Skip To ContentSkip To Content
    Seattle Readers Book Recommendations
    Posted on 07/31/2019
    A student smiles for a picture in a classroom

    Summer Seattle Super Reading List Recommendations 

    Looking to add new titles to your child's summer reading list? We have some recommendations for books for students ages 5-8 featuring characters of color and additional titles by authors of color suggested by Seattle Public Schools librarians.

    As part of the new strategic plan, Seattle Public Schools is focusing all efforts on reaching students furthest away from educational justice, beginning with African-American males. Our universal goal is for every student in Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to receive a high-quality, world-class education and graduate prepared for college, career, and community.

    Super Readers logoSeattle Super Readers is our reading campaign that is entirely focused on laying the groundwork to meet the goal that every Seattle student becomes a strong reader by 3rd grade. Read more about Seattle Super Readers.

    Be sure to ask a school librarian at our school libraries or Seattle Public Library branch for more suggestions.

    Book recommendations for students age 5-8 from featuring positive and empowered black male lead characters

    Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn
    Join Leo, his daddy, and several other babies as they all go to swim class. Watch them as they get ready for the pool, sing songs, and kick and splash in the water. (Ages 0 - 3)

    Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Paul Howard
    This tender story will warm your heart. The unbreakable bond between little Jay Jay and his grandmother is so sweet and definitely full of love! (Ages 2 - 5)

    Peekaboo Bedtime by Rachel Isadora
    In this story, a toddler boy plays peekaboo with everyone from his grandparents to his puppy, until it’s finally time to snuggle into bed with his blankie. (Ages 2 - 5)

    I Love My Haircut! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
    Getting your first “big boy” haircut is a big deal. It’s considered to be a rite of passage into boyhood by many. This book perfectly captures the experience of a little African American boy getting his first haircut at the barbershop. Ages (2 - 5)

    You Can Do It! by Tony Dungy, illustrated by Amy June Bates
    After Linden has a bad day at school, he receives lots of positive encouragement from his older brother Tony, other family members, and God. This book sends the message to little readers that they truly can do anything. (Ages 4 - 7)

    Dear Dragon by Josh Funk, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo
    This is a fun book about a boy and a dragon who are pen pals. It’s great for teaching children to look past physical differences and appreciate the person underneath. (Ages 4-8)

    The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
    Based on a true story, The Banana-Leaf Ball is the perfect example to showcase the importance of play for children of all ages. There are themes of sports (soccer), teamwork, bullying, refugees, community, war, confidence, social change, overcoming differences, and friendship. (Ages 8 - 12)

    The Ring Bearer by Floyd Cooper
    Told from the perspective of the ring bearer Jackson, this book shows little readers that getting married symbolizes the start of something new. It also shows children how families grow and change and teaches them about responsibility and commitment. (Ages 3-7)

    A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams
    Gregory and his father are spending a day at the beach. Gregory manages to travel down the beach quite a long way, losing sight of his dad and the blue umbrella. On his journey back to find his dad, he encounters a jellyfish, a sand castle, a ghost crab, and more. (Ages 3-7)

    Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman
    This rhyming book tells about a little boy who wants to bring his dragon to the library to enjoy books like everyone else. However, there is just one rule: Dragons aren’t allowed in libraries! (ages 3-7)

    Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper
    After a visit to his grandpa’s house, Max is told by his grandpa that the moon will follow him all the way home. On the car ride back home, Max watches the moon as it tags along. But what happens when the sky starts to get cloudy and Max can no longer see the moon? (Ages 3-7)

    Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
    Following along on a young boy’s visit to the barber shop, readers are introduced to the wonderful feeling that comes with the ritual of getting a fresh haircut. (Ages 3-8)

    Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
    Little Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board, at least he thinks he is. He passed his swim test and completed his swimming lessons. So, jumping off the diving board should be easy, right? With a little encouragement and a pep talk from his dad, Jabari overcomes his fear and works up the courage to make a big splash. (Ages 4-8)

    Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
    Little CJ is so lucky to have a grandmother who teaches him to see things from a different perspective. (Ages 3-5)

    I’m a Big Brother Now by Katura J. Hudson
    This book is great for boys who are about to become big brothers. Although there are some unpleasant things about babies, like “stinky diapers”, nothing beats the love and affection you feel toward a new little bundle of joy. (Ages 4-8)

    More-igami by Dori Kleber
    Joey loves things that fold: maps, accordions – he even sleeps in a foldaway bed. One day, his classmate Sarah Takimoto’s mother comes to school and folds a plain piece of paper into a crane right before Joey’s eyes. He decides he wants to become an origami master. (Ages 4-8)

    Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs
    Meet Mike, he’s the perfect blend of both his parents, but not everyone feels that way. That doesn’t bother Mike though because he thinks he’s just right. (Ages 4-8)

    Kevin and His Dad by Irene Smalls
    Kevin loves spending time with his dad. It’s Saturday morning and with mom away, Kevin and his dad begin their day by cleaning the house together. Next, they go to a local park, followed by the movies, before heading back home. This book evokes excitement, pride, and shows the love a boy can experience with his father through work and play. (Ages 4-8)

    Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta
    This is a high-quality children’s biography that little readers are sure to enjoy. There are themes of hard work, determination, overcoming obstacles, boxing, sports, persistence, and confidence. (Ages 4-8)

    My Kicks: A Sneaker Story by Susan Verde
    This book touches on topics like letting go and moving on, growing up, making decisions, friendship, and the joys of playing and being a kid. There is also a fun surprise when you remove the dust jacket – a handy step-by-step shoe-tying guide. (Ages 5-7)

    Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner
    This is the story of Cornelius Washington, who was a sanitation worker in the French Quarter. Cornelius was instrumental in helping to clean up the city of New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina. It has a rhythmic, lyrical text, and kid-friendly folk-art illustration style. (Ages 5-8)

    Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
    Jeremy just wants “those shoes”. A pair of black high-tops with white stripes. The same pair that all his friends have. When he finally gets them, what he does with them is touching. (Ages 5-8)

    Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim
    This book tells the story of the childhood of Civil Rights Leader John Lewis. John knows early on he wants to become a preacher, so when he’s put in charge of the family’s flock of chickens, he soon discovers they are the perfect audience to practice preaching to. (Ages 5-8)

    Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons
    A beautiful story that showcases the special bond between a little boy, his grandmother, and yummy vanilla-scented teacakes. (Ages 5-8)

    Before There was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline-Ransome
    Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George was born on Christmas Day in 1739 on the tiny island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies. Joseph went on to become a very talented violin player and musician in France. During one of his performances young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was in the audience. This was before Mozart was well-known. In the end, Joseph performs for the King and Queen of France and is invited back on several occasions. In 2001, a street, Rue du Chevalier de Saint-George, was named in his honor. An awesome historical nonfiction book for children and music lovers. (Ages 5-9)

    My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey by Lesa Cline-Ransome
    This is the story of how Robert Battle became the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. (Ages 5 - 10)

    Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden
    This is an inspirational true story about a young boy named Ron McNair and how he desegregated his library. In the 1950's in South Carolina, it was forbidden for African Americans to have their own library card. Ron McNair didn't like that rule, so he decided to do something about it. (Ages 6 - 8)

    Jump!: From the Life of Michael Jordan by Floyd Cooper
    Did you know Michael Jordon wasn’t very good at playing basketball as a kid? In fact, everyone in his family thought Michael’s older brother Larry would turn out to be the professional athlete. Based on the true story of how Michael Jordan grew up as an ordinary boy in the heart of a North Carolina suburb, this book will leave little readers feeling empowered and inspired. (Ages 6 - 9)

    When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill
    Born in Kingston, Jamaica, DJ Kool Herc had a passion for music from a very young age. When he was 13 years old he left Jamaica to go live in New York City. One day his father buys him a monster sound system with giant six-foot speakers. Once he finally got it working, he decided to have a huge party and invite lots of people. That's when he became known as DJ Kool Herc, the creator of hip hop music. (Ages 6 - 10)

    Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton
    You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy. (Ages 7-10)

    Book recommendations for students from featuring positive and empowered black female lead characters

    A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
    It's so beautiful and lyrical with gorgeous illustrations to match. Aspiring little dancers and ballerinas ages 5–8 will love it! All the hearts for this beautifully written and inspiring book. (Ages 5-8)

    When Rosa Parks Went Fishing by Rachel Ruiz, illustrated by Chiara Fedele
    What was Rosa Parks’ life like as a child? Little readers will learn more about one of the most famous African American females in history who refused to take no for an answer.

    Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
    Move over Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious, there’s a new girl in town. Mary is her name and fashion is her game! In this adorable book, Mary helps some of childhood’s most beloved characters go glam.

    Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch
    Little Grace has a very vivid imagination. She loves to imagine and recreate famous storybook characters like Aladdin, Joan of Arc, and Hiawatha. One day, Grace tries out for the role of Peter Pan in a school play even though her classmates tell her she can't be Peter Pan because she's a Black girl. Of course, Grace proves them wrong. A delightful story about a young girl who is encouraged to be anything she wants to be.

    Lily Brown's Paintings by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
    A gorgeous book that inspires children and challenges them to use their imagination. Little readers will enjoy embarking on their own journey through Lily's beautiful and colorful paintings.

    Just Like Josh Gibson by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Beth Peck
    Growing up in the 1940s, it was frowned upon for girls to play baseball. Just Like Josh Gibson is a great book with a good message that breaks down both race and gender barriers and teaches girls they can do anything if they believe in themselves.

    Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
    Harriet Angeline Powers was a young slave girl who learned to sew and quilt on a Georgia plantation. She began making quilts that told stories. Today her story quilts are priceless treasures; her first story quilt is on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Such an empowering and inspirational book for young children to read. Also great for those who love sewing, quilting, or crocheting.

    Early Sunday Morning by Denene Millner, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
    A beautiful story with themes of love, family, feelings, courage, confidence, patience, and positive affirmations. Great for helping children cope with stage fright or teaching them about bravery, courage, and using their voice.

    One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
    A cute story about a girl who only has one true desire for her birthday. She wants a giraffe. Sophia gives a compelling presentation to her family — complete with pie charts — to try and persuade them.

    The Hula Hoopin' Queen by Thelma Godin, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
    This is a lively story about family, community, and a young girl's love of hula hoops. Readers can follow along to find out if Kameeka finally beats her rival to be crowned the Hula Hoopin' Queen of 139th Street. Perfect for summer reading or any time of the year.

    Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubard, illustrated by Randy DuBurke
    A very charming and heartwarming book that tells the story of how Marcenia Lyle (Toni Stone) dreamed of playing baseball. Her father was opposed to the idea — he thought she should become either a teacher or a nurse, like every other girl in their neighborhood. Great for teaching girls to dream big and break gender barriers.

    Who Will I Be, Lord? by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
    After a little girl ponders what's in store for her future, she concludes, “I guess like Mama says, it’s up to me.” Wonderful for having simple and deeper discussions about different careers, family trees, self-confidence, and future life planning.

    The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison
    Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, just like Wilma Rudolph once was. It doesn't matter that Alta's shoes have holes because Wilma came from hard times, too. But what happens when a new girl with shiny new shoes comes along and challenges Alta to a race? Will she still be the quickest kid? The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a timeless story of dreams, determination, and the power of friendship.

    Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J Muth
    It's a sweltering hot day and little Tessie, her mom, and others in the neighborhood are desperate for some rain to come their way. This book is about so much more than the weather. It's about family, community, mother-daughter bonding, patience, and renewal.

    Violet's Music by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
    Violet loves music! As a baby she liked to make music with her rattle. When Violet gets older she and three friends decide to form their very own band. A great book for little music lovers!

    I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Julia Denos
    Readers will love watching as a little girl’s favorite dress goes through several transformations. The girl's creative mom recycles the fabric into beautiful new creations: a shirt, tank top, scarf, and more! This book also introduces readers to the seven days of the week as well as the seasons of the year.

    Corduroy by Don Freeman
    A classic and touching story about a rejected bear who longed for a loving family. There are themes of family, friendship, adventure, feelings, and having hope.

    Princess Cupcake Jones and the Dance Recital by Ylleya Fields, illustrated by Michael LaDuca
    This modern-day princess loves taking dance classes at Madame's School of Ballet. However, there's one dance move that Cupcake Jones hasn't quite mastered yet ... an arabesque! Will she be able to do it before the big dance recital?

    The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
    Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks just wanted to go to different public places and do things like everyone else. Why couldn't she eat inside of her local ice cream shop and why did she always have to get hand-me-down schoolbooks? After participating in the Children's March in May 1963, Audrey became the youngest marcher of more than three thousand children to be arrested. Based on the true-life story of the "Civil Rights Queen," Audrey Faye Hendricks.

    The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
    A beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book biography about the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist Lena Horne.

    Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
    An expressive, inspirational, and poetic tale that shows how hard work and determination can take you to great heights. Love how Misty Copeland redefined what it means to be a professional ballet dancer. An empowering book for any child struggling to find their voice or special gifts.

    Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    A wonderful STEM-themed book that teaches little readers about problem solving, perseverance, science, and working together as a family, and challenges them to have a sense of curiosity like Ada.

    Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, illustrated by Laura Freeman
    Ann Cole Lowe was a little-known African American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion for making beautiful gowns. Ann is most famous for designing the wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day. She also designed all the dresses for the wedding party.

    Lola Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
    Not only does this book teach kids they can also own a pet like Lola, it also teaches them about responsibility, feelings, adjusting to change, adoption, giving, love, and family. But most importantly, it allows little girls and boys to see themselves reflected in a book surrounded by a loving and supportive family.

    Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolan, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
    Thunder Rose is young girl born with amazing abilities. She can make thunder and lightning appear and craft things from metal and wrangle cattle like no one's business. This picture book will surely inspire little readers, especially little girls. An entertaining folktale with messages of kindness, strength, and resourcefulness.

    She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate
    A wonderful picture book biography of the life of Effa Manley. Little girls will be inspired reading about Effa's role as a business manager and owner of the Newark Eagles baseball team.

    These Hands by Hope Lynne Price, Bryan Collier
    A sweet and simple book that follows a little girl and her hands through her day from morning until night.

    The Water Princess by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel, illustrated by Peter H. Reynold
    Georgie Badiel is a model, activist, and author from Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in West Africa. This beautifully written and illustrated book is inspired by her childhood and her wish that water would come to her and those in her community. The Water Princess is a very touching and moving story that not only educates children about a serious and ongoing issue, but also shows them how they can make a difference.

    Elizabeti's Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale
    This is a tender story about a young girl with a newborn baby brother. After watching her mother take care of her brother the girl decides she wants a baby of her own to care for. In the end, she finds the perfect "doll" and names her Eva.

    Fishing Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
    This book brings two children and families from different backgrounds together during a time of so much racism and segregation in the South.

    City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier
    This book captures the essence of New York City one shape at a time. A fun and colorful book for teaching children about shapes, exploring their environment, and being observant.

    The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson
    There was nothing the little girl in this book loved to do more than chase the chickens. Despite her grandmother telling her not to tease the animals, every day she would run and chase them until she caught every chicken in the yard. Every chicken, that is, except for Miss Hen. The girl made it her goal to catch that chicken! A charming and fun read-aloud for children young and older with great language used throughout.

    I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel Isadora
    Little Lala isn't quite ready to go to bed just yet. First, she wants to say good night to all the animals in the village, from the cat to the goat to the monkey. A cute bedtime story, with beautiful oil painting illustrations, that shows that kids trying to get out of going to bed is common phenomenon the world over ... even in the African plains.

    Book recommendations from African American Book Club African-American Children’s Books

    Boonoonoonous Hair! by Olive Senior
    A young girl learns to love her voluminous and boonoonoonous hair. (Ages 4-8)

    Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
    A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped in her mother’s colorful headscarf in this sweet and fanciful picture book. (Ages 4-8)

    Rice and Rocks by Sandra L. Richards
    Giovanni's friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like 'rice and rocks' and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.

    Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
    Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history ― the day her ancestors were no longer enslaved. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. (Ages 6-9 years)