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"Down through the Years": African American Stories for Young Readers and the Young at Heart

This list is in two sections, beginning with books for children, ages 3-10. Click here for books for Young Readers, ages 10 up

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Children, ages 3 - 10

Aardema, Verna.

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain. Illus. by Beatriz Vidal. New York: Pied Piper, 1981. This rhythmic read-aloud tale tells how Ki-pat ingeniously brings rain to the arid Kapiti Plain.

What's So Funny, Ketu? Illus. by Mare Brown. New York: Pied Piper, 1982. The joke is on Ketu when he receives the power to read animals' minds.

Who's in Rabbit's House. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon, New York: Pied Piper, 1977. This Masai tale is full of surprises about who is in rabbit's house.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Pied Piper, 1975. This West African tale explains why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears.

Brown, Marcia.
Shadow. New York: Aladdin, 1982. In this free-verse evocation of the eerie, shifting images of Shadow, the beliefs and ghosts of the past are brought to life wherever there is light, fire, and a storyteller.
Bryan, Ashley.
Sing to the Sun. [New York]: HarperTrophy, 1992. This collection of poems and paintings celebrates the ups and downs of life .
Caines, Jeannette.

Just Us Women. Illus. by Pat Cummings, New York: HarperTrophy, 1982. A young girl and her favorite aunt share the excitement of planning a very special car trip for just the two of them.

Carr, Jan.

Dark Day, Light Night. Illus. by James Ransome. New York: Hyperion, 1995. Manda's Aunt Ruby helps her deal with some angry feelings by making lists of all the things that they like in the world.

Chocolate, Deborah M. Newton.

lmani in the Belly. Illus. by Alex Boies. N.p.: Troll Medallion, 1994. Imani's faith helps her save herself and her children from the belly of the King of Beasts.

Clifton, Lucille.

The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring. Illus. by Brinton Turkle. New York: Puffin Unicorn, 1973. King Shabazz and his best friend Tony Polito search all over the neighborhood for this "spring" they keep hearing about.

De Veaux, Alexis.

An Enchanted Hair Tale. Illus. by Cheryl Hanna. New York: HarperTrophy, 1987. Sudan suffers when people ridicule his strange-looking hair, but he comes to accept and enjoy its enchantment,

English, Karen.

Neeny Coming, Neeny Going. Illus. by Synthia Saint James. N. p.: BridgeWater, 1996. Essie eagerly awaits the visit of her cousin but discovers Neeny is no longer interested in life on Essie's island.

Everett, Gwen.

Lil Sis and Uncle Willie. Paintings by William H. Johnson. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. This fictional story is based on the actual events in the life of William H. Johnson.

Farmer, Nancy.

Do You Know Me. Illus. by Shelley Jackson. New York: Puffin, 1993. Although he is continually getting into trouble, Tapiwa's uncle becomes her best friend when he comes from Mozambique to live with her family in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Flournoy, Valerie.

The Patchwork Quilt. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial, 1985. Using scraps cut from the family's old clothing, Tanya helps her grandmother make a beautiful quilt that tells the story of her family's life .

Ford, Juwanda G.

A Kente Dress for Kenya. Illus. by Sylvia Walker. New York: Scholastic, 1996. Kenya's class has been selected to do a special show-and-tell program on Parents' Night and each child is to bring in something from a favorite family activity .

Frasier, Debra.

On the Day You Were Born. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1991. All of earth celebrates the birth of a newborn baby.

Gerson, Mary Joan.

Why the Sky Is Far Away. Illus. by Carla Golembe. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. The sky was once so close to the earth that people cut parts of it to eat, but their waste and greed caused the sky to move far away.

Greenfield, Eloise.

Africa Dream. Illus. by Carole Byard. New York: HarperTrophy, 1977. A Black child's dreams are filled with the images of the people and places of Africa.

Night on Neighborhood Street. Illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. New York: Dial, 1991. Greenfield's poems celebrate life in a place that offers insight about a child's world of family, friends, and neighbors during one night on Neighborhood Street.

Under the Sunday Tree. Paintings by Amos Ferguson. [New York]: HarperTrophy, 1988. This collection of poems and paintings evokes life in the Bahamas.

Grifalconi, Ann.

Darkness and the Butterfly. Boston: Little, Brown, 1987. Small Osa is fearless during the day, climbing trees or exploring the African valley where she lives, but at night she becomes afraid of the strange and terrifying things that might lie in the dark.

Haskins, Francine.

Things I Like about Grandma. Emeryville, Calif.: Children's Book, 1992. A young African American girl tells of her close relationship with her grandmother.

Hoffman, Mary.

Amazing Grace. Illus. by Caroline Binch. New York: Dial, 1991. Grace loves all stories but is disheartened when told she cannot play the role of Peter Pan because she is a girl.

Boundless Grace. Illus. by Caroline Binch. New York: Dial, 1995. Grace is invited for a visit with her father and his new family in Africa.

Howard, Elizabeth Fitzgerald.

Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later). Illus. by James Ransome. New York: Clarion, 1991. Sarah and Susan share tea, cookies, crab cakes, and stories about hats when they visit their favorite relative, Aunt Flossie.

Humphrey, Marge.

The River That Gave Gifts. San Francisco: Children's Book, 1987. Yanava and her playmates decide they will each give Neema, the beloved elder woman of the town who is losing her sight, something special before the time comes when she will not be able to see.

Hunter, Bobbi Dooley.

The Legend of the African Baobab Tree. Trenton, N. J.:Africa World, 1995. Tired of the complaints of a beautiful tree growing on the African plains, the Great Spirit turns the tree upside-down so that its branches look like roots growing toward the sky.

Igus, Toyomi.

When I Was Little. Illus. by Higgins Bond. Orange, N. J.: Just Us, 1992. A grandfather tells his grandson about how things have changed since the grandfather was little.

Joseph, Lynn.

Coconut Kind of Day. Illus. by Sandra Speidel. New York: Puffin, 1990. This collection of poems depicts the sights and sounds of the Caribbean islands.

Keats, Ezra Jack.

John Henry: An American Legend. New York: Dragonfly, 1965. This legend describes the life of the steel-driving man who was born and died with a hammer in his hand.

Ketteman, Helen.

Not Yet, Yvette. Illus. by Irene Trivas. Morton Grove, III.: Albert Whitman, 1992. Yvette waits impatiently as she and her father prepare a surprise birthday party for her mother.

Kimmel, Eric A.

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock. Illus. by Janet Stevens. New York: Holiday House, 1988. Anansi the Spider uses a strange, moss-covered rock in the forest to trick all the other animals, until little Bush Deer decides Anansi needs to learn a lesson.

Kitamura, Satoshi.

Sheep in Wolves' Clothing. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995. When three sheep have their fleecy coats stolen from the beach while they are swimming, they suspect that some wily wolves have pulled the wool over their eyes.

Knappert, Jan.

Kings, Gods & Spirits from African Mythology. Illus. by Francesca Pelizzoli. New York: Peter Bedrick, 1986. This collection includes tales of gods, ghosts, and spirits; sagas about famous heroes; fables about magical animals; and stories of powerful kingdoms of the past.

Kroll, Virginia.
Jaha and Jamil Went down the Hill. Illus. by Katherine Roundtree, Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 1995. The verses in this book are those that Mother Goose might have written, had she visited Africa.

Sweet Magnolia. Illus. by Laura Jacques. Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 1995. Denise visits her grandmother, a wildlife rehabilitator, in the Louisiana Bayou, and helps heal and free an injured baby bird.

Kurtz, Jane.

Pulling the Lion's Tail. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Almaz's grandfather finds a clever way to help Almaz get to know her father's new wife.

Lawrence, Jacob.

The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: HarperTrophy, 1993. Lawrence's series of paintings chronicle the journey of African Americans who, like the artist's family, left the rural South in the early twentieth century to find a better life in the industrial North.

Lester, Julius.

John Henry. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney, New York: Dial, 1994. This account retells the life of the legendary African American hero who raced against a steam drill to cut through a mountain.

Liddell, Janice.

lmani and the Flying Africans. Illus. by Linda Nickens. Trenton, N. J.: Africa World, 1994. On the trip from Detroit to Savannah to see his grandparents and greatgrandmother for the first time, an African American boy hears the story about an amazing event witnessed by his great-great-grandmother when she was enslaved.

Mathis, Sharon Bell.

The Hundred Penny Box. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Puffin, 1975. Michael's love for his great-great aunt, who lives with his family, leads him to intercede with his mother, who wants to toss out all the aunt's old things.

Mattox, Cheryl Warren.

Shake it to the One That You Love the Best. Illus. by Varnette P, Honeywood and Brenda Joysmith. Nashville: JTG, 1989. This collection of traditional African American play songs and lullabies includes lyrics and full piano score for each song as well as a cassette tape.

McDermott, Gerald.

Anansi the Spider. New York: Henry Holt, 1972. On a long, difficult journey Anansi is threatened by Fish and Falcon, then saved from terrible fates by his sons-- but which son should Anansi reward?

Mendez, Phil.

The Black Snowman. Illus. by Carole Byard. New Verk: Scholastic, 1989. Jacob and his brother wrap their snowman in a scrap of cloth, which turns out to be kente, an African storytelling shawl that has special, magical qualities--as the two boys soon find out.

Miller, William.

Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery. Illus. by Cedric Lucas. New York: Lee & Low, 1995. This is a true account from the life of the famous writer and activist Frederick Douglass.

Myers, Walter Dean.

How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World. Illus. by Synthia Saint James. New York: Doubleday, 1996. Mr. Buzzard avoids working for his food by tricking the other animals, but Mr. Monkey finds a way to remedy the situation.

Nikola-Lisa, W.

Bein' with You This Way. lllus. by Michael Bryant. New York: Lee & Low, 1994. As the children play in the park they discover that despite their physical differences-straight hair/curly hair; brown eyes/blue eyes; light skin/dark skin--they are all really the same.

Oliver, Elizabeth Murphy.

Black Mother Goose Book. Illus. by Thomas A. Sockett. Brooklyn, N. Y.: Dare, 1981. These are standard Mother Goose rhymes with a Swahili glossary at the bottom of each page for a few of the English words.

Oyono, Eric.

Gollo and the Lion. Illus. by Laurent Corvaisier, New York: Hyperion, 1994. In this folktale from Cameroon, Gollo goes to an old soothsayer for help when Plogozom the lion devours his sister.

Pomerantz, Charlotte.

The Chalk Doll. Illus. by Frane Lessac. New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1989. Rosy's mother remembers the pleasures of her childhood in Jamaica and the very special dolls she used to play with.

Porter, Connie.

Meet Addy: An American Girl. Illus. by Melodye Rosalese. Middleton, Wisc.: Pleasant Company, 1993. Nine-year-old Addy Walker escapes from a cruel life of slavery to freedom during the Civil War.

Ringgold, Faith.

Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky. New York: Crown, 1992. With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie retraces the steps escaping slaves took on the Underground Railroad in order to reunite with her younger brother.

Tar Beach. New York: Crown, 1991. A young girl dreams of flying above her Harlem home, claiming all she sees for herself and her family.

Schertle, Alice.

Down the Road. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. New York: Browndeer, 1995. Hetty is very careful with the eggs she has bought on her very first trip to the store, but she runs into trouble when she stops to pick apples.

Schroeder, Alan.

Ragtime Tumpie. Illus. by Bernie Fuchs. Boston: Little, Brown, 1989. Tumpie, a young Black girl who will later become famous as the dancer Josephine Baker, longs to find the opportunity to dance amid the poverty and vivacious street life of St. Louis in the early 1900s.

Seeger, Pete.

Abiyoyo. Illus. by Michael Hays. New York: Aladdin, 1986. Banished from the town for making mischief, a little boy and his father are welcomed back when they find a way to make the dreaded giant Abiyoyo disappear.

Sierra, Judy.

Wiley and the Hairy Man. Illus. by Brian Pinkney, New York: Lodestar, 1996. With his mother's help, Wiley outwits the conjuring Hairy Man who lives in the swamp near their home.

Smalls, Irene.

Louise's Gift. Illus. by Colin Bootman. [Boston]: Little, Brown, 1996. Louise is disappointed in Nana's gift and prediction for her future, but later comes to understand just how special she is.

Thomas, Joyce Carol.

Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. [New York]: HarperCollins, 1993. This collection of poems explores the theme of African American identity .

Gingerbread Days. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. [New York]: HarperCollins-Joanna Cotler, 1995. Poems for each month of the year celebrate the themes of family love, individuality, and African American identity.

Thompson, Julee Dickerson.

Dance of the Rain Gods. Trenton, N. J.: Africa World, 1994. This African American folktale explains the magic behind a rainstorm.

Weatherford, Carole Boston.

Juneteenth Jamboree. Illus. by Yvonne Buchanan. New York: Lee & Low, 1995. Cassandra and her family have moved to her parents' hometown in Texas, but it doesn't feel like home to Cassandra until she experiences Juneteenth, a Texas tradition celebrating the end of slavery.

Weiss, George David, and Bob Thiele.

What a Wonderful World. Illus. by Ashley Bryan. New York: Atheneum, 1995. The beauty and harmony in the world are expressed through the lyrics of Louis Armstrong.

Williams, Sherley Anne.

Working Cotton. Illus. by Carole Byard. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, 1992. A young Black girl relates the daily events of her family's migrant life in the cotton fields of central California.

Yarbrough, Camille.

Cornrows. Illus. by Carole Byard. New York: Coward-McCann, 1979. This story explains how the hairstyle of cornrows, a symbol of Africa since ancient times, came today in this country to symbolize the courage of outstanding African Americans.

Young, Ruth.
Golden Bear. Illus. by Rachet Isadora. New York: Puffin, 1992. A little boy and Golden Bear learn to play the violin, talk to a ladybug, make mudpies, wish on stars, and dream together.


Young Readers, ages 10 up

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Aardema, Verna.

Misoso: Once upon a Time Tales from Africa. Illus. by Reynold Ruffins. New York: Apple Soup, 1994. The twelve folktales in this collection are from different parts of Africa.

Anderson, David A.

The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth. Illus. by Kathleen Atkins Wilson. Mt. Airy, Md.: Sights, 1991. The story tells of a time when there were only two domains--the sky above and the water below--and of the adventures of Obatala, a deity who descends from the sky to create the world.

Bolden, Tonya.

Rites of Passage: Stories about Growing Up by Black Writers from around the World. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1994. Seventeen stories recount the experiences of young people of African descent around the world.

Des Pres, Francois Turenne.

Children of Yayoute: Folk Tales of Haiti. New York: Universe, 1994. This collection of Haitian folktales features magical human and animal characters, from tricksters and buffoons to dancing dolls and talking fish.

Fairman, Tony.

Bury My Bones but Keep My Words: African Tales for Retelling. Illus. by Meshack Asare. New York: Puffin Books, 1991. The thirteen traditional tales in this collection are from various regions of Africa.

Fourie, Corlia.

Ganekwane and the Green Dragon. Illus. by Christian Arthur Kingue Epanya. Morton Grove, Ill.: Albert Whitman, 1992. These four stories from Africa feature brave little girls.

Hamilton, Virginia.

Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Blue Sky, 1995. The nineteen stories in this book focus on the magical lore and wondrous imaginings of African American women.

Many Thousand Gone: African-Americans from Slavery to Freedom. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. This book recounts the journey of Black slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, an extended group of people who helped fugitive slaves in many ways.

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. This retelling of African American folktales features animals, fantasy, the supernatural, and desire for freedom, born of the sorrow of the slaves but passed on in hope.

Haskins, James.

The Headless Haunt and Other African-American Ghost Stories. Illus. by Ben Otero. New York: HarperTrophy, 1994. The ghost stories and anecdotes in this collection are part of the folklore of African Americans.

Hooks, William H.

The Ballad of Belle Dorcas. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. New York: Dragonfly Books, 1990. When she falls in love with Joshua, a slave, free-born Belle Dorcas uses the magic of a conjure woman to keep Joshua with her.

Freedom's Fruit. Illus. by James Ransome, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. Mama Marina, an enslaved woman and conjurer in the Old South, casts a spell on her owner's grapes as part of her plan to win freedom for her daughter Sheba and the man Sheba loves.

Hopson, Darlene Powell, and Derek S. Hopson.

Juba This & Juba That. New York: Fireside, 1995. This collection includes one hundred African American games for children.

Johnson-Feelings, Dianne.

The Best of The Brownies' Book. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. This anthology includes selections from the twenty-four issues of The Brownies' Book published by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the 1920s.

Katz, William Loren.

Black Women of the Old West. New York: Atheneum, 1995. This book traces the lives of African Americans on the American frontier through old records, newspaper clippings, pioneer reminiscences, and dozens of rare frontier photographs.

Lester, Julius.

The Knee-Highman and Other Tales. Illus. by Ralph Pinto. New York: Pied Piper, 1972. This collection of six stories--some funny, some sad, and some didactic--comes from slavery times.

Lester, Julius.

The Last Tales of Uncle Remus. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial, 1994. This retelling features the final adventures and misadventures of Brer Rabbit and his friends and enemies.

Lyons, Mary E.

Painting Dreams: Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. This is the story of Minnie Evans, from her childhood to her eventual success as an artist who pursued her vision despite the restrictions placed on her as an African American woman.

Raw Head, Bloody Bones: African-American Tales of the Supernatural. New York: Aladdin, 1991. This collection features fifteen Black and African American tales of the supernatural from various states and several Caribbean countries and includes commentary on Black folklore in the New World.

Starting Home: The Story of Horace Pippin, Painter. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1993. This is an account of the life and work of the African American folk artist Horace Pippin.

Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1993. This illustrated biography of Harriet Powers tells the story of an African American quilter who made quilts of her favorite Bible stories and folktales.

McKissack, Patricia C.

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. This is a collection of ghost stories with African American themes that are designed to be told during the "dark-thirty"--the half hour before sunset--when ghosts seem all too believable.

McKissack, Patricia C., and Fredrick L. McKissack.

Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters. Illus. by John Thompson, New York: Scholastic, 1994. This account describes the customs, recipes, poems, and songs used to celebrate Christmas in the big plantation houses and in the slave quarters just before the Civil War.

Osofsky, Audrey.

Free to Dream -- The Making of a Poet: Langston Hughes. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1996. This is a biography of the Harlem Renaissance poet whose works gave voice to the joy and pain of the African American experience in America.

Parks, Van Dyke.

Jump Again! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit and His Family by Joel Chandler Harris. Illus. by Barry Moser. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987. In this collection of five tales, Brer Rabbit meets Tar-Baby, Brer Weasel, and Miss Meadows, and he outwits Brer Fox.

Jump on Over! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit and His Family by Joel Chandler Harris. Illus. by Barry Moser. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. In this collection of five tales, Brer Rabbit outwits Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and Brer Wolf to ensure his family's survival during a drought.

Ringgold, Faith, Linda Freeman, and Nancy Roucher.
Talking to Faith Ringgold. New York: Crown, 1996. This interactive biography of African American artist and children's book author Faith Ringgold details her experiences and perspectives and the inspiration for her art.
Schlissel, Lillian.

Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. This account focuses on the experiences of African Americans as mountain men, soldiers, homesteaders, and scouts on the frontiers of the American West.

White, Carolyn.

The Tree House Children. Illus. by Christiane Kromer. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. A determined hungry witch tries to capture the fisherman's children for her dinner.

Wisniewski, David.

Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. New York: Clarion Books, 1992. Sundiata overcomes physical handicaps, social disgrace, and strong opposition to rule Mali in the thirteenth century.

Young, Richard and Judy Dockrey Young.

African-American Folktales for Young Readers. Little Rock: August House, 1993. This collection from the African American oral tradition, presents stories as they have been told by professional Black storytellers from Rhode Island to Oklahoma.

Prepared by The Office of Education, Anacostia Museum
in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
Smithsonian Institution

October 1996


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