This Saturday, bundled-up parents, kids and grandparents will gather at the Community College of Philadelphia, all to celebrate the love of reading.
The African American Children’s Book Fair turns 28 this year. If this weekend’s event is anything like the past 27, just after noon the line will form outside the all-purpose room of the Community College of Philadelphia. The doors open at 1 p.m., and the first 500 kids will each get a free book.
It’s easy enough to see why the fair draws a crowd of up to 4,000. Teachers get bags full of free reading materials, and there’s more for sale: Tables stacked high with buyable books attract a sample-sale-like crowd of shoppers. Starting at 1:30, authors and illustrators take turns reading books to a crowd of eager kids sitting in the back of the room. The event runs until 4 p.m.
The fair’s real gems are the books’ creators, up-and-coming and best-selling black authors and illustrators, including several winners of Coretta Scott King, Caldecott, Kirkus, and NAACP Image honors and awards. The fair’s the chance to meet them, get to know their work, and find your kid’s next favorite book.
We asked prominent local children’s book illustrators, librarians, and the founder of the fair to share their favorite reads from black children’s authors. Here are some great voices for your kid’s bookshelf.
“An engaging and beautifully illustrated celebration of the bond between a parent and child.” — Christina Holmes, head of the Children’s Department at Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional
"Tells a captivating and powerful story about discovering one’s self worth and building confidence.” — Holmes
$17.99, 48 pages, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Buy it: simonandschuster.com
“An engaging read highlighting the wonderful adventures that can be found in the pages of a book.” — Holmes
$17.99, 32 pages, HarperCollins. Buy it: harpercollins.com
“A fun and sweet read about the power of childhood memories, great for shared reading between parents and children.” — Holmes
$18.99, 40 pages, Henry Holt and Co. Buy it: read.mcmillan.com
“If I’m going to trumpet a book, it’s going to be one illustrated by Charnelle Pinkey Barlow, my granddaughter. “Just Like a Mama” is her first book, published just a few weeks ago.” — illustrator Jerry Pinkney (latest book: A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein)
$17.99, 40 pages, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Buy it: simonandschuster.com
"Tells a wonderful and funny story about patience and self-expression.” — Holmes
$17.99, 32 pages, Kokila. Buy it: penguinrandomhouse.com
“[Lewis is] a water colorist but, moreover, a visual storyteller. He’s one to watch for sure.” — Pinkney
$17.99, 32 pages, Calkins Creek, Buy it: boydsmillsandkane.com
“The true story of the architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.” — Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, founder of the African American Children’s Book Fair
$19.95, 40 pages, Lee & Low Books, Buy it: leeandlow.com
“There’s an earlier book by Toni Morrison and her son, Slade, that’s one of my all-time favorites … I like the sub messages — that you sometimes find yourself in a box, and you should fight for your right to dream and be free — that set me on a path to deliver those messages to kids as well. It’s one of those lifelong lessons that we need to give our children, that we need to carry them through the journey.” — illustrator Floyd Cooper (latest book: Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story, by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan)
$18.25 hardcover, 48 pages, Hyperion Books. Buy it: barnesandnoble.com
“An amazing fantasy that places a modern middle schooler at the center of African folktales and adventure." — Lloyd-Sgambati
$17.99, 496 pages, Disney-Hyperion/Riordan. Buy it: readriordan.com
“A timely tale of how one girl faces stereotypes and grown-ups’ problems to find self love. It’s just won a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award.” — Lloyd-Sgambati
$17.99, 384 pages, Atheneum. Buy it: amazon.com
“One of my all-time favorite authors … tells the real-life stories of some of our country’s most accomplished computer scientists, inventors, physicists, physicians, mathematicians — all African American women.” — Lloyd-Sgambati
$19.99, 208 pages, Abrams Books for Young Readers. Buy it: amazon.com
“Maldonado takes his readers on another of his signature middle-school adventures — this time, following a boy dealing with a world that sees him as black or white.” — Lloyd-Sgambati