Great Books for African American Children: Lola Reads to Leo

We picked up Lola Reads to Leo a few weeks ago and Annika was very charmed by it. It’s a sweet, simple book, really for slightly younger kids, more for 3-4 year olds, but she still likes simple storybooks sometimes even though we are reading chapter books for most our nighttime reading now.

Annika enjoyed this book because it was about a little girl whose mom is pregnant. Her parents are prepping her for her new little brother Leo. When Leo  finally arrives, Lola tells him stories. She reads to him while he is nursing. She reads to him while he is getting his diaper changed (and while she is on the potty). She reads to him while he’s in the bathtub. And big sister reads to him while he is tired. She tells him her best “sleepy story.”

Lola is becoming a big sister and as the story progresses, she matures. She is a big sister and she helps her mommy and daddy. But at the end of the day she reads her little brother another story.

Lola Reads to Leo is just the type of book that parents with children of color are always on the lookout for. It’s not about race or slavery or segregation. It’s just a nice story with people who happen to look more like our family. And that, is why I like it.

Lola Reads to Leo is written by author Anna McQuinn, a British children’s author who has written a number of storybooks with children of color as well as books with white children and books with both as friends. I think we will definitely be checking out more of her books.

Pick it up here on Amazon or check it out at your local library, like I did.


Great Books for African American Children: Luke on the Loose

Annika has always liked the illustrations in stories as much as the stories themselves. Around age 3, she insisted, more than once, on checking out some Japanese anime books even though we couldn’t read them and the story lines were most likely not even appropriate for her age level. She just liked looking at the pictures.

As for me, I’ve never been one for comics much, but she likes comic books too. I haven’t introduced her to many comics, mostly because it’s not my thing and therefore, not on my radar, but I was thrilled to  find this post over on Planet Jinxatron, 11 Good Comics for Kids. We started out with her first recommendation, Luke on the Loose (Toon) mostly because, as Skye points out, it’s one that actually has a healthy dose of diversity, which is sadly lacking in kids comics (and most media).

Annika loved it! As a beginning reader, the text was very simple enough for her to follow along with and the graphics were interesting enough that the story kept her attention even though it’s normally not something she would be interested in. But it was perfect for her. She has taken to lying in bed some nights before bedtime looking at a book for a few minutes and this was heavy in the rotation for the first several nights that we had it around.

The story is just about a kid who chases pigeons through the big city, starting in the park, while his dad chats with another father and doesn’t notice his son running off.

When he does notice, of course there is a frantic effort to find him while Luke just continues running through the city.

I recommend this book for early readers who love graphics, with the bonus of diversity. Not only are Luke and his parents black, but the background people scattered throughout the book at a nice mixture and there’s even a biracial couple in one scene.

Check it out at your local library as I did, or get it on Amazon here:

Great Books for African American Children: My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete

Last month I made a pact with myself to keep a regular stream of books with good African American models for Annika. We’ve always read books with black children as much as possible, but with February being Black History Month, it was, frankly, a lot easier to pick up several at our local library with them being prominently displayed on the end shelves in the kids’ section. Now that Black History Month is over, I’m sure I will have to do my due diligence to find a good selection coming in, but I’m determined to ensure that Annika has a regular view of black children in literature, even though she doesn’t always get that in real life. Hey, it’s something.

One of her favorite books we picked up was, My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. The book wasn’t about black history. It was nice to have some books that had nothing to do with history mixed in with all the Civil Rights books we read during February.

My Brother Charlie is a story about twins, a girl and boy, Callie and Charlie. They are always together. They love the same things. But Charlie is different than Callie. Charlie has autism.

The book was written by Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter, Ryan. Ryan’s twin brother, Holly’s son, also has autism.

Annika enjoyed the book immensely because they were two kids who look like her. It was also a great book to read because, coincidentally, we have recently hung out with some friends who have two children with autism. They are friends we knew when Annika was a baby, but haven’t seen them much lately. I was able to explain to her that Charlie was similar to our friends.

This book has beautiful art and a real sense of love and belonging. It is clearly written from the perspective of a family who loves someone with Autism and they happen to have brown skin.

I liked this book for a variety of reasons, but one was because it was a kids’ book with brown-skinned children that wasn’t talking about negative aspects of our history or making a big deal about their skin color.

I highly recommend this book. It is a touching, sweet story with beautiful artwork and any child will enjoy it.

If you like this book review, check out another one for more great books to read with African American children as the main characters.