Transitional Novels About African American Children

Developed by Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Elizabeth Koehler, and Heather Barkley
We have created this list of novels about contemporary African American children, some of whom are mixed race, to help librarians, teachers, and parents locate books that will engage African American transitional readers. All of the titles are written by African American authors, published in the twenty-first century, and include the text supports that transitional readers need. The books have Lexile ratings between 300 and 700 and are appropriate for readers in grades two through five.  All of the books were recommended in either NoveList Plus ( and/or reviewed in authoritative journals such as School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, or Hornbook Guide.



Barnes, Derrick D. Ruby and the Booker Boys series. New York: Scholastic.

·         Brand New School, Brave New Ruby (2008). 0545017602.

·         Trivia Queen, Third Grade Supreme (2008). 0545017610.

·         Slumber Party Payback (2008). 0545017629.

·         Ruby Flips for Attention (2009). 0545017637.


Summary: When Ruby Booker starts third grade at a brand new school, she decides that she won’t be living in the shadow of her popular older brothers. She has big plans, and she aims to make a name for herself in the third grade!


DeGross, Monalisa. Donavan’s Double Trouble. New York, Harper Collins, 2007. 006077293X.


Summary: Donavan is a fourth grader who is sensitive about the difficulty he has understanding math. When his favorite uncle returns home from National Guard duty after losing both of his legs, Donavan becomes even more embarrassed and confused as he struggles to accept his uncle’s disability.


Draper, Sharon M. Sassy series. New York: Scholastic.

Little Sister is Not My Name (2009). 0545071550.

The Birthday Storm (2009). 0545071526.

The Silver Secret (2010). 0545071534.


Summary: Nine-year-old Sassy hates being the youngest and smallest member of her family, a position that has earned her the nickname Little Sister. In this series of books Sassy comes to realize how special she really is, and she recognizes the importance of family.


 English, Karen. Nikki and Deja series. New York: Clarion.

·         Nikki and Deja (2007). 0547133626.

·         Birthday Blues (2009). 0547248938.

·         The Newsy News Newsletter (2009). 0547222475.


Summary: This series follows best friends Nikki and Deja through third and fourth grade as they learn important lessons about friendship,

fitting in, and responsibility.

 Flake, Sharon G. The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street. New York: Hyperion, 2008. 1423100352.


Summary: Ten-year-old Queen is spoiled and arrogant, and all of her classmates dislike her. When a new boy in school claims that he is actually an African prince, Queen becomes determined to prove that he is lying. Along the way, she learns that friends can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.


 Flood, Pansie Hart. Tiger Turcotte series. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.

·         It’s Test Day, Tiger Turcotte (2004). 1575056704.

·         Tiger Turcotte Takes on the Know-it-All (2005). 1575059002.


Summary: Tiger Turcotte is African American, Hispanic, and Native American. In this series he struggles to overcome issues like deciding how to fill in his race on the big second-grade test and confronting his arch-enemy in detention.


Grimes, Nikki. Dyamonde Daniel series. New York: Putnam.

·         Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel (2009). 0399251758.

·         Rich (2009). 0399251766.


Summary: Forced to move to a new neighborhood and a new school after her parents’ divorce, Dyamonde is lonely in her third-grade class until she finds a best friend, another new kid named Free. In Rich, Free and Dyamonde learn a lesson from another classmate about what it really means to be rich or poor.


Johnson, Angela. Maniac Monkey’s on Magnolia Street. Knopf, 1999. 9780679890539.


Summary:  Ten-year-old Charlie moves to a new neighborhood where she meets Billy.  The two friends have more than their fair share of adventures, including chasing maniac monkeys.  


Johnson, Angela. When Mules Flew on Magnolia Street. Knopf, 2000. 9780679890775.


Summary:  It’s summer and Charlie is off on a whole new set of adventures, including going fishing with her friends and investigating the disappearance of her neighbors.

McKissack, Patricia and McKissack, Frederick. Miami Jackson series. New York: Golden Books.

·         Miami Gets it Straight (1999). 0307265013.

·         Miami Makes the Play (2001). 0307265056.

·         Miami Sees it Through (2002). 0307265137.


Summary: This series follows Miami Jackson from the end of third grade until the beginning of fourth grade as he says goodbye to one teacher and learns to accept another, deals with his nemesis, Destinee Tate, and participates in a summer baseball camp.

Richardson, Charisse K. The Real Slam Dunk. Atlanta, GA: EnRich Communications, 2001. 0142402125.


Summary: Ten-year-old Marcus rethinks his dream of becoming a professional basketball player after he has the chance to meet a real NBA basketball star.

Richardson, Charisse K. The Real Lucky Charm. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers 2005. 0142404314.


Summary: Marcus’s twin sister Mia believes that a lucky gold charm, rather than hard work and practice, is the source of her success on the school’s co-ed basketball team. 


Wayans, Kim. Amy Hodgepodge Series. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.

·         All Mixed Up (2008). 0448448548.

·         Happy Birthday to Me (2008). 0448448556.

·         Lost and Found (2008). 0448448971

·         Playing Games (2008). 044844898X.

·         The Secret’s Out (2009). 0448450798.

·         Digging Up Trouble (2009). 0448450801.


Summary: Amy Hodges, a girl of mixed Caucasian, African American, and Asian heritage, has a new nickname: Amy Hodgepodge. This series follows Amy as she starts fourth grade at a new school after being homeschooled all of her life.


Wesley, Valerie Wilson. Willimena Rules series. New York: Hyperion Books.

·         How to Lose Your Class Pet (2003). 0786813229.

·         How to Fish for Trouble (2004). 0756955491.

·         How to Lose Your Cookie Money (2005). 0786851465.

·         How to (Almost) Ruin Your Class Play (2005). 0786852593.

·         23 Ways to Mess Up Valentine’s Day (2005). 078685524X.

·         How to Face Up to the Class Bully (2007). 0786855258.

·         How to Have the Best Kwanzaa Ever (2007). 1423100379.


Summary: Third grader Willimena offers step-by-step instructions for creating trouble and finding ways out of it.