If you don’t already have them, go out right now and get every Kadir Nelson book you can find. His illustrations are gold.
A well-decorated illustrator (hello, two-time Caldecott, Coretta Scott King honoree), Nelson’s smooth comic-realism tells stories with strong figures, subtle expressions, and intricate details. (Like, how does he DO that??!) His spreads are all incredible artworks that any museum could hang on their walls, and you can tell he is creating history with his work. It is incredible to be able to put this kind of artwork into the hands of kids, a world-class gallery between their fingers.

The stories he works on?? There are so many amazing stories he tells, but one after another he is sharing Black History in the most (deservedly!) elegant retellings. So it’s a homerun: amazing true stories, perfect illustrations, sharing Black history, celebrating blackness.

An African American artist, he is a role model for all of our kids– those that share his skin tones who get to see people who look like them respected and celebrated in the artwork of picture books, and those whose hues are different too, who are learning to see how we all bring unique and beautiful gifts to our community. He has all our respect … and we have all his books.

Okay, so we COULD list them all, but we’re just gonna start with what we call the essential Kadir Nelsons:

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Written & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Written by Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The incredible true story of Henry Brown, who escapes slavery & finds freedom by mailing himself to the North.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

I Have a Dream
Written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela
Written & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The story of Nelson Mandela, written in free verse.

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream
Written by Deloris Jordan & Roslyn M. Jordan
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Written & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Set to the words of the beloved spiritual, this simple book shows a boy with his family enjoying the beauty & majesty of nature.