Awesome New Middle Grade Books to Read for Black History Month

new must-read middle grade books black history month

Are you looking for new middle grade books written by black authors to celebrate Black History Month?

The list below includes books featuring protagonists of color. Each one is written by an author of color as well.

February is Black History month in the United States. Books are one of the many ways you can celebrate the history and achievements of African Americans and amplify black voices. Books have the unique ability to teach kids about prejudice, social justice, and discrimination.

In 2015, the organization We Need Diverse Books formed and brought attention to the lack of diversity in children’s books. It’s important for all kids to see themselves represented in literature.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks places emphasis on the need for diverse books for children.

middle grade books by black authors

By providing your middle grade readers with books written by black authors, you honor black history and achievement.

You’ll find a wide variety here–fantastic books that appeal to a range of middle grade interests. The titles below cover historical topics, current issues, experiences, culture, and accomplishments of POC.

Read on for new middle grade books by black authors across all genres: mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, graphic novel, contemporary, memoir, and verse.

You can find these new middle grade books at your local library or through the affiliate links provided.

Must-Read Middle Grade Books by Black Authors to Read This Winter (and Beyond)

The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold

middle grade books black authors

It’s 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is excited to be moving from Haiti to America. Unfortunately, her parents won’t be able to join her yet and she’ll be living in a place called Brooklyn, New York, with relatives she has never met. She promises her parents that she will behave, but life proves to be difficult in the United States, from learning the language to always feeling like she doesn’t fit in to being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to speak English perfectly and be “American,” she makes the deal. But soon she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and, along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat), takes on the witch in an epic battle to try to reverse the spell. 

Gabrielle is a funny and engaging heroine you won’t soon forget in this sweet and lyrical novel that’s perfect for fans of Hurricane Child and Front Desk.


The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

kids books by black authors

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade–exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets–secrets so big they could ruin everything.


Root Magic by Eden Royce

best children's books by black authors

It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven— and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going to train them in rootwork.

Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of their family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.


Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

best books by black authors

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.

So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.


Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

best children's books by authors of color

Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games–is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.

But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it . . . before it’s too late?

Exploring community, gentrification, justice, and friendship, Take Back the Block introduces an irresistible 6th grader and asks what it means to belong–to a place and a movement–and to fight for what you believe in.


The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

top children's books by authors of color

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black—and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.

Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.

When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.


Brave Black First by Cheryl Hudson & Erin K. Robinson

black history month

Published in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, discover over fifty remarkable African American women whose unique skills and contributions paved the way for the next generation of young people. Perfect for fans of Rad Women Worldwide, Women in Science, and Girls Think of Everything.

Harriet Tubman guided the way.
Rosa Parks sat for equality.
Aretha Franklin sang from the soul.
Serena Williams bested the competition.
Michelle Obama transformed the White House.
Black women everywhere have changed the world!

Published in partnership with curators from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, this illustrated biography compilation captures the iconic moments of fifty African American women whose heroism and bravery rewrote the American story for the better.


Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

middle grade books with protagonists of color

Sometimes, 12-year-old Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, most of the students don’t look like him. They don’t like him either. Dubbing him “Black Brother,” Donte’s teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey.

When he’s bullied and framed by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, he’s suspended from school and arrested.

Terrified, searching for a place where he belongs, Donte joins a local youth center and meets former Olympic fencer Arden Jones. With Arden’s help, he begins training as a competitive fencer, setting his sights on taking down the fencing team captain, no matter what.

As Donte hones his fencing skills and grows closer to achieving his goal, he learns the fight for justice is far from over. Now Donte must confront his bullies, racism, and the corrupt systems of power that led to his arrest.

Powerful and emotionally gripping, Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy’s fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.


Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.


Simon B. Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed

Eleven-year-old Simon Barnes dreams of becoming a world-famous rapper that everyone calls Notorious D.O.G. But for now, he’s just a Chicago fifth grader who’s small for his age and afraid to use his voice.

Simon prefers to lay low at school and at home, even though he’s constantly spitting rhymes in his head. But when his new teacher assigns the class an oral presentation on something that affects their community, Simon must face his fears.

With some help from an unexpected ally and his neighborhood crew, will Simon gain the confidence to rap his way to an A and prove that one kid can make a difference in his ‘hood?


Hide and Seeker by Dana Hermon

One of our most iconic childhood games receives a creepy twist as it becomes the gateway to a nightmare world.

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend.Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee’s welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.


What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

“STAY IN YOUR LANE.” Stephen doesn’t want to hear that–he wants to have no lane.

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules–and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his–and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.


Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids by Arlisha Norwood

You’re invited to meet ancient Egyptian rulers, brilliant scientists, legendary musicians, and civil rights activists―all in the same book! Black Heroes introduces you to 51 black leaders and role models from both history and modern times. This black history book for kids features inspirational biographies of trailblazers from the United States, Egypt, Britain, and more.

Discover where in the world they lived, and what their lives were like growing up. Learn about the obstacles they faced on the way to making groundbreaking accomplishments. You’ll find out how these inspirational figures created lasting change―and paved the way for future generations.

Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids features:

  • Fascinating biographies―Read about famous icons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman, as well as lesser-known pioneers like aviator Bessie Coleman and astronomer Benjamin Banneker.
  • Ways to learn more―Every biography includes an idea for a new way to explore the person and their work, like a book to read, website to visit, or video to watch.
  • Colorful portraits―Bring the historical heroes to life in your imagination with the help of full-color illustrations.

Black Heroes goes beyond other black history biographies for kids to highlight people from around the world and across time. Who will your new hero be?


Conclusion

When children see themselves in books, it tells them that they matter. Representation and exposure to diverse material is important for all children (and adults)!

This winter, consider buying or borrowing more middle grade books written by black authors. By doing so, you honor black history and achievement.

We Need Diverse Books provides a list of resources for race, equity, anti-racism, and inclusion.

books to read for black history month

Can you think of any other new middle grade books by black authors to add to the list above? Please comment with your recommendations!

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