African American English (AAE) Books for Youth

According to the private, nonprofit organization the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), African American English (AAE) is the current term used for the dialect of American English used by many African Americans. Early studies in the 1960s used the term Negro speech or Negro English. In the 1970s the terms Black English and Black Vernacular English were adopted, and by the 1990s linguists were using the term African American Vernacular English (AAVE), while many were also using the term Ebonics. These terms are still used, although African American English is currently the most accepted term.

Students looking for AAE books through the library catalog will have a tough time, as catalog records do not usually mention the use of AAE. To find books that utilize AAE, use the bibliography and resources listed below. Searches using the term Black English seemed to have the most success, but it is best to also try the more recently used terms.

Online Resources

Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (Restricted database for UIUC affiliates)

(Restricted database for UIUC affiliates)

Children’s and Youth Literature

Barrett, Mary Brigid.
Sing to the Stars. 1994.
When Ephram becomes friends with a blind man in his neighborhood and finds out that Mr. Washington was a famous pianist who hasn’t touched a piano for a long time, he resolves to get the man back on stage. Draws on AAE cadences.
[Education Storage S.B2755S]

Battle-Lavert, Gwendolyn.
The Barber’s Cutting Edge. 1994.
Rashaad gets his hair cut by the best barber in town who also introduces him to the joy of learning new words. Uses some AAE.
[Education Storage SE.B322B]

Clifton, Lucille.
All Us Come Cross the Water. 1973.
A little black boy tries to find out where his people are from. Clifton defended and used AAE in many of her books, including this one.
[Education Storage SE.C613A]

Clifton, Lucille.
The Times They Used to Be. 1974.
A young black girl relates the adventures of the summer her Uncle Sunny died and her best friend broke out in sin because she wasn’t saved. This piece of historical fiction shows the lives of two girls living in a segregated African-American community after WWII. Clifton defended and used AAE in many of her books, including this one.
[Education Oak St Facility S.C613T]

Duncan, Alice Faye.
Honey Baby Sugar Child. 2005.
A mother expresses her everlasting love for her child using AAE in this warm, poetic picture book. Alice Faye Duncan’s playful, affectionate text and Susan Keeter’s tender paintings will touch your heart and soul. “I’m gone always be yo sweet Ma’Dear, and you gone always be my baby.”
[Center for Children’s Books S. D912h]

English, Karen.
Francie. 1999.
When the sixteen-year-old boy whom she tutors in reading is accused of attempting to murder a white man, Francie gets herself in serious trouble for her efforts at friendship. Uses a little bit of vernacular.
[Education Storage S. En36f]

Fields, Julia.
The Green Lion of Zion Street. 1988.
The stone lion on Zion Street, proud and fierce, instills fear and admiration in those who see it in the cold city fog. Fields’ free-form poem is written in AAE.
[Center for Children’s Books SE.F46G]

Flake, Sharon.
Begging for Change. 2003.
Teenaged Raspberry Hill tries to sort out her confused feelings of disgust, shame, and love for her homeless, drug addicted father and worries that she may have inherited his lying and stealing ways. Written in AAE.
[Education S Collection S.F5991b]

Flake, Sharon.
Who am I Without Him? Short Stories about Girls and the Boys in Their Lives. 2004.
Short stories written in urban AAE teen vernacular.
[Education S Collection S. F599w]

Greenfield, Eloise.
She Come Bringing Me that Little Baby Girl. 1974.
A child’s disappointment and jealousy over a new baby sister are dispelled as he becomes aware of the importance of his new role as a big brother. This book contains some AAE grammatical and intonational patterns.
[Education S Collection SE.G837S]

hooks, bell.
Be Boy Buzz. 2002.
Celebrates being Bold, All Bliss Boy, All Bad Boy Beast, Boy Running, Boy Jumping, Boy Sitting Down, and being in Love With Being a Boy. Uses some AAE.
[Education S Collection SE. H764b]

Lester, Julius.
The Tales of Uncle Remus. The Adventures of Brer Rabbit. 1987.
A retelling of the Afro-American tales about the adventures and misadventures of Brer Rabbit and his friends and enemies. Uses AAE.
[Education S Collection S.398.2 L567T]

McKissack, Patricia C.
Flossie & the Fox. 1986.
A wily fox, notorious for stealing eggs, meets his match when he encounters a bold little girl in the woods who insists upon proof that he is a fox before she will be frightened. This book uses historical AAE.
[Education Storage SE.M217F]

Myers, Walter Dean.
Game. 2008.
If Harlem high school senior Drew Lawson is going to realize his dream of playing college, then professional, basketball, he will have to improve at being coached and being a team player, especially after a new — white — student threatens to take the scouts’ attention away from him. Uses AAE.
[Center for Children’s Books S. M992ga]

Myers, Walter Dean.
Jazz. 2006.
Illustrations and rhyming text celebrate the roots of jazz music. Uses AAE.
[Education S Collection Q. SE. M992j]

Porter, Connie Rose.
Imani All Mine. 1999.
Fifteen year old Tasha uses AAE to narrate her life as well as those of her neighbors and friends. Tasha becomes a single mother after being raped and tries to be a good mother to her daughter Imani in this tragic story.
[Uni High Fiction P8334i]

Rosen, Michael J.
A School for Pompey Walker. 1995.
At the dedication of a school named after him, an old former slave tells the story of his life and how his white friend helped him earn the money for the school by repeatedly selling him into slavery, after which he always escaped. Pompey speaks AAE.
[Education Oak St Facility S.R7223S]

Steptoe, John.
Marcia. 1976.
A fourteen-year-old black girl living in the city tries to answer some very tough questions about life. This book uses modified AAE.
[Education Oak St Facility S.ST454M