#BlackIsBeautiful: Brown Is Too!

Fostering a sense of self-worth and tenacity in children is a critical aspect of their development.  The following list is for those who wish to reinforce the importance of self worth in Black children, encourage them to see themselves as individuals, and to view their features, hair and complexion as elements of beauty and pride that contribute to their uniqueness.  Each title carries a tone of uplift and celebration, which also help to nurture a love of reading.  

Bright Eyes, Brown Skin

by Cheryl Willis Hudson & Bernette G. Ford

Illustrated by George Ford

Just Us Books, Inc.

  • ISBN-10 : 0940975238
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0940975231

A gentle, rhyming picture book follows the activities of four children throughout their day at preschool.  The book emphasizes the charm and beauty of the children from head to toe (each child has a different skin tone) as they sing, laugh, play and eat with each other.  Each child is shown smiling contentedly throughout enjoying the company of their friends and discovering new things in their classroom.  First published in 1990, the book was rereleased in board book format to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

The Blacker The Berry 

Joyce Carol Thomas

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Amistad (HarperCollins Children)

  • ISBN-10 : 0060253754
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0060253752

Drawing its title from an old folk saying, this book uses free verse poems to highlight the richness of complexion variation among Black children.  The text reinforces self-esteem by emphasizing how all shades of Black are beautiful and valid in their uniqueness.  Each child talks about the pride they have in their skin tone, and associates their complexion with positive things, including warm emotions, the natural world, food and their relationships with those who love them.  The children also counter any negative messages and potential naysayers by asserting their love and knowledge of self.  Discussions of family history are sprinkled throughout the text.

Beautiful Shades Of Brown: The Art Of Laura Wheeler Waring

Nancy Churnin

Illustrated by Felicia Marshall

  • ISBN-10 : 1939547652
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1939547651

An introductory junior biography of Laura Wheeler-Waring, a Black painter whose works currently hang, among other places, at the Smithsonian Art Museum.  The book describes the artist’s journey from a young child who loved to paint the people around her, to a student studying overseas, to a woman on a mission to gain greater artistic representation for the Black people whom she knows so well.  The vibrant oil illustrations show Wheeler-Waring’s painstaking process of creating different gradations of brown by mixing different colors together, and her commitment to making sure that each of her subjects was portrayed just right, underscoring her care for both them and her craft.  

Annelisa J. Purdie is a senior children’s librarian with the New York Public Library.  She graduated with her MLIS degree from St. John’s University, and works in Harlem.  Her work includes an emphasis on history, STEM and the arts as a means of sparking innovation and establishing a sense of pride among members of the community.  Annelisa coordinates interactive children’s programs and literacy initiatives, and works with educators and various other community partners in servicing the children of New York City.  

Shauntee Burns-Simpson

The February 2021 GLLI theme, #BlackIsBeautiful, is curated by guest editor, Shauntee Burns-Simpson.

Shauntee Burns-Simpson (MLIS) currently serves as the 2020-2022 President of BCALA. She is the Associate Director of School Outreach for The New York Public Library. An ambassador for libraries and Youth Librarian, President Burns-Simpson enjoys connecting people to the public library and its resources. She works closely with at-risk teens and fosters a love of reading & learning with her innovative programs. In addition to leading BCALA, she chairs the American Library Association Office of Diversity, Literacy, & Outreach Services (ODLOS) Committee on Diversity.

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