I don’t get enough sleep.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

Yes. Especially the writing.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer/lawyer?

As far as the writing goes, I have always felt like a writer so the answer is YES.

As far as law, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer when I was probably about 11 or 12.  I used to love the television show A Different World.  There was this amazing character named Freddie Brooks who was this poet/granola-eating/hippie with this wild curly hair.  She had a hot boyfriend with locs. I adored her, and I saw my adult self being something like her.  In one of the last seasons, she decided to go to law school.  It was this kind of natural choice for her because she cared so passionately about social justice issues.  She was still very much herself but in her day job, she was about the business of healing her community through the legal system.  I wanted to be JUST like her. I truly believe sometimes goals and dreams don’t feel attainable until you see someone who looks like you achieving them.  That’s why I created this site! Freddie may not have actually been real but watching her each week on A Different World made me feel like if she could do it, I could too.

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What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field?

For law, I’d say take it one step at a time.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you look at the big picture and not all the small steps it takes to get there.  It is not insurmountable.  I would also say surround them with people who are goal-oriented.  Laziness is contagious! I make it a habit to never be the smartest person in the room. If I am, I work to get out as soon as possible. I want people around me who will elevate me and not drag me down.

For writing, I would encourage you to travel, go to shows, concerts and readings.  It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.  There are always free things to do! Expose your child to the arts. My best writing has been inspired.  I think it’s important to see different perspectives and meet different types of people.  I think in order for fiction to feel real you have to be able to empathize with different people and perspectives.  Exposure is key! I would also get a library card and/or a B&N membership. Encourage your child to read and be comfortable with silence.  There are so many distractions. Pursuing a career in writing is an exercise in discipline.

Of course for all careers, be encouraging! Your child may want to pursue a career you never even heard of.  Focus on the steps to get there and not all the things that can hold them back.