“I believe, as an artist, that your primary goal should be to build an important body of work that will be here long after you’re gone. A body of work that your family can be proud of. A body of work that will make people feel good about themselves, that will make them think, laugh and cry. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. Make something meaningful.”





                                                                        (Click book cover to order)


(Click pic to take you to the list)

Release Date July 2, 2019

On the first day of every school year, I take individual pictures of my four sons and write a short poem—well, not really poems, but brief musings on their growth, physically and intellectually, as well as what awaits them in the upcoming, exciting chapter of their young lives. My guys. The Mighty Barnes brothers. And of course, I post them on social media. They don’t see any of the posts because, in the words of my twelve-year-old, “FB is for old folks!”

By far, one of the most popular posts ever was of the youngest brother, Nnamdi, on his very first day of kindergarten. He was so excited, so pumped up, and ready for the day. Below is the actual  FB post:


August 29, 2016

Ooze with it:
Confidence, intelligence, strength and most importantly positive energy.
It’s an every day practice.
On this morning, the first day of kindergarten and 5th grade, take the world by storm.
Your names will bounce off of classroom walls, down the hallways, and elicit brilliant, beaming smiles.
Brilliant beaming smiles.


Prince Nnamdi was more than ready for the world that day.

At around age three, I purchase sight word flash cards, and a bunch of math, writing, language arts workbooks. I have my guys prepared. We build them up academically and do our best to fill them with pride of family, pride of culture and pride of self. We’re sending them out into the world to be difference makers, change agents, and they can’t become either if they’re uninformed or lack confidence in their abilities.

Plus, he was finally of age to participate in a long standing Barnes brothers ritual, a simple call-and-response. I say, “BE GREAT. BE A LEADER…”  and they respond by saying, “BE A BARNES!” It’s my hopes that this simple phrase will cause them to remember who they are, where they come from, and who they represent. Nnamdi had finally joined the ranks of one of the Mighty Barnes brothers, at school and reigning with dignity, intelligence, and a strong expectation to succeed. When I told Nnamdi that he would be the next Barnes brother featured in one of my books, the very first thing he said was, “Really!? We’re going to win a lot more awards than CROWN did!” And when I told him who’d be illustrating the project,  THEE Vanessa Newton, he really flipped out. He had just recently finished reading all four of the books in the Ruby and the Booker Boys series. Vanessa’s artwork speaks to the beauty of diversity. The various shades of colors and nationalities, the warm tones, and beautiful characters from all walks of life are the primary reasons she’s my favorite illustrator—ever. It’s a privilege and an honor to work with her again (Love you, Nessa.).

Super shout out to children’s lit visionary and mega editor, the sweet, talented and kind Nancy Paulsen and everyone at Nancy Paulsen Books and Penguin RandomHouse.




Starred review from KIRKUS REVIEWS!
“Text and visuals work together beautifully to generate excitement and confidence in children getting ready to enter kindergarten. The little king’s smiling brown face is refreshing and heartwarming.”

Starred review from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY!

“Affirming text and energizing drawings by Brantley-Newton (Grandma’s Purse), which skillfully balance bright colors, patterns, and textures, should put a spring in the step of any reluctant kindergartner: who wouldn’t want to be thought of as “the charming, the wonderful and the kind” class sovereign?”

Booklist review!

“This will make an excellent addition to early childhood classrooms, or as a tool to help future kindergarteners understand what a typical school day can look like. Best of all, this story is free of disasters and jitters, making it an affirming choice for children in need of a confidence boost.” 

CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut


My Very first Picture book, y’all!

Crown: An Ode To The Fresh Cut is actually a poem I was inspired to write after seeing an illustration from one of my illustrator buddies (shout out to Don Tate!) of his teen son after a trip to the barber. It took me back to when I was a kid, and how sitting in that barber’s chair and receiving a dope haircut was probably the only place in the Black community where boys are treated like royalty. Still are. It’s a poem about self affirmation and how the world may not see your brilliance, or your beauty, but you do, and everyone around you that loves you can definitely see it, recognize it. HUGE shout out to Denene Millner of Denene Millner Books/Agate, and my brother from another mother, the illustrator of this project, Gordon James.

Join me in congratulating Derrick for receiving the 2018 EZRA JACK KEATS AWARD/New Writer for his work in CROWN! Please click the gold award seal below to learn more about this prestigious literary award/prize. Cheers!


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Congratulations to CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT on its FOUR awards—Newbery Honor, Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor!


Awards/Honors List:

A Newbery Honor Book
A Caldecott Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
An Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Book
An Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor Book
A Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Book

2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers

Praise for CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut


Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

Kirkus Starred Review

The Library School Journal Starred Review

The Horn Book Starred Review

Best Books of 2017- Publisher’s Weekly

NPR’s Book Concierge 2017

Publisher’s Weekly-Best Books of 2017

Denver Public Library-Best and Brightest Books of 2017

Horn Book Fanfare 2017

Huffington Post-Best Picture Books of 2017

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Books of 2017

Boston Globe Best Children’s Books of 2017

Sacramento Public Library: Stars of 2017

Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017

Seattle Public Library-Top 10 Picture Books of 2017

LA Times-Critics at Large Favorite Picks of 2017

“One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.” – Kirkus Reviews



Published by Denene Millner Books/Agate

To order, click the book cover.


We Could Be Brothers

We Could Be Brothers Discussion GuideClick for a larger image of We Could Be Brothers

Praise for We Could Be Brothers:

“We Could Be Brothers by Derrick Barnes is that rare coming-of-age story that not only takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, but it also inspires you beyond the pages of this book to talk with and listen to characters like Pacino and Robeson. These are young males we all know, mentor, love, and raise, but who we often do not see or hear. Barnes, a very gifted writer, masterfully mixes the themes of class, internalized racism, and the myths and meanings of manhood. You want solutions to the many crises affecting young Black males? Then read this book. Now!”

Kevin Powell-Activist, public speaker, author, editor of The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life

“Derrick Barnes has created a gripping portrayal of urban life, and the hard, but hopeful road boys travel to manhood.”
Coe Booth – Young Adult Author (Tyrell , Kendra)

“We Could be Brothers is a realistic look at the harsh realities facing all young black males, with life-changing lessons about the importance of family, community, respecting others and being true to yourself.”

Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D. – Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Negro Education Howard University

“Derrick Barnes brings a fresh perspective to literature as he writes about the emotional, social, and cultural collisions of young people and the difficulties and rewards of each when they remain true to their beliefs. This is a text that young people will appreciate. “

Dr. Alfred W. Tatum– Associate Professor and Director of University of Illinois at Chicago Reading Clinic

Two thirteen- year-old African-American boys become friends during a three-day stint in an after-school suspension. They were both involved in two unrelated incidents with the same person, the resident menace at Alain Locke Middle, Tariq Molten. Robeson Battlefield is from a two-parent household, where both parents are highly successful and educated. Academic achievement, social consciousness and responsibility are reinforced daily in the Battlefield household. Pacino Clapton comes from a single parent household; his mom works two full-time jobs. Pacino has a ton of responsibilities, including cutting hair to help pay bills, and taking care of his twin five- year-old sisters. During this three-day span, the young men visit each other’s home, and chop it up on a multitude of subjects including respect of self and Black women, the dire state of hip-hop music, the use of the dreaded N word, and masculinity. Before long, the three boys are on a collision course. And when they do intersect, their lives are changed forever. We Could Brothers addresses the presence and lack of positive male leadership in the home, and how it dictates the way young African American men view themselves, each other, and the world around them. Mentorship, brotherhood, and an emphasis on that old adage each-one-teach-one; are very real and tangible themes in this middle grade literary masterpiece.

Published by Sankofa/Just Us Books

                                                     To order, click  the book cover or one of the links below:

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The Ruby and the Booker Boys Series

Meet 8-year-old ultra-fabulous Ruby Marigold Booker
Eight-year-old Ruby Booker is the baby sis of Marcellus (11), Roosevelt (10), and Tyner (9), the most popular boys on Chill Brook Ave. When Ruby isn’t hanging with her friend, Theresa Petticoat, she’s finding out what kind of mischief her brothers are getting into. She’s sweet and sassy and every bit as tough as her older siblings. She sings like nobody’s business; she has a pet iguana named Lady Love; her favorite color is grape-jelly purple; and when she grows up, she’s going to be the most famous woman animal doctor on the planet. Every exciting story is centered around Ruby trying to balance her life as an eventual pop music star, and trying to create her own “Booker shine” separate from her brothers’. She’s the fabulous, oh-so-spectacular Ruby Marigold Booker.

Shout to my sister, the SUPER talented, super beautiful Vanessa Newton, the illustrator of the series.


(Books #3 The Slumber Party Payback and #4 Ruby Flips For Attention are out of print—for now. You can click the titles and it will take you to a link where you can purchase new or slightly used copies)


 Book One:

Brand New School, Brave New Ruby

In Book 1, Ruby is leaving her old school and headed to a new one where nobody knows her — and where her older brothers rule. But that’s about to change, because Ruby Booker has BIG plans! Although things don’t go according to plan, Ruby manages to grab the spotlight when she sings a song over the P. A. system during announcements. By the time school lets out, one thing is clear: Ruby Booker isn’t “the Booker Boys’ baby sis” anymore.

Published by Scholastic

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  Book Two: Trivia Queen,Third Grade Supreme


In Book 2, a zoologist is coming to visit Ruby’s school, and there will be one representative from grade levels 2-8 chosen to compete in an animal trivia contest. The winner will land season passes to the Chill Brook Zoo for everyone in their grade level. Ruby, who can absorb factual information quickly and recall it at any time, is the third grade delegate, and her brothers are on board to help–or hinder–her preparation.

Published by Scholastic

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The Making of Dr. Truelove

When sexual uncertainty creeps into lovable Diego Montgomery’s love life and goofs up his brewing romance with his lifetime crush, Roxy, he contrives a scheme with his friend J-Live to win her back. Together, the two invent an online sex-pert personality for Diego, Dr. Truelove, whose cocky personality and worldly wise tips on the ins and outs of love soon raise him to celebrity status, both at school and in the community. Things slide out of control, however, when J decides to be the physical manifestation of Dr. Truelove, and his antics land both teens more notoriety and partners of the female persuasion. Barnes’s slick, Omar Tyree-like twist on the guy-tries-to-get-the-girl story is in-your-face and chock-full of sexual innuendos and situations that start on page one, and will no doubt cause many younger readers to raise an eyebrow. Still, the youthful high school humor keeps it from veering too far into Zane territory, and romance and urban-fiction fans will no doubt love the saucy comebacks, sexy language, and sheer ridiculousness that befalls Diego and J on their Cyrano-like journey to love.

Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library

This is a mature YA book (ages 16& up) about friendship, relationships, and how being in a relationship in the age of SnapChat, FB, Instagram can be complicated. There are so many things in pop culture, online and from  peers telling teens that the next step in relationships has to be physical. TMODT dispels that myth. I touch on abstinence being cool, learning more about yourself,  being in chill mode, and just how having self respect is so important right about now. So important. You’ll love it. It’s hilarious. I’m still hoping and praying that someone at either 40 Acres and A Mule or Rainforest Entertainment will call and say they want to buy the film rights. Wishful thinking, baby.

Published by Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster

To order, click the cover or one of the links below (available only on eBook):

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Early Readers

The Low Down Bad Day Blues

I got mud on my shoes. My bike has a flat!

I got caught in the rain and I ruined my hat.

What else can go wrong today? Reading Level I (grades K-1). Includes tips for reading with a parent, plus after-reading activities! Big ups to my man, my very first illustrator collabo, Aaron Boyd.

Published by Just For You!/Scholastic (only available on eBooks)

To order, click the cover or one of the links below (available only on eBook):

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When the kids at school get on his nerves, the boy in this story keeps his cool! Find out how he does it…. Reading Level 2 (grade 1). Includes tips for reading with a parent, plus after-reading activities!

Published by Just For You!/Scholastic (only available on eBooks)

To order, click the cover or one of the links below (available only on eBook):

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