According to organizations like We Need Diverse Books, there are more children’s books featuring
animals and other non-human characters than all types of visible minorities combined. These staggering
statistics mean more than 70 % of all the children’s books feature white children or animals.
Allyson Ward Neal experienced the reality of these statistics in 2009, when she went searching for
picture books for her soon-to-be-born daughter at her local bookstore. She was shocked to find that
there were no picture books featuring black children or families. Her first thought was to raise
awareness about the lack of diverse books, but as a published author, she decided instead to make a
difference. And from her resolve, the Ava Books children’s book series was launched. “I wrote my first
book before my daughter Ava was born and I put my heart into creating a story with images that would
demonstrate my love for Black children and families,” she said.
Since then, Allyson has published nine books that highlight Ava’s adventures from her first day of school
to traveling the world. The books’ illustrations are captivating and exceptionally beautiful. And the
characters reflect the tender moments of Black family life.
Hailing from New Orleans, the home of Mardi Gras, Jazz and Gumbo, Allyson ensures that the books
include references to the culture like good food, large family gatherings and lots of fun. “When I started
writing the Ava books, I made a commitment to write a book each year of Ava’s young life so that she
and Black children like her could consistently see themselves in these beautiful images. And as Ava got
older, she joined me in co-writing the books, which became an extra special moment for me. Soon, my
husband joined us and became a collaborator as well. So, now the Ava books are a family affair, and we
are blessed and grateful to share our family’s love with other Black families of the world.”