When I think about how I got to this place of doing antiracism through picture books, I give all credit to my parents. My mom took my brothers and me to the library most Saturdays. They filled our house with books, making sure to include books with Black kids. My favorite book of all time is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Growing up, we had many books by Keats on our bookshelves. Some kids looked like me and kids who looked like my friends at school. Keats created some of the first full-color diverse picture books. I assumed he was Black and didn’t find out until I became a librarian that he wasn’t.
Seeing the Beloved Community
Today, we have many, many beautiful books that reflect the kaleidoscope of shades and colors we call the Beloved Community. To continue to become that community in the fullness God intends, we must be intentional, like my parents. The books I share with you reflect my highly recommended favorites that will make beautiful additions to your home, school, and church libraries.
Read, collect, mark, share, and inwardly digest them. Let them lead you to other stories you love. Open your heart and soul to whatever conversation arises when you share these stories. All are stories you can read again and again. I pray that you find yourself in these stories and that you’re reminded that you are part of the Beloved Community we are co-creating, one story at a time.
Celebrating the Joy in Everyday Life
In The Snowy Day, Peter goes out to play in the snow. He makes snow angels, leaves footprints, and puts a snowball in his pocket for later. It’s the first story to feature a Black boy with nothing to do with race and everything to do with enjoying the snow. Stories like The Snowy Day remind us of the joy in everyday life. Beautiful new books in this vein: Layla’s Happiness, Happy Right Now, and Here and Now.
Like us, kids are trying to figure out their place in the world and how they fit into it. I Am Human: A Book of Empathy offers a hope-filled glimpse into how we can be our best versions of who God intends us to be. Brandon Stanton’s photographs in Little Humans show the diversity of kids in New York City and worldwide while the story celebrates our everyday life as humans no matter where we live.
Practicing Love & Kindness
Ruby Finds a Worry and worries about the worry, which makes it get even bigger. Fortunately, Ruby learns that talking about her worry helps herself and others with anxieties. When Taylor’s building blocks get knocked down, The Rabbit Listened when all the other animals wouldn’t. Kids like Taylor need to know that someone will listen to them on their terms.
Once we figure out our place in the world, it’s time to act to ensure that we treat each other like the beloved child God created. Be Kind reveals the complexities of kindness – that what we see as kind can be hurtful to someone else and that we have to try anyway. What Is Given From the Heart tells a story of radical generosity when James Otis and his mama share what they can with another family in their congregation who lost everything in a fire. Spoiler: James Otis shares a story that he wrote and illustrated. Many of us know the person in the community who, no matter what, always has something to give. The community finds a way to say Thank You, Omu, when she feeds everyone from a big pot of stew with a side of love.
When you’re ready to work toward social justice, turn to I Am One: A Book of Action and Antiracist Baby for concrete steps toward change. CJ doesn’t understand why he and his Nana have to ride the bus in the rain to The Last Stop on Market Street, but Nana gently reveals the beauty in daily life from and on the bus, and in the community where they help serve food and see people who are not always seen.
Embracing a Vision
Becoming the Beloved Community that God dreams for us demands a vision of what that community looks like and an opportunity to name the challenges and demands of its creation and cultivation. We all feel different and long to feel included. The Day You Begin looks into the lives of children who think they are different – even when it looks like they fit in – and reveals the impact of being seen by someone who becomes a friend. All of the historical figures in The Undefeated remind us that no matter what, there are always people who came before us who worked to make the world more beautiful for us. Sometimes beauty grows from pain and tribulation, and many aspects of antiracism require challenging conversations. What is Light? addresses the complexity of White/light/good and Black/dark/bad by illustrating light in recognizable and unconventional ways.
Hope For All
The work of Becoming Beloved Community comes with anguish but is filled with the love and hope we have for all of God’s creation. We’ve Got the Whole World In Our Hands/Tenemos el Mundo Entero en las Manos explodes with that love and hope, including music to sing the familiar song of God’s protection, modified to reflect God in us. A book I received when I had my oldest daughter, Whoever You Are, also conveys these sentiments. I want you all to know, and the reason I do this work is that You Matter. Illustrator Christian Robinson depicts gender, ethnic, and physical ability diversity in this story that reminds us repeatedly that in God’s creation, we all have a place in it.
Even More Picture Books
Visit Miriam’s comprehensive, living list of picture books on a variety of themes related to African-Americans, diversity, and Becoming Beloved community.