I’m excited about this list of chapter books by Black authors, as it means we have now built out a full deck of children’s books by Black authors from ages 0-18! This list is geared toward kids new to reading chapter books and elementary-aged kids who are just moving into middle grade books. As such, it’s for kids ages 5-10 (roughly), but more tightly ages 6-8. Again, these ages are suggestions and these books can be read by kids and adults of all ages!
Many chapter books tend to be part of a series, which helps to keep young readers invested and reading. The same is true of the books on this list. You’ll find early readers, chapter books, and young middle grade books among our recommended titles and we’ve broken the list into categories so you can use the table of contents.
35 Great Chapter Books by Black Authors
Table of Contents
Early readers are books with minimal text and lots of pictures (one step after picture books) — typically under 100 pages long. These are some of the best early readers by Black authors.
TY’s Travels: All Aboard
Published: September 1, 2020
Ty wishes his family would play with him, but everyone is too busy before dinnertime. Luckily, Ty knows just what to do… Time for fun. Celebrate the power of imagination in All Aboard!
With simple, rhythmic text and joyful, bright art, this Guided Reading Level I and My First series is perfect for shared reading with a child. Books at this level feature basic language, word repetition, and whimsical illustrations, ideal for sharing with emergent readers. The active, engaging stories have appealing plots and lovable characters, encouraging children to continue their reading journey.
Where is Mommy?
Published: November 19, 2019
A girl follows clues that lead to Mommy! This Level D book is perfect for new readers.
A girl, her mother, and their cat are snuggled up on a couch and reading a book. The girl falls asleep, and when she wakes up, Mommy is gone. Where could she be?
The girl searches the house, picks up clues (including a recipe for kale and a sunhat and gardening gloves that come and go). And she figures out where Mommy is–in the garden!
A Day at the Museum (Ana & Andrew)
Published: December 15, 2018
It’s a surprise visit! Ana & Andrew are excited when Grandma comes to visit. While she is there, the family tours the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture and learns about important African American achievements.
Chapter Books for Kids Ages 6-8
These are the traditional chapter books — typically under 200 pages — with more text than illustrations and pictures on every other page or so. Here are some of the best chapter books by Black authors.
Too Small Tola
Published: March 2, 2021
In a trio of droll stories, award-winning author and storyteller Atinuke debuts an endearing and enduring character with plenty to prove. Tola lives in an apartment in the busy city of Lagos, Nigeria, with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmommy, who is very bossy. Tola may be small, but she’s strong enough to carry a basket brimming with groceries home from the market, and she’s clever enough to count out Grandmommy’s change. When the faucets in the apartment break, it’s Tola who brings water from the well. And when Mr. Abdul, the tailor, has an accident and needs help taking his customers’ measurements, only Tola can save the day. Atinuke’s trademark wit and charm are on full display, accompanied by delightful illustrations by Onyinye Iwu. Too Small Tola evokes the urban bustle and rich blending of cultures in Lagos through the eyes of a little girl with an outsize will—and an even bigger heart.
Dog Days (The Carver Chronicles #1)
Published: December 17, 2013
It’s tough being the new kid at Carver Elementary. Gavin had lots of friends at his old school, but the kids here don’t even know that he’s pretty good at skateboarding, or how awesome he is at soccer. And when his classmate Richard comes over and the boys end up in trouble, not only does Gavin risk losing his one new friend, he has to take care of his great aunt Myrtle’s horrible little dog as punishment.
To make matters worse, Gavin seems to have attracted the attention of the school bully. Will he be able to avoid getting pounded at the skate park? And how is he ever going to prove he’s cool with a yappy little Pomeranian wearing a pink bow at his side?
Plum Fantastic (Sugar Plum Ballerinas, 1)
Published: September 7, 2011
Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson does not want to be a beautiful ballerina, and she does not want to leave her friends in Apple Creek. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop her ballet-crazy mother from moving them to Harlem, or from enrolling Al at the Nutcracker School of Ballet. Life is hard when you’re the new ballerina on the block, and it’s even harder when you’re chosen to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in the school recital!
Brand New School, Brave New Ruby (Ruby and the Booker Boys #1) (1)
Published: May 29, 2018
Eight-year-old ultra-fabulous Ruby Marigold Booker returns in this reissue of the Ruby and the Booker Boys series by Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor author Derrick Barnes!Brought to you by Newbery Honor author Derrick Barnes, eight-year-old Ruby Booker is the baby sis of Marcellus (11), Roosevelt (10), and Tyner (9), the most popular boys on Chill Brook Ave. When Ruby isn’t hanging with her friend, Theresa Petticoat, she’s finding out what kind of mischief her brothers are getting into. She’s sweet and sassy and every bit as tough as her older siblings. She sings like nobody’s business; she has a pet iguana named Lady Love; her favorite color is grape-jelly purple; and when she grows up, she’s going to be the most famous woman animal doctor on the planet. She’s the fabulous, oh-so-spectacular Ruby Marigold Booker!
The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane
Published: January 1, 2020
Azaleah can’t wait for her class field trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C., especially when her teacher announces the chance to earn extra credit. But when Azaleah gets home, she quickly realizes extra credit isn’t as easy as she thought. Azaleah’s younger sister Tiana can’t find Greenie, her stuffed animal, and she’s sure he’s been stolen. With Mama at the restaurant and Daddy at work on a big case, it seems Azaleah is the only one available to track down the stolen stuffie. Can Azaleah get to the bottom of the mystery in time to finish her extra credit?
J.D and the Great Barber Battle
Published: February 23, 2021
J.D. has a big problem–it’s the night before the start of third grade and his mom has just given him his first and worst home haircut. When the steady stream of insults from the entire student body of Douglass Elementary becomes too much for J.D., he takes matters into his own hands and discovers that, unlike his mom, he’s a genius with the clippers. His work makes him the talk of the town and brings him enough hair business to open a barbershop from his bedroom. But when Henry Jr., the owner of the only official local barbershop, realizes he’s losing clients to J.D., he tries to shut him down for good. How do you find out who’s the best barber in all of Meridian, Mississippi? With a GREAT BARBER BATTLE!
Rock Star #1( Jada Jones)
Published: September 19, 2017
When Jada Jones’s best friend moves away, school feels like the last place she wants to be. She’d much rather wander outside looking for cool rocks to add to her collection, since finding rocks is much easier than finding friends. So when Jada’s teacher announces a class project on rocks and minerals, Jada finally feels like she’s in her element. The only problem: one of her teammates doesn’t seem to like any of Jada’s ideas. She doesn’t seem to like Jada all that much, either. Can Jada figure out a way to make a winning science project and a new friend?
How to Test a Friendship
Published: May 19, 2020
Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the Science Space at school, they can’t wait to check it out! Along with their new classmate, Deepak, the friends discover a magical makerspace called the Maker Maze. It’s a laboratory full of robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, and more. Doors line the walls of the makerspace, with a new science adventure waiting behind each one.
With the help of a hilarious and odd scientist, the Magnificent Makers embark on out-of-this-world adventures that help them master the science concepts they are learning in school. This series will cover several scientific topics (at an age-appropriate level) ranging from human biology to ecology, while also exploring issues such as managing failure, teamwork, courage, and jealousy.
Nikki and Deja
Published: January 15, 2013
Meet Nikki and Deja, who live next door to each other and are best friends. They do everything together—watch Saturday morning cartoons, play jacks, jump double dutch at recess, and help each other with their homework for Mrs. Shelby’s third-grade class. But when an arrogant new girl arrives and Nikki and Deja form a club that would exclude her, the results are not what they expect. This warm, easy-to-read chapter book from an award-winning author captures all the joys and complexities of elementary school life—particularly friendships and cliques—with finesse and humor.
The Mean Girl Who Never Speaks (Detective Mya Dove)
Published: July 18, 2013
Mya is investigating Libby, the new girl at school. Libby won’t speak, smile or play with anyone. The Children’s Police Force thinks she is mean, but they need proof.
Finding proof is Mya’s job. It won’t be easy. Libby isn’t just mean, she is sneaky, too. When Mya talks to her, Libby fake cries in class. Now Libby has a teacher on her side. Who will she trick next?
To solve the case, Mya must prove that Libby is mean and warn everyone. Can she stop Libby before it’s too late? Or will this mean girl take over the school?
Make Way for Daymond Daniel
Published: May 14, 2009
Dyamonde Daniel may be new in town, but that doesn’t stop her from making a place for herself in a jiffy. With her can-do attitude and awesome brain power she takes the whole neighborhood by storm. The only thing puzzling her is the other new kid in her class. He’s awfully grouchy – but Dyamonde’s determined to get to the bottom of his frowning attitude and make a friend. Readers will fall in love with Dyamonde Daniel, the spirited star of a new series by Nikki Grimes. With her upbeat, take-charge attitude, Dyamonde is a character to cheer for – and the fun, accessible storytelling will hook kids from the first page.
Sophie Washington: Lemonade Day
Published: July 19, 2021
When Life Gives You Lemons…Make Lemonade
Sixth-grader Sophie Washington and friends learn lessons about entrepreneurship, team work, and friendship when they sign up for a city-wide, Lemonade Day event. Sophie wants to buy her mother something special for her birthday, but she’s short on cash. Her bestie, Chloe, comes up with the perfect solution. Build their own lemonade stand to raise money at Lemonade Day. The girls add friends Carly and Nathan, and Sophie’s little brother, Cole, to their team, and decide to donate some of their earnings to a local animal shelter to help save stray animals. Things are going great, until the family dog destroys their supplies. They get worse when Sophie tries to impress another boy in their class and upsets Nathan. Can they save their business in time for the event?
Home for Meow
Published: July 19, 2022
All the “awwws” of animal adoption stories are combined with sugary sweetness is this new, fun-filled chapter book series about a cat café!
Every home needs a cat!
Kira Parker lives above The Purrfect Cup, the cat café that her family owns and runs. Every day is a new adventure with her cat friends! Except lately, The King County Dog Show seems to be the only thing the regulars can talk about!
Kira doesn’t get why everyone is so excited. After all, her cat friends are much smarter and more talented than those dogs. Then Kira has a GREAT IDEA — she’s going to train the cats, and enter them in the competition. It’s sure to be her best plan yet!
Published: April 5, 2022
Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, amazing Africa, with her mother and father, her twin baby brothers (Double and Trouble), and lots of extended family in a big white house with a beautiful garden in a compound in a city. Anna is never lonely—there are always cousins to play and fight with, aunties and uncles laughing and shouting, and parents and grandparents close by. Readers will happily follow as she goes on a seaside vacation, helps plan a party for Auntie Comfort from Canada (will she remember her Nigerian ways?), learns firsthand what it’s really like to be a child selling oranges outside the gate, and longs to see sweet snow. Nigerian storyteller Atinuke’s debut book for children and its sequels, with their charming (and abundant) gray-scale drawings by Lauren Tobia, are newly published in the US by Candlewick Press, joining other celebrated Atinuke stories in captivating young readers.
Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg! (A Shai & Emmie Story)
Published: October 3, 2017
Shai Williams was born to be a star (or a veterinarian—and maybe a dentist). She attends a special elementary school for the performing arts, and her grandma Rosa and aunt Mac-N-Cheese are both actresses. So Shai is shocked when she doesn’t get the lead role in the third-grade musical. Instead, the part goes to the new girl, Gabby Supreme, who thinks she is better than everyone else.
To add insult to injury, Ms. Gremillion has now asked Shai to help Gabby with the role. Shai reluctantly agrees and enlists Emmie to help, but Gabby isn’t going to make it easy. As opening night draws near, Shai discovers that making a new friend is sometimes like putting on a show—it requires dedication, patience, and lots and lots of practice.
Dragons in a Bag
Published: October 23, 2018
When Jaxon is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady his mother calls Ma, he finds out she’s not his grandmother–but she is a witch! She needs his help delivering baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. There are two rules when it comes to the dragons: don’t let them out of the bag, and don’t feed them anything sweet. Before he knows it, Jax and his friends Vikram and Kavita have broken both rules! Will Jax get the baby dragons delivered safe and sound? Or will they be lost in Brooklyn forever?
Buried Bones Mystery (1) (Club House Mysteries)
Published: July 12, 2011
Ziggy and his friends Rico, Rashawn, and Jerome build a clubhouse in Ziggy’s backyard and decide to bury their secret treasures nearby. But when the boys start digging, they uncover a box of bones and are swept up in a mystery more intriguing—and scary—than anything they could have imagined. Who could have buried a box of bones behind their clubhouse?
Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time
Published: June 13, 2015
Giant Afro. Even Bigger Brain.
Jaden Toussaint, 5 year-old scientist and all around cool dude, is on a mission to convince the grown-ups that he needs more SCREEN TIME. His only weapons are science, ninja dancing, and his super-powered brain power. Can Jaden Toussaint get the grown-ups to change their minds?
Katie Fry, Private Eye #1: The Lost Kitten
Published: April 28, 2015
A great introduction to simple, fun mysteries for beginning readers!Katie Fry may be little, but she’s got a big brain, and she uses it to solve mysteries. So when she finds a very cute, VERY lost kitten named Sherlock, she decides to take his case. Can Katie track down the clues to find Sherlock’s home?Beginning readers will love hunting for clues in the art right along with Katie and Sherlock!
Young Middle Grade Books
Middle grade books are traditionally published for kids ages 8-12 so there’s quite a wide range of them. The books in this section feature younger protagonists in the 4th and 5th grades and are a great starting point for kids who are ready for longer stories without pictures (although some have illustrations).
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown
Published: January 26, 2016
Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is boot-scootin’ excited for the best week of the whole school year—SPIRIT WEEK! She and her megapopular best friend, Naomi Jackson, even made a pinky promise to be Spirit Week partners so they can win the big prize: special VIP tickets to the Fall Festival!
But when the partner picking goes horribly wrong, Mya gets paired with Mean Connie Tate—the biggest bully in school. And she can’t get out of it.
Now Naomi is friend-ending mad at Mya for breaking a promise—even though Mya couldn’t help it—and everyone at school is calling Mya names. Can Mya work with Mean Connie to win the VIP tickets and get her best friend back?
Ways to Make Sunshine
Published: April 28, 2020
Ryan Hart can be and do anything. Her name means “king”, that she is a leader, and she is determined to keep growing into the name her parents gave her. She is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, sister, and friend. But Ryan has a lot on her mind. For instance: Dad finally has a new job, but money is still tight. That means some changes, like moving into a new (old) house, and Dad working the night shift. And with the fourth-grad talent show coming up, Ryan wonders what talent she can perform on stage in front of everyone without freezing. As even more changes and challenges come her way, Ryan always finds a way forward and shows she is a girl who knows how to glow.
Acclaimed author Renée Watson writes her own version of Ramona Quimby, one starring a Black girl and her family, in this start to a charming new series.
Just Right Jillian
Published: February 15, 2022
Fifth-grader Jillian will do just about anything to blend in, including staying quiet even when she has the right answer. After she loses a classroom competition because she won’t speak up, she sets her mind on winning her school’s biggest competition. But breaking out of her shell is easier said than done, and Jillian has only a month to keep her promise to her grandmother and prove to herself that she can speak up and show everyone her true self.
Home Court: Standing Tall and Talented
Published: August 1, 2012
STAT: Standing Tall And Talented– A slam-dunk new fiction series from NBA superstar Amar’e Stoudemire!
Eleven-year-old Amar’e Stoudemire has a lot going on. He loves to go skateboarding in the park. He takes his school work very seriously. He helps out with his dad’s landscaping company. And he likes to play basketball with his best friends-but just for fun.
When a group of older kids start disrespecting his boys on their neighborhood basketball court, there is only one solution. Amar’e must step in and use his athletic ability and intelligence to save the day. This experience leads Amar’e to realize that basketball is his true passion.
Based on the life of All-Star NBA sensation Amar’e Stoudemire, who overcame many obstacles to become one of the most popular figures in sports today.
Amar’e is just as versatile in his off the court life as he is on. He is devoted to several charities. He promotes literacy and education. He is a media darling. And he has an amazing story to tell in this heartfelt, accessible middle-grade series.
President of the Whole Fifth Grade (President Series, 1)
Published: October 5, 2010
Start counting your votes . . . and your friends.
When Brianna Justice’s hero, the famous celebrity chef Miss Delicious, speaks at her school and traces her own success back to being president of her fifth grade class, Brianna determines she must do the same. She just knows that becoming president of her class is the first step toward her own cupcake-baking empire!
But when new student Jasmine Moon announces she is also running for president, Brianna learns that she may have more competition than she expected. Will Brianna be able to stick to her plan of working with her friends to win the election fairly? Or will she jump at the opportunity to steal votes from Jasmine by revealing an embarrassing secret?
Maya and the Robot
Published: July 13, 2021
Maya’s nervous about fifth grade. She tries to keep calm by reminding herself she knows what to expect. But then she learns that this year won’t be anything like the last. For the first time since kindergarten, her best friends Jada and MJ are placed in a different class without her, and introverted Maya has trouble making new friends.
She tries to put on a brave face since they are in fifth grade now, but Maya is nervous! Just when too much seems to be changing, she finds a robot named Ralph in the back of Mr. Mac’s convenience store closet. Once she uses her science skills to get him up and running, a whole new world of connection opens up as Ralph becomes a member of her family and Maya begins to step into her power. In this touching novel, Eve L. Ewing melds together a story about community, adapting to change, and the magic of ingenuity that reminds young readers that they can always turn to their own curiosity when feeling lost.
Jada Sly, Artist & Spy
Published: May 14, 2019
Ten-year-old Jada Sly is an artist and a spy-in-training. When she isn’t studying the art from her idols like Jackie Ormes, the first-known African American cartoonist, she’s chronicling her spy training and other observations in her art journal.
Back home in New York City, after living in France for five years, Jada is ready to embark on her first and greatest spy adventure yet. She plans to scour New York City in search of her missing mother, even though everyone thinks her mom died in a plane crash. Except Jada, who is certain her mom was a spy, too.
With the stakes high and danger lurking around every corner, Jada will use one spy technique after another to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance — some with hilarious results. After all, she’s still learning.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Published: August 18, 2020
Isaiah is now the big man of the house. But it’s a lot harder than his dad made it look. His little sister, Charlie, asks too many questions, and Mama’s gone totally silent.
Good thing Isaiah can count on his best friend, Sneaky, who always has a scheme for getting around the rules. Plus, his classmate Angel has a few good ideas of her own–once she stops hassling Isaiah.
And when things get really tough, there’s Daddy’s journal, filled with stories about the amazing Isaiah Dunn, a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes his dad’s tales were real. He could use those powers right about now!
Stuntboy in the Meantime
Published: November 30, 2021
Portico Reeves’s superpower is making sure all the other superheroes—like his parents and two best friends—stay super. And safe. Super safe. And he does this all in secret. No one in his civilian life knows he’s actually…Stuntboy!
But his regular Portico identity is pretty cool, too. He lives in the biggest house on the block, maybe in the whole city, which basically makes it a castle. His mom calls where they live an apartment building. But a building with fifty doors just in the hallways is definitely a castle. And behind those fifty doors live a bunch of different people who Stuntboy saves all the time. In fact, he’s the only reason the cat, New Name Every Day, has nine lives.
All this is swell except for Portico’s other secret, his not-so-super secret. His parents are fighting all the time. They’re trying to hide it by repeatedly telling Portico to go check on a neighbor “in the meantime.” But Portico knows “meantime” means his parents are heading into the Mean Time which means they’re about to get into it, and well, Portico’s superhero responsibility is to save them, too—as soon as he figures out how.
Only, all these secrets give Portico the worry wiggles, the frets, which his mom calls anxiety. Plus, like all superheroes, Portico has an arch-nemesis who is determined to prove that there is nothing super about Portico at all.
There they are: 35 of the best chapter books by Black authors! Which of these books have you read and loved? Which ones did I miss? If you’d like more recommendations of books by Black authors, see our list of over 200 children’s books by Black authors (from picture book to YA).
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