I couldn’t narrow this list down to five, nor do I want to speculate on if they will earn recognition for the writing or the artwork. These books could also be Caldecott and/or Newbery contenders.
I have a Coretta Scott King mock awards PowerPoint for sale on TPT with ten contenders each for author and illustrator awards or honors.
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
Published by HarperAlley
Longlisted for the National Book Award, this graphic novel has lots of popular appeal as well as excellent craftsmanship in both the writing and art.
Ablaze with Color: A Story of Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Loveis Wise
Published by HarperCollins
Ablaze with color is right, with the brilliant illustrations that celebrate artist Alma Thomas’s work.
H Is for Harlem by Dinah Johnson, illustrated by April Harrison
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books
I was ready to hop on the train to NYC after reading this lively book with its colorful illustrations covering the history of Harlem and filled with interesting places to visit.
Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington
Published by Roaring Brook Press
I learned a lot about Mamie Till-Mobley’s courageous life in this stunning book that combines Angela Joy’s free verse with Janelle Washington’s unique cut-paper illustrations.
Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Carole Boston Weatherford’s reworking of this spiritual and Frank Morrison’s graffiti-inspired illustrations make this a great resource for teaching Black history. Morrison could also be considered for Kick Push and Uncle John’s City Garden, and Weatherford for The Faith of Elijah Cummings.
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Ibi Zoboi’s admiration for science fiction author Octavia Estelle Butler shines through in both the writing and art of this unique biography.