Given the lack of variety and interest that can be involved with assigned book reading, it can be beneficial for young Black readers to experience Black sci-fi and fantasy as early as possible. Thankfully, there has been a steady growth of Black speculative fiction books for middle and high school students within the last few years. Here are ten of the best Black SFF books for young readers.
Long ago, the Gods of Olympus were forefathers to historical figures such as George Washington and Thor, Now, they are superheroes. When Jordan Harris, a young boy with the power to control gravity, is arrested, he must go undercover at the superhero training academy Fort Olympus. While there, he discovers a world-threatening conspiracy that forces Jordan to work together in a team to save the day.
2. The Tristan Strong Series by Kwame Mbalia
After losing his best friend Eddie and his first boxing match, twelve-year-old Tristan Strong is sent to work on his grandparent’s farm in Alabama. One night, a small being named Gum Baby steals Eddie’s journal of stories and Tristan chases after them, accidentally punching a hole in a bottle tree and unleashing an evil haunt. When he falls through the hole, he discovers a world of Black and African folk heroes and gods and a chance to become the hero he never knew he could be.
Thus begins Tristan’s grand first adventure in Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in The Sky. His adventures also continue in the 2020 sequel Tristan Strong Destroys the World and the forthcoming October 2021 book Tristan Strong Keeps Punching,
3. The Parker Sisters series by Thelonious Legend
This ongoing series follows the lives of three sisters: the athletic and bookish Eve, the caring prankster Gwen, and the genius money-maker Ana. When the three of them discover super-powers that might be fatal, they must find a cure while evading a shifty government threat. All of this occurs in the first book of the series Sins of The Father, but its sequel Childish Things focuses specifically on the middle sister Gwen and her personal coming of age.
4. Dr. Marvellus Djinn’s Odd Scholars by B. Sherise Moore
In the year 1920, the magician Marvelous Djinn selects a group of teens to tour her theme park filled with magic and myth to keep them from facing the dangerous Jim Crow laws. However, they soon find that they will have to prove their worth by facing fantastical sights and tastes such as teleporting cotton candy and gigantic monsters. The book is published by MVmedia.
5. Amber And The Hidden City by Milton J. Davis
Amber Robinson is a thirteen-year-old girl experiencing many changes. She is going to a new private school, and she must prepare for high school too. Yet the biggest change comes from the ancient kingdom of Marai in Mali. Amber must take her grandmother’s place as princess of this kingdom and use her hidden powers to select the new king. Despite obstacles standing in Amber’s way, she must journey from Atlanta to Mali in order to fulfill her calling. Published by MV Media, the book also has a sequel called Amber and The Enchanted Sword.
6. Dragons In A Bag by Zetta Elliot
After being left with his grandmother named Ma, a boy named Jax discovers many magical secrets. Not only is Ma a witch, but she was given a mission to transport three dragons from Madagascar to a fantastical land. Naturally, Jax decides to take on the mission for her. In addition to this first adventure, there is also a sequel title, The Dragon Thief. A third book, The Witch’s Apprentice, is scheduled to release in January 2022.
7. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
In the city of Lucielle, children are told that monsters no longer exist. When Jam and her best friend Redemption meet a creature that emerges from a painting belonging to Jam’s mother, they must question everything that they have been taught. Pet has come to hunt a monster that is lurking in Redemption’s house and now Jam must do everything in her power to protect her best friend.
8. TJ Young and The Orishas by Antione Bandele
Although he grew up normally for fourteen years, TJ Young has always been surrounded by magic. Not only did he live among gifted diviners in Los Angeles, but his sister is one of the most powerful of them all. When she dies in Nigeria under mysterious circumstances, TJ must pick up where she left off and tap into long-dormant abilities by attending the remedial magic school Camp Olosa in New Orleans.
9. Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender
They say being born during a hurricane is unlucky and twelve-year-old Caroline has a lot of bad luck. She is bullied at school on St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands, being followed by a spirit no one else can see, and her mother left home one day and never came back. However, a new girl at school named Kalinda starts to change things, making Caroline braver and filled with love. Now, Caroline must use her newfound strength to confront the spirit haunting her, newfound feelings for Kalinda, and rescue her mother from an unseen threat.
10. The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
Two best friends Daniel and Iris sneak into the woods to play in the snow and discover the dilapidated gravestone of a girl named Avery Brown. Soon, strange things start to happen to Iris: she has nightmares, her bedroom window opens on her own, and she sees a shadow of a girl in the woods. It turns out Avery Brown’s grave and the ghost is from a time where Black people were segregated in life and death. Now, Daniel and Iris want to ensure Avery Brown gets the burial she deserves, even as another vengeful spirit tries to stop them.
Latonya Pennington is a freelance writer from the southern United States specializing in entertainment and pop culture. In addition to BlackSci-Fi.com, her pop culture work can be found on The Mary Sue, Black Girl Nerds, and Buzzfeed. When she isn’t freelancing, she can be found tweeting, reading, doing creative writing, or streaming music, shows and anime online. Find her on Twitter.